Grazia Middle East - - THE HOT STORIES -

ROTANA TARABZOUNI IS HAPPY to be back in the Mid­dle East. “It feels like home,” the LA-based singer, born and raised in Saudi Ara­bia, gushes to Grazia be­fore set­ting the Fendi party – cel­e­brat­ing the open­ing of the new bou­tique in The Dubai Mall – alight. “It feels like a place that knows me with­out me hav­ing to ex­plain my­self. They call it ‘The Moth­er­land’ for a rea­son. I feel like I’m back in my mother’s arms; it feels so sweet.”

With her eclec­tic style and mean­ing­ful mu­sic tal­ent, it’s lit­tle sur­prise the artist and song­writer was named among the BBC’s 100

Most Pow­er­ful Women, but how does some­one so, well cool, bal­ance stay­ing true to the tra­di­tion­al­ist roots of her cul­ture while also be­ing a mod­ern-day mil­len­nial? “I think some­times…” Rotana pauses, “…it’s im­pos­si­ble to bal­ance it, as there’s a cer­tain re­spect to my re­li­gion that will al­ways be present. But the whole rea­son I’m an artist is to try to con­trib­ute to this sense of in­di­vid­u­al­ism that women in the Mid­dle East haven’t taken own­er­ship of. I think some­times the na­ture the Mid­dle East can keep us from reach­ing our great­est po­ten­tial.”

The star adds, “I’d like to say

I’m not vo­cal about try­ing to break stereo­types around Saudi women with words be­cause I’d like for it to just come through my art. My goal is to just be an in­di­vid­ual that is mov­ing away from so­ci­etal con­di­tion­ing. But I can’t claim to break the Saudi stereo­type be­cause I’m only one per­son.”

True as that is, Rotana is nonethe­less mak­ing a re­mark­able im­pact on the in­dus­try and be­yond. She’s also a su­per-stylish, so­cial­me­dia star in her own right, which is an­other rea­son why she has been short­listed as one of the Grazia

Style Awards KSA’s nom­i­na­tions for Emerg­ing Tal­ent. “I’m flat­tered and taken aback, to be hon­est,” Rotana ad­mits. “I feel like a lit­tle bit of an am­a­teur, but it feels awe­some.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Rotana did her planB ca­reer first. She worked at Saudi Aramco, the oil cor­po­ra­tion that is the world’s most prof­itable com­pany, but quit her role as an in­ter­na­tional me­dia re­la­tions of­fi­cer four years ago and moved to Los Angeles to pur­sue mu­sic. “Now I’m an artist, there is no plan B. If you have a plan B that means you’re not very se­ri­ous about your plan A,” Rotana laughs.

Will she stay in the US for­ever? “No, right now LA is at the cen­tre of my mu­sic ca­reer, but my dream is to be in Saudi Ara­bia for five months of the year and then spend the rest of the time in Europe,” she replies.

Fi­nally, what are her hopes for the fu­ture of women in Saudi? Rotana muses, “Some­times Arab women think if the gov­ern­ment or their par­ents give them per­mis­sion they will be ca­pa­ble of do­ing some­thing, but you have to give yourself per­mis­sion. All the mo­ti­va­tion and drive you need is within you.”

Why you need to be lis­ten­ing to I Am Rotana’s playlist. Dis­claimer: her songs are filled with courage and creativ­ity…

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