Ever since she caught everyone’s attention with her screen debut in legendary director Youssef Chahine’s film, Alexandria… New York, in 2004, Yosra El Lozy has been in the spotlight, alternating between acting and being a television host. In the past few years, she has taken on increasingly complex roles in both cinema and television, to the acclaim of her fans and critics alike. eniGma’s Mohamed Hesham sat down with the rising star, who is also the mother of a three year old girl, to find out more about her career path, her ambitions, and how she balances her work and her family life.
Yosra El Lozy grew up in an artistic household, learning the piano, dancing in ballet classes, and singing all in her stride. She went to French schools as a child and is fluent in both English and French, besides Arabic, of course. The fact that her father taught theater at the American University in Cairo (AUC) also meant that she was familiar with the theater at a very young age. She accompanied him regularly to the theatre at AUC and often to see shows at the Opera. “I remember when I began ballet classes, my father took me to see Swan Lake at the Opera House and he got in a fight with the security guards when they wouldn’t let me in because I was below the permitted age. He insisted that I watched the ballet live!” she recalls.
El Lozy also played the piano at a young age following in the footsteps of her grandmother who played the piano regularly at home. “I started private piano lessons when I was just five years old,” says El Lozy. She also developed an interest in singing, when her mother, who used to translate Disney animations, would have her do some of the voiceovers and singing for those cartoons. “At the age of eight, I also appeared in some commercials and kids’ shows, and had singing lessons. But, it never crossed my mind at that time that entertainment would eventually be my full time job,” El Lozy exclaims.
During her senior year of high school, and just four months before her final exams, El Lozy landed her first real acting role, and it was with none other than the legendary director, Youssef Chahine for his film, Alexandria… New York. Chahine was looking for a young girl to play the young version of the lead character, played by the established star, Yousra. He wanted someone who resembled Yousra to some extent and who had a background in dancing. Chahine’s niece, Marianne Khoury, who was close friends with El Lozy’s mother, recommended El Lozy, who fit the bill perfectly. “Chahine had me do a camera test and recite some lines. I went through a large process before signing the contract,” says El Lozy. “Doing this film was like a dream. I was living in two different worlds, since I was still regularly attending classes at school. Then, I stopped going to school for a while to focus on rehearsals and shooting, until filming was completed,” she continues. The movie was released a year later, after she had completed her freshman year at AUC.
At AUC, El Lozy majored in Political Science and minored in Theatre and History. “While at university, I starred in three plays, but I still considered it a hobby. I still was not so sure I wanted to pursue acting as a career, but I never felt like an office job was the thing for me either,” El Lozy says. After the release of Alexandria… New York, things started to change for El Lozy. “I started to get recognised by people and I got several acting offers. But, I still decided not to accept any offers until I graduated from college,” she adds.
At the end of her senior year at university, director Osama El Adl, who was still a student, offered El Lozy the lead role in his graduation project from the Cinema Institute. She instantly liked the script and agreed to do it. “When it was over, I began to feel that I might actually want to pursue acting as a real job,” she recalls. She went on to win the Best Actress award for that role at the Lekaa El Soura Festival, at the French Cultural Center. “I loved that it was a well-earned award and that nobody was doing me any favours. I was not a star and that award was the fruit of my labor. It gave me the push to continue acting,” El Lozy explains.
Once she finished college, El Lozy pursued her acting career with a sense of purpose. She took on one role after another. First came Kobolat Masrooka (Stolen Kisses), followed by Heliopolis, and Bel Alwan El Tabeaya (In Natural Colours) and then Microphone. She also took part in television series, such as El Gamaa’a (The Brotherhood), Lahazat Harega (Critical Moments), Dahsha (Surprise), Adam & Gamila, Banat Superman (Superman’s Daughters), and most recently in last Ramadan’s Taket El Kadar (Lucky Streak), El Halal (The Permissible), and a key guest role in the series finale of 30 Youm (30 Days).
To El Lozy, her most challenging roles were those where she played characters that were very different from her own, such as in Dahsha, where she played the character of Neama, and in El Halal, where she played the character of Fatima. “Dahsha was about this girl from Upper Egypt and the story took place many years ago; while Fatima was challenging because I played this girl who lived in the slums, who had a certain way of walking and talking. Both were nothing like me in real life,” the actress explains. That being said, her favourite roles till now are those in Dahsha with Yehia El Fakharani, and her debut role in Alexandria… New York.
El Lozy says that the first days of shooting a new project are the hardest part of her job. “No matter how many times I rehearse, for me the first day of shooting is always full of doubts. It is a feeling I get at the beginning of any project. For the first few moments, there is a fleeting risk of feeling fake, and I just know it will be on the internet forever!” El Lozy exclaims with a laugh.
Although El Lozy is also an accomplished television host, that experience was not so easy for her. “My first job as a TV host in The X Factor Arabia was scary and hectic. I was shooting the series, Adam & Gameela, in Egypt, and doing The X Factor in Lebanon at the same time. So, for about three months, I was spending three days in Egypt and four days in Lebanon, getting just three hours of sleep a day,” El Lozy recounts. Hosting was very different from acting, which she had gotten used to. “I had to address the camera lens directly and stay in contact with the audience, all while wearing high heels on a tremendously high stage! It was also live, so there was no room for mistakes. It was a real learning experience for me. I did it because I felt I needed this kind of exposure in the Middle East, and it felt like the right time to do it,” she explains.
After The X Factor, El Lozy went on to host the musical talk show, Microphone. “It was totally different from The X Factor. The pace was much slower and it was recorded. Nevertheless, it was still quite hectic for me, since I had given birth and my baby was just 45-days-old when I started, and we would literally stay on the set for a full 24 hours. But, I consider myself lucky to have tried both live and recorded shows,” she says.
Now a mother to a three-year-old girl, who is the love of her life, El Lozy finds that motherhood taught her to appreciate the time she spends at home more. “I had to re-prioritise my life and make sacrifices. I still miss my daughter when I spend a lot of time at work, but now I make sure to spend all my free time with her. I gave up my “me” time, which I used to spend working out or seeing friends, to spend more time with my daughter,” says El Lozy. “It’s all about balance, or the lack there of! I seem to either take on a project and it becomes my whole life, or I decide to stay at home for a couple of months. At some point, I feel that I would like to take a ‘gap year’ to travel the world, catch up with friends and family, and to catch up on my TV shows,” she adds with a laugh.
El Lozy is also still dubbing animations. Her latest was the Arabic cartoon version of The Smurfs. “I’m really looking forward to watching it with my daughter and seeing her recognise my voice,” El Lozy says, proudly. She adds that she suspects that her little girl might not necessarily think it’s a big deal, as she grows older. “These days, she excitedly shouts ‘Mama!’ when she sees my face on billboards, but she doesn’t understand my work yet. As she grows older, because we live in a digital age, she will be part of this generation who see themselves on digital screens every day, and I expect that like them, she won’t be so impressed with seeing me on television,” she explains.
While appreciating her job and its perks, El Lozy admits that fame comes with a price. “Fame limits your activities. I used to be able to walk freely in the streets, and that’s not possible now. Also, no matter how I may be feeling, for example, if I’m in pain or sad, I have to put up a brave face all the time, especially when I meet fans in public. This can sometimes be emotionally draining,” she explains.
The limitations of fame, however, don’t stop her from pursuing interests she is passionate about. She is very active in the “Esma3ni” (Hear Me) campaign to help raise awareness on hearing loss among children, a cause she believes is neglected in Egypt. “It is an extremely common disease, which people don’t hear about. I think it’s crucial to detect it early on and to provide the proper care for the children affected by it, so that they are able to carry on and function normally,” she explains.
She is quick to add that the support and understanding of her family and friends is what allows her to pursue such interests and to balance her career and family life. “At first, my friends, family and my husband were shocked at how demanding my job is and all the life events I had to miss, but later on, they understood and accepted it, and I’m really grateful for their constant support,” she says.
Looking ahead, El Lozy feels there’s still much she wants to achieve. One of her dreams is “to make one really good film that’s artistically pleasing and commercially successful.” “I would also like to delve further into dark comedy, which isn’t very common in our culture. I made a movie that could be considered a dark comedy – Hawas El Omr (The Obsession of a Lifetime), and I would like to do more of that,” El Lozy states, adding, “I would love to work with directors, Dawood Abdel Sayed and Sherif Arafa.”
El Lozy also insists that theater remains her true love, planted in her by her father a long time ago. “I want to do theatre at some point, but not commercial theatre, of course. I would like to do productions like the ones we did at AUC,” she says longingly.
El Lozy will next be seen in her new role on the OSN series Aaelet El Hag Noaman (Noaman’s Family). She is also preparing for the Ramadan series, Bel Hagm El Aely (In Family Size), where she stars along with Yehia El Fakharany, Mervat Amin, Ahmed Magdy and Shimaa Seif.
Who is your greatest role model?
My mom and dad.
What is one thing you would change about yourself?
The fact that I overthink and stress all the time.
What is your favourite place to hang out?
El Montzzah in Alexandria
What is one thing you like to do when you’re not working?
What is your best attribute?
What is your worst habit?
Being a perfectionist.
What is the favourite part of your job?
The fact that it’s routine-free.
If a book is written about you, what would it be called?
“Chill, Woman” (laughs)
Styling & Art Direction: Maissa Azab
Photography: Khaled Fadda
Make up by Shariff
Hair by Rafi at Mohamed Al Sagheer
Fashion Directory :
Boutique51: 35 B Abou El Feda St., Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 01122424876
Beymen: Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, Corniche El Nil, Garden City, Cairo, Egypt. Tel: +(202) 29726640
Charles & Keith: 9 Wadi El Nile, Mohandessin. Tel: +(202) 01144440253
Maison 69: 15 Ismail Mohammed St., Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 27365250/24188769
Queeny: First Mall, Four Seasons Hotel, Giza. Tel: +(202) 01222454910
Bvlgari: First Mall, Four Seasons Hotel, Giza.
Tel: +(202) 235697863