Inspirational Woman July 2016: Muna Ismail

Muna Ismael

Hello everyone and a very warm welcome! Here’s a little story about myself. I always knew I was a creative person. As a child, I was into so many crafty things. I remember begging my mom for a sewing machine at the age of 14, so I could make my own clothes. I enjoyed baking, drawing, reading, watching TV/movies and most of all I had an obsession with music. I loved to sing and dance! I even formed a cheesy girl group with two of my high school besties way back then (that is another story). Music is my everything. Music takes me away, lifts me up and makes me remember all the special moments in my life.

I was born in Damascus, Syria, where my parents were university students in the early 80’s. I am ethnically Yemeni and Somali. I moved to Toronto, Canada when I was 2 years old. I had a beautiful upbringing – big family; three brothers and an extended family filled with a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins from around the world that we frequently visited.

We traveled a lot. It was important that I understood my culture, values and where I came from. This instilled in me another love, which is travel. Travel is where I get to see and interact with beauty, nature, and people. I am truly inspired and feel creative when I’m out there exploring.  I spent the last nine years, living and working in one of the most unique places in the world – Dubai, UAE. Living there is a geographic haven – I was in the middle of Asia, Africa and Europe. It was truly and exciting time.

In my 13+ years working in production as a senior digital and television video producer, I was able to experience and grow so much as a person. I started off in television as a segment & field producer working for Canada’s hottest entertainment show, etalk. I then ventured to the Middle East where I’ve honed my management skills creating content for major players such as Yahoo!, MBC & Showtime. I was integral in developing and executing first of its kind in the region, premium original programming that spans on multi-platforms. I’ve traveled the world, producing short and long form formats with a strong focus in lifestyle & entertainment. I’ve recently moved to New York City and am very much excited to work in, by far, one of the most energetic places on the planet. I am so ready to live and experience my ‘American Dream!’

1.You have a talent in sharing stories through your interviews. Where did you develop your love for storytelling?

       Since I was a child I’ve always been very animated and expressive with words and emotions. I knew that I wanted to be in the creative field someway or the other whether through storytelling, video, music or words. I love to travel and I enjoy connecting and getting to know people from all over the world.

2. Why video vs print?

       I feel that we are more visual. I think that’s why photo galleries, info-graphics and videos do so well. Video has become part of our daily lives. I really don’t know anyone in my circle that hasn’t mentioned or shared a video among his or her friends, peers and/or family daily. Video has become a more impactful way of speaking to our audience. Video will continue to grow.

3.You were located in Dubai before you came to NY. How would you describe the creative forces in the Middle East regarding digital media?

       I started to shift my career to digital in 2011 and back then particularly the MENA region, it was still at it’s beginning stages. This was truly exciting because I felt that through the companies I worked for we were in the forefront of experimenting with content and brands. When at Yahoo! I was heading up video and we were the first in the region to produce premium content. We invested a lot into short form content and we tried to find ways to connect and interact with our audience. It was an exciting time. You also have countries like Egypt and KSA who had a series of ‘YouTuber’s’ as in personalities launch their career via web. These talents were being exposed like no other and started to gain success and make a career out of it, through comedy, self-expression, fashion, beauty. A new medium was formed to share their art.

4.You have worked for a large name brands including Yahoo. Why do you think brands use video to reach their audiences?

       This is a good question, but tough to answer. In my perspective is that we shouldn’t underestimate our audience – particularly the millennials. Video marketing is over saturated and I feel we are bombarded with messages on the daily. Our audience knows when a brand is too evasive and this could leave a bad mark. The challenge here is to find ways to make it subtle and brands such as Dove have been able to reach and captivate and audience without tainting their brand through really creative campaigns. There is a huge interest for brands to collaborate with YouTubers and traditionally through celebrity endorsements and find a thematic way to share their brand message.

5. How would you describe your experiences representing brands?

          Well this is where it could get very interesting.  As a producer I see myself as a mediator.My experience working closely with commercial, AD sales and editorial is to a find balance. We dig deep to find out what our audience are really interested in through analytics and editorial support and we essentially come up with themes and topics of interest. On the commercial side we look at brand guidelines, their key message(s) and then look at ways to integrate and develop something that works visually and potentially satisfies all parties. There sometimes may be clashes, there may be times where brands are willing to experiment and have their brands less exposed or not mentioned at all, but through another outlets (ie. social media).I guess it’s a case by case experience.


6. You have interviewed celebrities such as George Clooney, Nelly and more. Tell us your about your favorite interview and why?

       I am so into entertainment – I love to keep up-to-date on celebrity gossip and tend to watch a lot of series and movies. It’s hard to narrow down because I’m a fan of a lot of celebrities. Celine Dion is probably one of my favorite people to interview. I met her many years back in Dubai when I was freelancing for Melody TV Egypt. I don’t want to be biased and say she’s Canadian that’s why we clicked.She is such an incredible talented person. She is so sweet and overall has this aura around her. She is truly inspirational and stayed consistent in her career path and I admire her for that. 

7. In addition to covering celebrities, you created you own initiative – She Connects. Why?

       For a long time in Dubai I’ve been creating Arabic content and very little production in English. My production partner Sushmita and myself loved watching and sharing inspirational stories. What was very interesting to us, were the caliber of women in the MENA region. We met so many incredible highly educated and ambitious women from locals to expats doing really cool things. So we thought maybe we should start this platform for fun. Our goal was and is still now to create a channel for women of all races, shapes and sizes to showcase and express themselves through a series of interesting topics we feel that women are interested in ie. fitness, fashion, food, travel and more. And through She Connects we want to highlight interesting and inspirational women through their stories. There’s still so much to do and we are experimenting, which we are excited about!

8. What has the process taught you about women and the potential they have as global spokespeople and leaders?

       There’s a huge opportunity to make an impact. And there are a lot of women who have done so. The world is small as we realize this through the web. We can connect with anyone through social media in an instant. We can react, share, support and compliment one another and this is incredible to do.

9. You are very comfortable in video. What gave you this confidence?

       Oh thank you! I mean I try to do my best. I try to stay positive. I love what I do and definitely am passionate in what I do. I feel that with practice, growth and getting older has allowed me to feel more comfortable in my skin.

10. Many women want to create their brand awareness, but shy away from being the “face” of their brand. What advice would you give them?

      If these women are the face of their brand – get out there just go for it. I know first hand what its like to put yourself out there. Try your best not to care what others think. Focus on you and your goals and everything will be alright! Another piece of advice is to collaborate – work with your friends and family to help you with your brand.

11. Power, leadership and beauty. What do these words mean to you?

        They are very strong words. They are words as a woman I strive within me and not take advantage of. Power is having the ability to stay humble and know your strengths and weaknesses. Leadership is to inspire and be inspired. Leadership is to lead by example. Beauty comes from within – having a good heart, smile and care for others.

12. Lastly, what impact do you want to have on women around the world and the global market or digital video consumers?

        I just want to share stories. I just want to leave a positive mark. I want to continue creating creative and cool content that people enjoy and would want to share.

Visit her website to learn more