Emirati-Yemeni singer Balqees Fathi is one of the Arab world's biggest names in music. Since entering the limelight over ten years ago, following in her composer father Ahmed Fathi's footsteps, the artist has put together an impressive collection of hits including Masaa'la Sahla, a collaboration with Fayez Al-Saeed.
Balqees became a member of the UAE NSO Symphony Orchestra in 2013, can now sing opera in four languages - Arabic, English, French and Italian - and has performed for prestigious audiences.
She has continuously used her celebrity status to highlight important humanitarian causes. As part of her philanthropic work, Balqees recently visited Yemeni refugee camps in Djibouti and launched the #dontcoveritup campaign - which aims to tackle the problem of domestic abuse.
For all these reasons and more Balqees has been chosen as a regional ambassador for hair care experts Pantene.
We spoke to the 27-year old to find out about the issues that matter to her.
Many people associate you with being the voice of the emirates and its youth. How does that make you feel? Does your music speak for the UAE?
It's an honour and privilege. I don't take it for granted! As someone who has a large social media following here in the region, and in the UAE in particular, I try my best to speak to young people in an inspirational voice. Being a role model is a serious responsibility - it means the next generation is looking to you for motivation, guidance and direction.
As for my music, I can tell you that my Emirati heritage strongly influences my sound - so, in many ways, I do feel like my lyrics and voice capture the essence of the UAE as a nation. The previous generation of Emirati musicians played a pivotal role in introducing our music to the world and now I am hoping to continue that and carry their legacy forward.
When will we hear your next release and what will it be about?
I'm currently busy preparing and rehearsing for my upcoming concerts. I have two coming up at the moment - one in Doha and one in Kuwait. Both will take place in February. I'm also shooting a music video in Lebanon - for which I am adopting a Lebanese accent.
On a professional level, my goal is to expand my reach beyond the GCC and make sure that my music is being heard across the Arab world.
Your work with Yemeni charities is commendable. Do you have any future plans to return? Given your cultural ties with the country, what are your thoughts on the situation? How can artists help?
I definitely plan on going back in the near future. I have strong roots in Yemen and am inherently drawn and attached to the country. My charity work in Djibouti was such an eye-opening and heart-wrenching experience on so many levels. You try to do as much as you can so I attentively listened to all of their stories and tried my best to use my social media reach to convey their issues and messages to the Arab world.
At the moment, there is still a war going on in Yemen and a real struggle for freedom. It truly saddens me that, on a daily basis, innocent lives are being lost. As an artist, all you can do to help is leverage your reach and use your voice to raise awareness of the issues at hand.
What are your thoughts on equality in the UAE and region and how do you feel your efforts help? What would you like to see happen?
I believe that empowering women - from all over the world including the UAE - to succeed in all their endeavours, pursue their aspirations, and work towards their personal and professional goals is vital. That is why I am so proud that Pantene has joined my efforts to enhance the lives of young Arab women.
Through my '2016 Tour to Empower Arab Women', I hope that my own personal growth story will inspire female youths in the UAE and wider region and motivate them to shine strong, find their destiny, identify their passions, and, essentially, bring their own dreams to life.
How does it feel to be a Pantene ambassador alongside people like Selena Gomez and Gisele?
It feels like a real honour to be named alongside the likes of such global powerhouses - successful women who truly embody the essence of being strong, bold, and ambitious. I think that, despite our diverse backgrounds, there are some key common denominators between us all: we are undeniably role models for young women, we believe in ourselves, have shed our inhibitions, and now shine strong in our own eyes and the eyes of others.
Through our work, we hope to inspire and pave the way for other women's personal growth and professional success.
The fact that it is a brand that takes a stance when it comes to causes that deeply affect women made me feel - right away - like this was the perfect fit.
As for my contribution to the brand, I am someone who has, over the years, remained dedicated to creating modern, real-time solutions that can generate social change.
Do you believe your participation may open up opportunities for more female ambassadors from the UAE and the region?
Today, global brands that are searching for female ambassadors from the region don't just focus on appearance.
They are looking for women of substance who have far-reaching influence and can move the needle of change in a truly effective, positive way.
I am so proud to be the first Emirati/Khaleeji to serve as the face of Pantene's Oil Replacement. I hope that our partnership will set a precedent for the region and push other global brands to join forces with artists from the GCC.
I want to contribute to the betterment of society and I know that I can't do that effectively by myself - it needs to be a collaborative effort. That is how and where a leading, global brand like Pantene comes in.
By David Light
Copyright © 2020 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.