Since her appearance in Youssef Chahine’s ‘Alexandria New York’, people knew that this one would surely be heard of again. With old school Hollywood glamour and promising potential, Yosra El Lozy is undoubtedly an actress with a bright future ahead. At first glance you would think she is this sweet innocent fragile girl but once the ice breaks you meet a very independent, smart young woman with a sense of humor and sharp opinions.
She is this grounded spirit who talks to you about her views, believes that cabs are the most practical means of transportation and that the best tea is Al Arousa. She fills out the room yet without any star allures and is simply a pleasant person to work with.
As she gets ready for the photo shoot, she tells us how lucky she is that she found the perfect hair and make-up team who give her the natural look she always seeks, “I’ve always hated hair and make-up, at my wedding I didn’t wear make-up, not even the Kohl”, she tells us, “but I don’t mind to try out new looks”.
Yosra loves playing the piano and she dances ballet since she was a child. She also likes to play football with her father, “She calls us and asks if we’re playing football to join us”, Hafez her hairstylist tells us as he gets her ready for our shoot. She has acted in many AUC Theatre productions such as “A Silly Goose”, “The Sultan’s Dilemma”, “Sulayman EL Halabi” and the “Reader”. She sometimes misses her thespian force and joins some plays at AUC theatre, her own playground where she has absolute fun beyond the limelight, “Sometimes I want my parents and friends to watch me perform, and I don’t call the media and tell them to cover this. I also participate in short movies and ballet performances, that’s where I come from and that’s where I have absolute fun and I won’t tell you my theatre schedule”, she laughs.
Having a movie by the legendary Youssef Chahine on her resume is a responsibility and should have other respectable movies to follow, “Of course that was a great experience I was 16 years old when I made “Alexandria New York” and my parents had to be very supportive, thank God they were. I decided to focus on my studies the four years that followed this movie but I didn’t mind taking a few looks at some scripts, unfortunately nothing was tempting. When I was offered the role in “Bel Alwan El Tabeeya”, I couldn’t believe that Osama Fawzy chose me when he saw “Alexandria New York”, that proves the theory wrong of when an actor is off screen for a long time he is forgotten. An actor is chosen if he fits into the role not because he is seen a lot on screens and I want people to choose me for that purpose not because I look good. I didn’t become an actress to be around flashlights, that’s not me; I act for the pleasure of it”, she enthusiastically tells.
2010 has been quite a good year for Yosra, some smaller parts on TV and cinema last year, have earned her some major parts on TV success series like “Al Jamaa” and the award winning film “Microphone” by young director Ahmed Abdallah as well as the romantic comedy “Ezaet Hob” alongside Menna Shalaby, to be released soon. Yosra is playing ‘Farida’, a hip energetic girl who is the total opposite of her conservative best friend Leila played by Menna Shalaby who tries to find love throughout the movie, “I liked the plot a lot as we want to prove that friends don’t have to share the same views to be close. I have friends who would go to the beach wearing a swimsuit and I have others who don’t wear one as they’re more conservative, but at the end, all of us are in the same group and we all get together and know how to have a good conversation”, Yosra explains. “The movie also tackles the high tech communication via Blackberry and Facebook and how they interfere in romantic relationships, which resulted in some very funny scenes”.
Yosra asserts never to think too much about if the film is categorized as commercial or not. In 2009, she shared the experience of acting in independent movies and appeared in ‘Heliopolis’ by young director Ahmed Abdallah alongside Khaled Abo El Naga, Hanan Motawie and Hany Adel. This year, the cast of ‘Heliopolis’ is gathered on set once more to bring us ‘Microphone’ a co-production between Mohamed Hefzy and Khaled Abo El Naga, which was awarded Best Arab Movie at CIFF and the Tanit D’or at the Carthage Film Festival.
The film deals with the artistic practice and expression of underground art in Alexandria, bringing to the silver screen real bands, musicians, Hip-Hop dancers and Graffiti artists who tell their stories through the film of layered realties and lives. “I really enjoyed working on this movie. The cast and crew of this movie share the same cinematic dreams which are bringing new plots and ideas to screen, and that makes us enjoy working with each other so much. It’s a project that flows from our deep passion towards film and we all share the zeal. Working on “Microphone” has been so much fun, and we also want to stream the voices of these young artists who suffer from the hardships they go through for making their art heard and seen. We’ve sat with them, we’ve listened to them and they are extremely talented and down to earth, they suffer tremendously from the lack of opportunity as renting studios and getting equipment needed for their art isn’t that easy”, she adds.
With independent films like “Heliopolis” and “Microphone”, Yosra thinks that it’s ok to appear in several non-commercial films at a young cinematic age, however she’s not against commercial movies like some people might think, “I’m not against commercial movies, I’m against the fact that the whole scene must be commercial. Khaled Abo El Naga once said ‘Commercial Cinema made me’ which is true and now he is seen in many non-commercial movies, but I think that the purpose of any production is to get money out of, producers need to get their profit and actors need their salaries. I watch commercial movies that have good actors it doesn’t matter if they’re famous or not as well as a good production value and that doesn’t mean that the movie should cost millions but I mean that the producers of the movie know how to allocate the finances correctly. People change their views by time, for example ‘Baheb El Cima’ had no audience when it was released, I was in the middle of the High School exams craze and I went to see it twice, there were very few people in theatres, but today, people watch it over and over when it’s screened on TV”.
With roles in “Stolen Kisses” and “Bel Alwan El Tabeaya” alongside her young fellow actors, Yosra believes that her generation is filled with young cinematic potential that will rise full force to introduce a new generation of Egyptian film. “In “Stolen Kisses”, Farah Youssef, Ahmed Azmy, Bassem Samra and myself came from different acting schools, it was great working together and watching each other perform. My generation is fed up with the same old plots and techniques, they don’t want the story of girl meets boy with the soundtrack in the background, we’re tired of this. The older generation might not enjoy “Microphone”, but we’re breaking the rules, the world has changed. In the upcoming three decades when you have a collection of the best movies in the past thirty years, I’m sure “Microphone” will be included”, she comments.
Last Ramadan, Yosra played Cherine, a patriotic TV presenter in ‘Al Jamaa’ series which was the talk of the Arab Region, due to its great production quality, well written plot and controversy. “Well my character was in our modern time and was fictional not historical so I had no worries about that, but I had to research more about the Muslim Brotherhood to collect the information needed. I guess that no one has the absolute truth about anything as there is no ultimate truth in general. An Egyptologist can’t tell you everything about Egypt just because he works as an Egyptologist but I did my best to collect all the information needed to develop a strong opinion towards the plot”, she adds.
Last May, a number of filmmakers recorded Youtube videos to show solidarity with citizens who are asking for the minimum wage and Yosra appeared in one of these videos, and there were also some rumors that she is a great supporter of the Nasser era.
“It’s true, but like everyone else in the country, there are some incidents that depress me without realizing that I’m actually depressed. People who say that they’re quitting to read newspapers, it’s not because they don’t care anymore, no I think they use it as a defense mechanism towards their frustration. There is bad news everyday you just want to take a break, and that’s not a negative approach. I used to surf the Internet for blogs, news and buy a bunch of everything but I decided to take a break. When I’m walking down the street and I see an incident that I don’t like, I analyze it economically and politically, but that’s because I’m a Political Science graduate”, she tells.
It’s also said that Yosra doesn’t drive in her car and prefers to take cabs, “that’s not because I’m a Nasser believer (laughs), I’ am staying at my parents home and my brother lives in Prague so it’s just me and my parents, we use one car and whoever needs it takes it, and that’s not because I can’t buy one but I just hate traffic and I prefer to take the metro or a cab to save time. I’m also against the ‘Sayes’ phenomenon and I never find a parking spot so why not save time and energy”, she tells.
As the daughter of Mahmoud El Lozy, Theatre Professor at AUC, people would think that she’s lucky to have someone who would guide her performance, “My dad reads with me scripts but when I ask him how a certain role should be played, he tells me that he’s not the director of this movie, he just gives me pieces of advice. When I took acting courses at AUC I wasn’t allowed to take a course with my dad due to university regulations. My dad teaches the only acting course in Arabic and I needed it as I’m an Egyptian actress, so they finally allowed me to take this course only and it was amazing”.
When I was researching Yosra before the interview, I noticed that most of the questions asked in these interviews were about her opinion towards “clean cinema” (whatever that means!) so I was wondering why the media kept pondering on that? “They just want to sell their publications better. They want me to say that I’m against “Clean Cinema” for the sake of hot headlines. I don’t have roles that I say I wouldn’t do, I would read the whole movie first, but I’m against some scenes that don’t say anything, scenes like when the camera is zooming in for a few moments on some actress’ thighs. I’m also against playing the Arab terrorist or the Arab spy in American movies, I was asked for auditions for some American productions, and there was a role about a girl who helps the Americans to bomb an Arab city but I turned it down”.
“It’s unbelievable how some celebrity journalists work! I find interviews about me that I didn’t give and made up answers. When Al J’amaa was on TV, I was out of the country and one publication stated that I mocked the Muslim Brotherhood online blacklist in which they include the people they’re against, and of course I didn’t. I was so keen in every interview not to say my personal opinion about the Muslim Brotherhood as I know some will choose to be against it and some will rephrase it. Yes, I’m an Egyptian citizen and I have political views but I won’t say it to the media”, Yosra tells when asked what bothers her most about the press and media.
In “Bel Alwan El Tabeaya”, Yosra played the role of a girl who suffers from an inner conflict and is indecisive on choosing between the guy she loves and her religious beliefs. Her character reflects a number of young women in our society who face daily tribulations thinking about the right path to take in their lives, “I think lots of young women share this inner conflict as they’re bombarded by mixed media messages that target to control and take over. You watch Khaliji channels that air music videos with people exposing their bodies and these Khaliji productions come from countries that promote religious views so what’s with the contradiction?”, she wonders. Yosra’s role wasn’t easy at all, it was full of details and she had to use her eyes only in some scenes that showed her wearing the Niqab, “I’m lucky that I know how to express my feelings with my eyes only, I’m good at it, as a matter of fact, I think I have a problem with my voice, sometimes I can’t express feelings through my voice, my eyes play a massive role in my expressions”.
Although Yosra maneuvered her charm, talent, and wit into a multimillion-pound industry, the actress is still unsatisfied with her salary, she’s genuinely serious about what she does, and she seems to want us to take her seriously, too, “It’s a market value theory, and they tell you if you get money you’ll take money, which is so unfair to someone like me. I’m working hard on my roles and I shouldn’t get the same amount of money I used to get two years ago when I had a smaller résumé. It’s very insulting, people don’t put the fact that when it’s time to develop it’s time to benefit but that’s sadly how things are. I don’t mind if my skills developed by 2% only in each phase of my career, I believe who climbs the ladder fast must fall fast and people must consider this too”.
As a young wife with a hectic schedule, Yosra thinks that marriage needs certain factors to make it last. In her marital life, she keeps away from the routine some young couples usually share, “Me and my husband live in two different cities. He lives in Hurghada now and I live in Cairo, but it’s a new thing, we used to live under the same roof for a year and a half before this, but I think it’s healthy. My parents taught me that couples shouldn’t be sharing the same things together 24/7, he has his friends and I have mine. I don’t go out with him every time he’s out with his friends. We do go out together but it doesn’t have to be every single time. When we catch up, we find lots of things to talk about, it brings the passion along”
So does she know what women want? “I think they want affection and to be appreciated. I see this in my mum and my grandmother, they want to feel appreciated. People treat women as if everything they do for them is their duty but it’s not! Women do everything for their partners and children out of love and they need to feel that others are thankful for it and don’t think that it’s their duty to care for them.
After a great shoot, fun stories of upside down couches, behind the scene bloopers and actually getting to know Yosra more, it is safe to say that she will remain in the first row for many years to come.
Shot at the Imperial Suite of the Kempinski Nile Hotel
Photos by Moustafa Mazhar
Dress by Elevera de Salinas available at Posh Boutique
Styles& Directed by WWW Team
Hair: Mohamed Hafez
Make-up: Ihab Mahfouz