In a series of exclusive interviews, Emirates Woman talks to the three incredible female figures that star in the Estée Lauder’s “Together We Shine” campaign: Fatima Al Banawi, Sofana Dahlan and Sara Al Tamimi.

Female empowerment in the Middle East has seen some massive shifts in the past few years. Women across the region are exceptionally thriving in a male-dominated industry. To further anchor this movement, Estée Lauder’s launches the “Together We Shine” campaign to celebrate Middle Eastern women, who just like Estee Lauder herself have had a great impact on the local community and environment. Following the successful “Reach For The Stars” campaign, Estee Lauder aims to put a spotlight on pioneering entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others whose hard work has resonated and made a measurable impact.

Fatima Al-Banawi, filmmaker, actress and Founder of Alf Wad Creative, shares her career journey, achievements, favourite Ramadan traditions and how she’s contributing in shaking up the local industry, one film at a time. Scroll through to read the interview below.

How does it feel to be a part of Estée Lauder’s “Together We Shine” campaign?

I’m thrilled to be part of a campaign that sheds light on the journeys of women in the region and celebrates passion, storytelling, and resilience.

Where do you attribute your success?

My grandparents’ stories and travels continue to captivate and affect me to this day. Additionally, my childhood and teenage years spent in Jeddah have shaped the person I am today.

What have you learned in the process and what advice would you give to those wanting to carve out their own pioneering career path?

Anyone seeking to achieve success in their career must study their profession, know their passion, as well as continue to have faith in their dreams no matter what. That faith is to believe with one’s heart and work with one’s hands. If you can sustain the faith you have in your passion and in your profession, I’d say, you’re on your way to success. I’d also encourage one to understand that there are multiple paths to one’s goal. If one door closes, don’t despair; instead, open another.

How do you think women are changing the film industry and how will this positively impact the film industry in the future?

We have powerful, raw, visionary women storytellers in the filmmaking industry, and the only university that teaches cinema in Saudi today offers it to young women, which promises an even stronger future. Since Wadjda (2012) and Barakah Meets Barakah (2016) and leading up to today, women have been carving the path and shedding light on critical issues in our society, while making what is personal, universal, and what is local, global. More is yet to come… Take my word.

What initiatives are you part of to lift other women up?

In my studies, I focused on the representation of women and Arab identity in both film and literature. My experience working as a psychological caseworker in Himayat Al-Osra (Family Protection Association) and as a social development consultant in the Islamic Development Bank, I take my knowledge and expertise and materialize it on the film set. On film sets, I take on the roles of different women in society and make it a point to deliver them in the best possible and most truthful ways, whatever purpose they fought for, wherever they came from, and whoever they chose to be as people; Nada in Champions, Sarah in 60 Minutes, Mariam in Route 10, Jehan in AlHamour, Sofie in Roll’em, Aya in Ertidad, and more. As a writer and director, the joy of creation triples.

Tell us about your first red carpet moment – what were the thoughts running through your mind?

It was 2016 in Berlin Film Festival and my thought to myself was: “Is my dress too revealing for the newspapers?” Then I thought about whether that really mattered considering that I was standing in front of 3,000 people to showcase our work of art, which we had made with a full heart. It was a moment of reflection. More so, a moment of glory that I hold dear until this day.

Tell us about the moment you realized that this is the career path you wanted to pursue.

There is no such thing as a moment of realization. My eyes continue to sparkle as I describe what I do to others, constantly showing up and creating opportunities, as well as persisting on putting my all into the projects I choose to embark on, are all indicators of my commitment and passion for the career I chose.

Tell us your favourite Ramadan traditions that you’re most looking forward to.

The scent of bukhoor and Saudi coffee, my mom’s voice leading the prayer, and my grandparents sitting on the head of the table as we break our fast with a date and a dip of tahini overlooking a plate of crispy samboosa!

On self-care: Can you share with us your rituals that renew your spirits during Ramadan?

Trying genuinely to be present and sincere while doing good to the extent that if I do good with my right hand, my left would not know it. Kindness, understanding, and generosity that I try to take with me to the year ahead.

How do you make time for yourself after a long day?

I’ve learned to say “no” more and to ask for what I need when I need it. This way, even long days of work are kind to me. After a day’s work, I use sports as an outlet for negative energy and relaxation. I prefer jogging and running over other sports. I resort to voice exercises when I am exhausted or feel tension in my body and stomach. Having an honest conversation also helps, since opening up and engaging with loved ones comforts me.

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