Nouf Al Mudhayan, one of Kuwait's most loveable young TV personalities is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet. She managed to capture audiences (both on the radio and on TV) by being original, natural and simply put, sweet!
After starting her career as a radio host on Marina FM, Nouf went on to host the night program "Taw El Lail" on Watan TV, and later on host her own show "Spotlight". Just last month, after wrapping the filming of the last Spotlight episode, she announced that she has left Watan TV to pursue other career opportunities. Nowadays, she's busy working on her next career move, but you can find her blogging on www.noufmagazine.com
From the moment I met her, at a small café, she was as easygoing as I'd imagined. I was expecting her to be just like the Nouf I know from the radio and TV (surely she can't be faking that smile and fun personality ALL the time?). She scanned the tiny room, found me, smiled and quickly came over to greet me as if we'd known each other all our lives.
Amidst the hustle and bustle in the café around us, she was all smiles, even when the topics got more serious. She was honest and chatty and I felt like an old friend who was catching up on old times. You probably will too…
What did you do after graduating from high school?
I lived for a few years in Miami. I studied at University of Miami – double majored in Mass Communication and Art History. I would study during the day and work in the evenings.
I started working early on in life. I got my first job when I was 18. I worked many jobs – at the university's library, as a cashier at the university, folding clothes at a shop… many things! I worked to find out more about myself and what I'd like to do and also to interact with people.
What did you do after you got your degree?
After graduating, I came back to Kuwait and again I tried working in a number of things: in Marketing, TV and Radio, in Magazines doing editing and writing. Even though I've spent a longer time in TV, I think I still haven't settled. That's a confession.
My life is a chain of different experiments. Some people might call me lost. But I think that's a beautiful way of being lost. Because in the end, what is life? I love being lost in one thing, and doing it until I feel I've absorbed all of what that thing has got to give me. Once I reach the utmost level, I leave it, full stop. With zero chance of returning – even if the return was enticing.
I don’t go back because there's nothing more that that thing can offer me creatively and emotionally. Financially? I can live on 1KD and I can live on 10,000KD. Money doesn't matter to me. By living abroad, I've learned to spend using only what I have.
That's unusual yet impressive!
I won't say that I'm one of those people who don't enjoy material things. I like nice things, I enjoy luxurious hotels; however, that's not the main thing in my life. Some people can call my lifestyle bohemian, but I don't care. I don't care about labels.
At the end of the day, all I care about is that there's a smile on my face. Because life is too short. And you can never please everyone. There will always be that someone who will criticize you for being you.
I remember first hearing you on the radio some years ago. How did you start?
I started with Marina FM first. I was between jobs, I had nothing to do and I was introduced to Talal Al-Yagout, the radio station's manager at the time. I told him I was a Media graduate and he invited me to come work with them. I met the station's group, liked the atmosphere and so I accepted.
I didn't become a presenter right away. I started working with the administrative staff. Later, I did a few infomercials and basic sound recordings, then I got into it more and started liking radio presenting.
I still don't know if my decision to leave the radio and go into TV was the right choice. It still remains a mystery to me. But I know that life chooses things for us, and not the other way round.
I would argue with anyone who says that they choose their own paths, and not that the paths choose them. Sometimes life chooses things for us and we can't always change that. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn't face all the things that got thrown into my path. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Was your family accepting of your choice to go into radio and TV?
My mom was afraid for me. She wasn't against it, but she was afraid of what the exposure and being in the public eye can do to me. The remarks I might get, the negative comments people might say.
How did you transition from radio to TV?
Watan TV made me an offer. I never applied there, but what they offered me was something great. It was a tough journey, starting out in TV, but I learned a lot, thank God.
There were a lot of people who weren't encouraging of my decision, but thankfully there was an equal amount of people who did and I gained a lot of fans because of this decision.
What has been the best and worst thing about this journey?
The best feeling I get is when I'm sitting somewhere like a restaurant or mall, and a small kid comes up to me with a look in their eyes as if I'm something out of this world or from the Cartoon Network! I mean, my show isn't even for kids, so I'm always surprised when they come up to me. It's such a beautiful moment.
When it comes to the worst, there's no worse thing in particular. There are many. There's a harshness associated with being a public figure.
When I was younger, I used to hear a lot of people saying they wished there were more Kuwaiti TV presenters [because the majority were from neighboring Arab countries], and now that there ARE, we're being attacked and criticized from all angles.
Watan TV did a lot to help us get out there, and encouraged young budding Kuwaiti presenters. The channel is a mirror of the Kuwaiti society when it comes to its hosts, presenters and journalists. There's the glamorous, the humorous, the intellectual, the serious…
Before you judge us, step into our shoes and see how hard it is to do our job.
How do you take criticism? There's no way anyone, no matter how successful, hasn't had their fair share of criticism.
Criticism has such easy access nowadays. There are so many ways people can get to you. I used to be much more fragile when I first started working. But I truly believe in the saying: "What doesn't kill you, will only make you stronger".
Whenever anyone insults me, I feel sorry for them. Because that person is weak. They choose to build their strength by breaking me down. These things mean nothing to me now.
They say that you need really thick skin to work in this industry..
Definitely! I used to give 100% effort on the show, and then I'd come back home, get on Facebook and find all these ridiculous comments. I even thought about shutting down my Facebook and Twitter accounts because of comments like these. People would say all kinds of mean things like "Why don't you comb your hair?", "Why do you look Asian [because of my eyes]?" and "Why are you fat?"
At the end of the day, I'm human. When God creates someone, He creates them in all shapes, colors and sizes. It's simply wrong to criticize people because of how they're created!
So how are you getting along with Twitter?
I'm a Pisces. And Pisces are generally moody. Sometimes I have no energy to tweet. Other times I'm so hyper, I've got loads of things to say and I'll be typing away!
What are your other interests?
I LOVE traveling. Sadly, I haven't been to the Far East yet. I really would love to go there. I like places with a rich history. Places with stories to tell.
I dream of going to more ethnic places. I want to go visit the former Soviet Unions. I want to see Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the neighboring countries.
I also want to visit exotic places. I like places with a unique sense of culture.
What about the movie industry?
I'm a hungry movie-goer. I love the whole experience of the cinema. I love the place, the dark lights, the sounds, the smell of popcorn. When I go to the cinema, I love being transported to a different world other than mine. I related to it because I'm a highly imaginative person.
If you weren't working in the media industry, where would you be?
I took an Anthropology class during university and I REALLY enjoyed it. It made me regret not majoring in anthropology! If I wasn't in the media, I would have been an anthropologist.
You're very upfront and easygoing. Are you attracted to people of the same nature?
What attracts me most about a person is their originality. There's nothing worse than being another person. I like someone that stands out in a crowd. If you're not original, then you're just somebody else.
Do you have an idol?
John Lennon. He believed in Utopia, a world with no borders, no passports… a perfect world. And he truly believed it, I think. I love his music especially his post-Beatles work. I collect lots of John Lennon memorabilia!
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I would probably be walking down the street, listening to my iPod, penniless and yet smiling! This is me, never good with money or career, hahaha.
To stay updated with Nouf's latest projects, you can follow her on Twitter at @noufalmudhayan and her blog www.noufmagazine.com
– Alya N. Al-Othman