Samya Abbary, a Moroccan Star Made in Italy (Interview)

Written by Amal Asebriy

She is beautiful, eloquent and more importantly hard-working. From a teenager in Beni Mellal to a star in Italy, Samya Abbary was first introduced in Morocco as a host of the Marrakech International Film Festival in 2016. Her humble attitude shields a vigorous career of a model, actress and TV host in a foreign country of which language she easily mastered.

 Moroccan Ladies talked to Samya Abbary about her debuts, the hardships of immigration, and her successful journey.

Your first appearance in Morocco was through the Marrakech Film Festival. How did it feel like?

It felt like an enthronement. As if I was rewarded for the 28 years-career that I established in Italy. To be back in my home country and take up an important job as a host of such a large-scale festival felt very glorifying. It felt like my hard work paid off.

Samya Abbay with Laurent Weil as hosts of Marrakech International Film Festival

How was the beginning in Italy?

I first went to Italy for a vacation at my brother’s when I was barely 17. Once there I fell in love with Milan. I had just finished high school so I decided to take a year-off and stay longer. One day as we were dining out we encountered a modeling agency manager who suggested I audition as a model. I did and it went well. My career took off when I signed a 2 years-deal with Roberto Cavali as a runway model. That’s how it all started.

Wasn’t it hard to make an impression especially as an immigrant?
No, not in my experience. Italy is a very open country, it is also very diverse and inclusive, unlike other European countries. The only hardship that I faced starting off was the language barrier but I quickly caught up after taking an evening course.

From modeling to acting, how did it come about?

My dream was initially to become an actress. After working in fashion for 11 years in Milan and meeting different people, I was informed that the national drama school was in Rome. So I decided to move there to start a career in acting, which was a turning point in my life both in terms of significance and difficulty. Rome is very different from Milan, people are more laid-back there and less strict in terms of time management, so it was hard to adjust. After studying for 4 years in drama school I started auditioning for TV shows with the help of my professor and ended up landing some roles while I was still a student.

So hosting TV shows was a natural transition?

Yes.  The series I worked in were broadcasted on both the national cable channel and private ones, and since Italians appreciate diversity, I started getting offers to host shows. The first one I hosted was related to fashion.

Are you more at ease when hosting or acting?

We play a role in both. The difference between the two is, in acting, the role might be different from your character so you have to impersonate it and convince the audience. Hosting is the same except that you do it with your own character. However, the only thing that I don’t feel comfortable in is the theater. I did it once and it’s going to be the last as I had experienced an intense adrenaline rush.

What’s the secret of your success especially as a foreigner in Italy?

First of all, I am blessed.  Some of the directors I’ve worked with had mentioned charisma and presence as my best assets. Secondly, I’m not going to deny the hard work I’ve put in to be where I am, especially by socializing with Italians of all classes and picking up on their humor and culture which made it easier for me to relate to my audience.

You are currently hosting a successful cooking show in Italy. Do you enjoy cooking?

I love cooking! It’s my passion. In fact, it was my idea to host a cooking show and I had pitched it to my boss on Canale 5 channel. So he suggested we start once a week -Monday- as a test, after 8 months they switched to twice a week, and before I knew it the show was booked for 5 days a week, and it’s been airing ever since 2009. In 2012, I published a cookbook called “Le ricette di Samya in salsa piccante”, and I’m in the works of a second one to be released next year.

Though you have lived in Italy for so long, you still maintain a perfect Arabic language, how so?

I already had a good foundation in the Arabic language since my father was a school inspector who specialized in this language. So you can imagine what it was like in our household (laughs). I grew up reading Arabic literature ever since my teenage years, and I still am to date, that’s why when I first auditioned to host the Marrakech international Festival, everyone was surprised.

You certainly must have met producers and directors from Morocco. Have you been offered some roles?

Indeed, I made the acquaintance of many Moroccan producers and directors while I was hosting the festival. However, I don’t think I could ever work in the Moroccan cinema. It’s not the same environment as the one I’m used to. I would much rather host TV shows.

Any upcoming projects that we should be looking forward to?

I’m currently preparing for another Italian cooking show that we’re going to shoot in Morocco! The novelty is to prepare Italian meals with a Moroccan twist and thus blend both cultures through spices. It’s going to be an opportunity to display Morocco’s richness and diversity as we’ll be shooting in different Moroccan cities. We are still in the pre-production phase to scout for locations.

Where are you based currently?

I’m married to a Moroccan and I’m working in Italy. I spend 5 months in Italy and another 7 months in Morocco. I would love to completely settle down in Morocco, but the execution is currently difficult with my work engagements.

What would your advice be for younger girls aspiring for an international career?

Nothing is impossible! You can do everything you put your mind to as long as you have the determination and curiosity to learn and advance. If I made it, from a tourist to an Italian star, nothing can stop you!