Boss Lady Speaks: Calling Salma and Shakira!
I was in my doctor’s office this weekend and I picked up the April 2009 issue of InStyle to read. The cover star was none other than the more-beautiful-with-age Salma Hayek.
As I flipped through the pages of her cover feature, I wasn’t surprised to see how the writer described Hayek: her dark beauty and voluptuous shape are due to her exotic Mexican genes, she converses with daughter Valentina in Spanish, etc. Salma’s Arabic heritage didn’t warrant not even a brief mention, and as always, I was left wondering why.
The gripe I have with the ongoing invisibility of Middle Eastern culture – especially with women – in a positive, mainstream light here in America includes not only Salma. I’m throwing Shakira in this mix also.
My anger with the Colombian-born talent reached fever pitch in 2006, when I saw the “Hips Don’t Lie” video for the first time. Wyclef Jean opened the song with “I never knew that she could dance like this/She make a man want to speak Spanish”. I almost threw the TV at the wall. “It’s happening again!” I instantly thought, screaming to no one in particular. “Her hips don’t lie because she’s belly-dancing and she’s belly-dancing because of her Middle Eastern roots, not her Spanish ones!”
My frustration is enhanced because both ladies are part Lebanese, like me.
I’m extremely proud of my culture (if you know anyone of Lebanese background, you know we all are). There are over three million Lebanese-Americans, and our widespread community, comprised predominantly of Christians and Muslims, has lived in the US for over 100 years.
Lebanese people have gone through much turmoil as a people, and struggled with our identity over the years (both in our homeland and as immigrants) that having two of the most beautiful, famous women in the world acknowledge they’re “one of us”, sporadically even, would mean more than (it appears) they know.
And on a broader scale, positive celebrity role models for women of Middle Eastern backgrounds living in Western countries are just too rare (don’t get me started on Kim Kardashian, whose Armenian background gives her an honorary mention).
For two alluring figures with obviously Arabic names (Salma Hayek and Shakira Mebarak), it shouldn’t be too much to ask that they start explaining how in addition to being Latina, they can also thank their Lebanese roots for the gifts they have. While I came up admiring Jennifer Lopez because she was the first major female star to somewhat resemble me in ethnicity, Middle Eastern girls today have actual divas they can count as one of their own – I just hope they start doing so.
Till then, ya habibi, count on me to represent as best I can.