Tara Emad’s school teachers were wrong about her. In a mirrored rehearsal space in Dubai’s Courtyard Playhouse – where she’s showcasing pieces for Bulgari – amid the air of dusty old-world glamour and simmering-beneath-the-surface excitement that are a theatre’s lifeblood, she recalls, “They told me, ‘Tara, now that you’re pursuing your acting, you’ll be sure to fail all your exams. But I was determined to do both.”
The two commitments turned into many more, as the 25-year-old’s list of accomplishments expanded from acting and modeling to include photography, humanitarian work, and being a brand ambassador. All this while in the middle of a five-year applied arts degree at the German University in Cairo.
Beginning her modeling career at the age of 14, she soon landed a role in the Egyptian series Al Jamaa, and before long transitioned to the big screen in Peter Mimi’s The Fourth Pyramid. “I’ve always wanted to act,” she says, those famous dimples deepening as she smiles. “This is my dream. It makes me happy to have reached where I am through persistence and hard work, even though I still have a long road ahead of me.”
Home is Cairo’s Zamalek island, where she lives with her mother, a writer Emad credits with igniting a literary passion in her. The city is where her charity work is centered, focusing on female education, environmental issues, and animal welfare.
“Many girls in Egypt leave their education at 12, 13, 14 and get married. We meet with them to understand their perspective, tell them what they’re losing out on, tell them what they can gain from continuing their education. It has taught me a lot.”
Although happy to share her life with her 1.2 million Instagram followers, the Egyptian-Montenegrin millennial also posts regularly about the importance of taking breaks from social media – “It can consume you,” she observes. “Some days I realize I’ve been clinging to my phone for hours. Social platforms are amazing, but we need to be aware of how and why we use it.” A scroll through Emad’s Instagram lights upon her love of yoga, a passion she calls “life-changing,” after a debilitating spinal condition once left her bedridden for 10 days.
“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t even lift a finger,” she says of her scoliosis. “I had to take a break from shooting a TV series as I was in an enormous amount of pain. When I started walking again, I knew I needed to put more yoga into my life.”
As far as her style goes, Egyptian designer Deana Shaaban is a favorite – “I love everything about her designs. I always try and support local designers” – alongside Elie Saab. “Middle Eastern women appreciate glamour,” she says. “They connect with being glamorous and with what beauty represents to them.”
It was Emad’s laidback charisma and modern allure that caught the eye of Bulgari back in 2017, who instantly recruited her as a friend of the brand, extolling her “blend of femininity, values, and boldness.” “I feel amazing when I’m wearing Bulgari,” she says. “The pieces are gorgeous, and I’m obsessed with the bags.”
Currently filming The Blue Elephant 2 in Cairo with director Marwan Hamed, with whom she worked on 2018’s Diamond Dust, she admits that the movie makeup chair is likely the only time you’ll catch her wearing foundation. “I enjoy the glamour process if it’s for a shoot or a character, but I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis,” she shares. “I was watching a tutorial on YouTube recently and the presenter said makeup should take at least 45 minutes. I’d rather spend an extra 30 minutes in bed! I was at the Cairo Film Festival last year, and the way I had been made up was too glamorous for me. So I put my hair in a messy bun. I loved it; I felt more me.” She smiles. “I like crookedness and imperfections, they make you more human.”