I had the hookup. I was supposed to meet Ragheb Alama.
I won’t lie, I had no idea who Ragheb Alama was until I saw my Mom’s eyes light up, as she explained how he was one of the famous figures/singers in the Middle East (Lebanon, mostly). I mispronounced his name at least 7 times before I actually got it right. Most of it was due to societal pressure. People look at you funny for saying the names of celebrities wrong.
On top of just being famous since half of us were born, Ragheb is also one of the judges of “Arab Idol”. Not to be confused with American Idol because besides being the same exact concept, they don’t have Simon Cowell and pepsi drinks.
I was meeting up a photographer friend, Hasan, when he mentioned photographing the Ragheb Alama event. He threw me out an invite, but it was like a fish seeing a carrot attached to the end of the hook. What good? After I told my Mom about the invitation, she told me I had to go because…it’s Ragheb Alama.
Weeks later a relative came to visit, and because my life is SO ARAB turns out he knows Ragheb and he can pretty much get me the hookup and a photoshoot with Ragheb in his dressing room before his concert. It would be good to have photos of a super famous celebrity in my photography portfolio, so I said sure, why not? We’ll see what happens. Closest thing I have to a celebrity in my portfolio is this girl who went to a Backstreet Boys concert and apparently looked Nick right in the eye.
I get a call a few days before the concert confirming that Ragheb’s brother knows about me, my name, etc, and that I will be able to do a photoshoot for exactly 3 minutes before the show. GREAT. Someone cue the confetti to fall down as I snap that last photo 90 seconds into it. I call Ragheb’s brother, since English isn’t his first language I’m stuck desperately stringing sentences in Arabic together to make myself look legit, even though my language level is probably at NEWBORN. We confirm that I will show up and he is able to get me in, despite the fact that I have no ticket. BOOTLEG!
Long story short, I get to the concert, and they won’t let me in. Despite my pleas that I had spoken with his brother and was supposed to be photographing him…his brother had to physically be there to let me in.
So I’m standing around with expensive camera gear in newly bankrupt Downtown Detroit surrounded by women in prom dresses, just waiting with my sister and cousin. They were supposed to be allowed in too, per my relative’s request. Unfortunately none of them are celebrities or wanted by the FBI so we’re not getting in by status.
Sadly, I was not aware of the ’4 hours fashionably late, show up 10 minutes before the show ends’ rule. Ragheb’s brother couldn’t do anything for me because he was at the hotel. THANKFULLY, Hasan was able to pull a few strings and got us in, because he literally has more star power than Mario, Luigi AND Peach. I was photographing the event alongside him, after all.
Before I knew it, I was backstage, I was ON STAGE, I was in the middle of the tables…how the hell did I end up there? Not asking any questions. I spend the first 3 hours on stage and around the area taking photos of the opening acts, no longer dodging security because now – they know who I am and I have the OKAY to just go wherever the hell I want.
I patiently wait for Ragheb to show up because that’s literally the only reason I put on makeup today. Hours later, nothing. A group of friends told me that they were getting up to see Ragheb because they had a meet and greet, so what did I do? Follow them.
I don’t know what possessed me to have the guts to get up and follow them backstage to the dressing room. After all, I was supposed to take his photo anyway, so who cares?? I JUST KNEW THIS WAS MY ONLY CHANCE. As far as anyone knows I am an expected guest. Sadly, security didn’t see it that way. I was in the line to meet Ragheb, jam packed between people in a very unorganized line. I stayed close to my friends and would sneak in alongside them, but as they were accepting people, they took a friend who was right in front of me and then stopped taking people. SO I was in the next person in line. TALK ABOUT PRESSURE.
I’m standing there like an idiot. I don’t have a pass. I don’t have a meet and greet. I HAVE NOTHING BUT MY CAMERA AND DAMN THE TEARS ARE GOING TO COME DOWN. A really angry manager comes by screaming at everyone telling them that unless they have a pass they must leave. He immediately starts kicking people out, dwindling the line down he is now two people away from me. I immediately start to feel the pressure and wonder if I should just leave, being that I’m so sensitive I almost start to cry but I hold back the tears just because it’s weird if I cry looking this cool. Hahahahaaaa
I’m trapped in the corner near the stairs to the dressing room, in front of me blocking the path stands a security guard I saw outside. I tell him that I’m supposed to meet Ragheb and that I spoke with his brother and that he has to believe me. I felt like I was in some kind of dramatic movie.
The guy turns around to me and says,
“Oh, you spoke with Khoudr?”
“Yes! I spoke with him on the phone. I’m supposed to see him! He knows about me!”
“Well, Khoudr just passed you right now, he was with his wife. You didn’t see him? Hmm…I thought you knew him?”
At that moment, I died. WELL CRAP! I didn’t facetime the guy!
I was shocked. I wasn’t lying, but the truth wasn’t coming out. WHY CAN’T I SPEAK. WHY. WORDS, COME OUT.
“I only spoke with him over the phone! I’ve never seen him, but he knows about me, I swear! I even have his number!”
“Oh really? Well, look, he’s coming down now, here’s your chance!”
I stop Khoudr and tell him who I am as the security guard watches closely. He says OHHHHHH and HIIIIII and I’m sorry, we’ve been busy, etc. All the typical arab excuses for being late and forgetting about little people like me. Then! He just walks away.
WHAT THE HELL!!! COME BACK HERE!
Standing in a corner, shocked, confused, and about to cry my little eyes out and damnit I should have worn waterproof mascara, I don’t move. The security guy acknowledged the fact that Khoudr did infact know me, but as security was yelling and screaming at people, it didn’t matter anymore. Until the security guard turned around, and held out a meet and greet pass. He whispered,
TAKE IT! TAKE IT! HURRY!
I grabbed the pass, put it on, and then security pushed me up the stairs closer to his dressing room. Until a man with a white shirt stopped me. He wasn’t having a great day or he just hated seeing my face.
WHERE DID YOU GET THE PASS FROM? YOU DIDN’T HAVE IT BEFORE. WHERE DID YOU GET IT FROM, HUH?
I wasn’t about to rat out the guy who gave me it, so I did what any great American does – just stare in shock and not say anything. HAHAHAHA. I PLEAD THE FIFTH.
I was close to tears, stuttering….I literally..didn’t know what to say. It was one of those moments where you would rather curl up in a ball and be catapulted into another dimension.
All I hear is,
“LET HER THROUGH! SHE’S WITH ME!”
They let me go. THEY LET ME GO. OMG. WTF IS GOING ON. IS THIS FO REAL. YAAA BRO GET OFF ME YOU KNOW THIS IS LEGIT ~
I turn back and see Hasan with his camera, waving them to let me go. I felt like I had just been liberated from the enemy state.
Slowly walked through the thin corridor to see Ragheb Alama in his tiny dressing room filled with flimsy cardboard boxes, smiling with fans and taking photos. I was more interested in crying at that point but Hasan told me to go take a photo. Despite the fact that I was supposed to have a photo session with him, I thought hell, might as well.
I took 4 photos with him and then I snapped some of him on stage, then left.
More photos from the concert. Keep in mind flash is the devil and I’ve never done an event like this. So the photos aren’t exactly magazine ready. I tried, haha.