She is fun, fierce and fabulous! Everything about her defines girl power. She sings what she wants, wears what she likes and sets her own trends. Her comeback is Egypt’s most anticipated news. After years of chasing her, we finally sat down with the legendary Simone to talk music, film and family.
On a Saturday morning, we met the star in her gym outfit looking fresh and pretty. She works out regularly and eats healthy, loving everything about being natural. “My eyebrows are a red line. I’m very up to date with fashion, but I like to have a trademark and I like to look natural. People were against my look at first because I don’t pluck my eyebrows or wear makeup but I didn’t care. I had a punk haircut with full-length eyebrows and I looked odd next to my peers at college,” she tells.
It’s very hard for a female artist in Egypt to set her own rules. You find people commenting and giving beauty advice on how you look all the time. Our society isn’t open-minded when it comes to the conventional female look. “I think that a natural look is very wild. It’s the coolest! You don’t have to be extreme to look great, you can be simple and creative. You can pinpoint the less attractive parts of your face and body and highlight them publically to convince people that these are unique things that nobody else has. Imagine Brigitte Bardot’s full lips in the 60s and how unacceptable those were at that time. Later, it became her signature. Be a leader not a follower”, she comments, “you find mothers giving each other advice about their daughters’ hair and how to make it better using this cream and that oil. That’s pathetic; make your children learn that they are pretty no matter what. If frizzy curly hair is weird in Egypt, make her tell her friends that she has a unique hairstyle and they’re all the same. Empower your children!”, she adds.
Simone thinks that families must invest more in raising their children and not only depend on school teachings. “I see some families pay a lot of money for schoolsto take a break from teaching their own children. It’s not about how much money you pay; it’s more about how much effort you put into raising this child. Those school names composed of lots of initial letters aren’t the key to raising a healthy child,” she says, “our schools were different. They followed a socialist system. We were used to abide by school rules regarding uniforms, shoes and colors. You couldn’t say who was rich and who was filthy rich. You couldn’t wear any jewelry that identifies religion. Every child looked the same to avoid the elitist mentality”, she tells.
A lot of women find it impossible to have it all. To have a great career, be a full time super mum and look great. “Working women shouldn’t worry about raising a family. Life is full of beautiful phases enjoy every one of it. Take a break from work, breathe and proceed. I come from the school of everything happens at the right time. I never find running and hustling a solution to anything”, she elaborates.
Simone’s lyrics and videos are a league of their own. The love song ‘Mesh Nazra We Ebtesama’ said ‘If you think you are cute, I’m also good looking’ and another song called ‘Khaf Menni’, in which she was beating men down the street who harassed her and abused other women. “I don’t want to say that I’m a tomboy or trying to look tough. I just want women to know that their beauty can stem from a lot of things other than appearing in a video clip with the wind blowing your hair around. Women need to be influenced”, she comments.
Simone is a revolutionary by instinct. She was the first Egyptian female pop star to appear in a video clip through her song Taxi in the early 90s. She was lucky to become a pioneer at a time when pop music and video clips were a niche market. “Our generation started out singing in cabarets and when you became really successful, you would move to hotels. I started out at a 5 Star Hotel without having to take the night club step and I released an album first then moved to a hotel unlike many artists. I studied Mass Communications at AUC and my interests weren’t artistic at all. When I launched my first album, it went viral! People used to talk about Simone’s music at college and they didn’t know that this girl is among them”, she tells.
Last summer, Simone made a surprise appearance on stage at Club M in the North Coast, performing to a generation that was born in the 80’s & 90’s. “I wasn’t expecting this great feedback from a generation that wasn’t even born when I was at my peak. I was worried we wouldn’t get along, but I was surprised that they knew my old songs! It made me really happy”, she says. Simone is an amazing performer by instinct. She was Egypt’s vanguard in performing with a unique style and a trademark from dance moves to outfits. “My popularity came from live concerts, which was untraditional back in the 80s and 90s, it only existed in the West and was a new thing in the Middle East”, she tells.
The 1992 cult film Ice-Cream Fi Gleem was unprecedented, creating a new form of pop film genre. Co-starring Amr Diab, Simone was catapulted to new stardom. More success was bound to follow, ranging from collaboration with singer Hamid El Shaary on ‘Batkalem Gadd’to leading roles in Mohamed Sobhy’s Carmen, Sekket El Salama and Lebet El Sett. Then she vanished, just like that.
“I didn’t want to keep on scratching the surface all the time. I really didn’t have to. I never followed normal career rules, hence the results. I made only 3 movies and the 3 of them were very successful. I don’t want a lot of money and just be rich you know”, she tells. “I had lots and lots of offers but I didn’t feel any of them belong to me. I wanted to mark myself in a certain place and the market wasn’t helpful. The late 90’s witnessed the introduction of Lebanese pop music, I wasn’t against it, but I didn’t feel that I belonged to this industry at that time”, she explains.
Today, there are two types of music taking the industry by storm, Underground Music and Mahraganat. “I’m not against Mahraganat music, I’m against that we don’t have a variety of music genres in Egypt. We don’t even have an actual ratio. I like underground bands but I didn’t have the chance to collaborate with anyone and if I find an outstanding idea I will for sure”, she says.
Being away from the entertainment industry made Simone develop a critical eye and monitor many low points. Empowering women on screen is something she thinks needs major development. “We are fighting women empowerment not building it. How come we can’t have one great and empowered female character on TV? How come everyone is getting slapped and beaten up? That’s horrible. I don’t get beaten on screen that’s my rule, some people might find this unprofessional but I don’t really care, I only do the things that I like. I want to focus on positive roles only to influence other women. I want someone to be inspired by a character and try to follow her footsteps. It’s really a shame what’s happening today”, she comments.
Simone is very popular on social media. She likes interacting with her fans more than anything. “It’s my space and my comfort zone. I don’t interfere in someone’s political views and when someone offends me I block them immediately I don’t respond. I’m not really democratic on my page”, she says, “and I’m not on TV so I’m free to say whatever I want. Block, Unfriend, Unfollow are amazing social media options that we don’t have on TV”, she adds.
Simone thinks that what women want is definitely inner peace, “I want to have a mutual understanding with everyone. Inner peace is the key to everything a woman wants”, she says.
Stay tuned to Simone’s upcoming new song Esshar Ba’a Lewahdak!
Photography by Ahmed Zaatar, Studio X
Styled by What Women Want…Magazine team
Hair by Kriss Helou, Kriss Beauty Salons
Makeup by Diana Richy
Jewelry by Alia Khafaga
Shot at Graffiti bar at Four Seasons Nile Plaza