In search of fame

Teenagers in Eqypt take to street fash­ion in their at­tempt to be­come celebri­ties.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

EQYPTIAN teenager Is­lam stood shirt­less in an up­scale Cairo neigh­bour­hood won­der­ing what to wear, a turquoise shirt or a black sweater, as he pre­pared for a photo shoot.

“Should I wear a tie as well?” asked Is­lam, 15, comb­ing back his slick black hair.

This is not a reg­u­lar fash­ion shoot or a scene be­ing filmed for an Egyp­tian film.

Be­hind the cam­era is one of Is­lam's friends, who plans to cap­ture the teenager at his best.

The idea is to up­load Is­lam's pic­tures on so­cial me­dia net­works like Face­book and In­sta­gram, and col­lect as many “likes” as pos­si­ble.

Over the past four years, many Egyp­tian teenagers have be­come part of a grow­ing cir­cle of such “Fa­mous Peo­ple” groups on so­cial me­dia net­works, some ul­ti­mately look­ing to be­come celebri­ties.

Hun­dreds of young­sters like Is­lam are a com­mon sight in posh Cairo dis­tricts th­ese days, car­ry­ing ex­pen­sive cam­eras and trendy clothes in their back­packs – ready to pose for a photo shoot wher­ever pos­si­ble.

Mostly hail­ing from Cairo's im­pov­er­ished neigh­bour­hoods, they seek out ex­pen­sive cars and lux­ury vil­las as props.

Of­ten dressed provoca­tively, th­ese teenagers are chal­leng­ing taboos in a con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim so­ci­ety.

In Egypt, where 30% of the 90- mil­lion pop­u­la­tion is aged be­tween 10 and 24, such teenagers can also be seen as chal­leng­ing a re­pres­sive regime that has crushed all op­po­si­tion and mo­nop­o­lised pub­lic space.

In the cap­i­tal's up­scale Maadi district where many for­eign­ers live, Is­lam and nearly a dozen other teenagers from an in­dus­trial sub­urb hunt for lo­ca­tions.

Sport­ing skinny jeans and trendy hair­cuts, they pho­to­graph them­selves in front of im­pos­ing wrought iron and wooden gates to vil­las, but of­ten get ejected by guards.

“At home they don't think much of my trousers,” said Is­lam. “They say tight clothes are for girls, and my father hates my hair­cut,” said Is­lam, as two po­lice­men ap­proach to briefly ques­tion them.

“Peo­ple shout at us or threaten to call the po­lice. But we're not do­ing any­thing wrong. We just take pic­tures. It's our pas­sion and we will con­tinue,” said Ahmed Amin, 16, who has 1,300 fol­low­ers on Face­book.

Af­ter sev­eral odd jobs, Amin pur­chased the SLR cam­era he now car­ries and he charges RM18.60 for five pho­tos.

Ziad Akl, an ex­pert on political so­ci­ol­ogy at the Cairo- based Al- Ahram Cen­ter for Political and Strate­gic Stud­ies, de­scribes the trend as a “gen­er­a­tional con­flict”.

It is a clash be­tween “youths whose morals and val­ues are evolv­ing and a so­ci­ety that de­nies change and di­ver­sity,” Akl said. Th­ese young­sters are set­ting a new trend, just as more and more women and col­lege girls have turned to con­ser­va­tive at­tire in past decades.

“We are in the process of re­draw­ing bound­aries of per­sonal free­dom,” said Akl. “Th­ese young­sters feel that any­one can dress the way he wants or have hair­cuts or tat­toos he likes.”

The trend is wor­ry­ing the au­thor­i­ties, which like any other “re­pres­sive regime would like to con­trol so­ci­ety”, Akl said.

“The po­lice will con­tinue to re­sist this phe­nom­e­non by us­ing re­pres­sive and in­tim­i­dat­ing means.”

Some young­sters have ended up in po­lice sta­tions, but the suc­cess of Sonek Diab, 21, keeps them mo­ti­vated.

A trend­set­ter since high school days, Diab has turned into an idol for many Egyp­tian young­sters.

He has al­ready shot two com­mer­cials, in­clud­ing one for a fast food chain that con­tacted him di­rectly on his Face­book page.

With his trade­mark dread­locks, Diab gained fame through his pho­to­graphs taken on Cairo streets. He has more than 75,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram.

“I used to be stopped in shop­ping malls by peo­ple keen on tak­ing pic­tures with me,” said Diab, who now wants to make a full- time ca­reer in the fash­ion in­dus­try.

Diab's suc­cess story serves as a mo­ti­va­tor. “I want to be­come an ac­tor or a model, or do com­mer­cials or be­come a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter,” said Ahmed Zein, 16, who at­tends a theatre work­shop. “I sim­ply love the cam­era.” – AFP Re­laxnews

young egyp­tian pho­tog­ra­pher Ab­de­laz­izi Khaled ( left) takes pho­tos of his friend for the lat­ter’s so­cial me­dia ac­count. — AFP

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