Amina Shelbaya sings alone, at a time when revealing bad attitudes has become heroic and a cause for pride, to constitute a dazzling case, after she threw the criticisms of others behind her back, and set her sights on one goal; Reviving the attitudes, ethics, and etiquette of dealing with oneself and with society.
Arabisk London is honoured to interview Amina Shelbaya in an exclusive interview.
Interviewed By: Fatima Omrani
1- In your own words, who is Amina Shelbaya?
I am a girl who dreamed of being a model since her childhood, and indeed I participated in the Miss Egypt contest in 1988, and I deservedly won the title of Miss Egypt, and then I represented Egypt in the Miss World contest that was held in Taiwan.
I grew up and my dreams grew with me, and I dreamed of being a beauty expert, at a time when these fields were not popular as they are now!
I graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Political Science, I traveled and studied, and not only did I become a beauty expert, but I also divide into many fields, and enrolled in several courses in fashion coordination, etiquette, hair and skin care.
I returned to Egypt and started an educational school that offers education courses in the fields of beauty and fashion, jewelry design, and training for fashion shows by a number of specialists.
A long, varied and extremely rich experience spanning about 25 years also brought me into media work, and I can say that my path began as a girl who dreamed of becoming a model, and ended with being an expert in several fields.
2- Your name has been associated with the word “etiquette”. Was Amina Shelbaya raised on the rules of “etiquette” since her childhood?
Since my childhood, I was brought up and raised on the rules of “etiquette” and I did not feel that they were any kind of duty or burden, and without warnings and instructions from my mother, who was a role model in her commitment. In my family, we were spontaneously and automatically adhering to etiquette, respecting table manners, home, and dressing codes and etiquette, this is what we consider to be only sound education.
3-When you decided to enter the world of content creation, why did you choose “etiquette” specifically?
I started in the content industry since 2000, when I used to prepare and edit the programs that I personally presented, and all the content that I currently present on social media platforms as advice to adhere to “etiquette” I used to present it in programs long before there were so-called social media platforms here.
I used to present this content in T.V programs, magazines, and newspapers, or in the form of advertisements for beauty companies and others, and my long experience in this field made me distinguished in it. In addition to my practice of these areas, I had studied them in many educational courses in the fields of cosmetology, fashion styling, fashion modeling, facials, body and hair care. I also completed all these courses in international British institutions. Then I worked with many major beauty companies and was dispatched to London and enrolled in high-level courses. Despite being new to social media platforms, I have been on social media for only about two and a half years, and I offer “etiquette” paragraphs as advice in my programs and not in dedicated videos.
4- What are your sources for learning “etiquette”?
As I told you, I have studied and attended many courses in London, and I have always been reading and following all the studies and research in these behavioral sciences, and what gave me the title of “beauty and etiquette expert” is not only the courses that I underwent, and of course there are a very large number of women who undergo them, however, the main point was that I grew up on etiquette and rules of etiquette in my household and since my childhood.
Also, I do not like to be classified as an etiquette expert, and I prefer to be classified as a beauty expert because what I offer in etiquette is the basics only, which is what we were raised on in our homes, such as food or social manners.
Of course, I do not see that what I present in my content presents something new and controversial in society, as I only present the basics, my entire content was familiar for me and I had practiced it in my household since I was a child.
5-Would you tell us about your academic studies, and did you contribute to the formulation of the content you provide?
My studies in general had contributed to the formulation of the content that I present, not my university studies, because I am a graduate of economics and politics. Actually, I started my educational career after my return from the Miss Universe contest. Since that time, my dream has grown beyond becoming Miss World, and I am seeking to become an expert in all these related fields from a beauty expert, a model, a fashion coordinator, and etiquette. I completed all the courses in London, and then contracted with major beauty companies, which contributed to increasing my experience in these areas on a larger scale.
Certainly, my academic studies benefited me in these areas, and what benefited me more is that I was the one who edited and wrote the content of the programs that I presented. Also, the interaction of the audience with me brought me closer to people so that I would be close to them and to their concerns, and this is exactly what contributed to the success of my programs.
6-Cosmetics and skin care, the latest fashion, table manners, how to communicate with other people, advices for how to overcome social problems, and other topics are among the content that you provide. How was Amina Shelbaya able to capture all these aspects in her content?
Some people are surprised by my ability to combine all these fields, but as I told you, my dream began with my desire to become Miss Egypt, and the dream grew to the point that I wanted to be a beauty, fashion, etiquette expert, and I spent two years in Britain studying all these courses. After my return, I polished my experience in terms of my work as a model, my contract with major beauty companies, in addition to my presentation of television programs, all of which contributed to my being widely acquainted with what I offer.
7-“She reminds us of the musicians of the Titanic.” This criticism is constantly directed at you, as if you are taking a path quite opposite to what the Arab society is following nowadays. Why is Amina Shelbaya facing all this criticism?
I did not notice any criticism directed at me or at my content, in general the Egyptian people are a cheerful people by nature, they like to joke, and if you take a look at my posts on social media platforms, you will notice that the comments are not offensive. They are in fact harmless and impersonal as well, actually it is a group of light-hearted people commenting comically. They are nice and they take advantage of me being a “Trend”, and actually most of them message me and tell me that they are only joking, and that they love what I offer and follow my content with passion!
The amount of feedback that I receive on my content is unexpected and pretty positive. My followers stop me on the street and ask permission to take pictures with me and they look overwhelmingly loving. I honestly do not like to call it criticism, for me it is just joking and being wit.
8- In a previous interview with the journalist Amr Adib, you were criticized by experts in etiquette, it was about your clothes and the way you dealt with the presenter on air. How do you respond to these criticisms?
Whoever wants to criticize me shall do it, I will not respond to every person who criticizes me just for the sake of criticism and without being qualified for it. However, in general, I respect any opinion and point of view, if those critics had that kind of opinion about me, then I respect their opinion, but anyone who criticizes my information must refer to books and sources and compare my information to academic sources and book.
9- In your opinion, what is the audience’s problem with the word “etiquette” in particular? Whereas vocabulary such as “manners” or “ethics” do not cause this sensitivity?
I do not think that the word etiquette causes such sensitivity to the public, and I assure you that all the messages I receive are only positive and kind messages.
10- Do you think that the importance of adhering to etiquette in dealing with oneself and others outweighs the importance of beauty in appearance?
The two are equally important. Tact and respect for public etiquette and morals is extremely important, and by that, I mean respect for oneself and others. Like, using words such as thank you, pardon, and excuse me, and at the same time an elegant and tidy look is as important as wearing the appropriate dress for the appropriate place, and this falls under respect for others. When I stress on the need to take care of the one’s shape, I do not mean applying cosmetics and hairdressing, I point out the importance of adhering to the etiquette of personal hygiene, elegance, and respect for the place and the people with whom I meet and sit with.
11-A question afflicting most of the pioneers of social media platforms, how do you behave in your home, and are you strict with your children in terms of applying the rules of etiquette?
I grew up in a family that adheres to the rules of etiquette without making it a burden on us or within strict rules that restrict us. My mother, and before her my grandmother were also brought up in a similar atmosphere. We simply deal with ourselves and others as we grew up seeing our parents behave, and this is exactly what I raise my children on. Here we are talking about the basics of public grammar and etiquette.
I teach and direct my children constantly, without making it a burden on them, and due to their young age, they will naturally not be perfect in adhering to these rules, but I assure you that as long as they grow up in an environment that teaches them the right upbringing, they will certainly grow up with these rules being a natural and automatic thing in daily life.
12- Do you think that spreading the culture of “etiquette” is feasible in Arab society?
Yes, of course, and I am confident that the culture of etiquette will spread to the new generation, often the older generations do not care much about these matters, but the amount of feedback that I receive daily is enormous. Also, the number of mothers who are asking me to spread awareness is increasing. Awareness is certainly spreading, and it suffices me that even if people do not apply these rules now, they know right from wrong.
13- Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far? What are your future plans?
I am completely happy and satisfied with what I have presented, knowing that I do not see that I have presented anything new! I just represented what I offer in a different way that is closer to people.
In the near future, I will continue to create content on social media platforms, and continue my work in beauty, etiquette, fashion, and media. I will continue my career on these platforms, which I loved because they allow me to present my ideas without restrictions, and this is what I will continue to do.
As Arabisk London family, we wish you all the best.