Magic Maya

MS. DIAB ON MAKING HITS & FINDING LOVE

In the early 2000s, the Lebanese girl group, The Four Cats, were the ruling pop queens of the Arab music scene. It was almost impossible to turn on the radio or switch through music channels without hearing their seductive hit songs Ya Antar (Oh Antar) and Rah Hibak Ala Tool (I’ll Always Love You). One of these Four Cats was none other than the gorgeous Maya Diab, who went on to become a superstar reaching the top of the Arab music charts with solo hits. She achieved further fame as a successful TV host, with several popular shows, including Heik Menghani (This is How We Sing), which garnered a mass following in Lebanon and the region. eniGma is thrilled to have the ultimate all round entertainer as the cover star of this special Wedding issue with an exclusive feature and shoot – full of amazing photos of the gorgeous star in several one-of-a-kind fabulous wedding gowns. The shoot is all the more special because it took place in beautiful Beirut, Diab’s hometown, that is so dear to the entire Arab region. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey, interviewed Diab (on Facetime) to find out more about the quintessential entertainer, who is also a staunch advocate of women’s empowerment. As you will see in the feature below, the conversation not only covered her career journey, but more personal issues like her role as a mother and her views on marriage and remarrying!

To be honest, it was rather intimidating to interview a big star like Diab. However, despite her fame, she came through as very sweet and down to earth, which made for a candid and refreshing interview. The conversation went so smoothly that it felt like a couple of old friends catching up.

It’s fair to say that Diab has seen difficult times as well as amazing success. When starting out as a singer, she had so much to her advantage: she was beautiful, charismatic and very talented. Time has also shown, that on top of that, her self-confidence and her ability to be unapologetically herself in her music, as well as in her televised interviews, may be her biggest strength. She is also a humanitarian with a passion for equality, who does not shy away from candidly expressing her opinions. While she’s prone to criticism and rough feedback, she doesn’t let that get to her or silence her. It’s more important to Diab to be real and transparent than to fake anything.

“It’s important for artists, especially those who make it big, to show their humanity to their fans. I’m not an image that people painted. I’m me. This is something I have to communicate to the public, while still being respectful to them and keeping their love,” affirms Diab. “You can’t please everyone and you can’t be like everyone. If you’re strong and you stand your ground you can draw this line, and maintain boundaries to protect your personal life and your wellbeing. No one can change me. I’m influential and I know that. I can help people and change lives with my platform,” she adds.

The outspoken Diab continues to attract new fans and to solidify her established fan-base, the “Diabers,” as she likes to call them. With almost nine million Instagram followers and millions of YouTube views, Diab is a phenomenon to be reckoned with. It helps that she takes the time to communicate with her fans on Instagram and even plays fun games with them. In fact, she’s so in touch with her fan-base that she can recognise some of them by name.

Turning to the past year and the lockdown, which was difficult for her like everyone else, Diab reveals that she managed to make the best of the unfortunate situation. “I always wanted to be able to spend more time with my family and not have to fly around so much. I never used to have the time to just relax, take things slow and unwind. 2020 gave me that. Of course, the year also came with its losses, but I would say it was also a productive year for me,” she recalls.

Diab also recalls the negative toll of the Beirut explosion that took 215 lives and injured so many last August, on her and all Lebanese people. “The tragedy broke me, honestly,” confesses Diab, who was deeply affected by this massive loss. “I don’t think I can ever get past this. It was just so heart breaking to see so many of my people suffer. I tried so hard to do everything I could to help my country. That meant a great deal to me,” she adds.
During lockdown, Diab spent most of her time with her adorable young daughter Kay. She insists that Kay has always been first priority in her life, despite her busy career and the blinding spotlight that always follows her. “Not many entertainers in the industry are able to find the balance between being parents and their work life. Fortunately, I was able to find that balance for myself. It’s all about prioritising and properly organising your schedule. I don’t like talking about myself, as much as I like to talk about how proud I am of my wonderful daughter who is growing up to be smart and humble. I just want her to be better than me,” she exclaims with pride.

While confined to her home most of the past year, Diab didn’t stay away from the spotlight altogether. She was one of the first artists in the Middle East to jump on the virtual concerts train, when she performed live in a high production concert with the viral social media platform, TikTok. Recalling the experience, she notes that performing virtually was more difficult than a live performance. “It turned out to be harder than normal concerts. Having a big audience when I’m on stage helps me a lot. The lively energy of the screaming crowd takes the edge off. It’s different with virtual concerts because it’s just you and the crew that’s filming and streaming the performance,” says Diab. “But I still love doing them!” she adds enthusiastically.

Diab also recently released her latest hit El Ka’b El Aly (High Heels) which, with the help of her “Diabers,” reached over seven million views on YouTube in just under a month. The song is nothing like her previous single released earlier in 2021, the sultry and heartfelt love song, Doub (Melt). In High Heels, which is sexy and fierce, Diab embraces her feminine side, donning a new hairdo, and striking a daring pose in a fabulous all red jumpsuit and (you guessed it) very high heels! The video is a colourful TikTok inspired production, with lots of bizarre and out-of-the-box leg choreography. Not surprisingly, it also shows off an array of different high heeled shoes!

With lockdown lifting a bit and the world returning slowly back to normalcy, Diab hopes that the song’s fresh sound encourages ladies to dust off their high heels and fabulously strut down the street. “I’m so proud of High Heels and its success. I’m especially happy that its sung in the Egyptian dialect. The subject matter of the song is new, different and very fun. I had a blast recording it and I want to thank everyone who worked on it. It’s a weird song, but I’m happy I did it,” she exclaims.

Diab insists on crediting the team she works with for being part of her immense success. While she’s the woman in charge and completely independant, she doesn’t hesitate to share her spotlight “I only work with people who understand my style and my personality. That’s how we make magic together. I don’t make music that’s cheap; I want to make music that is up to a high standard and that can be listened to in 15 years and still sound fresh and new,” she affirms.

Despite her seemingly boundless energy, and even though it’s been six years since her last album (My Maya) was released, Diab says that she doesn’t plan on putting together a new album any time soon. “I’m not planning on releasing an album right now. The world is too turbulent, especially in the Middle East, and songs aren’t guaranteed to be hits if they’re on an album. Singles are doing much better now. I have songs that can be put together in an album right now, but I just don’t think it would be good,” she explains. Regardless, when the time comes, we’re sure the high-demand for an album won’t falter.

Adding to Diab’s charisma, is her status as an acclaimed fashion icon. With her every appearance, people wait in anticipation to see her newest look! Her style credentials were officially recognised when she was bestowed with the title of Fashion Icon of the Arab World, and when she was called on to open Arab Fashion Week last year. Despite the hype over her undeniable style, Diab doesn’t view herself as a fashionista. “I don’t think I’m a fashionista. Ever since I was young, I just loved clothes and creating outfits. This stuck with me in adulthood and during my career. I rarely wear something I’m not convinced of, unless under special unpredicted circumstances,” she exclaims.

As is the case with most celebrities, Diab’s fans closely follow her personal life, even though she is known to be hush hush about her love life and cherishes her privacy. Currently single, when the subject of remarrying comes up, she unhesitatingly expresses her views on the sensitive subject. “Marriage doesn’t come without sacrifice and compromise,” she says, adding, “In this generation, less and less people want to compromise and sacrifice parts of their lives which mean a lot to them. That’s not a bad thing. While older generations may look down upon that, I think it’s a good thing to know what you want. There’s nothing wrong with not getting married. Marriage is a partnership and it requires a lot of work; it’s a very tough choice, especially if you want it to last forever.”

Diab insists this doesn’t mean she is completely ruling out remarrying. Contrary to popular belief, she’s not swearing off marriage forever. “If I do get married again, then you’ll know that the relationship is based on love, understanding, compassion, respect and honouring each other’s differences. I have to be completely comfortable with my partner. I’m at a point in life where I know what I want. Marriage wouldn’t affect my career at all, unless I allow it to. I love my job and I love my life. I have the assets to be able to juggle all aspects of my life,” she explains.

Looking ahead, Diab has exciting plans for what’s left of 2021, including several new singles on their way very soon. A special live concert with a fantastic show during Eid is also in the works. “The concert is going to be something new; nothing like you have seen before. The idea and the concept are brand new and wonderful. I’m also going to be debuting my new song during the concert! It will be an EDM dance hit with the same upbeat energy of High Heels, but a bit different,” she reveals. You can never tell exactly what Maya Diab is up to, of course, but one thing is certain, when it happens, her fans are going to go head over (high) heels.

Enigma Questionnaire

What’s your best attribute?
My ability to keep secrets, both my own and other people’s.

What is your favourite part of your job?
The excitement of how I want to advance next!

What’s your worst habit?
I’m very forgetful.

Do you prefer being in the studio or being on stage?
Being on stage.

Who is your dream duet?
It’s coming soon, I’m not going to reveal the name yet, but it will be an international duet. I have something very nice cooking.

Who is your role model?
I don’t have just one – I learn from a lot of people.

What is your favourite movie?
I just saw a comedy movie I really loved, but I can’t remember its name. That just goes to show how forgetful I am (laughs).

What’s your favourite song?
My song Doub (Melt).

What do you do in your free time?
I rarely have free time, but when I do, I really just try to do nothing, which is something. I also love going to the beach.

What quality do you love most in a man?
Caring and knowing what I want without me saying it.

PHOTOGRAPHY
Sharbel Boumansour

STYLING
Khalil Zein

Makeup by Dani Kamel
Hair by Tony Sawaya

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Ziad Nakad: www.ziadnakad.com
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B Bloomed: Instagram: @bbloomed.lb
Nsouli Jewelry: www.nsoulijewelry.com
Vishnu: Instagram: @vishnu_concept
Sara Mrad: www.saramrad.com