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Meet Dorra Zarrouk, an Arab Icon with International Characteristics

Dorra Zarrouk photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

Holding an MBA degree in political science, just to please her father, Dorra has tried different varieties of art in Tunisia. She previously refused, upon her father’s desire, to perform a role that would have granted her a better chance in Arabic cinema. It was a role in Samt Al-Qusur (The Silences of the Palace) movie. Then, she took the experimental stage and performed modern dance, also made an appearance in some advertisements and TV series. Dorra shone brighter especially after performing in El-Teatro theatre in Tunisia. Nevertheless, all this chaos did not satisfy her passion and love for art. She left Tunisia and traveled to Egypt, where she met the international film director Yousef Shahin. He threw her in a chaos of a different type; a chaos that helped her rearrange her moves in the world of art and put her on the right path to success. After her prominent appearance in Hiya Fawda (The Chaos) movie, the star received so many offers leading her to believe that she has finally found in Egypt what she was looking for. Based on the cultural proximity of Egypt and Tunisia, she then made her decision to settle in Egypt, master the Egyptian accent and challenge all the difficulties she might face while living alone in a foreign community. Here, she would definitely get disappointed and discouraged while trying to make her own way to art, armed with perseverance and intelligence.

While persisting to introduce different characters, Zarrouk sets her own red lines that she never crosses in the roles she chooses to play. She showed respect to these red lines in her role in the movie El Awela Fe El Gharam(First Time in Love) that introduced her to the Egyptian audience, her role in Al-Aar(The Shame) TV series that got her acquainted with Arab homes, and in Al-Shar’ Eli Warana(The Street Behind Us) TV series that moved her to starring roles. Yes, she did play a bold role in Segn El-Nesaa(Women’s Prison) TV series which put her mark on the world of art and showed her true acting capabilities, but the series in her point of view has no offensive or bold scenes that may cause disgrace for herself or her family.

Dorra ZarDorra Zarrouk photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

Though Egypt has granted her fame and fans’ love, Zarrouk never forgets her mother country Tunisia. The young star introduced works that are made especially for her Tunisian fans. They are few works, but are still intended for the mass. The fans commended those works, and were totally satisfied with them. The Maestro TV series is the last of them.

Although Egypt has not taken her from Tunisia, it made her defer her steps towards American and European cinema. Dorra is a 100% Arab artist with international characteristics, it is a fact that Zarrouk herself is honored and pleased with, as she always admits. Nevertheless, she never denies her regret upon not heading to Europe at her beginnings, specifically France, making use of her fluency in French.

Dorra cherishes her Arab identity and asserts her belonging to the Arab culture in spite of her mastery of the French language. She lives in Egypt and moves between different Arab countries. Moreover, Zarrouk is keen to represent Arab women in every event attended where she appreciates them and discusses their issues. She expressed her refusal to the saying “Women are their own worst enemies”. A Woman can sometimes be the worst enemy of herself but may be attacked by both men and women in society. In spite of the progress achieved, the widespread education and enjoying more rights, Dorra believes that Arab women are still victims of early marriage, circumcision and honor killings. She has a deeper point of view in this respect as she says: “Arab women suffer from the inferior perception held by society, misjudging them, and adopting double standards. It is a kind of suffering that can’t come to an end by the force of law”.

On the other hand, Dorra believes that arrogance is the grave of the artist. She never admits that she reached the top as she is in a constant pursuit to introduce the better. Every successful step makes her more concerned about her career, but in a positive manner that makes for continual artistic life. It is this concern that drives her to evaluate herself and pay attention to every step she takes in order to keep her artistic credit untouched. One mistake is too many for her.

Dorra Zarrouk photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

In addition to self-evaluation, Dorra pays special attention to well-founded criticism. Artists are just human beings whose feelings control them, they sometimes get angry because of the bitter criticism, other times they stand firm. She thinks that today’s criticism is far different from what was before given the predominance of social media. While these platforms do bring the artist closer to the audience, they can cause him/her a bad stress. Too many are those who are hiding behind fake accounts that make arbitrary judgments on artist works and defame him/her. In this respect, Dorra says, “Having self-confidence, the ability to tolerate people and enemies of success is necessary to deal with such characters”. It is also necessary for the artist to ignore spiteful persons to focus only on a wide base of audience so he/she can show them, love, whenever possible. “Loving fans gives me the positive energy to face these negative aspects, encourages me to continue and enjoy art”, the beauty says.

However, the star stresses that her appreciation of fans’ love does not necessarily mean to make her life open to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. The artist is just a human being whose life belongs to himself/herself, who has feelings and private memories. Accordingly, she does not allow anyone to intrude upon her life, but shows respect to others’ point of view, only for the moments she chooses to share with the fans. She takes well tactful views, condolences, congratulations, moral support, love expression, and constructive criticism.

Like every woman, hearing the word “fashion” makes her eyes sparkle. The beautiful artist loves fashion since she was a child, but without being captivated by big brand names or trendy lines. She buys only what appeals to her, regardless of the brand. The important thing is to love the piece she buys and feel comfortable wearing it. You may find in her wardrobe an international brand bag, and another handmade one that she bought from a traditional market. Dorra adores jewelry also. She believes that the jewels are just pieces of art that shine on women’s body, adding glamour and femininity in everyday life or events.

Dorra Zarrouk photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

Though she does not have a model body, she has such a natural feminine figure that she is keen to keep as-is without going so far. She does not stick to certain diets, just eats what she likes. She even does not deprive herself of having a dessert or a carbo dish but without excess besides practicing sports as much as possible. “Natural beauty prevails, defects make women different and distinguished. Anyway, no harm if it is to correct a major defect”, says Dorra about plastic surgeries.

As for her everyday looks, the Star opts for the simple and comfortable ones. She even goes out make-up free as much as possible, preferring soft make-up that makes the beauty of her face stand out. When attending big events, she looks tirelessly for unique pieces that she loves at first sight, completes her look with big jewels, and does not hesitate to apply heavy artistic make-up for a glamour look. As a lover of diversity, her list of designers included Arabs as Zuhair Murad, Ellie Saab, Reem Acra, Rami Kadi, Tony Ward, Georges Hobeika, Nicolas Jebran, Jean Louis Sabaji, Ali Younes, Michael Cinco, Marmar Halim and Hany ElBehairy. Besides, she emphasizes her support for young designers like Mohanad Kojak, Ahmed Talfit, Mahdi Kalal and Laith Maalouf, among others. As for global designers, she mentioned Dior, Valentino, Stella McCartney, Versace, Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Ralph & Russo, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana

Dorra Zarrouk photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

There is some kind of mutual love between her and the house of Bulgari. “I enjoy dealing with Bulgari and am proud of it. It is such an elegant distinctive brand of high value. It always impresses me with its creativity and constant renewal. My passion for Bulgari stems from believing in the Save the Children charity project which targeted so many children around the world. Within this project, she took part in the Give Hope campaign in fostering the idea in the middle east”, She says. Her enthusiasm was apparent to the shoot for the brand which took place in Cinecittà Studios at Rome, where some classical scenes were filmed like Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra. She went on to say: “I took exceptional care to the details as usual. Working with big brands is different. I do trust their choices, but it is OK to have a look at the mode board and to get acquainted with style, hair, and make-up officials so as to bring about the harmony necessary for the photo session’s success. I’m really eager to foster the team’s spirit, believing that success results from the collective effort exerted by every person of specific expertise employed to express my own personality and the brand’s personality”.

Dorra Zarrouk photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

Today’s Dorra is different from the dreamer Dorra of the past. She became more mature and more famous, with deeper sorrow. She is in constant pursuit to achieve internal peace, and pays careful attention to her psychological well-being, both in her career and in dealing with others. The star stands fully ready to avoid anything that would spoil her well-being. Nevertheless, she misses love and romance. But being surrounded by fans and friends from around the world makes it up for her to some extent. She is waiting for a man who means what he says or does, a man of true feelings, who is compassionate, funny and educated that she feels at ease with, who can show respect to her”.

Dorra is working on shooting the TV series Bela Daleel “With no Evidence”, an exciting social drama that features the story of a mother and musician called Habiba, who goes through several crises including the circumstances of a murder crime. The series is expected to premiere early October on Egyptian channels followed by Arab channels.

Originally published in Arabic in the September 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia 

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