Egyptian actress Lebleba at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. The actress plays a social worker juggling work and family in her latest film, Mickey’s Family. Image Credit: Alex Westcott/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: She grew up in the public eye, a darling of Egyptian cinema, and her star appeal is still incredibly undiminished. Yet a public discussion titled ‘Conversations with Lebleba' brought to the fore a humble and light-hearted personality far removed from what one would expect of a legend.

"Ever since I was five years old and I saw all these actors and actresses on the big screen, I fell in love with performing. I began imitating them and was so lucky that one day Anwar Wagdi [renowned Egyptian director] saw me and decided he wanted to cast me in his film, Habeebti Sousou [My Love Sousou]…I can't believe it's now 81 films later," Lebleba, whose real name is Ninochka Manoug Kupelian, said chuckling.

Early recognition

Screenwriter and playwright Abo Al Seoud Al Ebiary it was who found the name Lebleba, which means quick and talented, for the young Ninochka.

As young Lebleba's popularity grew, there were concerns about an equally quick burnout.

"I remember hearing my parents' worried discussions that I might lose my popularity as I grew older but I was determined to make sure that didn't happen…I love acting too much to let anything stop me from performing. I began approaching various directors, such as Samir Saif, who ensured that I got parts in everything from comedy to drama…I learned so much from him and all the other great directors I worked with," she said.

The actress currently has a leading role in the drama Mickey's Family, which follows a social worker through a day in her life as she juggles work and family.

When, at the conclusion of the discussion, Lebleba became apologetic for some of the choices in her life, her peers in the audience, including renowned actress Yousra, were quick to reassure her of her true worth.

"Lebleba, you are one of the greatest persons I've ever known. You are kind, talented, generous and light-hearted. You have done everything right and I wish you all the best for anything that you decide to do," Yousra said.