Unstoppable is a word that sums up Zeina, the actress who has overcome truly difficult challenges over the years and has managed to come back even stronger. She began her acting career in 1999 when she took part in the film, Ard El Khouf (Land of Fear) with the late Egyptian star, Ahmed Zaki. The film opened doors for her, and she landed important roles in several films and TV series after that, gaining a huge fan base and making a name for herself as a serious actress. However, Zeina took some time off during the past few years, mainly to care for her adorable twin boys; but she has now made her way back to the screen. Already a three-time eniGma cover star, Zeina is once again gracing our cover in this issue and posing for our cameras in full glam. The actress sat down with eniGma’s Farida Elserty for a heartfelt chat about her journey to success, her passion for acting, and how motherhood changed her life.
When Zeina arrives at the shoot location, the room is filled with her presence. Cracking a few jokes as she greets the crew, she puts everyone at ease. While she is glamming up for the photo shoot, she is all smiles and giggles, even as she argues with the stylist about what outfits she would be wearing.
Finally, all decked up and looking stunning, Zeina stands in front of the camera to start the photoshoot. Fittingly, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean starts playing in the background and it seems like Zeina was channelling the song’s lyrics, “She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene.” Zeina is not only effortlessly beautiful and gracious, but also such a natural in front of the camera.
The photoshoot takes over eight hours, and finally it’s time for our interview. I start by asking her, where she had been for the past few years, before her recent comeback starring in the Shahid blockbuster hit series, “El Leila W Elly Feeha” (What Happened That Night). Her groundbreaking role as Rasha in the series, which also featured Samah Anwar, Mohamed Shahin, and Abyusif, recaptured everyone’s attention and reminded audiences of her talent and screen presence.
“Well, I have been around, but I was marginalised for unknown reasons,” she replies in a soft and sad voice.
Recently, Zeina also received the Award for Excellence and Creativity at the Arab Sat Festival for her role as Rasha in the series. While she had never doubted her talent and skill despite her long absence from the screen, Zeina didn’t expect all this success for her new series. “To be honest, I was blown away by people’s feedback on social media platforms about my role in El Leila W Elly Feeha,” she says joyfully.
Turning to how she got into the movie industry, Zeina reveals that she grew up watching movies from Egypt’s golden age of cinema and had always wanted to be an actress. “Shadia’s film, Afrit Merati (My Wife’s Ghost), is one of my favourite movies of all time. I always wanted to be an actress because of this amazing movie,” she recalls.
Zeina finds that reading a good script inspires her on many levels. As an emotional person, she picks her roles after a lot of deep thinking, and to date, her roles have been diverse and her choices smart. “The secret of success lies in a great script,” she says.
Zeina has taken part in a variety of genres and has proven herself a serious actor. After her first film with Ahmed Zaki, her films included Halet Houb (Being in Love) in 2004, Sayed El Atefy (Sayed the Romantic) in 2005, El Shabah (The Ghost) in 2007, El Gezzeera (The Island) in 2007, Captain Hima in 2008, and Wahid Sefr (One – Zero), which is one of her favourite projects, in 2009. Zeina is particularly proud of her 2010 film, Bintan Min Masr (Two Girls from Egypt), which she considers a turning point in her career. She also starred in Bolbol Hayran (Bewildered Bolbol) in the same year and El Maslaha (The Deal) in 2011.
Inevitably, the interview turns to Zeina’s personal and family life, which had been in the news for a while. She exclaims that over the past few years she has been one of the most misquoted celebrities in Egypt. “The truth is that I do not like to talk about my private life. The most challenging part of fame is that it is hard to defend or explain yourself. And, ironically, when you stand up for yourself it makes people talk more. That is why, most of the time, when I feel wronged, I choose to remain silent,” she explains, before quickly adding, “However, there is a good side to my job too! I love my job from the bottom of my heart! It saved me through my hardest times.”
Almost nine years ago, Zeina had her twins, two precious boys who completely changed her life. “My kids are my everything! Actually, the experience of motherhood is weird. It changes you in a way you never thought it could. Motherhood made me faint-hearted in many ways. I am now afraid to fight with people who wronged me. I am afraid to drive fast. I am afraid to leave my children alone. I am literally scared all the time from everything.” she exclaims. She adds that while raising twins is hard for her as a single mom, her two boys are a double dose of joy for her. “Just looking at their beautiful faces makes my heart flutter.”
And does she have any advice to give other mothers? “I think the best advice I can give mums out there is that you should know that you reap what you sow, and the more you give the more you take,” she exclaims. She adds that, in general, helping others is what brings her the greatest sense of happiness. “I want to be remembered not just as a talented actress; I want people to remember me as the person who wants good things for all.”
Some may know that Zeina went through some legal issues in the last few years. However, she stood her ground firmly and at no time was she ready to give up. In fact, to better understand the legal complexities surrounding her, she enrolled in the faculty of law, and she celebrated her graduation in 2021 with her fans on Instagram. “I wanted to study law to be aware of everything happening in my life. This curiosity is a part of my personality. If I see something I do not know about, I am keen to know everything about it immediately,” she explains. This is clearly a powerful formula that is serving Zeina well and has made her what she is today.
Zeina’s fans will be happy to learn that she will be joining the coming Ramadan series race with a starring role in El Omda (The Mayor) alongside the star, Mohamed Ramadan. She is also preparing for a new movie and another series with Shahid, although she cannot reveal anything about them at this time. Zeina concludes, “I don’t want to waste my time ever again, I am so excited about these coming roles, and I hope everyone likes them. I also want to go international. I would love to share the screen with Hollywood giants, like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep.”
ART DIRECTION & STYLING by Maissa Azab & Sahar Azab
PHOTOGRAPHY by Emad Kassem
MAKEUP by Alaa El Tonsy
LOCATION at Madar Showroom at 5A
HAIR by Islam from Al Sagheer Salons
FASHION ASSISTANT: Zeina Abdel Wahab
AREA : www.area.nyc
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