INTERVIEW: Egyptian star Yousra reflects on 30 years of MBC, embraces youth's interests

Ati Metwaly , Tuesday 14 Sep 2021

Yousra's latest appearance was in MBC’s 30th anniversary celebrations and participation in star-studded special episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that were shot in Lisbon last week

Yousra (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

As the guests began arriving at the 30th anniversary of MBC Group, held in Lisbon last week, the Egyptian Star Yousra had her own special entry onto the red carpet.

Beloved throughout the whole Arab world, Yousra whose real name is Civene Naseem, has engraved for herself a special place in the cinema industry since her first steps in the field in the 1970s. She was discovered by director of photography Abdel Halim Nasr and went on to appear in films directed by renowned filmmakers such as Henry Barakat, Youssef Chahine Mohamed Khan, Khairy Beshara, acting between 1970s and early 1990s alongside renowned names like Adel Emam, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Rushdi Abazah, Samir Ghanem, Nour El-Sherif, among many others.

Collaborations with Adel Emam and Ahmed Zaki played an important role in her career, shedding light on the young talent. Fast forward over 50 years of work in the industry, Yousra’s filmography boasts almost 100 titles of the well-known films and television series. Her rich portfolio also includes a couple of theatre roles.

Considered a fashion icon, Yousra’s entry on MBC’s red carpet emphasized her glamour as she was greeted with great respect from young and older generation of Arab actors, actresses and producers.

Over the past years, the actress appeared in a number of shows produced by the Saudi media conglomerate. In 2017, MBC recruited her as one of the judges in season 2 of Project Runway Middle East where she sat alongside Tunisian fashion icon Afef Jnifen and renowned Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab. Saheb Al-Maqam (The Enshrined Saint) released on MBC’s Shahid platform in 2020 was the first feature film starring the Egyptian actress produced by MBC.

Though MBC is younger than the span of Yousra’s achievements, the actress wraps up the Groups history saying: “I didn’t feel the thirty years: they passed like a day. Everything beautiful passes very fast, everything that is booming makes the time go fast, because you live in this continuous success,” Yousra commented to Ahram Online, making her best wishes for the MBC Group to continue their growth.

“I wish the Group to keep opening new horizons and addressing new audiences, as they have been doing for three decades now while investing into all talents and allowing them develop and mature through their channels and shows.”

Stars of MBC in Lisbon's Warner Bros studios (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

While talking about the boundless opportunities of development, Yousra also underscores the sheer necessity of the process. “We all live in constant development. We are never static. When thinking about something new, I always think about young people. How do they think? How do they perceive the shows and the actors? How would you like us to appear? What can I present to the young generation? It is important to connect with the young people. They are full of fresh ideas. They should not feel that the older generation is detached from their interests,” Yousra told Ahram Online adding that one does not live alone and should be linked to the surrounding reality and its people.

She goes on to give an example of social media that dominates the lives of today’s youth. “To be honest, for long I did not like social media. I feel it is not real life. However, in today’s reality we are required to accept its presence and to live its new meanders. It is up to us to embrace or reject the change.”

Yousra’s official Facebook page has 2.6 million followers and her Instagram account 3.2 million.

In a world dominated by social media, the concept of talent and approach to acting as well as receiving the performers has definitely changed. The portrayals of heroes and heroines in films produced 30, 40 and 50 years ago are definitely different to new expectations of young audiences posting their own creations on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram among other platforms.

“There are a lot of great young talents in the sphere of films and television. They all deserve to get their chances and shine. This can be done through the MBC channels but also through many other platforms available to new generation.”

Yousra adds that “social media can be used to shed light on or create talents. This is actually already happening. I am not for using the social media for needless and often aggressive confrontations between the users.”

Commenting on content posted on TikTok by young people, Yousra said “some content is very entertaining and makes me laugh. But there are also those that I do not appreciate at all. It is normal: in life we always have two sides of the same coin.”

Stars attend the special anniversary episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. From left to right: Asser Yassin, Amina Khalil, Bassel Khaiat, Yousra and George Kurdahi (Photo: MBC)

Yousra goes on to mention Shahid, the first free video-on-demand service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region launched by MBC in 2008.

“For very long, Shahid was quite strange to me and to my colleagues from the same generation. To be honest when working on Saheb Al-Maqam (The Enshrined Saint) we were a bit worried that the film would not have many viewers on the platform. In fact, it was an unprecedented success. I was very happy and definitely surprised.” Directed by Mohamed Gamal El-Adl, the 2020 film starred Yosra, Asser Yassin, Amina Khalil and Bayoumi Fouad.

“Saheb Al-Maqam opened many doors allowing more actors from the established generation to have faith in the success of their works premiering on Shahid,” she added. In fact, Saheb Al-Maqam was Yousra’s first film after eight years that she dedicated to television series only.

Equally, Yousra is fond of Netflix and the presence of many Arab productions on the platform. “This is a great opportunity to show our art to the whole world,” she concluded.

As the guests began entering the Warner Bros studio to shoot the special episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, we were yet to discover Yousra’s distinctive role in the show hosted by George Kurdahi, renowned Lebanese media figure and the newly appointed information minister.

As she carried herself and spoke with interminable grace, the audience filled with Arab world stars followed attentively Yousra’s contribution to the anniversary show marking the MBC’s thirtieth anniversary. The special episodes will be aired on MBC on 18 September.

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