She is one of the most recognisable young faces in Egyptian cinema. Her looks and talents have landed her some of the best roles in the industry. This May, Fashion Director Maissa Azab transforms Mai Ezz Eldin into a princess bride while Deputy Editor Omnia Zaied gets to know what lies beneath the pretty face. Read on…
I hate conducting interviews over the phone. That’s why when we agreed to conduct the cover interview this month with Mai Ezz Eldin over the phone I was quite reluctant. 15 minutes into the phone call and I realised it was probably a good idea to do a phone interview. I probably wouldn’t have gotten so much out of her had it been face to face. “It just takes me some time to get used to people. I am never the person who leaves a meeting or gathering with the contact information of everyone who was there, even if they are people I will need to get in touch with soon. I just don’t know how to do it,” she admits.
There was nothing shy about Ezz Eldin’s rise to fame. It was so fast and so intense that her first role ever was the lead in the movie Rehlet Hob (A Journey of Love) with famous singer Mohamed Fouad. It was a dream come true for Ezz Eldin, who grew up with only one thing on her mind, becoming an actress. “As a kid I wasn’t that good at school. I liked all sorts of arts, like painting and dancing. As a teenager I already knew I was going to be involved in show business somehow,“ she says. Ezz Eldin used to act in school plays, choreograph steps to her favourite tunes, and watch movies religiously. “I’d always watch movies with a very special eye. I noticed things nobody else did,” she recalls.
Ezz Eldin’s mother, a businesswoman, tried to get her interested in the family business. She tried to get her involved in management, but Ezz Eldin just wasn’t into it. Still not sure what she was meant to do with her life, she graduated from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alexandria. Until one day the famous writer and family friend, Magda Khairallah was visiting their home and told Ezz Eldin that she was quite charismatic and asked her mother to allow her to act. That’s when she really started thinking seriously about acting. Khairallah offered her a part in a TV series she was working on then. Ezz Eldin left everything behind and moved from Alexandria to Cairo, where she started her career.
While waiting to start filming her scenes in the TV series, Ezz Eldin decided to join Mohamed Abdel Hady’s studio for her first ever acting classes. She fell in love with the classes and couldn’t wait to perform her first scene in the series. Yet fate had other plans for her. The role she had come to Cairo for got cancelled, and Ezz Eldin was left with no plan. “I could have just gone back to Alexandria and done something else. But I just couldn’t,” she says. She stayed in Cairo, following the news, determined to create an opportunity for herself. “One day as I was reading the newspaper I found out that Mohamed Fouad was working on a new movie. I was a huge fan of his. I remember watching his movie, Ismailia Rayeh Gay (To and From Ismailia) and picturing myself starring in it instead of Hanan Tork. So I decided to try to get a part in one of his films,” she says. Ezz Eldin started tracking down the crew. She’d ask everyone she met if they knew Mohamed Fouad or any of the film’s crew until she managed to reach Director Mohamed El Naggar. “Everyone made fun of me. They would tell me it was too late and that if it’s already in the news then they most probably have filled all the parts. But I didn’t care really. I just knew I had to try,” she recalls.
El Naggar was impressed by Ezz Eldin’s persistence. It turned out Ezz Eldin was the one they needed for the leading role in Rehlet Hob. Within a couple of days she had already met Fouad and signed the contract.
As it was, Ezz Eldin’s beauty and talent were what the market was looking for. Offers started coming her way and soon after the movie’s release, she was starring in the hit TV series Ayn Kalby (Where’s My Heart?) in 2002, alongside superstar Yousra. Over the last 13 years, Ezz Eldin has played a variety of roles, some heavy and dramatic like her roles in the movie Khyana Mashroaa (Legitimate Betrayal), in 2006, the TV series Kadeyet Safeya (Safeya’s Case) in 2010, and Adam in 2011. Others were lighthearted like Kallem Mama (Talk to my Mother), in 2003, Ayazon (Does He Think So?) in 2006, and the Omar and Salma trilogy that started in 2007. Although she’s been praised for her amazing performances in the more intense roles, Ezz Eldin enjoys doing comedy and romance more than she does drama and tragedy. “I could have lied to you right now, I could have told you that I like the sophisticated, complicated roles because it sounds better, but I don’t think I have to. Why pretend to be something I am not? I will always do both but when it comes to how I feel about them personally, I really enjoy playing the light kind of series or films,” she says.
In fact, Ezz Eldin is not the kind of actress who gives a lot of weight to what people say about her. She really wants people to get to know her the way she is, she doesn’t like faking anything. “When I first became famous I was expected to behave in a certain way. But I wasn’t willing to change who I really am and to deceive people. For example, I rarely wear make-up to interviews because I don’t usually wear make-up in my day-to-day life,” she says. “This kind of broke the mold people have for celebrities here. You see international celebrities looking very casual and chilled in their day-to-day life, so why can’t we do the same?”
Ezz Eldin sets her own rules. Don’t ever tell her she has to do something because that’s not how it works with her. Ask her nicely and she might consider it. She is not the kind of celebrity you find everywhere. She is rarely seen in public. She hates going out, she hates going to parties. Ezz Eldin’s life is actually pretty simple. “Some people comment on my social media accounts asking me why I’m always dressed so casually. They don’t know that this is my life. It’s not as glamorous as they think it is and I am most definitely not going to fake it to please anyone,” she says.
Despite her young age, Ezz Eldin prefers the more classical things in life. “I am so classic, I love everything old. This is one of the reasons why I love London for example because it’s a very classic city, the architecture, the cars, I even love its gloomy weather. I hate going to the beach,” she says. It is this very special nature that makes her difficult to approach. Her circle of friends is made of five or six people with whom she does everything. This protected environment makes it intimidating for any guy to come into her life, especially after her engagement to football star Mohamed Zidan didn’t work out. But she is not deterred. She is optimistic she’s going to find true love, and until she does, she’s not willing to compromise.
Currently Ezz Eldin is keeping busy filming her new TV series Dalaa Banat (Coy Girls) which will air next Ramadan. I tried to get her to give us any details about it, but not surprisingly, I failed. Because if Ezz El din doesn’t feel like saying something, she is not going to say it…
ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azzab
PHOTOGRAPHY: Khaled Fadda