Yasmina El-Abd

Scene Stealing at Sixteen

Sixteen and killing it, Yasmina El-Abd is an icon-to-be with her bright eyes, cheerful giggle and top-notch personality. eniGma’s Nouran Deyab sat down with Yasmina after her mini photo shoot at the Enigma office to discuss everything from how she made it to the screen to where she plans on going next.

Raised in Switzerland, Yasmina El-Abd, grew up loving to lip-sync to Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber in homemade music videos along with her sister. “My journey in the arts began with ballet and choir. I was always into performing arts, but I also really liked being on camera,” she recalls. When she was 10 years old, Yasmina moved with her parents from Switzerland to Dubai, where she lived for four years, and that’s where she sprung her career into action.

“In Dubai, I began appearing in commercials and tourism campaigns, and one thing led to another,” she explains. She then began working on short films, which she enjoyed – especially when they were about raising awareness on certain topics. “I also did a program with Abu Dhabi National Geographics Kids,” she fondly recalls.

“In May of 2020, my agent in the UK landed me an audition for Theodosia and after five rounds of meeting producers, zoom calls and a full-on trip to London to do reads, I got cast in October,” Yasmina recounts. “The procedure was very exhausting, but I’m so grateful to have been a part of this project. I was super excited because the character wasn’t stereotypical. Princess Safiya is well educated and speaks many languages, and this really does portray many Egyptian girls and women.”

Yasmina goes on to lament how Arabs, in general, tend to be portrayed in a negative light in Western productions “There is ignorance abroad. They watch shows and movies about us that are incorrect and far from reality,” she says.

“I must admit abroad there are bigger budgets and perhaps a little more structure than here,” she continues. “But there is also ignorance when it comes to Egyptians. I was the only Egyptian in the cast of Theodosia, and so there was a clash in cultures. I feel like this is something that I’m going to go through in any foreign production. At the end of the day, I speak English and understand their culture, but I am Egyptian!”

Asked about how she prepares for her roles, she explains that it’s different with each role. “The way I approached my character in Finding Ola was different than my character in Theodosia. For example, body language and dialect were different. As Egyptians, we tend to emphasise certain words and that reflects on our body language.” Adapting to her character in the award-winning Jordanian film starring Saba Mubarak, Banat Abdul-Rahman (Daughters of Abdul-Rahman), was even more challenging. “Preparing for Banat Abdul-Rahman wasn’t an easy thing,” she says noting how broken her Arabic was at the time.

“My Arabic is still not perfect, but I’m working on it. I already wasn’t confident with the Egyptian dialect, so a Jordanian dialect was another level. But thankfully Saba, Zaid and the whole crew were there by my side to help me.”

“This film also landed me my first actual red carpet and movie premiere,” says Yasmina, adding, “I was really nervous. There was just so much going on and interviews being thrown at me here and there. I was both nervous and excited. I was nervcited!”

A couple of months after that red carpet, Yasmina appeared on the highly anticipated show Finding Ola. “When I was in Dubai, I had taken a workshop with Marwa Gabriel and luckily she was the casting director for the show. At the time I didn’t know what Finding Ola was about or that it was with Hend Sabry. All I knew was that they were looking for two Gen-Z girls for main roles.”

After her first call with Marwa Gabriel, Yasmina’s talent landed her the callback that put her in front of Hend Sabry and Hadi El-Bahgoury. “At the time I was supposed to film Theodosia, so there was a chance that I wasn’t going to be able to take part in Finding Ola,” she recalls. Luckily for her, Supermom came to the rescue and managed to guarantee both roles for her.

Recalling her experience with Hend Sabry in Finding Ola, Yasmina says, “There are no words to describe her, there is simply no one like her. She’s extremely kind and is a true inspiration. And I’m glad that I got to work with Hend a second time for our upcoming film Fadl We Ne’ma (I’m Grateful), along with Maged El Kidwany and director Ramy Imam, which will be released in September.”

Throughout our interview, we watched in awe and amusement the relationship between Yasmina and her mother. It was a little of everything. Her mother is clearly also her friend, her mumager and her biggest fan. We couldn’t help but wonder if her mother was always this supportive. “To convince my mom of this career path took a while. I can’t really blame her because there is always negative talk about the film industry. I would constantly show her behind the scenes clips from Disney channel shows and would keep telling her that I really wanted to act.” She quickly adds, “But now she’s my biggest supporter and I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

And how does Yasmina manage to balance it all, we ask. “I switched to homeschooling three years ago,” Yasmina replies. “It makes it so easy. I can study in the caravan or on the go or whenever I want to. One of the perks of acting abroad is that there are tutors on set too. But in Egypt, that’s not common because there aren’t many actors my age, so it’s not relatable.”

This year Yasmina starred in the Ramadan series Ahlam Saeeda (Sweet Dreams) with the iconic Youssra. “Filming in Ramadan was different and super hectic,” she says. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work with Youssra directly. I worked with Ghada Adel, Intesar and Hisham Ismail, which was a fun experience. But I do hope that I get the chance to work with Youssra on a future project.”

When asked if she would rather focus on local or foreign productions, Yasmina is quick to answer, “I want to focus on both. I don’t mind playing the ethnic girl in a foreign production, but I want the day to come when I play the normal teenage girl.” She adds, “Something I would love to work on is an Egyptian musical film, but it has to meet international standards. This is actually one of my biggest goals.”

Photography: Ahmed Abbas

Makeup: Farah Aly