Originally printed in the February 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.
It is all too easy to pass off the success of a celebrity’s child as nepotism, but with more than 250 000 followers on Instagram between them, Abdallah, Kinzy, and Jana – the children of Egyptian music sensation Amr Diab and Zeina Ashour – are doing pretty well on their own. If you thought being a teenager came with trials and tribulations, there’s no doubt having a successful, and famous, parent comes with its own pressures. Yet 18-year-old twins Abdallah and Kinzy, and their sister, Jana, 16, haven’t lived in their parents’ shadows. Instead, the down-to-earth and mature adolescents – who were born in Egypt but moved to London seven years ago – have learned from their parents to forge their own paths. But what’s it like growing up the children of a superstar? The siblings share their stories.
“My father’s success was much more hectic when we lived in Egypt, with people behaving differently towards us because of who he was. I haven’t experienced that to the same extent in England, it’s not such a big deal. Growing up, I never listened to my father’s music, but moving to London has made me appreciate it more. We didn’t experience too much pressure due to my dad’s fame, because we were so young.”
“I still want to make my parents proud and show them what I’m capable of. I’m obsessed with music and I’m considering a career in the industry – I’d love to start own my record label. My parents have always been a source of support. They provided me with the best life and even though my father lives abroad, we talk constantly and he gives me amazing advice. I have always had a good relationship with my sisters, too. We get along, but like most siblings we fight every now and then. I wouldn’t say my twin sister, Kinzy, and I are inseparable but we are very close, and because Jana is close to us in age, we get on well. What I love the most about my sisters is that as well as being siblings, we are all friends. Well, most of the time…”
“My father’s success hasn’t affected my everyday life – it just makes me want to work harder in the hopes of being as accomplished as him. I’m thankful that his success has allowed me to be in the public eye – this makes it easier for me to vocalize my opinions in the hopes of enacting positive change, for instance, with the charity, Pass On Hope, I founded with Abdallah when we left Egypt during the revolution. It provides football kits and equipment to children in Egypt and Jordan. We’ve always understood our country’s passion for football, and have seen children finding any means to play, from kicking a ball on a local pitch to passing a can on the streets. Our aim is to improve the emotional and physical wellbeing of less fortunate students by providing them with a small escape from their reality. While I think my father is an extremely talented singer and musician, I was too young to fully understand that I was under the spotlight in Egypt when we lived there. I remember going to football matches with Abdallah and my father and seeing pictures of us at the match on the internet, but I was always oblivious to any photographers. One of my favorite memories, though, is going on stage with Abdallah for our birthday and having the crowd sing to us.”
“My upbringing is quite similar to that of my mother’s. She’s a Saudi woman who lived in Lebanon and Switzerland – like me, developing an affinity with both the Arab and European worlds, creating a confluence. I’m going to study anthropology and gender at university. I’m interested in studying cultures and their different beliefs, being of dual heritage myself. I want to focus on Arab women and their representation in culture. There is still a significant lack of representation of Arab women in Western and Arab media. If young Arab girls don’t see themselves reflected in media, then, as actor Yara Shahidi said, “they are the anomaly if they succeed and the expectation if they fail.” My parents are both very supportive of any career path I choose, especially one that involves activism. When it comes to my siblings, despite having been in each other’s lives literally since birth, Abdallah and I are more like friends. I’m very close to Jana as we’ve shared a bedroom all our lives – although I’m quite excited for that to change once I’m in university! What do I love the most about my siblings? The fact that I can wear Jana’s clothes and that Abdallah makes me look like the good child.”
“I don’t recall paparazzi ever being an issue growing up, but my parents never wanted me to be exposed to all the attention. They didn’t want the superficial side of my father’s fame to affect me. The pressures of looking a certain way could have overpowered my better judgment and caused me to feed off the attention. Yet being exposed to my father’s dedication, hard work, and talent has had a positive impact on my character. As a budding singer, I take my father’s music into consideration when writing my own songs. We respect each other’s work. He lets me sit in on his recording sessions when he’s in London. This allows me to become more confident and comfortable in a studio atmosphere.”
“While I don’t sing in Arabic, being an Arab gives me an identity I am proud of. Egypt was my home for 10 years. It’s where most of my family are so it makes me feel emotionally secure. London is different in this way, but I’ve learned to be more independent. As a result, my music is heading down a completely different path to my father’s – it is a different style and is aimed at a different culture. I love my parents, I have so much support from them. My mother is also good at making sure my siblings and I have a close relationship. We’re close in age so it’s easy to relate to them. I am grateful for my sister as she always gives good advice, and my brother… well, his qualities are questionable, but he is always humorous.”
Hair: Pablo Kuemin
Makeup: Anete Salinieka
Photography Assistant: Kai Cem Narin
Stylist Assistant: Jan Grochowski and Paulina Gzik