A woman on a mission to take over the world, Maiss Hamdan is an artist to beat. Singing, dancing and acting her way into stardom! eniGma’s Omnia Zaied discovers more about Hamdan’s triple threat. Watch how the queen of the industry moves up the fame game while Fashion Director Maissa Azab styles her to the part.
It’s three PM on a Tuesday afternoon. The weather is uncharacteristically warm for January and I’m at Paul’s restaurant at Downtown Katameya enjoying the sunshine as I wait for Maiss Hamdan to arrive for the cover interview for our February issue. Hamdan arrives on time unlike too many celebrities I’ve interviewed before. She is dressed all sportily, in black sweatpants, a white sweater and a red pair of Sketchers. To remain incognito, she keeps her over sized pair of Dolce & Gabbana shades on as she is deciding what to order. Noticing how impressed I am that she was on time, she insists, “I am always very punctual, and I actually get into trouble because of that. I end up waiting for everyone!”
It is hard to picture Hamdan in trouble, though. This playful multitalented artist is surely capable of acting, dancing, singing and charming her way out of anything. After all, her exceptional abilities have already landed her extensive exposure on both the TV and silver screens in a very short amount of time.
Hamdan was born in Dubai to a Palestinian father and a Jordanian mother but spent her childhood and youth in Cairo. Her father passed away when she was two years old and that’s when her mother decided to take her and her four siblings to the land of the Pyramids. “I was so nerdy and shy as a child,” she recalls. “Everyone expected me to be a doctor and that’s what I was aiming for. But my grades weren’t good enough so I ended up at the English Department of the Faculty of Commerce at Cairo University.” It turns out Hamdan was not as shy as she and everyone thought. That’s certainly obvious to anyone who’s seen her on her first big show CBM on MBC, performing her monologues where she imitates just about everyone. Hamdan shed her shy image while still in university, when she was bold enough to jump at the opportunity to appear in a couple of TV commercials. Soon enough, she caught the eye of the Al Mehwar channel, who asked her to host a show called Ghazaly for songs’ dedications. While with Al Mehwar, her special ‘Je ne sais quoi’ quality then caught the eye of Nashwa Al Ruwaini, famous TV host and Head of Production at MBC. Al Ruwaini called her up and asked her to leave what she was doing and to join MBC. The young Hamdan was reluctant, but was tempted by the power of the three letters that marked the biggest satellite TV channel in the region. She decided to go for it. Suddenly everyone started seeing what Al Ruwaini saw in her, and within weeks Maiss Hamdan became a star, especially in the gulf area where her show CBM became very popular.
Her success on the small screen led to several attempts to lure her into the movie industry. Hamdan finally agreed to make an appearance in Zarf Tarek (An Emergency) with superstar Ahmed Helmy in 2006. Her small role didn’t go unnoticed and she was offered to star in the first Saudi movie Keif El Hal (How’s It Going) in the same year. “It was a great experience. They wanted to produce the first Saudi movie but they don’t have female actresses in Saudi. Because I am really good at accents it was easy for me to take the role and luckily it worked out,” she says. After that, Hamdan’s star as a rising actress continued to shine and she appeared in a slew of blockbusters like Omar We Salma 1 and a number of successful TV series like Al Masrawya (The Egyptians) and Taraf Talet (Third Party).
But Hamdan wasn’t satisfied. She knew she wasn’t exploiting her full potential. She wanted to sing. It kept bugging her that her musical talent was still untapped, until she finally decided to produce her first single Baheb Elly Yehebak (I love Anyone Who Loves You) in 2008. “Singing is what I love the most,” she admits. “I always wanted to sing but the right opportunity never came along. So I finally buckled down and went for it,” she continues. Hamdan then sang a couple more songs, Masketeloush (I Didn’t Let It Go) and Amentak (I Gave You Peace). Then she stopped singing for a while to focus on acting, leaving the music scene to her younger sister Mai Selim. “It is actually very weird how Mai started as a singer and I as an actress; and now Mai is all about acting and I am all about singing,” she says laughing. But there’s nothing weird about it. The two sisters have been very close all along. The special relationship between the two sisters is characteristic of all the Hamdan family. “We are all very close and we always support each other,” says Hamdan. It was their third sister Dana who suggested the idea of the hit show Sisters’ Soup which first aired on OSN and then was rerun on MBC. The show took Hamdan back as a TV host for the first time in years. Only for a while though, as she is not letting it distract her from what she describes as her “true calling”: singing. Hamdan recently released a new single Ma Areedah (I Don’t Want Him), which she sings in a Khaliji (Gulf) accent. “I know people are asking why I returned to singing with a Khaliji song. Actually, I had two songs ready: a Khaliji one and an Egyptian one. I thought I’d better delay the release of the Egyptian one till after the January 25th anniversary to see how things are going to unfold. This is not the right time to be launching anything here.”
As I chat easily with Hamdan about her life and multifaceted career, I find it hard to figure out who she really is. Is she the acting/singing diva with a huge fan club? or is she the spontaneous playful girl who just spent the past 15 minutes talking about how she loves Skechers so much that she bought four pairs on her latest trip to Dubai? It’s actually amusing, and delightful, to watch her personality change as we shift from one topic to the other. Especiallly when she catches me off my guard as she tells me, “You’ll be very surprised if I told you how long I’ve been single. People have the wrong idea about the kind of life celebrities lead, especially female celebrities.” For a split second I feel a hint of bitterness in her tone. Is the spotlight too much for her after all? “People have these stereotypes about females who are in show business, but it’s not true. Every profession has the good and the bad,” she continues.
But he who wants the rose must respect the thorn. This is something Hamdan is used to very well. She is just happy she gets to do what she loves. She is always accepting invitations to be on TV shows, always excited to be preparing for something new, and always ready to chat up with a fan. She is ready to embrace fame with all that it throws at her. Even though she would much rather stay at home with her nieces, train with her personal trainer or rap it up with her rapper friend who comes to her a few times a week. “Mohamed Abdulla is a great rapper, we can spend hours rapping and dancing. Music and dance have the power to change my whole mood.” See, it does seem that for Hamdan, it’s music that comes most naturally to her.
And as for what she is working on now, that’s is a bit tricky. “OSN are contemplating this idea of making a reality show about me and my sisters’ lives. You know, the Hamdanians, like The Kardashians,” she says mockingly and adds, “but it’s very hard because what makes reality shows successful abroad is the dating, the sex and the scandals. This is something we can’t do here.” Whatever comes out of this idea, between planning for that or another show and preparing her next single, Hamdan clearly will have a lot to keep her busy in the period ahead. And whether it’s singing, dancing or acting she’s not going to keep still. She will remain in the spotlight and hopefully, will continue to enjoy it.
ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azab
PHOTOGRAPHY: Khaled Fadda