Shuffling from topic to topic, she gave some thoughtful advice to Egyptian women, talked about culture, her shifts in career, fashion and a lot more! Nayrouz Abou Zeid, the managing director of Ego- communicate opened up her heart to Freesia in an exclusive interview.
A lively example of thriving women, Nayrouz talked about her ambitions, achievements and what she wishes to see in today’s Egyptian woman. As a strong believer of independence and building one’s self, she thoroughly talks about her life in Egypt and her career.
As a child, she grew up in Italy and studied in several international schools. Later, she came to Egypt to study political science at the American University in Cairo. Even though she majored political science and minored in philosophy, she never wanted to pursue a career in politics because of protocols and her belief that politics is a game meant to sustain systems we are all dissatisfied with, a game she chose to not take part in.
Nayrouz started Ego-communicate, a prominent PR agency, in 2011, learning the right steps of consultancy. She worked on this from home as a start and was encouraged to give more. Later on, her skills developed well enough to build a client platform and start up the company.
A strong believer of what she does to her clients. She mentions that: PR is about communicating a brand to the right audience.
Ego-communicate was not Nayrouz’s first stop though, she had passion for reporting and started a journalism career at Al Mehwar channel as a TV presenter in 2003. She discovered that there were limits and that she can’t say the whole truth on TV, unlike what she was raised up to do and her belief that a journalist says nothing but the truth.
“I got demoralized and unmotivated due to the lack of understanding in an environment of political tension present in not only Egypt but also the whole Middle east,” she described. She stated that she no longer worked in Al Mehwar because she once praised British investors, on a TV show she was hosting, for starting projects in a collapsed region at the time.
Nayrouz then decided to launch Ego magazine amid the 25th of January revolution. The magazine produced a strong diverse content to Egyptian youth as it included politics, lifestyle and other.
Nayrouz describes the covers of the magazines as provocative enough to stir feelings of every faction of the Egyptian society. She points out an example of a picture put on one of the covers of the magazine, where the team took an expressive camera shot of a foreign model that dressed in provocative clothes and stood in the middle of Asr El-Nile’s bridge in Cairo. The shot not only included the focus on the model but also the various reactions of people around her as they looked at her.
This was the first cover of the magazine and the issue had a title named Alien-nation to show the contradictions of society we live in, she added.
She continues, “When I came to Egypt, I didn’t know the different classes in Egypt, so it was hard to get into the media. As for you to do so, you need to have a strong understanding of every bit of this society.”
Ego magazine is now archived in the Rare box at the American University in Cairo as it held valuable substance.
The Provocative Moments in Nayrouz’s Journalism Career
Ego magazine was considered censored and after a while has shut down, but that didn’t stop Nayrouz from standing back coming up with a different perspective, presenting good content to her viewers but avoiding past mistakes, with adequate shrewdness and creativity she was able to launch Alter-ego magazine. “I wanted to deliver the truth but in a different wrap, I'm learning from my previous experiences,” she said. She also stated that there were also controversial and censored content in Alter-ego, but mentioned two of the most provocative moments that made her re-think the future of the magazine.
One of the situations, as she describes, included the magazine’s presentation of Ahmed El Fishawy, a prominent actor, as a pregnant man on the cover, the purpose behind that was making fun of Fishawy and the scandalous moment he had at the time. Inside the magazine lied the interview that was the contrary of the sarcastic image on the cover. This interview aimed to depict Fishawy as the victim of unnecessary media propaganda that unwelcomingly invaded his private life.
The interview with Fishawy focused on his cinematic works and his passion as an actor and how a reputable person he is, but this attempt was met with a lot of criticism as audiences were angry at us for tackling such a private personal issue like Fishawy’s personal life, she added.
Another situation included state security showing up at the magazine head quarter, as fear escalated!
We wrote a feature story in 2006 about Baha’i Egyptians and mentioned that no one acknowledges it as a religion and its people demand equality and a national holiday to celebrate their beliefs. We had a picture of a Baha’i family on the front cover. I reacted to the security in my office that my magazine is small in its audience and that the ones they should fear are the ones who speak on Television about political discourse and possibly stir or incite hatred.
Even though these unfortunate incidents occurred, Nayrouz stayed a firm believer of creating content, thinking that Egypt is one of the most beautiful countries to learn in about human nature, communications, and inspiration as it is rich in media, history and culture.
Nayrouz points out that there is a good effort made by some designers in the Egyptian fashion industry, but also she thinks that the industry is poor and needs major enhancements.
“What the Egyptian industry lacks, is for designers to understand what the consumer actually needs, and to study the Egyptian society and the art of crafting an outfit,” she said.
She stated that the Egyptian fashion industry needs institutions that would aim to teach fashion courses and develop designers’ experiences by teaching them how to build a brand and understand how to market that brand.
“The Egyptian consumer has a good sense of style when put in the right environment, he/she dresses better than any Arab and is always updated by social media,” said Nayrouz.
Comparing the hectic climate of the digital media to the typical busy Egyptian streets, Nayrouz stated that most designers now heavily rely on social media to promote their work, and would rather spend more money on social advertising than using the usual media outlets, due to noticeable struggles of the current Egyptian media.
Nayrouz’s Advice to Egyptian Women
As a married woman and also a mother, she never failed to stress on Egyptian women’s craze about marriage in the wrong times. She thinks that a complete grown up woman is the one who is able to live strongly on her own outside the frame of marriage in specific.
“I think women should understand the value of self-investment, because from what I see, there are extremists in this society and I remark self-education and building a strong personality as important ingredient,” she added.
She advises women before deciding to get married; they should know very well the difference between needing and wanting and the consequences of each.
“Treat yourself well because you don’t gain everything when you get married. You don’t build yourself with your spouse, but you share your life with him. So manage your responsibilities but don’t forget to enjoy your femininity,” she summed the basic advice up.
Nayrouz had a sincere wish of Egyptian women today being able to reserve their cultural identity of the typical Egyptian woman in the past that is well known to be charismatic, brave, the life of the party and kind as she describes. She finally stated that, reserving a culture requires cultural education, not degrees, and also basics of morality, and not giving up originality for copying trends.
Nayrouz’s Future Plans
The team and Nayrouz are planning to launch a TV show in a year that will show what they achieved in the past years, and that also aims to shed a spotlight on people who had success stories, failed stories, as well as crazy stories!
“I’ll be presenting that show and Ego will be founding the production in a certain way,” she said.
The second project includes artist management, which is currently enrolled in Ego-communicate working with artists such as Ahmed El Fishawy, Sharmoofers the band, and others. The project aims to put those artists in the right places and introducing them to the right audience.
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