Hannah El-Zahed

Brave, Bold & Beautiful

Hannah El-Zahed’s path to fame has been nothing short of spellbinding. Once a rising star in music videos, this remarkably talented actress has now captivated audiences across the Arab world with her unique on-screen personas. Captured in all her glory, El-Zahed graces this issue’s coveted cover for the first time, posing for our cameras with the season’s latest trends. In an exclusive interview with eniGma’s Farida Elserty, the luscious star unravels the story of her remarkable journey to success, delving into the riveting characters she has brought to life on the silver screen and shedding light on the woman behind the roles that have captured the hearts of so many.

Candid, captivating, and committed to controlling her narrative – this was my first impression when I first met Hannah El-Zahed. We met on a Wednesday night in photographer Abdallah Sabry’s studio, where we were conducting the photo shoot for our exclusive interview. Despite a hectic schedule filming her new movie, Re-Start, with the renowned Tamer Hosny, El-Zahed was gracious enough to make time for us. However, I noticed she seemed visibly uncomfortable, a reaction I was not accustomed to with other celebrities I’ve interviewed before.

Dress by Taya Couture and Earrings from Villa Baboushka

Her guarded demeanour was understandable, though, given that she had recently become one of Egypt’s most misquoted public figures. Numerous “unidentified” social media accounts had falsely attributed various statements to her over the past few months. As I soon discovered, El-Zahed is far more complex and compelling than the rumours suggest. A bit of research revealed that not everything circulating online about this talented actress was accurate. The truth is, when she thinks it, she says it. If she feels it, she shares it. Her sharp wit and vibrant spirit shine through, defining her true character.

Blazer from Villa Baboushka

I cautiously began the conversation, and soon enough, El-Zahed opened up, sharing her unfiltered thoughts and feelings – a side of her that the public rarely gets to see. Her infectious energy and genuine warmth quickly became palpable, hinting at the depth and complexity beneath her radiant exterior. I was eager to learn more about her early life and whether this was the path she had envisioned for herself when she was younger. Although she once aspired to be a social studies teacher, El-Zahed has always had a love for acting. “At school, I was always the lead actress in English literature classes,” she recalls, her eyes sparkling with passion. As a child, she found inspiration in watching Ramadan riddles and advertisements. It wasn’t a conscious decision but rather a natural progression of her innate creativity and curiosity about this world.

El-Zahed’s journey into the world of acting traces back to 2002 when she began her career starring in various video clips, notably including the famous Baba Fein (Where is Baba) video clip. However, her formal entry into the television series Yawmiat Wanis W Ahfadoh 6 (Wanis and His Grandchildren’s Daily Lives) alongside the renowned actor Mohamed Sobhy in 2009 marked her official debut in the industry. Following a brief hiatus from the spotlight, El-Zahed reemerged in 2014, a year that proved to be a pivotal turning point in her career. It was during that time she made her cinematic debut in the film Khettet Jimmy (Jimmy’s Plan), laying the groundwork for her subsequent success.

Building on the momentum from her cinematic debut, El-Zahed secured a role in the television series Farq Tawqit (Bad Timing), produced by the acclaimed actor and singer Tamer Hosny. Her versatility and talent, honed through years of experience in various mediums, including video clips, were showcased in these projects, drawing the attention of industry veterans and captivating audiences alike.

Nevertheless, at first, El-Zahed struggled to make people believe in her talent as an actress and that she was not only a beautiful blonde girl. “Throughout my career, I played many roles that didn’t rely solely on being beautiful or cute. For instance, in the series Helwa El Donia Sokar (Life Is Sugar Sweet), I portrayed eight distinct characters vastly different from my university persona,” she says.

El-Zahed’s path to success has been paved with valuable lessons, each experience shaping her into the versatile and compelling actress she is today. “Along the way, I learned the importance of resilience, of keeping going, developing yourself, and always learning because no one is too old to learn,” she reflects. “It’s crucial to ignore negativity and embrace constructive criticism to grow. But above all, you must have a deep love for what you do to succeed.” For her, success isn’t just about talent; it’s about mindset, dedication, and an unwavering belief in oneself.

Dress by Taya Couture

As an actress who has played diverse roles, one role had a particularly lasting impact on El-Zahed. “Portraying the character of Duria in Fasel Men El Lahzat El Saa’eda (A Break of Happy Moments) was truly transformative for me,” she confesses. Similarly, the emotional complexity of her role in Qeset Hob (Love Story) holds a special place in her heart. “Playing that character was deeply challenging and rewarding,” El-Zahed reflects. It pushed her to delve deeper into the human experience and brought out a level of performance that wowed audiences and critics alike.

El-Zahed’s preparation for her roles is a meticulously crafted process, one she approaches with unwavering dedication and the belief that the true essence of a character lies in the small details. “Before shooting any project, I study the script for a month. Sometimes, I go to an acting coach if the role is difficult, as I did for Eqama Gabrya (House Arrest), a new series that will be released soon, because the role was truly challenging,” she says. “I immerse myself in extensive research by listening to the director’s directions and sharing my opinions. I also study a lot with the lead actor because I’m a real nerd when it comes to work.” She needs to study the way the characters move, the inflexions in their voices, and the subtle expressions that reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings.

El-Zahed’s selection process isn’t solely driven by the complexity of the role; it’s also a thoughtful consideration of the story’s emotional resonance and potential impact. “When I’m offered a project, I need to believe in the script and connect with the character,” she asserts. “If I can visualise the character coming to life in my mind after reading the script, then I know it’s the right role for me.” This approach reflects El-Zahed’s desire to be part of narratives that challenge societal norms, shed light on important issues, and ultimately leave a lasting impression on the audience. Additionally, El-Zahed remains steadfast in her belief that she is still at the beginning of her journey, with a plethora of aspirations waiting to be realised. “I have so many roles I still want to tackle,” she explains with a happy voice.

Jumpsuit by Taya Couture and Earrings by House of Glamour

And in a world where the allure of glitz and glamour often entices many, El-Zahed chose to stay true to herself. Despite the dazzling demands of her profession, she remains firmly rooted in her values, finding solace and strength in the embrace of her family and the connection to her true self. “I choose to stay with my family and travel with loved ones to remain grounded because I cherish my personal life; it keeps me anchored, reminding me of the importance of balance,” she asserts. El-Zahed’s refreshing authenticity and poise in the face of industry pressures serve as a testament to her strength of character and allow her talents to shine all the brighter on the silver screen.

El-Zahed’s status as a role model for young women is not lost on her, and she embraces this responsibility with grace and thoughtfulness. “I’m deeply humbled by the idea that I may be a role model to others, especially young girls,” she says, her voice tinged with rare humility. “But with that comes a certain level of accountability,” El-Zahed continues, her words laced with a sense of responsibility. “So I try my best in my projects to address women-related topics, even if the role is comedic or romantic.” Thus, rather than shying away from the weight of her influence, she has chosen to wield it as a force for positive change because she understands the impact that representation and storytelling can have, particularly on young minds.

So, for those aspiring to a career in the arts, especially young girls, El-Zahed’s advice is both practical and profound. “Don’t be afraid to take risks, to take acting classes, to love acting itself, not the fame,” she urges, her tone both empowering and earnest. “And never forget to believe in yourself and to work on your talent, because the rest will follow,” El-Zahed continues with hard-earned wisdom.

Nevertheless, the scrutiny that comes with fame can be a double-edged sword, and El-Zahed has learned to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of public discourse with grace. “At the end of the day, I am an actress, so it is okay if people talk about my personal life – it is a part of the job,” she confesses with acceptance. Adding, “Of course, there are times when the invasive speculation about my personal life can be hurtful.” Yet, rather than shying away from the public eye, El-Zahed has chosen to confront the challenges of fame head-on. “I’ve chosen this profession – and to be a public figure – so I should be responsible,” she asserts.

With the same resilience, El-Zahed is committed to using her platform to address pressing societal issues, a testament to her deep-rooted social conscience, especially amidst all that is happening in Palestine. “I believe that artists are humans, and Palestine’s issue is our issue,” she asserts with a sense of moral conviction. Through the strategic use of social media, El-Zahed has harnessed the power of her platform to shine a light on the world around us and give voice to the voiceless. Her videos and statements serve as a call, stirring awareness and empathy for the plight of the Palestinian people.

Reflecting on her remarkable career journey, El-Zahed’s sense of gratitude and humility is here. “I do not want to change anything from my journey,” she says. The acclaimed actress firmly believes that every step she has taken, and every experience she has entered, is precisely what has turned her into the woman and artist she is today. “That’s why I am here now,” she affirms with a quiet conviction. As for future collaborations, El-Zahed’s eyes light up with excitement. “Oh, the possibilities are endless!” she exclaims. El-Zahed reels off a list of directors she hopes to work with, including Sherif Arafa, Marwan Hamed, Kamla Abo Zekry, and Mohamed Diab. She also expresses a desire to share the screen with celebrated actors like Ahmed Helmy, Ahmed Ezz and Karim Abdel Aziz.

Dress & gloves by Mioj

As the interview winds down, the electricity crackles through the air – the kind that can only be conjured by a visionary on the precipice of something different. “As I mentioned, I am currently working on a new movie called Re-Start, co-starring Tamer Hosny,” she reveals, a spark of excitement in her voice. Adding more exciting details, she shares exclusively with eniGma magazine, “The new role is totally different from anything I’ve done before, and I believe it will be a turning point in my career.”

As the interview dissolves into a lively exchange about university life, friends, and the delightful chaos of youth, it becomes increasingly clear that El-Zahed is not merely a talented actress, but a vibrant, grounded human living her dreams. The initial impression I had formed – of a talent with a striking presence and an unwavering commitment to her craft – has now been amplified tenfold. And the world had best brace itself because this young woman is about to rewrite the rules of the game.

Enigma Questionnaire

What’s the most important lesson you have learned along the way?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to never change my personality or heart, no matter how famous or loved I become.

Describe the perfect day for you.
My perfect day would be when I’m traveling and we’re in the airport.

What’s the movie that you feel represents you the best?
I would choose Bahebek (I Love You) or Qeset Hob (Love Story) because I am a very romantic person and I love love.

What was the most challenging role you have ever taken on?
The most challenging role was my part in the upcoming series Eqama Gabreya (Home Arrest).

What’s a movie you’ve made that you’d love to live in?
I would say Fasel Men El La7zat El Lazeza (A Break of Happy Moments) because I could experience different lives in it.

Do you prefer cinema or television?
I prefer cinema, as I believe it’s a lasting legacy.

Is there anything about yourself that might surprise your fans?
My fans might be surprised to know that I love watching ASMR videos and horror stories before bed.

Photography: AbdAllah Sabry

Stylist: Islam Mitwally

Makeup: Aya Abdelhamid

Hair: Alfred Makram