Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

YouTube series 'Aya!' follows the fashion exploits of an all-female Arab cast

The show will follow the young women as they undergo challenges in keeping with a reality-television-show format

From left, Reem Al Hammadi, Assia Mezyaine, Haya Al Yassin and Yara Algain
From left, Reem Al Hammadi, Assia Mezyaine, Haya Al Yassin and Yara Algain

It’s no secret that people are increasingly reliant on screens for entertainment – post-work and weekend Netflix-ing is the new normal and social media is regularly used as a news source. Arguably, in the future, entertainment may not be sought on traditional TV channels at all, but via platforms such as YouTube. It’s this thought process that led to the creation of Aya!, an Arabic YouTube series produced for Generation Z viewers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.

Aya!, which is set to launch on Friday, January 24, translates to “wonderful” from Arabic, and that’s what it hopes to be for young Arab women everywhere.

Meet the hosts

Under producer Reim Al Houni, the show is by youngsters, for youngsters, and will trace the fashionable adventures and exploits of four women through 20-minute episodes on a weekly basis. Yara Algain, 26, Reem Al Hammadi, 22, Haya Al Yassin, 18, and Assia Mezyaine, 25, were hand-picked after a series of casting calls and auditions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, hugely popularised through social media, of course. Fashion influencers such as Nesma Hendawy, Wafaa Carneiro and Reman Ali added to the online storm by judging the casting process to find four fun young women who got along well, yet represented different styles, personalities and parts of the Middle East.

Of the four hosts, Algain is a Saudi Arabian beauty professional with a background in media and advertising; Al Hammadi is Emirati and has a love for adventure; Al Yassin is a Syrian journalism student at the American University of Sharjah; and Mezyaine is from Morocco, with a background in IT and property. “We wanted to have four very different personalities, so that the audience would be able to relate to at least one of them,” says Al Houni. “But at the core, there needs to be a passion for fashion. We were looking for women who have a unique style.”

The reason that the four hosts’ fashion sense is such an important part of the show is because of its format. The women will take on style-related challenges every week, in keeping with a reality-television-show format. In that sense, the quartet is still as much in the dark regarding Aya!’s content, is the rest of the audience. Al Houni does reveal one titbit, though. “Our first episode had a red-carpet theme; the challenge was to put together a glamorous look, but using items that could only be found in Dubai’s Naif Souq. So we dropped the girls there with a set budget, and reviewed how well they did and how they could have done better. There’s usually a celebrity coach or influencer to help them out and judge [their progress].”

Al Hammadi, who comes from Abu Dhabi, describes her style as modern and experimental (she has a fondness for socks and collects them). Al Yassin’s look is bright, peppy and bold, while Algain declares that her style sense is “very dark”.

“I don’t think I could pull off anything bright; it’s just not me,” she says. “I prefer block colours and ripped denim. I’d say my style is classy with a hint of rock ’n’ roll.”

Meanwhile, Mezyaine, who moved to the UAE a few months ago, showcases modestwear that goes beyond the hijab. “I want to show young women everywhere how to be fashionable in a modest way. I think whether someone is wearing a hijab or not, they could still relate and appreciate my sense of dressing,” she says.

Passion for fashion

In the first show, the women must work in pairs to win. “You can expect a lot of competitiveness, but also lots of love and friendship,” says Al Yassin. “We’re friends in real life and I hope people can see elements of that through the show.”

The hosts also aim to shine a light on their respective countries and cultures through their fashion choices. “Each of us has a very different style – and that’s OK,” says Al Yassin. “If there’s someone out there who has always wanted to dress a certain way but is scared to, we hope this inspires them to be themselves.”

You can expect a lot of competitiveness, but also lots of love and friendship. We’re friends in real life and I hope people can see elements of that through the show.

Haya Al Yassin

While Aya! is largely fashion-focused for now, Al Houni hints that it will deal with other themes, from beauty to cyberbullying, in the future. The medium that has been chosen to showcase the series is seen as the best to get such issues heard. When asked whether they think YouTube is the future of entertainment, there is resounding agreement from the women. “In my home, the television is for PlayStation and Netflix. We don’t really watch anything else. If I hear people talking about a cool show, I check YouTube first,” says Mezyaine.

“With all respect to the TV, YouTube has become so big, it’s an industry in itself,” adds Al Yassin. “There are a lot of people watching it, especially because tablets are so accessible these days. The best thing about it is that you can watch it from anywhere in the world.”

The show also aims to use the power of social media to draw in viewers. According to Al Houni, after an episode is aired, viewers will be invited to take part in the same challenges and share the process online, with prizes up for grabs.

“At the end of the day, it’s an easy watch. We hope it’s something people will sit down to watch and laugh at,” says Al Yassin.

Updated: January 6, 2020 09:33 AM

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