"I announced my pregnancy via my Sony mobile" – Raya Abirached
Scoop with Raya
R aya Abirached is in Dubai for two big screen debuts: the first is of the cinematic variety, yes, she's lent her voice to an Angry Birds character, the second is as the global brand ambassador for Sony Middle East. The London-based, Lebanese-born Hollywood entertainment report, who is best known for her television show Scoop with Raya, sits down with Buro 24/7 Middle East to talk family, film and phones.
Welcome back to Dubai! You have a lot going on and a baby on the way. Congratulations!
I have a lot going on! My impending baby girl already has a frequent flyer travel card. She's been to the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards! So after Dubai I'll be going back to London and then to New York with Tiffany & Co. Then, I'll be going to the Cannes Film Festival and back to London. I'm based in London; home is London, but I do travel, a lot. It's my rhythm and I'm lucky that I've had an easy pregnancy. But apparently there is going to be a curfew on my traveling. I'm in denial at the moment!
I'm a strong believer that a woman has to continue her life but still be a good mother. I'm going to try and be the optimal mum - optimum. I hope she'll be independent like her mum... she has to be! My husband has to be very involved and we'll see how it goes. It's a new experience for us that I can't control.
With all the traveling you do, how do you keep up with everything in terms of technology and planning?
I am very disciplined. Discipline is very important in our job; I'm very obsessed with to-do lists. On my phone, I have an application that always features a to-do list, things to do or even things that I have done. I think that discipline is key and technology helps me. I don't have to be in the office all of the time, I can answer my emails from my phone and it keeps me connected to the world. I always say that airlines should have more Wi-Fi on their flights (laughs).
How connected are you? Do you get involved in the online conversation?
I think social media is very important. We have hashtags that say #askraya for questions, while I'm interviewing Chris Hemsworth, which come through via my Sony mobile. It is the best way for me to know which stars they like and who they don't. It's through social media that I do my job, I even announced my pregnancy through my mobile. It's a part of my life. Even my first sonogram and my first scan became the background picture on my phone.
You've interviewed some of the world's most incredibly talented actors. Has there been a story that has resonated with you?
A star that is self-made or a star that has a good story resonates with me. I remember Sam Worthington telling me a few years ago that he used to live out of his car, until he got a call from James Cameron to be in Avator.
What part of the movie industry do you enjoy the most?
I like filmmakers. I like to know what they've done. I'm a big fan of Martin Scorsese and I love the fact that he's a big fan and supporter of documentaries, archiving old movies, and an enthusiast as well. If I see a beautiful film, I'm on a high for five days. If I'm in a bad mood, I'll go to see a film on a Tuesday afternoon by myself; it's the best way to cheer me up.
What's the last film that you've watched, which has stuck with you?
I've seen a lot of great films this year. I would have to say Spotlight resonated a lot with me last year. I was very happy that they won the Oscar, just because I like simple movies that engage their audience. Sometimes, when you're at the cinema, and then you see something so simple told in such a nice narrative, it moves you. Sometimes the simplicity makes the beauty in cinema.
Talking about the Oscars, what did you think about Leonardo DiCaprio winning an Oscar?
It was Leo's year! Leo should have won an Oscar years ago. Of course he was totally deserving of the Oscar and I completely understand that everyone was so enthusiastic about him winning. He is however, only in his forties, and he would have won an Oscar eventually. He deserved it for sure.
And in the region, who are the ones to watch?
I'm a big fan of Hany Abu-Assad, a Syrian filmmaker who was nominated for an Oscar twice. Nadine Labaki has a great strong vision and she's writing her new film. She has a very specific kind of genre that she has made her popular in the Middle East. I'm a big fan of Yasmine Al Masri, who is a Palestinian actress who we've seen in Nadine Labaki's films, and now has a major role in Quantico. She plays twins and it's a very interesting role with Priyanka Chopra. Rami Malek, the actor of Mr. Robot, has been around for a long time but all of a sudden he entered this role that's propelled him everywhere.
We do have a lot of emerging talent of Arabic origin and it's getting better and better.
There's been a lot of movies filmed in the Middle East as well...
A lot of films have been shot here. Star Trek just wrapped shooting in Dubai. We saw Star Wars in Abu Dhabi and I'm sure they are going to come back for the new one. Yesterday I interviewed John McGregor for his new film, which they shot in Marrakech. Tom Hanks was also in Marrakesh, as well as Tom Cruise. So we do have an attractive region, mostly for futuristic films or for big action movies, like Furious 7. We provide a beautiful landscape and I can't wait to see how futuristic earth is going to look in the new Star Trek beyond film.
When you dress for the awards season, do you tend to look towards Middle Eastern designers?
I like to work with and encourage Middle Eastern designers. I work with Burberry a lot and I love them. But I like Aiisha Ramadan and Tony Ward. I always say I'm not a fashionista and I'm not someone who's effortlessly stylish, I am a movie journalist at the end of the day, and this is what I love to do. Cinema, I know about. Fashion, I'll have to work on a look.
Now, before you put your feet up you have the new Angry Birds film coming to theatres?
Yes! I came back to Dubai because I did the Arabic voiceover for the Angry Birds film. I'm an angry bird (laughs). I play a female, her name is Matilda but in Arabic, it's Suka. It was such a fun thing to do. I was like a kid in a candy store. It's in colloquial Arabic. I didn't even realise that I would enjoy it so much. This is not my profession and I am not an actress but it was very over the top.