By Zainab AbdulAziz
She’s enigmatic, gifted, and a steady force in our canon of Egyptian screen legends. When it comes to modern film sirens, there are few that have made an impact quite like Yousra. For many of us, she has always been there – her image changing often since her emergence in the 1980s, but nevertheless, Yousra is simply Yousra. She doesn’t even need a last name to be known. She has played over 70 different characters on the small and big screen, including some singing roles, and also mentored up-and-comers. She does it all, and effortlessly. With over three decades of work neatly tucked under her glamorous belt, Yousra isn’t slowing down at all. Hot off the heels of her smash-hit duet Talat Da’at with singer-songwriter Abu, she is considering more recording offers and filming projects due in 2018. Cairo West Magazine sat down with the superstar for a wide-ranging chat about past, present, and future.
CWM: Were you expecting the enormous reaction to Talat Da’at?
Y: Singing on Talat Da’at wasn’t even part of my plans or on my schedule! It just came out of nowhere and ignited something beautiful. Its success, its impact on people, and how it soared has resulted in a very different kind of success I haven’t tasted before.
Are you fielding a lot of offers based on the massive success of Talat Da’at?
Yes, all of a sudden everyone wants to give me a new song – which is nice! It’s a challenge. I wouldn’t consider a whole album, because it is a huge time commitment. But I would consider a song if it speaks to me the way Talat Da’at did.
We hear you have something coming up for next Ramadan season; can you give us a hint about it?
I have a multi-episode arc on an upcoming series directed by Mohamed Ali. The writer is Amin Gamal, a colleague of dearly departed Abdullah Hassan, who wrote the 2016 Ramadan series Fo2 Mostawa el Shobo7at for me.
What are your thoughts on some of the scripts and characters being writing by new scriptwriters?
I think we have a problem in scriptwriting today; you have to always be alert and aware to what you receive and take a stand in what you believe in. When I add my own expertise to the role, or asked an expert like Medhat El Adly for help in development, all of these steps make the process better and better. However, it’s become more difficult to receive a character or role that needs little to no work at all. The only people I don’t need to put any input at all with are Wahid Hamid or Tamer Habib – I have a high level of trust with their approach, well-thought out work, integrity and I know they put their blood into the work.
Can you give us an example of the complexities of working with emerging talent?
Sure. On Fo2 Mostawa el Shobo7at, I worked with an entirely new team, but I always put my own input into the process along with Medhat El Adly. On El 7esab Yegma3, we also included our own expertise with a fresh young team. Medhat El Adly has been alongside me on many projects for over ten years. I take his advice on many matters and ask for his assistance navigating many obstacles. I cannot tell you how important his opinion or advice is to me.
Are there are directors or screenwriters you would like to work with in the future?
I love new blood. New blood has a different perspective, a different vision. Of course, I would love to work with new directors; I would love to work with people who push to get the best out of me. Perhaps established players in film see me in a certain light, image or only see one aspect of my work, but new blood see my work in a multi-faceted way. They may see something in me that I don’t even realize is there. By working with fresh faces, you can discover things about yourself you did not even expect.
What would you say was the highlight of your career?
No, no, this is an impossible question! I’ve been fortunate enough to have many. Youssef Chahine, Adel Imam, Badrakhan… so many greats. I’ve had phases of my lifethat were so important to me. I can’t choose one.
Who would you consider your favorite screen partner?
Adel, Adel, Adel! We have a natural chemistry on the screen that you can see in any of our movies. And Ahmed Zaki, also, of course.
Who influenced you the most when you were coming up in show business?
I was lucky enough to meet a lot of icons at the beginning of my career. I sat in on many gatherings and meetings with elders in the business – actors, writers, directors, cinema experts – discussing what is cinema, what is craft, what inspires and influences us. I learned a lot from these people. I took it all in and stored it, and I brought it out when I needed it. Each of these people left a mark on the blueprint of who I am today. Each person left an anecdote, a small story… that is what made me who I am today, Yousra.
Strongest mentor(s) in your life?
My husband and my mom.
Early bird or night owl?
Dream lunch date companion?
My husband… lunch with my husband is something special and important to me.
Book you have enjoyed reading recently?
The 40 Rules of Love by Elif Şafak. I fell in love with it. I finished it so quickly, because I couldn’t stop!
Romantic or realist?
Both. I am both. I can be extremely romantic to a silly degree, and then all of a sudden, I find my mind popping in.
Favorite country visited – so far?
Bali, Indonesia. Love it!
Photographer: Ahmed Mobarez
Stylist: Youmna Mostafa
Make Up Artist: Dina Dimitry
Hair Stylist: Karim Ashour
Jewellery: Botros Jewellery
Wardrobe: Maison 69
Abu & Yousra Image – A Carousel Production:
Fashion Director: Gehad Abdalla
Fashion Coordinator: Omar Fadda
Photographer: Batool Al Daawi
Gaffers: Kamal Tarek | Mohamed safwat
MUA: Sherif Helaly
Hair Stylist: Taha Abd El Wahab
Wardrobe: Maison 69 Store | Kojakstudio | Baraka Optics
Jewellery: Dima Jewellery
Shot on location at La Maison Bleue, El Gouna