I wanna live forever

Date posted: February 9, 2008

Fame … I feel it comin' together … People will see me and cry … Fame … I'm gonna make it to heaven … Light up the sky like a flame … Fame … I'm gonna live forever … Baby remember my name …

How I love those lyrics! The first time I heard that song I was a fat ugly kid that excelled at being invisible. I managed to put on my invisible hat at school, in the club, among family, and in the company of friends. I would look at the popular girls and boys and sink deeper into my hole and the more they shined the more I sank into oblivion. Listening to this song was one of the few things that made my eyes twinkle – an invisible spark that only I could feel. Baby, look at me, and tell me what you see … You ain't seen the best of me yet … Give me time … I'll make you forget the rest. Yes … all I needed was time; time to reconcile with myself and fight my demons before I could light up the sky like a flame.

In the old days, one used to believe that being famous was synonymous with being a movie star, a singer, a professional football player, a charismatic leader, or a benevolent wife of a political figure. Like stars, they were all out of reach and you could only admire them from a distance; getting an interview with one of them was a tedious task; an autograph was to be cherished for eternity and passed over from one generation to the other like family china and silverware; spotting one of them in the street would stop traffic and create a wave of humming. They would raise their hands graciously and blow fans kisses in the air, or put on their huge black sunglasses and get lost in the crowds.

Today fame has taken an unexpected turn; like anything at the marketplace, fame has become highly segmented. The ultimate star no longer exists; there are stars in each and every field and they no longer shine above us in the sky, they shine with and among us to inspire and set an example of how one person has the power to change the world. We used to think of stardom as a responsibility-free life that is full of parties, music, laughter, and earthly pleasures. I tended to believe that stars literally have a star stamped on their ID cards that opened all closed doors and sent endless privileges their way. I thought that fame was the antithesis of being anonymous; today I know that fame is the opposite of mediocrity.

When I took my first steps at the parlor of fame and people began recognizing me from my TV appearances or from my articles, I knew that my life would never be the same again. For starters, I have to control my temper – no more street fights with microbus drivers, taxi drivers, and any other drivers. This is about it for me but what about the others? How did fame change the lives of the people that I invited to be part of this feature? I sent out invitations to many people that I consider stars in their respective arenas; some were too famous to respond, others were too lazy, and here are the answers of those who will live forever – as the song goes.

I have known Mohamed Hefzy for a couple of years now and I still remember how I was shocked when he first told me that he had a 9 to 5 job in a family business; I thought screenwriting, his workshops, and his production company were a handful. I also expected to meet a macho showy person when I was pleasantly disppointed to meet a warm-hearted down to earth gentleman. His first words were "I'm not sure I actually fit the description of a celebrity."

I don't get approached frequently, because I'm not an instantly recognizable face like star actors or singers. However, when it does happen it's actually very flattering and surprising. The first time someone asked to take a picture with me my reaction was "I'm not Mustafa Amar". Until now, I'm still not used to it and am almost a little uncomfortable with that level of familiarity; but of course, no matter how modest anyone will try to make you believe they are, we all really love and crave recognition.

Being famous will change anyone on various levels, but it doesn't change the core of who you are; or at least it shouldn't. I doubt that those people who know me closely will feel that I have changed in essence; but maybe I have just become a lot more busy and harder to pin down. It also means that I get a lot of emails and messages from people who usually have nice things to say, and even though I try, it's almost impossible to reply to everyone. Some people will read more into that, but it really is just a question of not having the time, as opposed to not caring enough to reply.

I get very interesting comments that sometimes make me re-evaluate my career. Just the other day a lady I didn't know sent me a message warning me not to proceed with my film with Haifaa Wahbi because it would affect my image. Although I didn't take it too seriously, I still had to project forward and consider her point of view, which would undoubtedly be shared by others.

Fame does not scare me, but success does; it definitely puts more pressure on you not to falter. And also it's annoying because you're constantly having to worry about what the press and the public are going to make out of your actions, and especially your personal life. I think that's where I've been hit the most; my personal life!

Moving on from Hefzy, Amin El Masri is the executive producer behind Sherif Arafa's sky-rocketing programs. When his assistant called me in for a meeting about a certain show with Sherif Arafa, my knees failed me. The image of the producer that the Egyptian media has painted in my head took over and I went to meet him looking like "crap" for fear of being harassed. I look back now and laugh as I met a person who I would cherish as a friend; first impression: sincere, hard-working, and intelligent. He humbly responded to my fame invitation saying "I really don't think this applies to me at all. People who work behind the camera are not famous. We are just "el gondy el maghool""

My mom always wanted me to get married to a doctor, but what if that doctor gave up his knowledge of pharmacology for his passion for music? Amro Salah is the mastermind of Eftekasat Band. Here is how he responded to my invitation: Marwa you surprised me.Being "famous" didn't change of my attitude. I'm not trying to throw the humble modest card here, but I feel happiest when I'm natural and spontaneous. I believe that I'm still learning and that what I've achieved is nothing compared to what I am capable of doing. Fame is scary if you're not well prepared for it – but I am well prepared. I will just be me and will remain true to who I am.

From music to sports, I haunted two of the young talented faces who light up of screens. Hatem Heydar and Sameh El Anani are sports presenters who, although are charismatic, popular, and established stars, are humble, friendly, and funny.

Hatem told me that he enjoys answering peoples' questions; you don't know how much I like people … I feel that they are my friends and family. Being famous made me more humble. My wife also believes that the love of simple people is the most important thing in life and it is the credit of my happiness. The worst comment I received was from my son Aly; I promised him to quit smoking many times but I never kept my promise so he told me that it seemed as though I wanted to die and leave him and his sister, Habiba, alone in this world. Fame scares me because it s a very big responsibility; many young people look up to me and I always have to set a good example – this is my prayer to God.

Sameh, with his heart-warming smile, told me: In the beginning when strangers were approaching me in the street, I used to feel awkward and I did not know how to react. However, after a while, I started to act normally and greet them as if I already knew them. To tell you the truth, I have never felt or considered myself famous even with people approaching me and recognizing me in places.

The best comment came from a sports fan, who told me "I like your program and your way of presenting it but can you tell me what is the program's name and where is it aired?!" I also remember a lady who handed me her cell phone and told me "talk to my husband and tell him who you really are because he doesn't believe me! He loves your sports show, but I don't!"

Fame scares me all the time because you have to meet the expectations of all the people who watch you. Also being famous drives away some of your friends because they start treating you as the famous TV presenter not as the person they used to know. Plus, fame caused me lots of problems in my relationships because of jealousy and the inability to adapt to my lifestyle.

On a more cautious but daring front, Amr Saleh, TV presenter known for his daring topics, was born with a mind that works round the clock. With his usual playful tone he accepted my invitation to discuss his fame and said:

I am a sociable person by nature; however, socializing with people in an orthodox context is never easy. We usually socialize with each other in parties, classrooms, and weddings but mingling with people in a supermarket, for example, is frowned upon in our society. This is why I opt for a more cautious attitude; I am friendly but I am not inviting and I certainly do not take initiatives. Being approached by a fan is flattering and stressful at the same time; I have to focus lest I offend the fan or portray a wrong impression about myself.

Being famous changed me a lot; it made me more human, much wiser, more helpful, and it enabled me to have a panoramic view of a lot of aspects regarding human nature. It also it made me realize that for everything there is a price to pay and that beauty itself has got an ugly side. Being a known TV host gives you access to a lot of minds and homes and that makes you accountable for every single word or idea you voice. Your service becomes a publicly owned property whether you liked it or not because you have the power to help people by talking about or bringing attention to their problems; once I was on a date and a mother interrupted me and told me that her kids who have just finished high school had no recollection of anything they studied and zero knowledge of anything else and asked me to discuss on my show the benefits of more that 15 years of education in our schools.

Fame is just the beginning; any face that is seen regularly on the screen will be famous but how long this fame would last depends on how deep, truthful, smart, and knowledgeable that face is. The impact of words, the power of looks, and the overall outlook on life are pieces of the puzzle. Being famous is a great challenge; I am challenged, then I am growing, thus I am breathing, and I am alive.

I know Ramy Radwan from his reports on OTV. In real life he is pleasant, a bit shy, and easy to talk to. There is nothing intimidating about his stardom and this is what makes him so special. People recognize him and his reaction "depends on what they say and how they say it; the approach itself has a strong effect on how I react! Being famous did not change anything in my personality; it just made me pay more attention to details about my work and about my public image. I am flattered when people appreciate my work and remember particular reports. Fame in itself does not scare me but maybe its repercussions; lack of privacy and personal freedom. But being a TV presenter is much easier than being an actor, for example."

From TV, I sent out my invitations to the leading female voices of Nile FM. Miriam Mohamed and Hebah-Marie Eissa welcomed my questions and Miriam started by laughing out loud at my suggestion that she is famous.

Though a lot of people consider me famous, I don't; it still seems weird to me. I love meeting my listeners, they really are the best and without them I would not have a show or a job. I am the same as I always have been; fame has not changed me at all. I feel my best when people get in touch and tell me that they love the show. I really do appreciate them taking the time to do so. I also have to admit that listeners here really do have the best sense of humor. The worst comments I get are when people get angry because I don't speak Arabic and tell me to go back to America. It's not my fault that I am American with an Arabic name and to be honest there are many Arabs in the states who have never been to an Arab country or even speak the language. I cannot put up with racism of any sort and my nationality has nothing to do with my job.

The only thing that scares me about fame is that sometimes listeners get too attached and they forget that they know me because they listen to me every night but I don't know them. I have not had a major problem with this here in Egypt but in America it did get pretty scary a few times with people showing up at my house or just plain stalking me.

I could not help but laugh when I read Hebah-Marie Eissa's responses, who tends to blush when approached by any stranger.

I smile, and thank 'the listener' for the nice words; it's always nice to know that I can make even the smallest difference in one person's life. Whether I make them laugh, smile, or even feel at ease when listening to me. It makes me feel that I am doing my job and doing it right, and that for me, plays a huge role.

Let me tell you the worst comment I have ever gotten – but now I honestly find it funny. When I first started with Nile FM, a girl sms'ed the show demanding that I should be taken off air. She simply said "I don't like her voice she sounds like a nine year old bimbo, I HATE HER". Of course at the time, I took it quite personally, but then I realized that it's ok because there will be people out there who would hate me and others who would love me. Having said that, the best comment I have ever gotten, and it really made my day, was when a girl sms'ed the breakfast show once telling me how much she loved my charisma, style, and voice, and that she looked up to me and said that she thought I was a very talented presenter. Of course, I didn't let this get to my head but it really made my day.

Fame does not scare me one bit, because I am a people's person and if you ask any of my friends they will tell you that I absolutely love being crazy, stupid, and making people laugh, even if it's at myself. I am just being myself, so whatever comes I take it all with arms wide open. My aim at Nile FM is to make a difference in at least one person's life. If I can do that, then I will feel satisfied with myself and with my career.

On the social front, shines Amy Mowafi who is known for her writings and for her wit.

I would love to pull off that blaze "this happens to me all the time" attitude when people approach me – it would be far cooler than how I actually react!! But I'm always so over-excited and appreciative that anyone at all is even reading my delusional rantings (let alone recognizing me for them!) that I usually make a complete fool of myself, thanking them profusely and endlessly! It's mostly women who come up to me. They'll thank me for saying (well writing) out loud what they were already thinking, and that really does mean the world to me! One girl started quoting some of my articles and I was so thrilled I actually threw my arms around her!!!

I'm definitely not "famous" – but being occasionally recognized for my writing by someone other than my mother has definitely given me the confidence to pursue bigger and better things. Pulitzer Prize here I come!

I've had someone tell me that I'm much better looking in my photo than I am in real life!!!! And just recently this gorgeous guy was flirting with me, when a woman whom I didn't even know (who was standing next to him) pointed out that I "was already taken". She had been reading my articles and so knew I had a boyfriend!!! Damn!

Look, when it comes down to it, every writer really just wants to be a rock n' roll star. The integrity of the words? Whatever! I just want people to love me, love me, love me!

Amr Khaled is the most generous person I have even met; he would go out of his way as many times as it takes to help someone. Amr is not just the celebrated writer of Velo, he is also the lead singer and guitarist of Bad Apple band.

When someone walks up to me in cafes or at Bad Apple gigs, it always feels good and I enjoy it immensely. This, however, is not because of fame in itself but rather because my work is being appreciated, and so is the person behind it – me. So, I react nicely. If people want an autograph they get it, if they want a signed book, they get it, if they want a chat or a cup of coffee, they get it.

Being famous changed me only in the sense that I'm being faced with new challenges, the biggest of which is keeping true to myself and not being influenced by mainstream requirements. Best comments were when, in writing, I was compared to big authors – Paulo Coelho and Robert M. Pirsig, and, in music, to big rock bands – Nickelback and Three Days Grace.

Fame doesn't scare me because it's not what I'm after, so having it or having it then losing it doesn't change much. Naturally, it feels awesome and it opens many doors and opportunities, but I'm after the feelings I get when in the process of creating music or writing words, the feeling of something divine flowing through me in moments of inspiration, not fortune and fame, which are nothing more than byproducts of being sincere. That being said, I can get what I'm after by singing to myself in the shower or by scribbling notes in a car.

There are shinning stars in several industries not just the movie business and print or broadcast media; Mohamed Sheta is a racing star.

I am mainly testing and racing cars on closed racing circuits, where there are always more important and more famous drivers than myself, like Michael Schumacher or Kimi Raikoennen or Fernando Alonso. But if somebody addresses me I am always friendly and patient. I love the fact that people trust my opinion but it gets a bit out of hand when strangers call me on my mobile phone to ask me which car they should buy. Still, I try to give them a fast and short recommendation.

I am still the same person like I used to be when I was at the German School in Dokki. Besides, being famous in the automotive or motor-sport field is not as 'annoying' or disturbing as in show-business, especially in Egypt where motor-sport and racing is not as popular like in Germany, Spain or the UK.

The best thing I ever heard was when a young and promising motoring-journalist told me that I had been his role model since he started his career in the media field. The worst (but at the same time 2nd funniest) comment I ever heard was from my ex-girlfriend, who believed for many years – and probably still believes – that I am the worst driver on earth. Not because I drive too fast or reckless, but because -according to her- I drive too slowly!

My kind of fame helped me bring my message to a much larger crowd; I use my reputation and accountability to advocate causes like Road Safety and Safe Driving. I hope more Egyptian celebrities would use their fame-status in supporting noble and important causes like fighting poverty, saving the environment, ending human trafficking.

From racing and cars, I take you to the feminine world of fashion. Known for her flowing fabrics, revealing cuts, and designs that complement natural beauty and curves, Yasmine Yeya thanked me for the invitation and honored me with her humorous responses.

Usually people say nice things about what they have seen of my work and it is very encouraging to know that a lot of people out there are proud of me. It is very funny though that sometimes I don't know if a man is smiling at me because he has seen me on television and knows me or is making a move on me – I end up smiling anyway!

I have changed; I live under the constant pressure of working harder because when people have their eyes set on your work they develop expectations and my personal measures of success have changed accordingly.

The best thing anyone said to me is "we are proud you are Egyptian" after I came back from the show in Lebanon. Like anyone who feels alienated from our conservative culture, I have always been very cynical about me being "Egyptian" – especially that my designs are too revealing for the Egyptian "conservative" taste. Today, it feels good that the same people who have alienated me are proud of me being Egyptian.

Fame doesn't scare me simply because I am a fashion designer and people expect crazy things coming from a designer – in a way, I am licensed to become crazier, wear whatever and act artistically.

Moving from the glamour of fashion to the beauty of flowers, I have invited Injy Teymour to the parlor of fame. Known for her flower arrangement segment on OTV, Injy's flower arrangements add the perfect touch to weddings, parties, receptions, and many homes.

Whether I know you or not, I will greet you with a big smile. Being famous gave me more confidence and I do my best to excel at my work; nonetheless, it never changed my character. People call me "the flower girl" and the best comment I got was: "we enjoy watching you while designing and arranging flower arrangements because it fills us with energy."

Finally I felt somewhat obliged to commend the public relations and marketing communications stars in my field – hotel business! Their pictures are printed in color and their names glitter on a very feminine yet competitive arena. I invited many stars but those two ladies had to rise and shine above the rest. Soha Nassif, with her sense of humor and liveliness understands that there is a price that goes hand in hand with glamour and connections hence respect and limits are the judge of how a conversation would go.

If a stranger approached me in the street, I greet him/her, listen to him/her, and if the conversation goes in a polite way, I may exchange contacts. Being famous, and constantly dealing with famous people, did not change anything in my personality but it facilitates my work in many cases. Fame doesn't scare me however it is a kind of success that needs a big effort to keep it up.

Dina Naeem, is known for her grace and star-like features. Though very beautiful, Dina was blessed with brains, eloquence, independence, and ambition.

I never think that I am that noticed or known, but if someone recognizes me and strikes a conversation, I thank them very much for their compliments and try to leave a positive impression. But this has made me very conscious; I keep an eye on all those little details about my look, style, and behavior more than ever. The funniest thing was when one day I was about to take a picture with a famous movie star but she refused and when I asked the organizers about the reason they told me that she thought I was pretty and that would ruin her image. Another time, I took a Thursday off and claimed that I was sick to be able to go out with my friends on a weekend to a beautiful resort in El Gouna, and shortly after I checked in, I found my boss calling me on my room number telling me that the GM of the Resort just called him and informed him that he saw me checking in – that was my worst day ever.

Fame … I wanna live forever … I'm gonna learn how to fly … Fame … I feel it comin' together … People will see me and cry … Fame …

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