I WAS BORN IN NEW YORK CITY TO A LEBANESE DIPLOMAT FATHER AND SOCIOLOGIST MOTHER. I spent my childhood globetrotting from the U.S, Canada and Italy to Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Oman and Jordan, picking up five languages along the way. I SPLIT MY SUMMERS BETWEEN SOCIALITE COCKTAIL PARTIES ABROAD AND MUDDY DONKEY RIDES IN MY GRANDPARENTS’ VILLAGE WITH NO PHONE OR ELECTRICITY IN SOUTH LEBANON.
Although I am Lebanese, born in the US and partly raised in Europe, I IDENTIFY AS A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD.
That’s my spiel on masking my split personality disorder and I’m sticking to it.
I ALSO AM FROM THE DRUZE FAITH, AN ESOTERIC RELIGIOUS SECT THAT’S SO CONSERVATIVE IT MAKES ORTHODOX JEWS LOOK LIKE BOB MARLEY. NOT TRUE. THAT WAS JUSt MY PERCEPTION OF IT GROWING UP.
I was raised early on with the staunch instructions that I would grow up to never lie, smoke, date or be involved in any lewd behavior . Needless to say: I was heartbroken by the memo.
I am not religious. The main tenants I’ve assimilated from the Druze faith are the notions of reincarnation and karma, which I instantly believed in, at the wise age of four, because they sounded so obvious and logical.
Proudly, I ended up breaking the commandments my society had set forth for me. I also fell head-over-heels in love with a man who wasn’t from my religion and that I was forbidden to marry.
It was an utterly romantic, heart-wrenching Romeo and Juliet epic love story with a twist of Jurassic Park.
Falling in love with that man, who is now my husband, is the most beautiful, profound, life-altering, ecstasy-inducing, mind-expanding, sacred, psychedelic, raw, honest, out-of this-world-body-mind-cells-tissues-nervous system-experience I have ever had the privilege of living.
It is the life and soul experience that allows me to say that if I fall dead right this instant, here and now, it’s okay. Because I have loved Elie and have been loved by him in this lifetime.
Elie asked me to marry him 3 months after our love story began. We fought against all societal, religious and patriarchal odds for 7 years before finally eloping to Nicosia for a civil marriage in blue jeans and white tank tops. To much outrage around us, it was a first in the female history of my family. Up to this day, Elie and I cannot pronounce the Greek names of the total strangers that were the official witnesses to our union.
One night, at a Thai restaurant in Beirut, as I sulked over my Tom Ka Kai soup, Elie verbalized the dream that was eating me up inside but that even I didn’t believe was a possibility. I was unhappy because I wanted to be an actress in Hollywood. Like a swift destiny-propeller, Elie urged me to pack my suitcase and go, lending me his unconditional love and support.
And off I left Beirut to Hollywood despite my man’s broken-heart, my parents’ worry, despite the white jaguar I drove, my coveted job as a TV host and the perfect gold highlights and French-tipped acrylic nails I later couldn’t afford as a struggling actress.
Los Angeles, 2002: 9/11 still as fresh and painful as ever.
Now, my name, Rana Alamuddin, was a two-fold problem: “rana” means “frog” in Spanish and I was going out on auditions as a Latina. And “Alamuddin”, way too Middle Eastern for casting directors who were, at the time, into the suicide-pilot-bomber zeitgeist. I didn’t want to be typecast. I wanted to play a variety of roles, because I was a variety of women.
I was determined not to be a terrorist frog. So Raya Meddine was born.
The dream of pursuing an acting career in Hollywood truly was a dream.
But like any dream, it also had nightmares in the middle. My father was diagnosed with stage-four cancer and the constant guilt of not being by his side as I pushed hard to self-realize on the opposite side of the planet was devastating. I began my journey of anxiety and panic attacks. I clashed with family members and found myself living in my car. The one great Hollywood contact I had who believed in me and wanted to help me with my career turned out he mostly was hoping to sleep with me. My first job was working for a famous company that trained kids and teenagers to book agents and acting/modeling jobs. Unbeknown to me, I was part of a scam, which lied and stole money by feeding on children’s hope to become stars and their parents’ devotion to make that happen. One day, I saw myself selling a $10,000 training “package” to a mother of two. The woman whole-heartedly purchased the packages with her disability insurance money because, in her own words, she wanted to be an opera singer when she was young and her parents never let her. She didn’t want to do the same to her kids. I later found out, the woman was a single mother living in a shabby motel room with her two daughters. I left the company overnight, but the shame and bad money karma didn’t leave me for years.
Thankfully, I did fulfill my dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood and I fed my cavernous desire to be noticed. I think I would be either dead or snorting powdered horse tranquilizer in a bourgeois penthouse if I hadn’t.
Photo: Cynthia Perez
In essence, I am still exactly the same: silly, childlike, curious, bursting with love and obsessed with goal setting, check lists and having zero cellulite. But I am also, hopefully, less self-absorbed and judgmental and more compassionate, grateful and appreciative of people, details, and the ephemeral quality of All That Is.
And more than ever, I AM MORE AUTHENTIC TO MY TRUE SELF.
My name change has also gone back from Raya Meddine to Rana Alamuddin. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the Return to Self.
Or it’s the split personality acting out again.
In it, I share with you in all honesty, my experience of transformation ( the pretty and the ugly ), in the hopes of inspiring, perhaps empowering, others to do the same, and as a result, live their fullest potential.
Here’s to staying true to You.