Elyanna of Nazareth: The Unstoppable Voice of a New Generation | Savoir Flair
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Elyanna of Nazareth: The Unstoppable Voice of a New Generation

by Haleh Nia 10-minute read June 15, 2024

On Savoir Flair’s 15th anniversary, Elyanna graces our first-ever digital cover.

SAVOIR FLAIR

Stars are born and legends are made every single day in Los Angeles, but it’s rare for such success to touch a girl from the Arab world, especially one from Palestine. At 22, Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna stands out as a symbol of Arab pride and cultural authenticity, having achieved what many from the region can only dream of — captivating a global audience. Now, as she graces the first-ever digital cover of Savoir Flair, Elyanna opens up like never before about her roots, her journey, and the powerful messages woven into her music.

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Glove, stylist's own

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On Tali: Look 3, Rabanne SS24
On Elyanna: Look 30, Rabanne SS24

London, May 2024 — It’s the morning after Elyanna’s sold-out concert in London, which marks her first time ever performing in Europe. Of course, she’s just made headlines with an appearance on The Late Show, in which she performed in her signature bandana and keffiyeh, covered in gold coins and dancing to the unmistakably Arab beat of the riq. Last year, her name became synonymous with groundbreaking talent when she became the first artist in history to perform a full set in Arabic at Coachella. That her London concert was sold out within days should come as no surprise.

She walks onto our studio set fresh-faced and wearing a Juicy Couture tracksuit (the brand’s first round of popularity eluded her due to her young age, but she confidently claims that it’s making a comeback). It occurs to me before she sits down in the makeup chair, her skin glistening and her light-blonde locks perfectly curled and reminiscent of a Botticelli painting, that she already looks picture-perfect. Make no mistake — this is a woman who, even without the pageantry of hair and makeup, without the pomp and circumstance — is an artist. Her face is angelic; her stature petite. Previously, I met her during Paris Fashion Week, and she greets me excitedly, warmly introduces herself to the rest of the crew, and is eager to check out all of the samples our fashion team has prepared for her to wear. She’s ready for the day. 

In fact, she was born ready. 

Chainmail headpiece and t-shirt, stylist's own

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Elyanna’s rise to fame is meteoric. Her journey begins in the city of Nazareth, where she was born and where her brother Feras (who she often collaborates with) discovered what she calls her “God-given” talent. “He pushed me to sing in shows at school and perform whenever I could. We were just kids in our backyard, doing all these creative things for fun,” she recalls with a smile. “He’d do my cover videos and photoshoots just for fun. My sister Tali would style me for them. We were around 10 or 11 years old, and we would be in our backyard doing all these creative things for nobody in particular. I wasn’t signed to anybody. I was not creating music. I was not in the studio."

The rest of Elyanna’s family also played a crucial role in nurturing her budding talent. “My mom would take me to a vocal coach, and my dad was my biggest fan, making me sing for hours and introducing me to new and old music,” she shares fondly. These early experiences laid the foundation for her artistic journey, driven by passion and a deep connection to her cultural roots. When the family recognized her potential for superstardom, they made the collective decision to move to Los Angeles. 

Back in Nazareth, months before the move, her father had been watching TV when news broke of the marriage of Wassim Joseph Slaiby to Rima Fakih (of Miss USA fame). For the uninitiated, Slaiby, better known as ‘Sal,’ is the Lebanese record executive and talent manager behind the biggest names in the industry — The Weeknd, Doja Cat, French Montana, Nicki Minaj, Swedish House Mafia, and many more — and whose agency, SALXO, is the fastest-growing music company in the world.

“This guy should be your manager, Elyanna. He’s Arab, and he just gets it,” her father noted.

Baba! Sal being my manager is my literal dream,” she recalls with sparkling eyes. “I’ve always wanted to work with him.”

As fate would have it, not long after they arrived in Los Angeles, she was discovered by Palestinian-Canadian music producer Nasri Atweh, and he introduced her to Sal weeks later. “I was just 16, and I sang for Sal at our first meeting. Years later, he told me how much he hates it when people sing for him live.” 

Nevertheless, her performance — of Etta JamesAt Last — left a lasting impression. The meeting marked the beginning of their collaboration and Sal’s first time managing an Arab talent. “I’m so grateful to be managed by him and to have my team full of amazing people who support me.”

Upon signing her, Sal’s one caveat was that she would perform in Arabic. “I never sang in Arabic my whole life. I grew up singing jazz. I loved Arabic music, but I didn’t think I could sing it,” she tells me about initial discussions with her newly signed team. “I remember leaving the studio crying, thinking I could never sing in Arabic. It was something I had never, ever done. In their [the management’s] mind, that was the whole point — that we were just starting to experiment with Arabic music. Nasri barely spoke Arabic himself, and I had no idea how to do the [runs] they do. But, at the end of the day, when Arabic is in you, you can never run away from it. That’s the beauty of it, when you’re just experimenting and taking a risk. Now, I feel I sing Arabic in my own way, but it still has an authentic, traditional sound.” I remind her what a profound decision that was, considering it paved the way for that history-making Coachella performance.

Despite her age, Elyanna is already making significant political statements through her performances. Her music serves as a bridge between her Arab heritage and a global audience, showcasing the beauty and authenticity of her culture. “I want people to see the truth. I want them to see the reality, and I want them to see the beauty because that’s something we can’t forget,” Elyanna passionately declares. Her mission is clear: to claim her culture internationally out of love and pride, not for mere recognition. “I’m very confident in what I’m doing. Of course, it’s double the work. Of course, it’s hard to see people believe in certain things. But if we’re all proud of it and if we push it and if we don’t hide where we’re from, that’s where we will shine the most.”

[On Elyanna: lace kuffiyeh by Nazzal Studio and a faux fur cape, stylist's own]

Why not show a STREET Arab girl from NAZARETH with SWAG?

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Cape and headpiece by Nazzal Studio
Gloves, stylist's own

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Headpiece, stylist's own

I always miss NAZARETH. It’s the Holy Land, the most BEAUTIFUL place on EARTH.

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Her connection to her roots remains unshakeable. Nazareth is a constant source of inspiration and comfort. “I always miss Nazareth. It’s the Holy Land, the most beautiful place on earth. I miss my friends, my family, and the simple joys like walking around the streets, drinking fresh orange juice, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.” These memories and traditions travel with her wherever she goes, grounding her in the midst of her whirlwind career. “Nothing has really changed. I think now we’re just doing it on a bigger platform and a bigger scale. And, it’s still the same, it’s still raw, it’s still from emotions, it’s still from real love and passion for music.”

In a world where female artists are often expected to conform to specific images, Elyanna stands out with her dual nature — embodying both softness and strength. On set, I watched her seemingly morph from a sweet-faced 22-year-old in the dressing room to a bonafide superstar in front of the camera. As the team shrouded her in the native flowers of Palestine and a chainmail headpiece, her strength emerged. As we handed her olive branches for her next shot, she seemed to soften. The juxtaposition was intense and powerful. I began calling her an “angel warrior” and playfully suggesting it as the title of her next album. 

“I am a little bit of both, and I’m not afraid to be both. In music, a lot of Arab women are portrayed as super soft and very sensual. But why not show a street Arab girl from Nazareth with swag? Let’s show that side of a female artist,” she asserts.  

Navigating the complexities of being an Arab female artist in a global arena presents its unique set of challenges. “I think being a female artist and being an Arab artist, especially doing what I’m doing, where I’m doing it, is definitely not easy. I think that you always have to put in double the work, and you have to know when to be serious so people respect your opinion,” she says. Yet, her unwavering belief in herself propels her forward. “I think that if you’re focused and if you believe in what you do, nothing can stop you. Nothing. Nobody can deny [your] talent or charisma or any of that.”

As she ascends in her musical career, Elyanna carries the aspirations and pride of her culture, poised to inspire and resonate with global audiences. Her narrative is a symbol of hope, celebrating the strength of authenticity and cultural pride. In her own words, “I just do my thing. I’m very confident in what I’m doing. And I know that we’re going to keep being out there and representing who we are.” In a world that often tries to silence and conform, her voice rings loud and clear, echoing the beauty and resilience of her heritage. She stands at the cusp of even greater achievements, her journey serving as a reminder that the true measure of success lies not just in fame, but in the ability to inspire, uplift, connect with others. And in that endeavor, Elyanna is a resounding success.

[On Elyanna: Headpiece by Zaid Farouki, dress by Ziyad Buainain, gloves by Nathaly Khoury]

Founder and Editor-in-Chief Haleh Nia Publisher Melanie Euverte Editorial Director Grace Gordon Account Director Zeena Zaid Content Manager Xandi Eleazar Managing Editor Jana Shakhashir Fashion and Beauty Editor Mimi Droeshout Head of Production Noor Ul Sabah Creative Producer and Art Direction Amira Abulaiti Junior Producers Jalila Najjar and Shukriya Mohamed On-site Production Raw Production Photographer Dima Hohlov Stylist Lisa Lapauw Makeup Artist Frida at Charlotte Tilbury Hair Stylist Eldridge Mullenhof Set Designer Jacki Castelli BTS Videographer Fey Retouching Unreality Check

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