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A Purr-fect 10

Merely five years into her solo career, she has already released her second album and starred in three films including one with Adel Imam. Clearly, Nicole Saba's on fire and she doesn't plan to stop until she's conquered the planet, says Rohini Nagu.

Nicole Saba nurses her cappuccino in the corner of the restaurant at the newly refurbished Hyatt Regency Hotel in Deira. “This is the first moment of rest that I have had all day,” she sighs. Currently visiting the city with the intention of opening for Tarkan's concert the following day, this multi-talent has had a fairly busy day full of press events and interviews. Obviously exhausted from traffic bound commutes and arduously long press conferences, this 29-year-old Lebanese singer and actress still manages to put on a brave face and disarming smile for the cameras.

Then before one can even ask what she means, she shares, “Most people don't believe me when I say this, but my job can be exhausting as well. For the next couple of days, I'm going to be running from one place to another. No breaks. But you know what? When I get the results, it's all worth it in the end. One of life's bitter realities is that you cannot gain anything substantial without working hard and suffering a little. And that's what I'm doing.”

With her head set firmly on her shoulders, Nicole's composed yet warm front and accommodating conduct are clear give-away of her long tenure in show business. Her singing career began with ‘Four Cats', the regions first girl band. After four years with the troop (1998-2001), Nicole decided to break away and embark on her much pondered solo career. Undoubtedly the risk was immense, and she was well aware of that fact she might not be able to carry a record label based on the merit of her name alone.

Nevertheless, when the time came Nicole's talent overshadowed all anxieties, and was received with raving reviews and industry praise. “I simply couldn't have asked for a better solo debut,” she purrs. Clearly, she was on a roll because soon after, she was offered the opportunity to act in her first film alongside legendary Egyptian comedian and actor, Adel Imam in ‘Al Tajruba Al Denmarkia' (A Danish Experience).“

Upon its release in 2003, the film was a sell-out at the box office, further establishing Nicole's reputation as a promising actress. “That movie mounted me to a completely new level. I still can't believe my luck,” she says gratefully, “I mean only seasoned actresses have the right to dream about securing a role next to Adel Imam. So I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work with him and in that movie.” In fact, three years down the line, people still stop Nicole on the street and comment on her role in the film.

Every time she speaks about Imam or her debut performance, Nicole's eyes light up like fireflies. Obviously, she cherishes the film. Oddly enough, she very nearly declined the offer to star in the film. “It's a funny story,” she grins, “I got a call late one night. At the time I was recording my first solo album and had no plans for acting. The caller said that he was Adel Imam and wanted me to co-star with him in his next movie. I figured that someone was playing a practical joke on me. I thought that if this was a real offer, Imam's secretary would have called and passed this message along. So I berated the caller for disturbing me so late in the night and hung up. Seconds later, Adel Imam called back and finally managed to convince me to take his call seriously.

Next thing I know, I'm flying over to Cairo to meet with him and read the script. But I didn't even bother to look at the script. I was not going to give this role up for anything, and happily signed myself up immediately.”

As new roles began to pour in, Nicole learnt to become wise about her selections. The pressure of performing alongside Imam, as a debut performance, put a lot of pressure on her to work hard. However, the film was also a blessing in disguise. She explains, “Having started my career with Adel Imam, I most definitely could not take on shallow or smaller roles any more. Having already working with the best, I was forced to give my next film a little more thought. So I just took my time and waited three years before finally agreeing to act again.”

With Adel Imam as her mentor, Nicole knew how to choose her roles wisely. Not contented with being a pretty face in a blockbuster film forever, she was looking for meatier parts. “I decided to change directions and go for different types of roles. I didn't want to become stereotyped as the beautiful girl in films. I refused most offers because my roles were based solely on my looks and not my talent. All I wanted was the opportunity to show the world that I could really act,” she recalls.

Since then, the actress has signed only two more film, ‘1/8 Dastet Ashrar' starring Yasmien Abdel Aziz, Mohamed Ragab and Khaled Saleh; and ‘Qisset AL Hai Al Sha'bi' also starring Talat Zakaria and folk-singer Saed Al Sagheer. Both films have been box office successes, finally establishing Nicole as a talented and bewitching actress.

Meanwhile, on the musical front, Nicole's released her debut album ‘Ya Sighilny Bik' in 2004 to admiring audiences. Quick to permanently carve her popularity into stone, her determinative was to sign on reputed directress Nadine Labaki for her first solo music video ‘Yali Shaghilni Beek'. “A good music video counts for half of the success of the song and artist. This is something I learnt during my days as a ‘Cat'. So to make my first music video, I decided to team up with one of the best directors - Nadine,” she explicates. Presenting Nicole with a new look, audiences instantly fell in love with the seductive, yet angelic secretary from the sixties.

One thing is largely apparent; Saba has paid meticulous attention to every aspect of her vocation. Grateful for every opportunity given to her, she makes the most of each and every one of them. In fact, in relation to Tarkan, she considers herself “extremely lucky” to be given the chance to perform alongside him, well aware that this performance could be her first stepping stone towards international fame.

Besides, juggling a successful musical career with an acting one is no simple feat either. So how does she manage to do justice to both jobs? “As far as I'm concerned, my singing and acting compliment each other. In my music videos, I am constantly acting and in my films, I'm required to sing. Since both jobs require me to utilize both of my talents, I'm always practicing and training for both. Yes, doing both can become hectic and tiring. But the ability to do both makes me a more sought after actress and singer. People can depend on me to put on a great show whether it is in a film, concert or music video,” she says proudly.

Equipped with a business-like acumen and an apparently abundant well of perseverance and energy, Nicole has carved a niche for herself as an acclaimed stage performer. Sought after for concerts and private shows especially at holiday destinations, the full-lipped knockout recently had to bump up her fees in order to subsidize the unmanageable number of offers. To her credit, she has accumulated this much success in eight years while her solo career is merely five years old.

Perhaps what sets her concerts apart from the others is her intoxicating personality. Undoubtedly, an interacting and flirting with her audience as she serenades them with one love song after another. “My performances come from the heart. Actually I hate recording music in a studio. It's so cold and boring. It's more fun to perform and get the audience excited about my music.
Concerts are much better.” On the flip side, as her career continues to gain momentum, each mistake is magnified and gossiped about in the media.

Owing to typically youthful passions and naiveté, this alluring diva has also made her fair share of mistakes.
“I know what everyone is talking about. My fans and even media people ask each other, ‘why didn't Nicole attend her sister's wedding' or ‘why was she banned from Egypt'.

This is all gossip, and I have repeatedly cleared the air about each and every issue, but wagging tongues will continue to wag, so I have taught myself to be strong and simply don't let these stories affect me. I won't lie to you. Sometimes these stories do provoke me, but I try not to get angry and respond to absurd accusations or stories. Anyways that's what they want. Many are about my personal life and that's nobody's business but mine, and this does bother me sometimes. I mean how would you like for your whole life to be discussed by the whole world?”

On a lighter note, Nicole is happily unattached. Her famous comment, that her dream man looks like Wael Kfoury, is merely a guideline for interested gentlemen to strive towards. “Again, a harmless comment made during an interview has become hot gossip on the internet and in the press,” she points out, “I cannot deny that Wael is a good looking guy and that is why girls love and adore him. But I like him only as a friend.”

Perhaps, her single status hides a bigger complex. According to her, being an artiste and celebrity makes it difficult for one to find love, “Most oriental men have an old-fashioned mentality that women should not be very successful and media savvy. They become very allergic and unsupportive of celebrity duties. Ideally, my partner should understand and respect my job and what it entails. Of course, I will never give my job priority over my relationship, but I do expect my significant other not to make me choose between the two.”

Despite her admonishing words, deep down inside, Nicole is a home bird. She dreams of starting a family one day and provide more stability to her life. While she is very open to meeting someone in the near future, she fears that her demanding work schedule and future plans may not allow time to explore relationship options. “God knows when these dreams will come true,” she says as she throws up her hands, “If I don't find my true love in time, I've decided that when the time comes, I will adopt children. I want my children to be strong-willed, independent and very creative.”

Well on her way to being entered into the Arab Hall of Fame as one of the most driven and focused multi-talents of our time, Nicole will make an ideal role model for any child. Devastatingly beautiful, her beauty is more than skin deep. Her infectious, yet rare smile and integrity is enough to disarm even the most selective critic. Undoubtedly, Saba's bound to more greatness and well worth.

Source: Arabian Woman
Posted: 29/06/2008


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