Friends who work together stay together, according to Arab social media sensations Amy Roko, Hadeel Marei and Maha Jaafar.
These three charismatic and talented women are taking the plunge into TV with a new discovery+ Original reality show, ‘Dare to Take Risks’, which will start airing on Jawwy TV on October 17.
In the six-part series, Egyptian social media personality Marei, Sudanese-Iraqi influencer Jaafar and Saudi multi-hyphenate Roko travel through Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, doing adventurous challenges along the way.
“It’s a reality show. First of its kind,” Marei told Gulf News during an interview at the Warner Bros Discovery office in Dubai Studio City. “Me and Amy, we’re the people in it who go through the challenges and through everything. And Maha is the manipulator in the show, aka, the host.”
She was sat alongside her two BFFs and right from the get-go, they were cracking jokes and revealing titbits about their exciting new project. One anecdote was that Jaafar’s inclusion on the series was a surprise to the other two.
“FYI, we had no idea Maha was in the show. We were surprised on the first day of filming,” Marei explained. “Like a couple of days before or the day before it was my birthday. And she was there and she was pretending like she had no idea. And then we were surprised to find her in Saudi where we had out first location of filming.”
Roko chimed in saying that she had been begging Jaafar to come along with them.
Jaafar cheekily added: “Yeah, I was a part of the show. And I knew that like two months earlier, and I pretended that I was not.”
Together, they’ve conquered mountains, jumped from great heights and put their friendship to the test on the show. This is all while filming at historic and picturesque locations including UNESCO heritage sites Hegra and Aswan and the Burj Khalifa.
“The show took place over three countries — Saudi, UAE and Egypt. And it’s been an amazing experience to film with my friends because we were each other’s support system,” Marei said. “We’re already friends before, like long term. I’m talking years. So this made us bond even more and discover other aspects of our personality that we didn’t know were there.”
“Once you travel with someone you actually get to know them,” said Roko, who has been praised for being a pioneering and stereotype-breaking niqabi personality.
Their experience on the show got them closer, added Jaafar, even though the plot of the show is a competition to one-up the other.
Asked what audiences could expect to see them doing on the show, Roko tried to keep it vague and not give away too much.
“So it’s a lot of like — let’s say — extreme sports. And we’re gonna see a lot of puzzles in the middle of the desert,” she said. “The challenging part was us doing it against each other. [Also] the heat! Girl, I’m still tanned till this day.”
They had been filming for two months prior to the interview and, of course, they had to keep it all a secret from their combined millions of social media followers who watch their every move.
“We had to travel and do full-day photo shoots and we didn’t talk about the show. But we’re very excited for people to see,” said Jaafar, who apart from being a comedian is also a Unicef National ambassador.
She added with a laugh: “The most challenging part for me was to challenge them. Because I would feel bad for them, internally. But I have to challenge them on the show. And I’m like, ‘yeah, climb that mountain. Okay, sorry.’”
For Marei, the biggest challenge was to go out of her comfort zone and compete with her friends.
“I’m not competitive in nature at all at all. So that was the challenge for me ... to bring out that competitive side. I didn’t know I had it in me. It’s there a little bit, but it’s there,” she said.
During the interview, their respect and appreciation for each other is clear to see, and it’s no wonder that they’re a perfect fit for reality TV — they’re naturally hilarious and down to earth.
When asked why so many fans have found their content relatable, they took it as a chance to point out the others’ most endearing qualities.
“When I look at my friends, what comes off is the fact that they can be really funny and themselves at the same time,” Roko said. “I just see that shine through. And that just draws you. For example, I never knew them before. I just start following them. I met them at an event and I’m like, ‘Wow, they’re so real’. And they’re actually funny. And you could see that through the screen.”
Marei added: “Amy is so multifaceted. I cannot keep up. She’s a rapper, she’s a comedian, she’s an actor, she writes, she’s a creative director.”
It’s ultimately their personalities and relatable, culturally relevant content that have drawn their massive audience.
“We manifested this,” Marei said, when asked what it feels like to be on the TV show. “The three of us, we manifested this. I think it was Ramadan. We were talking and we were like, ‘Oh, if only there was just a camera following us’. It sounds very pretentious when I say it out loud.”
Jaafar added: “But we really did talk about [it] ... it’s our dream to be on a show together as a group. It happened and on the first day of filming before you guys came, I had a moment in the car when I was hiding from you and I was like, ‘wow, look at us. We’re actually on a show together!’ And yeah, it’s a dream.”
Indeed, their journeys to this moment have been a bit like a dream. All three women were pursuing careers in the medical field before they stumbled across viral fame.
“Me and Maha went to uni together. We were studying dentistry,” Marei said. “Maha on one night, when we were supposed to be studying for a final exam, she got bored and she made a video. Boom! Video went viral. I’m talking million overnight, right? So she got into social media. She dragged me later into it because I wanted to, but I was scared. Took her three years to convince me. Amy ... she was sensational on Vine. Amy was doing it just for fun. And then Amy disappeared to continue in her personal journey.”
Roko, who had been doing radiology, also explained her path to becoming the powerhouse that she is today.
“It just started by doing something that we liked as a hobby. But we just kept on doing it,” she said. “Sometimes you also have to forget that [other] people are watching and [remember that] you’re just doing it for your friends.”
The fact that they’re three Arab women excelling in their careers as social media stars and comedians is also worthy of praise.
Marei said: “I really care about support women supporting other women. So I put it into action ... Because if we bring each other up, if we’re solid together, and there’s solidarity within us then we’re stronger than ever. It reflects in my work, it reflects in my videos, it reflects on my personal behaviour.”
Jaafar added: “I’m just focusing on myself and how I can become an example for a girl who wants to do something else. I did it, you can do it too. Anyone can do anything they want.”
Asked what they’d like to do in the future, and the answer is pretty simple.
“More shows. More shows with my besties,” said Roko. “More videos. More content, bigger, better, stronger.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Dare to Take Risks’ will start airing on Jawwy TV on October 17.