It’s difficult to put into words the legacy of one of the Arab world’s most iconic figures, but Yousra‘s achievements unsurprisingly speak volumes. Lauded for kickstarting the Egyptian entertainment industry more than four decades ago and catalyzing social reform throughout the region, the phenomena that continues to follow Yousra after all this time is understandable. And with no signs of slowing down anytime soon, it seems the Egyptian actor‘s accolades will only grow with each passing year. Named one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women and 50 Most Influential Arabs overall, Yousra has redefined what it means to not only be an award-winning performer but also to use her success as a springboard to be a voice for change—values that align with Vogue Arabia’s mission—making her the ideal choice as one of the three cover stars for the magazine’s third anniversary issue. In honor of this March 2020 cover, we take a look at some of the cinematic star’s milestone moments in a celebrated decades-spanning career.
Academy Award inductee
In 2019, Yousra was granted one of the most illustrious honors an actor can receive: An invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The new member was inducted with fellow Egyptians producer Mohamed Hefzy and director Amr Salama, becoming one of the few Arabs in the Oscars‘ voting body. “It is a great honor for me to be on the Oscars academy,” Yousra shared with Vogue Arabia during her cover interview. “I believe the academy is one of the most prestigious in the world, and being part of it means so much to me.”
Champion for Arab women
Not only is Yousra an internationally recognized actor but also a renowned philanthropist who uses her platform to actively campaign for societal development in the region as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East and Africa, from women empowerment and equality to advocating for youth living in poverty. “Before being an ambassador, I also did humanitarian work, but being an ambassador offers much more responsibility,” she told Vogue Arabia. “I’m honored because being a Goodwill ambassador is trying to put the good in everything you do, not only in the mission you have.”
International film festival honoree
A megastar in her own right, but also in the eyes of some of the world’s leading film festivals. Yousra has received more than 60 local, regional, and international awards throughout her career, including the prestigious Cannes and Venice Film Festivals as well as the Institut du Monde Arabe and Beirut International Film Festival. She also has been a judge at festivals in her native country of Egypt, including the one in El Gouna—a city where a street is also named after her—and the Cairo International Film Festival, where she resided as an honorary president in 2017.
A bridge between Arab & Western cinema
Since the late 70s, Yousra has more than 80 movies and television series under her name—a staggering feat unrivaled by most. Starring as characters that are vast and varied, from a high priestess to a waitress, the only thing remaining constant is her commitment to being herself. As Yousra once famously said, “Don’t be arrogant. Believe in what you do and love what you do.” In this way, the respected thespian has become a bridge between Arab and Western cinema, shining a longstanding positive light on an industry that has often been misrepresented. It’s no surprise organizations abroad, such as the America Abroad Media in Washington D.C. and the Arab Women of the Year ceremony in London, consistently highlight her lifetime leadership in cinema on an international level.
Comeback singing sensation
After a decade-long absence from the music industry, Yousra made a viral comeback in 2017 with 3 Daqat, a romantic pop duet between her and Egyptian musician Abu. After receiving an outpouring of praise from its debut at the 2017 El Gouna Film Festival, an unforgettable live performance at the festival’s 2018 edition, and more than 500 million views on its music video and counting, it’s clear fans have long awaited this comeback and felt the same feelings Yousra did when hearing the track. “I listened and I fell in love,” she previously told Euronews. “It just went into my heart and it revived a lot of beautiful feelings.”
While Yousra’s list of credits is extensive, there are a few throughout her 40-year long career that especially stand out, including her work with the late Youssef Chahine. The highly acclaimed Egyptian director collaborated with her on a number of films, such as the dramas Hadduta Masreya and Iskendereya Kaman we Kaman that continued to catapult Yousra to more and more prominent projects on the big and silver screens. In honor of his longstanding impact on her life and the lives of many in Arab cinema, Yousra was one of the artists who performed at the Youssef Chahine Tribute Concert during the 2018 El Gouna Film Festival.
Feminist on-screen and off
While Yousra actively campaigns for women’s rights in real life through her philanthropic initiatives, this self-proclaimed feminist also strives to challenge gender norms and change traditional perceptions of typically taboo issues through the powerful female roles she portrays on-screen. “I choose to play strong roles for women because we have a lot of stories of different women in our society who can be legends but we don’t use them enough. I’m trying to put these legends in the episodes I make,” she explained.
Avid supporter of Arab designers
Joining a star-studded cast of the region’s top talent in a #BuyArabDesigners initiative close to our heart in honor of Vogue Arabia’s second anniversary, Yousra was filmed grooving in an Elie Saab number that sparkled equally as bright as her in efforts to encourage greater support of homegrown creatives. The Arab actor is also known for donning Middle Eastern designers at red carpet affairs, such as when she wore a custom Zuhair Murad gown at the 2020 Oscars ceremony.