He is a singer, songwriter, and actor. His sucess story exceeded all expectations as he managed to become one of the regions most popular artists. In this eniGma exclusive, Tamer Hosny tells Omnia Zaied how he managed to make it to the top.
It was a Thursday night and we had just posted a teaser from our exclusive shoot with Tamer Hosny on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/EnigmaMagazineFanPage). As I watched the feedback and the unprecedented increase in the ‘likes’ and engagement on the page, I couln’t help but admire the mass appeal Tamer Hosny still has.
Whether you agree or disagree with Hosny doesn’t matter, his unrivalled success makes anybody else’s opinion about him quite irrelevant. He is one of the top 10 Arab celebrities with the biggest number of followers on Facebook. A quick look at some of the fans on his page will show you that most of them are males and have one of his pictures as their profile picture or a picture of themselves dressed like him. Not to forget the female fans who write comments like “You are the most beautiful man in the world,” or express their love in a variety of ways. You have to stop for a second and wonder how this simple Egyptian turned into a role model for so many others in just 10 years? What makes Hosny so special? Why has he become a beacon of hope for an entire generation?
Watching Hosny rapping with Shaggy, breaking it down with Snoop Dogg, and touring the globe with his sold-out shows, it is hard to imagine how he started and how far he’s come. The keyword to Hosny’s personality is determination. That’s what got him through his parents’ divorce when he was just a kid. It was a situation that led to financial difficulties and he had to take one job after another to survive. But he knew he was meant for something much bigger, and he set his mind on becoming something out of the ordinary.
Growing up, Hosny’s dream was to become a professional football player. He spent his teenage years playing for Al Zamalek then he moved to Al Ahly and when he wasn’t chosen to play in the first team, he was devastated. He felt he had lost everything he had worked for. But “God had other plans for him,” he says. Taking his mother’s advice, he enrolled in the school of Mass Communication in 6th of October University and The Cairo Conservatoire where he learnt how to turn his hobby of singing into a career. It was at one of the university’s parties that he met media mogul Salma El Shamaa who was head of national TV’s Nile Channels at the time. El Shamaa saw Hosny performing and realised he was too talented not to be famous. She took him under her wing and gave him the chance to showcase his talents on television. This turned into his big break. Till this day, Hosny still mentions El Shamaa in every one of his interviews. It’s one of Hosny’s traits, he never forgets those who helped him. He will tell you about every single person who ever showed him kindness, and he will try to do the same for others. “I remember before I started singing, when I would meet famous singers and would tell them I’m interested in singing, I used to think they had nothing to lose by introducing me to the right people and help me get started in the industry.” Now that he’s famous, he makes it a point to introduce every talent he meets to others in the industry. If he believes in someone’s abilities, he will do whatever he can to help them get a fair chance.
Tamer’s first album was a phenomenon. Producer Nasr Mahrous took a chance on him and on another young talent at the time called Sherine Abdel Wahab. He produced a joint album for them in 2002. The album’s sounds and lyrics were unique. It was also the first time young people saw two singers who looked like them and were speaking their language, singing about topics they cared about and making good music. Every single track became a hit and almost overnight, both Hosny and Abdel Wahab became stars.
And that was the beginning of his success story. So far, Hosny has released nine studio albums including Enaya Bethabak (My Eyes Love You) in 2005, Ha’eesh Hayaty (I Will Live My Life) in 2009 and his latest album Bahebak Enta (I Love You) in 2013. One year after the release of his first album, Hosny also took up acting and he starred in his first movie, Halet Hob (A State of Love) in 2013 alongside Hany Salama, Hend Sabry, and Zaina. The movie was a success and it encouraged him to work on his acting skills and make more movies, including the wildly popular Omar & Salma trilogy and Nour Einy (The Apple of My Eye) in 2010.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Hosny isn’t aware of the unpleasant opinions about his movies. He knows the kind of comments that are made about him and he knows some of them are true, he admits it himself. “I know some of my movies weren’t as good as I wanted them to be. Some were done too quickly without proper preparation, but it’s all behind me. I will never do this again.” And the critical and commercial success of his latest project, the television series, Adam (2011) proves that he has been working on his acting skills.
Now at 36, more than 10 years after he first started singing, Hosny is exceeding all expectations, even the ones he had for himself. He is one of the highest paid performers in the region and he is the first Arab singer to have more than half a million attendees at one of his concerts. Along with his successful acting career, Hosny has collaborated with some of the biggest international names in the industry like Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Pitbull, and many more. He even got Snoop Dogg to wear a galabeya in the video clip of their song Si El Sayed. “When I decided to sing, I just wanted to be able to perform and do what I am passionate about,” he says. “I was told I wasn’t supposed to grow a beard if I wanted to be famous, I was told I was supposed to dress a certain way and say certain things. But I didn’t want to do all that, I just wanted to be myself, and it worked.” By being himself, young people were able to identify with him because he was one of them. As a result, Hosny managed to garner more success in 10 years than a lot of singers could throughout their entire careers.
Hosny’s fans are the most difficult kind of fans. They are very generous, they will show him a lot of love, they will buy all his albums, watch all his movies, and follow him wherever he goes, but they are also very demanding. They will copy him, talk like him, and dress like him; something that puts a lot of responsibility on Hosny’s shoulders. “I wasn’t aware of this until I noticed the amount of criticism I was getting about some of my lyrics and movies,” Hosny recalls. “Parents would come up to me saying their kids copy me and it was then that I realised the effect I have on the new generation and I instantly started being very careful about everything I say or do.”
But the criticism didn’t stop. “No one has been attacked and criticised the way I was. But I will tell you something I learned. When I talked to Emad El Din Adeeb after being harshly criticised in his magazine, he told me something I still remember. He asked me why I was so upset about people saying negative things about me. Then he told me to imagine waking up tomorrow and having no one talking about me. They only talk because you are successful, that’s why people want to bring you down. This idea has stayed with me till this day. I only listen to what could add to me and I ignore the rest,” he says.
Hosny knows that the fame he worked so hard to reach is a double-edged sword and he knows that as much as he enjoys the good sides of it, he has to put up with the more challenging aspects as well. “It’s a gift from God and you have to know how to appreciate it,” he says. And one thing I can confirm is that Hosny appreciates it. During our shoot at the Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort, Hosny would sometimes wander off and we realised it was because he had seen a fan approaching and he wanted to go say hi to him. He posed for countless pictures with fans from all ages. He played with their kids and listened to them sing his songs. When I asked whether this gets tiresome, he said “they are a gift from God, one that I have to respect so it doesn’t go away. They make the effort of coming over to say hi or take a picture and the least I can do is be grateful for that. I have a lot of respect for every single one of them. No one would go out of his way to come to you unless they love you and I respect and appreciate that love.”
But Hosny has also matured a lot over the years. He is no longer the young man who quickly befriended people and he won’t pour his heart out to someone just because they promised they wouldn’t tell. He knows better than that. He developed a thick skin. He will not be devastated by a nasty comment nor will he waste his time hating. He is more focused on his work. This is what matters most to him. “We are entertainers, we should make people happy. That’s our job, we are not supposed to waste our time fighting and arguing,” he says.
This new philosophy helps explain why Hosny is where he is now. It explains why the American company, Universal Productions, chose him to sing with Shaggy on Smile, and how his contribution turned from a few verses in English to full parts in Arabic and English. “When I got that call I jumped at the opportunity. When they saw my passion and saw that I was serious, they became more open to hearing my comments and suggestions about adding Arabic parts to it and it ended up the way you saw it.” The collaboration was a success and it got Hosny one step closer to his dream of making international celebrities sing with him in Arabic. In his upcoming single, Arabian Knight featuring Akon and Pitbull, he managed to teach Akon how to sing an entire part in Arabic. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds though. “I spent a year in the States trying to get all these collaborations to happen. I faced a lot of difficulties and racism, and on several occasions I was about to give up and come back to Cairo, but I still knuckled down and finally got what I wanted,” he says.
Now Hosny is preparing for his second TV series, starring Nicole Saba, set to be released next Ramadan. “This year I am doing something completely different. It is a very special love story. I figured people have had enough drama over the past two years so I decided to do something completely different,” he says. It’s obvious that Hosny has his hands full with a television series, an action film in the making, and a new single on the way. His army of fans is a guarantee that everything he does will become a success. The real question is whether he can still surprise us, and if his career so far is any indication, there’s no stopping him.