Ahmed Shihab Eldin – Emmy-nominated Journalist
Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. Meeting Ahmed Shihab Eldin in DC was just that – an insightful, unique, and fun surprise. My business partner Bassel happened to find out that Ahmed was also in DC while we were there for a Tango event. We decided to reach out to him with no hope of getting a reply. Against all odds, time and travel constrains, and exchanging of wrong numbers, we managed to still meet with Ahmed and had a good time doing so. It was fate.
I am very thrilled that Ahmed agreed to be featured on Style Right. He is an Emmy-Nominated journalist, named as one of the planet’s 100 most influential young Arabs, placed on the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of ‘young disruptors, innovators & media entrepreneurs impatient to change the world’, and won numerous other awards and honors; all achieved at a very young age.
The work that he does has inspired many as he exhibits the truth about our world and has the courage to do so – unlike many others in his line of work. Outside of being an established reporter, what initially caught our attention was his distinct, fresh, and playful style. Bassel and I have been following Ahmed’s work for years and are beyond honored to have collaborate with him on this interview. From the first moment we met until the end of our shoot, we realized that though Ahmed has a decorated career and very busy life, he is kind, humble, and down to earth. Please enjoy our interview with him below:
1. Tell us what you do nowadays?
“I’m spending more time alone with myself than I ever have before. Sometimes I even manage to meditate. But I’m also spending a lot of my time reporting for a new documentary series coming out this month with AJ+ about rapid shifts in technology that are changing how we relate to each other, ourselves, and the world. We are more connected than we’ve ever been, but we are also more disconnected. It’s been fascinating to explore this dichotomy. So inevitably I’m reflecting on what I’m learning. I also just bought a new microphone, so I’ve been spending some time playing around with that (more singing than podcasting for now) — I’m also spend A LOT of time playing with my new puppy Jaffa. Some might say a dog is man’s best friend. I would have to say, she is my Queen.”
2. Quoting your Instagram Biography, which states that you are “Palestinian by blood, American by birth, Egyptian by upbringing, Kuwaiti by refuge, Austrian by adolescence, curious by nature”, I want to ask, how do you think your multi-cultural experience has influenced who you are, what you stand for, and what you do today?
“My identity and experience growing up forced to adapt to wildly different environment, cultures and contexts has not only shaped what I do and the stories I tell, but it has directly informed who I am — someone who will in some ways always feel like an outsider while always searching for the core things that connect and unite us all. It also means that I’m quite comfortable living in the margins. I find there is a lot of magic there and its undoubtedly because in each of those different identities or worlds, I always found myself on the margins. Moving a lot at a young age gave me a lot of things to compare and contrast on both micro and macro levels. So it makes sense that I tend to thrive when I’m in adaptation mode. It’s a peculiar thing to always feel like an outsider regardless of where you are or who you are with, while at the same time feeling so very connected and inside everything. An odd duality, but one I am grateful for.”
3. What would you say are the most important traits you possess, that have led to you to a successful career?
“Awareness is definitely an important trait and a precursor to any real success. When you are aware, when you’re conscious and able to tap into and understand your own motivations and those of others, it facilitates authentic connections and an energy that leads to success. At my core, I’m a very curious person by nature, so that helped me in many ways. I have an almost intuitive desire to connect to that which I do not understand, that are different than what I am used to, and that fascinates me.
I was always eager to make connections when I found myself in new environments or places. Perhaps that is a survival instinct? Some people have fear of the unknown. I am attracted to it and find it very alluring. So, curiosity, conviction, a desire to connect on a human level and relate to people has definitely helped me throughout my career. By pursuing my passions, even when I failed, I could learn to rely on a conviction in my curiosities that eventually led to more confidence so that when I fell, it was easier to get back up. Also, sincere humility, if it comes from an authentic place, can also help open many doors and facilitate connections, which in turn can lead to success.”
4. Tell us what inspires you to do the work you do. What motivates you? What challenges you? What is your biggest obstacle?
“I’m inspired by realizing how much more we all have in common rather than the differences too many of us end up focusing on. I’ve always been motivated by a deep desire to understand the world around me, in all its color, constructs and conditions. Having endured bullying, and the prejudice and discrimination that fuels it. I am motivated to better understand the insecurity that leads to this kind of divisive and destructive behavior. I’m motivated to understand that which divides us, about the human condition itself and how we can connect more than we divide.
I am challenged by convention. I find it challenging to be patient, but am learning more and more how critical patience is in life. I am challenged by those people or systems in place that tell us change isn’t possible. Or that we should be resigned to the status quo. Sometimes that person is myself. I used to be challenged by a desire to fit in, to be liked, and one of the deepest pains I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable. It took me time to learn to live for myself, rather than live to please those I care about.Once you stop seeking validation outside of you, it becomes easier to find it within. I have often dared to defy the common, and when I am operating in that mode that is when I’m most inspired and also most inspiring.”
5. Do you think how you dress yourself matters? If so, tell us why and how that fits into your lifestyle.
“Yes, from a practical perspective clothes serve a very critical and basic purpose, which is to keep us warm and comfortable in changing environments. But then it matters for more fun reasons too. The way we dress is invariably a part of the story we are telling when we step out into the world. There are so many ways to tell a story, and the way you dress up or dress down is definitely part of it. Creative expression is important — on an aesthetic level it not only reveals and teases a bit about our personalities, but can also help facilitate attraction and connection. Clothes can really turn me on sometimes.”
6. What do you think your style says about who you are?
“I’m not sure how I would describe my style or that I would like to. I’d say casual certainly comes to mind. Maybe classy, just not in that conventional sort of way. I like contrasts in colors or shapes or materials. But I also like to be comfortable most of the time. That said I do like to be provocative and to shift people’s expectations and perceptions as much in my fashion choices as I do in my work or storytelling. I guess as someone who has certain obvious identifiers that people regrettably associate with one stereotype or another (my name being Ahmed and being originally Palestinian and from a Muslim background), I probably make fashion choices inspired from all the different aspects of my identity and experiences. I’m really into jumpsuits these days and simplifying the actual process of getting dressed.”
7. If you could raid anyone’s closet, who would it be?
“My mom’s, because even if few things would fit, she is the funkiest person I know — and who doesn’t need a little funk in their wardrobe? She looks elegant in anything — to the point of it being absurd.”
8. What do you do in your spare time?
“Dream. Just kidding — sort of. I spend a lot of my spare time with my puppy these days. I am spending more of my spare time learning to just be, in the moment, without being so concerned with becoming this or that. When you can appreciate the present moment and connect with yourself, it is liberating and make me feel alive. Also, I find time to dance everyday. It is my favorite kind of exercise. If you aren’t dancing, something is wrong.”
9. Where do you seek comfort when you are feeling sad, vulnerable, or stressed?
“I seek comfort from my friends and family, and most recently from my puppy Jaffa. The more time I spend with her, even just watching her breathe and play, and truly live in the moment is so instructive and reminds me of being a child, which is kind of ironic now that I’m a daddy.”
10. What excites you right now and what are you looking forward to?
“I’m excited to spend more time in nature. I’m excited about all possibilities life has to offer and to move towards them with a new found sense of intention and purpose. I finally feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’ve stopped living inside a cage I’ve created for myself. I’m excited to believe in magic again. I’m excited to collaborate with people who I respect and who teach me new things everyday. I’ve spent quite a bit of time doing things for other people, fulfilling other people’s expectations and desires for a sense of validation, doing things that mattered little to me, but a lot to the people I love. So, I’m excited to be at a point in my life where I don’t feel I have to do anything for anyone, but can pursue my passions in the present moment without worrying about the future as much as I once did. I’m excited to continue challenging myself more with music, film, and art — I’m excited to continue taking acting and screen-writing classes and am really looking forward to more sunshine in my life. “
11. What question do you hate to answer the most? Is it on this list?
“What do you mean you are Palestinian?”
I was not only happy that we got to meet, but was also pleased to find out that we share similar style favorites; like wearing jumpsuits. With that fact, I chose for us to be a fashion-duo and wear jumpsuits for our photoshoot, like I have done previously for my artist interviews.
As we reached the last piece of chocolate, I was filled with sweetness as I got a taste of all the different flavors from Ahmed’s fulfilling life.
Though this interview came to an end, the work that Ahmed has done and is still doing continues. It brings perspective, information, truth, and awareness to people all around the world, which is why it is important for all of us to follow him. I really hope you guys enjoyed getting to know him as we did. Keep up with Ahmed on Instagram @ahmedeldin or on Facebook @ahmedshihabeldin.