It’s not the first time Zeina graces the cover of eniGma. The luscious star was featured on our cover twice before, the last time being in 2009. This was, however, the first time I personally met Zeina. It was on a Saturday night in photographer Emad Kassem’s studio where we conducted the shoot. I walked in fashionably late only to find Fashion Director Maissa Azab surrounded by a pile of flowers she was busily putting together to create fantastic headpieces for Zeina. “We’re so late,” Azab anxiously tells me as she leads me to where Zeina was getting her hair done and introduces me to her. I notice that Zeina is visibly uncomfortable. That’s something I am not accustomed to, I usually hit it off easily with celebrities I am going to interview.
Zeina’s reaction is understandable though. Over the past few months she has been one of the most misquoted and “allegedly” interviewed celebrities in Egypt. Numerous newspapers and TV channels claimed she talked to them about her case, currently in court, against actor Ahmed Ezz. The truth is that she never spoke to anyone about it. With a gag order on the case, legally she is not allowed to.
I cautiously begin a conversation. Soon enough, Zeina starts to relax and says, “I love and trust eniGma magazine. You always write things the way they are, you never make up stories.” That was a good start, I thought, and I began to relax too. Zeina doesn’t sit still. The room is filled with her presence. Her allure is engaging as she gracefully moves around the studio coyly playing with the flowers Azab is directing her to put on. She throws a joke here and there, talks about the latest trends in jewellery, and argues forcefully about what she is going to wear in the next shot. Zeina doesn’t simply follow directions. She only wears what she wants, the way she wants it.
Last time we interviewed Zeina for eniGma she was filming her last TV series Layali (Nights). Since then she starred in three movies; Bentein Men Masr (Two Girls From Egypt), El Kobar (The Big People) and Bolbol Hayran (Bolbol Is Confused) in 2010 and appeared in a small part in El Maslaha (The Deal) in 2011. And then she disappeared. She was off the radar for more than two years until she finally made the comeback of the century with two adorable kids and a TV series in the making.
In 2011, Zeina was publicly and quite bravely taking President Hosni Mubarak’s side at the peak of the January 25 revolution. While most celebrities kept a low profile, Zeina had an opinion and she made sure to voice it to everyone who’d listen. “I love President Mubarak and I don’t regret what I did. I think the days have proven I was right. I didn’t know him personally but I loved him and I hope he gets out and he gets well soon,” she says. You’d think motherhood would make her more cautious politically, you’d think it would make her play it safe, but you’d be wrong…
As we bond over lemonade and shisha in the Dusit Thani LakeView hotel the following day, “Where have you been all this time?” I ask her. “Well I’ve been around,” she says. Zeina’s pregnancy took her away from everything and everyone until she went to the States and had her twins. “I had actually been working on a couple of series before that but something would always go wrong in the process so I just let it go. Until of course I got pregnant.”
Nine months ago, Zeina had her twins, two precious boys who changed her life. “Motherhood is very weird. It changes you in a way you never imagined possible,” she says. “My kids make me very strong. It is a very weird kind of love. Something you never really understand until you become a mother. The kind of love that makes it okay to stay up all night with them without the least hint of resentment,” she says.
Zeina is not like the celebrity mothers you see in the tabloids. She is very involved with her kids and does everything for them herself. “I never let anyone bathe my kids or change their diapers, they are my children and I should be the one doing everything for them.” She spends every waking hour worrying about them, their health, their future, and the kind of men she wants them to become. “I want to raise real men. I want them to follow my example and grow up to be responsible. I want them to have their own personalities and to be independent,” she says. Then she adds, “and I would love for them to become doctors!”
Motherhood changed Zeina so much that her looks and all the designer clothes and handbags she once spent all her money on are no longer her priority. She wants to save it all for them. “This is my life right now, it’s all about my work, my kids, my family, and my fans; the people who were there for me.”
Zeina is more confident than ever. She is calm, collected, and standing strong. She is back in the studio filming her new show Weswas (Paranoia) where she plays the role of Sabah, a girl who goes through a lot of troubles. “I wasn’t planning on doing anything this year. But when I read Weswas I had to do it. In the series, Sabah represents Egypt. She suffers a lot and she goes through a lot of horrible things,” she says. The show will be aired by the end of the year.
As for the future and what it holds for Zeina, that is not yet clear, even to her. She wants to go international. She wants to focus more on comedic roles. She wants to continue being happy and taking care of her kids. Will she get everything she longs for? Given that she is not the kind of person who cries over spilt milk, that she always looks ahead and moves on, she is likely to attain her goals. Regret is not a word in Zeina’s dictionary. She follows her gut, and that’s what makes her who she is. Her last words for the interview, “my gut is always right, well at least most of the time it is…”