“Recently, Hassoon prepared to sing Baghdad, a famous old song by the Lebanese singer Fairoz that describes a great city of moonlight, riches and beauty. She wept during the televised rehearsal.”
BAGHDAD — An Iraqi contestant in an Arab-world talent competition similar to American Idol has managed to unite her country like no government can.
Every Friday night, Iraqis gather around their TVs to root for Shada Hassoon, 25, as she tries to sing her way to victory and a big cash prize on Star Academy. The show is a rare and welcome distraction for Iraqis cooped up indoors because of the violence and curfews affecting most of Baghdad.
Zainab Faris, 20, a Shiite college student who lives in the Saidiya district of Baghdad, says she normally doesn’t watch variety shows, but she had to watch Hassoon “because everybody talks about her.”
“She is so polite, she has a strong and nice voice, and everybody on the show loves her, so she’s a good example of an Iraqi woman,” Faris says.
Star Academy is in its fourth season. The show features 19 contestants from all over the Arab world. They live in a house rigged with cameras, similar to the Big Brother shows in the USA and elsewhere. At the end of each week, there is a weekly performance and talent competition, where one contestant is voted off the show. Ten contestants, including Hassoon, remain this week. Last year’s winner got $50,000.
More than 20 versions of Star Academy appear around the world. The Arab program is produced in Beirut by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.
Shada shows her stuff on this segment of Star Academy:
(3 minutes 50 seconds)
Amal Lembary from Morocco, Marwa Bin Sughair from Tunisia, and Shada Hassoon from Iraq sing Saba7’s famous YANA YANA in Prime 6 (more)
Shada has already been offered a TV commercialspot.
(This post was updated with a different picture.)