Beloved actress, award-winning artist, film producer, and media powerhouse Esaad Younes left her designated interviewer seat for an intimate chat with us at Cairo West.
She left her mark on-screen as well as in print and on radio, which is a testament to her talent, versatility, and determination. We sat with her as she opened up about her life, her family, and her experiences while balancing the busy responsibilities of each day.
By Aliaa Elsherbini
What has been your most important life lesson?
My most important life lesson was to never give up, and never look back. I have learned the importance to find ways to hold myself accountable, and not give justifications for any of my short comings or mistakes. Teach yourself to be a better person.
Did your family steer you towards your career?
My family did not mean for my siblings and me to become artists. They raised us normally, but the artistic environment that we grew up in fed those interests. My mother having been at the Arab Music Institute, my aunt a famous radio singer, and my father a journalist and a friend of a lot of celebrities that he frequented regularly during the Qitar el Rehma (Train of Mercy) project after the Egyptian revolution of 1952, fed into my interests.
Even my siblings had passionate artistic interests since they were 5 and 7 years old and studied at the conservatoire and took ballet lessons, which I had to accompany them to. It was an artistic environment and mood that I grew up and lived in that shaped me, and it was in my genes.
Then I started working on the radio among celebrities. It was my fate. However, my children, who also grew up in such an environment, do not share the same artistic interests.
What advice would you offer young girls growing up today?
My advice for teenage girls is to open up to new experiences, explore their hobbies and the different aspects of life. From home chores to everything else. Acquired experiences don’t have to be related to their studies or work, as they will prove useful later in life.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were twenty years old?
I wish I had the chance to learn all what I learned later on in life. But this wish cannot be granted. We learn more as the years go by, and we get to live more. I believe I did my best to learn everything I was capable of learning at twenty.
Which moments do you value most in each day?
The most important moment, and it is a very brief one, is the beginning of the day where I am hopeful that it will be a good one. The other important moment is the moment of glory when I finally get in my bed after a long day of work where I get to take off every restraint and chain from the outside world and enjoy my own company and just reflect.
I get to sit on my laptop or watch TV and unwind. Back in the day, the most important moment was when I would return home and write. But that was then, I have a different job now.
What qualities are most important in a mother?
Any mother would cook and look after her children no matter her status in society. However, the most important quality of a mother is to be a good listener.
A mother has to listen carefully and attentively to her children and converse with them by responding to their questions and wonderings, not to push them away. She should be their number one listener and friend.
How did being a mother change you?
A great deal! As every ambitious woman, I had no time for children and felt they required a great deal of work. But the moment I gave birth to my daughter Nourhan, it completely changed me.
My children became my priority, and I forgot a great deal about myself. Then later on I was able to re-accommodate my ambitions within the remaining space I had for myself following the needs of my son and daughter.
Do you treat your grandchildren differently than you treated your children when they were younger?
Of course, because I am not their parent. Parents apply discipline, and grandparents are here to give affection and spoil their grandchildren without interfering with the methods of discipline applied.
My kids might use parenting methods that I might not or methods that they had wished for me to use when they were younger. So the relationship with my grandchildren is based on pure love and pampering, but within the limits and rules put in place by their parents. I cannot break their rules, but I can sneak around them.
How were you able to balance building a successful career and having a family?
Time efficiency. We waste a lot of time being lazy. I managed my time efficiently, mornings were for my children and followed by some quiet time for myself before going to work.
When I am at work I only focus on that, until I get back home to my children. Sometimes this took its toll on my sleep as I have always suffered from sleeping disorders, so I took the time when I was not asleep to get things done.
What advice would you give young women starting their careers and family at the same time?
Divide your time effectively and prioritize wisely, to avoid tasks overlapping. You’ll get more done once you take one task at a time. You can be a woman, a mother, a worker, and a lady of the society all at once, just give each part of yourself its necessary time.
Was there a time where you prioritized work over family? Can you tell us more?
For sure, sometimes there would be a crisis at work that requires my full attention. Managing that was harder when the kids were younger, but as they grew up and became aware I would explain to them the nature of my work.
That is why it’s important to take your kids with you to work if possible, so that they can understand the stress you can be put under and the nature of work. This will also develop their work value in life.
Were you close to your mom? What parenting traits have you acquired from her that you apply with your own family now?
My mother was the ultimate teacher for me, my siblings, and my children. She was a very special woman. Widowed at 32 with three girls, she had to build a system to raise us. My father passed away when I was 14, Eman 9, and Ahlam 6, so we had to be there for each other especially that we had a lot of family members but they were just not involved in our lives.
Living alone with our mother, she included us in everything, even in household budgeting, setting examples of when we can buy toys and when we can’t. She made us part of the decision-making process and raised us with a lot of wisdom, values, and life lessons that I might write a book about one day.
She got us through some very hard times with her gentleness, affection, and laughter. She is our anchor and the manual that we look at for reference in this life.
What is the biggest lesson you want to teach your grandchildren?
Honestly, I don’t know. We had a certain certitude that our children would grow up in similar environments to ours with similar rules and values, but now times are different, and I don’t know how it would look like for our grandchildren.
This question is actually one that puzzles me deeply. The pace of life has become very fast, and life is different now than what it was a decade ago. I can only advise them to have good character and nature.
All we can do is give them the basis of a good education, values, and set of skills to make them courageous, disciplined, and free-thinkers. To be prepared to face adversity and have the willpower to keep going because future wars in life are more vicious and they should never give up.