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CommunityThe return of FAME, the UAE’s inclusive talent showcase

Talent shows have become familiar to billions thanks to the spread of global TV phenomena like X Factor, Idol and Got Talent — all of which spawned Arabic incarnations and have been broadcast in the region. These shows entertain and regularly inspire, giving participants a platform to showcase their — often hidden — abilities to a wider audience.  Such shows have enjoyed many years of success, but during that time there has unquestionably been a...
Mark LomasNovember 26, 202114 min
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FAME

Talent shows have become familiar to billions thanks to the spread of global TV phenomena like X Factor, Idol and Got Talent — all of which spawned Arabic incarnations and have been broadcast in the region. These shows entertain and regularly inspire, giving participants a platform to showcase their — often hidden — abilities to a wider audience. 

Such shows have enjoyed many years of success, but during that time there has unquestionably been a lack of visibility for people of determination. 

In 2016, concerned about the lack of opportunities available to share the spotlight, then-Dubai resident Rosey Ahmed decided to launch FAME (Fashion Art Music Entertainment), the UAE’s biggest inclusive talent showcase for people of determination.

“My daughter Hana was my inspiration,” Rosey tells Livehealthy. “She had a lot of talents that I didn’t even know about. She was good at art, good at dancing. The more I spoke to teachers and other parents, the more I realized there were many hidden talents out there. 

“We just want to bring attention to the fact that people with determination have talent. You can see it with your own eyes that when people are given the chance to shine, they do. Their confidence grows and they break down barriers — it is about changing perceptions. 

From the initial idea, Rosey has used her background in the events industry to quickly scale up the event. FAME 2021 will take place Friday November 26 at Dubai World Trade Centre, an endorsement of how much it has already grown. Emirates NBD has come on board as a title sponsor and the collection for this year’s fashion show is curated by international fashion designer Rina Dhaka — once referred to by the BBC as the “Jean-Paul Gaultier of the East”. 

More than 40 participants ranging from five to 37 years old will be involved in the two-hour show, with a combination of previous performers and new faces taking part for the first time. 

FAME
FAME inclusive showcase founder Rosey Ahmed and her daughter Hana

“We are still being surprised by people,” says Rosey. “One of this year’s musicians, we had no idea he could even play an instrument. You think ‘why is this being kept a secret?’ It will be nice to see him perform. It’s been the same with a lot of participants and what’s great is that you see them then looking to develop new talents and practice new things.

“You always hear parents saying afterwards, ‘I can’t believe he or she did that’. It’s really amazing for us to hear that and the participants are always so proud of themselves. As they should be. They really thrive when the lights go on and they come out on stage.”

This year’s FAME event will be particularly special given it is the first held in person since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and as part of the show there will be a drama performance about the lockdown and mental health

The past couple of years have been incredibly tough for many, and Rosey explains that for people of determination and their parents, that has been particularly true. 

FAME ballet“We’ve all suffered,” she says. “I’ve spoken to a lot of parents who have had difficulties and seen a lot of regression. I saw it with Hana. We moved back to the UK and she went to college, made new friends. Then after six months Covid came and everything shut down. Within a month I could see a change in her. She was depressed, she didn’t want to know anyone, she didn’t want to study. 

“She got very frustrated and didn’t understand why she couldn’t go out and meet her friends. She just wanted to hug people. Unfortunately she just regressed and I spoke to others who experienced the same thing. We are coming out of it now and it’s important to tackle it has been hard for these children and their parents.”

Hana, who has Down Syndrome, is now 25 and still involved in FAME. This year she has been involved in producing artwork for the show. 

“When she puts her thoughts and concentration into art, she’s a different person,” Rosey says. “Her feelings come out. She also loves modeling and doing the catwalk in the show and has done dancing too. It is a huge confidence builder and gives some kind of independence to everybody as well.”

FAME is just another example of perceptions shifting in the UAE and Rosey admits the outlook and opportunities for people of determination have improved dramatically since she first arrived in the country in 2002.  

“Things have come on leaps and bounds,” Rosey says. “When we first came to Dubai, there was hardly anything but now there are so man organizations here. It’s changed completely and feels like a place where people with determination can bloom and flourish.” 

Meet some of the F.A.M.E 2021 participants:

Aarti Shah (28 years old)

Aarti is walking in the catwalk show and participating in a dance. She was inspired to try Olympic weightlifting and has been working to achieve this dream with Heroes of Hope, a not-for-profit group that develops sporting, social and interpersonal skills for people of determination. Aarti has ambitions to compete in a triathlon and also recently auditioned for the BeingShe Universe 2021 pageant, reaching the second round.  

Nayya Bhaskaran (15 years old)

Navya is singing a song in the drama and is a part of the finale. Her biggest passion is singing and during Covid her left vocal chord muscles became paralysed. Throughout this time she suffered from depression and decided to express how she was feeling by writing.  Her book, The Day I Almost Lost my Voice, documents her recovery, including rigorous vocal and speech therapy. Navya wants her words to inspire other children. 

Zia Mirza (25 years old)

Zia is walking in the catwalk show, doing a solo dance in the drama and is participating in the finale. Despite being hard of hearing one of Zia’s strongest talents is his incredible dance skills. This year is no exception, as he will take to the stage once again. 

Santi Fraser (27 years old)

Santi is walking in the catwalk show and participating in the finale. As Santi moved around a lot as a child, so he is multilingual. During his time at DSCN (Dubai Centre for Special Needs) Santi attended internships at RAK Bank, Dubai Aquarium and Emirates Flight Catering, amongst others. He works at Emirates NBD and has won multiple awards. Santi’s big love is for sports. He won medals for football and swimming at school and competed in the 2019 Special Olympic World Games, winning gold and bronze medals for tennis. 

• Rosey Ahmed, who founded FAME, the UAE’s biggest inclusive talent showcase for people of determination, was a guest on The Livehealthy Podcast. 

Mark Lomas

Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.