Even though she began singing at a young age, Nancy Ajram took the music scene by storm with her chart-topping albums Ya Salam (2003) and Ah W Noss (2004), swiftly emerging as a symbol for a new generation of music lovers. The Lebanese superstar has attracted millions of loyal fans across the Arab world and beyond, selling more than 30 million albums and receiving numerous awards. In her 20-year career, she has mesmerized men and women of all ages with her pop music and charisma. When she sings, her voice is silky and her lyrics resonate.
But who is the woman beyond the song and stage? “I am a mother like any other. With two daughters, Mila (8) and Ella (6).” The words melt as she gently pronounces their names. Always on the move, the void she leaves at home when traveling for concerts is filled by her mother or husband, dentist Fadi El Hachem. Though she enjoys her fame, Ajram does not allow it to carry her away from her family. She follows the educational progress of her daughters to the minutest detail – and details are her obsession, a trait she attributes to her perfectionist nature.
Ajram explains that she is anxious about the future, and finds herself always wondering what it may hold. It’s a characteristic she seems to have passed on to her children. They haunt her with the perpetual “why, when, how, and who?” questions. When the pressures of life prove overwhelming, she seeks refuge in the love and devotion of her husband – her friend and confidant. She trusts his advice even in her musical choices, “because he loves my success and cares for it,” she says with her trademark candor.
The singer admits that she has the perfect life. Although she divulges that while travel is a constant source of rich experiences, it exhausts her and is always followed by periods of rest with family and friends. She aims to create a harmonious balance, gathering everything she loves and cares about deeply – the people closest to her, or music. The latter is more a vocation than a career. She loves performing on stage and meeting her fans, whose love she values. Social media has made communicating with them all the more personal. While there are many Nancy Ajram fan pages, she directly administers her own social media, sharing posts and photos.
“My aim is not to show off, but to share with my fans precious moments of my everyday life and my career.”
Should ever the steady stream of photos decrease, her fans grumble. Social media has also taken her to far-flung places she never imagined she could reach: China, Korea, and Pakistan. Ajram mentions that she was especially delighted during one London concert to see Chinese fans in the front seats.
From her intimate world at home to her image as a famous singer, Ajram is especially conscious of her style. Her elegance has come to define her image, especially in recent years. When Vogue Arabia met her in a spacious home with spectacular views on the outskirts of Beirut, the pop star looked cool and contemporary in head-to-toe black, wearing ripped jeans, a simple T-shirt, and combat boots. This reinvention is also felt on stage, with Ajram ditching flirty, flamboyant costumes for sleek designs by Christian Dior or Saint Laurent. She is interested in fashion, follows the latest trends, and knows what will suit her and reflect her personality. She is not “obsessed with style,” however, and does not constantly upload photos on social media to share her daily looks. “If I had not been in the spotlight, I would have been wearing a T-shirt and jeans every day.” Topping the list of her favorite designers is Elie Saab. She wears his dresses on most occasions, including an embroidered number to the recent Surrealist Ball in Monaco. Ajram also cites Georges Hobeika as a couture go-to. In November, she mourned the passing of the Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaïa. She paid tribute to him with a photo on her Instagram feed, writing that he was a close friend and that she had had the opportunity to wear his beautiful creations.
Ajram describes her life as a “crescendo,” one where she keeps progressing steadily and perpetually. She has performed different genres – traditional and dance – but has always returned to her passion for popular and romantic Egyptian and Lebanese songs. She has a special place in her heart for her album of children’s songs, and “will not hesitate to sing for children, especially if the song carries a beautiful and meaningful message.” This desire to encourage young talent recently landed her in the jury seat for The Voice Kids: “I express my opinions inspired by my past experiences, always for the benefit of the young contestants.”
A family woman, Ajram enjoys spending her time off at home. She has a passion for cooking, with French and Asian cuisines her favorites. The slender Ajram says with a chuckle, “I’m a person who loves to eat,” but also admits that the house chef frequently adds his personal touches to the dishes. In the meantime, perhaps a third child may soon be on the way, so that her family, which remains her priority, can grow even more.
The singer welcomed the new year in style with a much-anticipated concert in Dubai. She is now filming two music videos for her latest album, Nancy 9: Hassa Beek. Her music videos reveal a hidden talent for acting but she’s skeptical of venturing into cinema: “I’m neither convinced nor ready to stay away from my daughters for a long time.” Rather, she says: “I’m satisfied with what I have achieved so far.”
Originally printed in the January 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia. Photographed by Michael Schwartz, styled by Claire Carruthers, directed by Katie Trotter, makeup by Toni Malt, hair by Eduardo Bravo Hair, words by Zeina Berjawi, assisted by Mohammad Hazem Rezq, and produced by Razel Trinos. Location: Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi.
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