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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Lebanese pop princess Lea Makhoul: ‘I think that’s why people love me, because I am myself’

In conversation with the 24-year-old Lebanese pop singer. She discusses her time on Star Academy, her new singles, pet hates and Adele.
Lea Makhoul hit it big with her first single Give Me Sunlight. Satish Kumar / The National
Lea Makhoul hit it big with her first single Give Me Sunlight. Satish Kumar / The National

Lebanese pop princess Lea Makhoul is an overnight success story. After finishing second in Star Academy Arabia’s 10th season last year, the 24-year-old singer built on her new-found fame with summery pop hit Give Me Sunlight, before unleashing the impressive R&B-flavoured follow up You Know I Got It. Having already amassed more than a million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Makhoul’s meteoric rise seems unlikely to slow ­anytime soon.

During a recent short-lived residency at new Dubai nightspot Muze, we stopped by to hear her perform live.

Singing to serenade the supper club’s affluent clientele, Makhoul’s voice soared over weepy Adele ballads, French pop and jacked Latin workouts. Before she took to the stage, we sat down with the star-in-waiting.

You grew up in France — when did you return to Lebanon?

I was born in France and grew up there. We left Lebanon because of the war. I lived in Paris for 23 years and then I went to Lebanon one year ago to participate in [Star Academy].

Everybody asks me why — the people in Lebanon all try to leave the country to go to live in Europe, and I did the opposite.

How did you end up on Star Academy?

It was all by chance — they called me. Everybody knows ­everybody in Lebanon. So they called me, and I said: “Why not, but I won’t sing in Arabic” — and all the TV in the Middle East is in Arabic. I always said to myself, “I don’t want to live in Lebanon,” but now it’s made me famous. It’s a beautiful country. For now, I ­really enjoy life in Lebanon.

Tell us about your two singles.

Give Me Sunshine was a commercial single — unfortunately you have to start with a commercial song first so people can know you. But my second single, (You Know I Got It) is Lea Makhoul. This is me — hip-hop and pop music.

What is next?

I also love to sing slow songs, like Adele, so maybe the next song I’m going to do is something slow. With a ballad, you can hear the voice. You Know I Got It is a fast song, it’s for clubs, so you can’t really say “oh, she can sing”. And I really want people to know “she can sing”.

How much has your life changed since you appeared on the TV show?

A lot — I really can’t explain to you, it’s been really crazy. I was there with 17 other candidates from so many countries, and you have so many cameras filming you all the time. People can see you eat, how you sleep, how you think — everything is filmed. On TV, people can see you 24 hours a day.

At the ­beginning I was nobody, and when I ­finished, there were people ­running and jumping on me — I really felt like I am a queen.

Today, I have a huge fan base — people who love and support everything I do.

If you could go back in time to before the show, what advice would you give ­yourself?

To be yourself — this is the biggest thing. I think that’s why people love me, because I am myself. I’m really close to my fans and I really want them to feel that I’m a human like them.

Be yourself, and you can maybe in the future be really famous.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: February 17, 2016 04:00 AM

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