Lebleba is one of a kind. She is fabulous and she is a living legend with no equivalent. When you meet her for the first time she instantly draws a smile on your face. Her genuine charm and impeccable sense of humor capture you the very moment she sets foot in the room. She is this Grande Dame of cinema, who is faithfully at peace with herself.
With 82 films under her wing, the iconic star was introduced to the world of lights, cameras and action at the tender age of five. She danced, sung, acted and imitated Egyptian screen legends until she was discovered by director Niazi Mustafa at a talent competition. Her very first screen appearance was ‘Habibti Susu’. “I used to imitate Magda and she never got mad. I was discovered through imitating celebrities. My mother realized my talent when I was 3 years old. I used to imitate my mum, my aunt and my neighbors. Niazi Moustafa watched me at ‘The Auberge’ when I performed and was awarded the first prize. He came to my mother telling her that he wants me in a movie. He’s the one who called me Lebleba because I was like a grasshopper who was full of energy and I couldn’t stop talking and making fun just about everything around me”, she tells.
Aging gracefully is never an easy task for women, especially in a tough world like that of show business. Lebleba is the first Egyptian actress to start out at such a young age, yet develop a remarkable repertoire with a career that had no stops, “It’s really hard for an actress to be successful since childhood and continue until this age. It’s very rare. When I go to International Festivals, whether as jury member or receiving an award, people always used to ask me how I made it through”, she adds.
Throughout her lifetime achievements, Lebleba was always surrounded by legendary veterans, such as Anwar Wagdy and Abdel Halim Hafez. As a child she starred alongside Anwar Wagdy in ‘Arba’ Banat wa Zabet’ and used have a regular monologue in all Abdel Halim’s concerts, “Abdel Halim liked me to break the ice and spread some fun in the concert hall before he entered the stage. I really liked it a lot, it was so much fun for me. Working with Anwar Wagdy was also amazing, he wasn’t selfish at all and he wanted to get the best out of me, although I was really young”, she tells.
For an actress to experience various cinematic ages, it is hard to highlight the best of Egyptian cinema as she sees that every decade had it pros and cons, “Cinema will be cinema regardless of past or future. Today, we work with really magnificent technology. Decades ago, cameras used to move on rails, but now there are miracle cameras that could enter your body and get out”, she laughs.
Lebleba was one of the very few actresses to be able to do outstanding roles in the 80’s at a time the Egyptian film industry was light years behind its peak, “. In the 80’s I did really nice roles. I did lots of movies with Adel Emam like ‘Esabet Hamada wa Tutu’ and ‘Ehtares Men El Khot’ that stood out and people love watching them until today. We have great chemistry and we did nine movies together. Just by listening to Adel Emam’s footsteps I know if he is happy or in a bad mood. When we beat each other in ‘Arees Fi Geha Amneya’ it was all real. When he feels something he just does it. I heard the director shouting at me to punch him and of course I wanted to, because he was beating me so hard, then unfortunately it was too hard that I cut his upper lip”, she breaks in a laugh. “When I work with Adel Emam, I worry about nothing. He’s very organized and he prepares a lot. He is always like my good friend. Sometimes he tells me go change that dress, it doesn’t look nice on you, and I go change it. I trust him in everything”, she states.
In the 90’s Lebleba appeared in new film genres, different from what her audience used to see her in. From the funny girl to the woman whose life is full of action and drama, Lebleba never failed to grab her fans admiration, “from funny to tragic roles was a big shift. That was the most important phase of my career and it was the most difficult one, but if I hadn’t done that shift, I wouldn’t have been offered good scripts until this day”, she explains.
Love is a major aspect of Lebleba’s life. One of her best characters was in ‘Al Akhar’ by the late Youssef Chahine, in which she played Baheya, a widow struggling to raise her son and daughter, hoping for her daughter to find love. Lebleba is a great believer in love and all its facets, “I become extremely sad if I discover that love has changed these days. Love is love at all times. God created women for love and tenderness. Love must be around us at all ages, but we can’t say to the extent of Romeo and Juliet. If life has become difficult these days, love must make it sweet, excuse my romantic side”, she laughs.
Working with Youssef Chahine is like a scholarship that you are being awarded with and for Lebleba is was a one of a kind experience, “Youssef Chahine was a genius. He had really high emotions. Lots of people might think that he teaches people how to act but that was never true, he sits with you and discusses your role and makes you act in your very own way. Youssef Chahine was like a violinist, who organizes his strings before a concert”, she reminisces.
A lot of people might think that Lebleba had planned a certain life without family yet full of art, but when taking a closer look at her life one discovers many things that we just never knew about her, “women should have children, it’s a must. Yes, I never had children. I got married at 17 and divorced at 24, but if I had got married again, I would have had four kids at least. It was never intentional not to have kids, but the men I fell in love with didn’t want me to proceed with my career. Of course I refused because that’s the only thing I knew ever since I was three years old. Even if I got married and stopped acting, people will still recognize me on the street and I wouldn’t have a private life like these men wanted. A life without my art would have been like closing my eyes and walking down an unknown destination”, she elaborates, “the most important thing in marriage is to say ‘we are ‘ not ‘I am’. Women must work on their marriage because in this fast-paced life we are living some good chances might pass by us without using them. The best marriages are when wives try solving their problems without piling up everything on their men. Nice words in a relationship are a must. When he hugs you he will recall all the negative words you said and the other way around. Love is like a flower, you water it to grow, if you don’t it will die”.
No one can compete with the fantastic humor and charm of Lebleba. She is a believer that being sexy cannot work without a beautiful smile, “a smile opens doors to many things in life. Marilyn Monroe’s charm was all about her infamous smile. Men hate somber women. They hate them very much. Men know what they’ve done wrong and you don’t have to give them the straight face. They want to go home to a smile, but waiting for your man to come home and throw all your problems in his face is the last thing he will ever want. Jealousy makes women look ugly, if a woman is comfortable from the inside it will reflect on her face”, she claims, “from the people I know to the characters I played my experiences are like a big movie I watch and learn from”. Given this we wondered whether she could reveal the mystery of what men really want, “If I knew what men want I would have been married now”, she laughs, “you can’t predict what men want or expect them to respond to a certain situation like the scenario you drew in your mind. We must understand that men are different creatures, but that’s not the point, we still love them”.
“I go for long walks that prevent me from gaining weight and that helps in keeping my skin at its best. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I go to bed early and I am a vegetarian since I was little. My mother wanted me to be an integrated artist, so she took me to ballet classes. I give a lot of credit to ballet for making me this fit at this age. I practiced it for many years and the result was always amazing”, she explains when we tried to unravel the secret to her eternal beauty.
Lebleba loves life very much. She has plenty of good friends and relatives with whom she spends quality time and she always has a script in her hands to go through, “ I love long walks but these days I don’t go out after 6pm after I was almost mugged a few weeks ago. I was driving my car wearing a cap and sunglasses and in less than a minute someone opened the door and grabbed my bag! I screamed at him and he recognized me and left my bag yelling ‘Oh my God I really love you!’- the thief turned out to be a fan”, she laughs, “You know, I just started to learn cooking, I never had the housewife lifestyle before. What had always been great about my life is that I never plan I just live my life”.
Photographer: Ahmed Mobarez
Stylist: Kegham Djeghalian
Art Direction by WWW Team
Special thanks to Al Sagheer Salons
Special thanks to Malak El Ezzawy for designing these beautiful gowns specially for this shoot