At 19, Andrew Makdasi left war torn Lebanon with his family and ventured out into the word, unleashing his dormant creativity to eventually become a famous art director working with top music celebrities.
In 2019, he got nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Production Design for Beyoncé’s concert-documentary Homecoming.
“It’s surreal to think about how I grew up in Lebanon, and how I ended up here,” Makadsi told GQ Magazine.
The Lebanese artists grew up in Zahle, and has cultivated creative tendencies ever since he was little, but lacked the necessary equipment to harness his creativity.
“I didn’t have much access to the equipment I needed to exercise that creativity until college. I started studying in Lebanon at NDU University, and I was also shy, I didn’t know how to unleash my creative self. I was always being held back by things,” Makadsi admitted.
It was wartime in Lebanon when Makdasi was pursuing his studies at the Notre Dame University in Zouk Mosbeh, and his father working in his business place in Beirut. The intensity of the war back then brought the family to decide to leave the country, like many like them during the war.
“Lebanon was not safe. My dad’s work was in Beirut and there were bombings happening. That was a tipping point,” he recounted.
Hence, leaving his country and home, and cutting short his university education in Lebanon, he migrated with his family to New Jersey, in the United States.
Makadsi went to Ohio, enrolling at the University of Toledo where he continued to study film.
However, Makdasi realized soon that studying film wasn’t enough to unleash his inner creative self until he started interning as an editor on a documentary about NY fashion week’s documentary.
“I feel like university taught me a lot, but it took me a minute to get what I wanted out of me creatively,” he said.
It was the rise of the internet and fashion and music starting to merge, which Makdasi tapped into when he secured an editor job at Industrial Color, a production company. From there, his career skyrocketed.
When asked about his relationship with Lebanon and the Middle East, Makadsi praised his culture, as he considered his roots to be his biggest inspiration.
“My references are from 1990s and early-2000s Arabic pop, like Haifa, all these pop stars that actually reset culture in a way that we don’t really understand until now,” he said.
“There’s always an Arabic wedding moment (in my music), like the “tabl” and “zamour” and I mix it with house music and techno. I try to make my music represent who I am: a New Yorker that lives in Brooklyn that grew up in the Middle East for 19 years.”
Makadsi acknowledged the difficulties of Lebanese artists to make it big outside of their country, let alone get nominated for an Emmy. However, the Lebanese creative noted that his career is a win for his culture.
“It’s a win for the young creatives that look up to us. I hope that we make it seem possible and give everyone younger than us hope. That’s why the award’s special, because to me, yes it’s a great appreciation for the work, but it puts us on the radar for the younger creatives to look up to,” Makadsi said.
“Love yourself and where you come from. Never run away from what makes you yourself, if it’s race, if it’s a disability… Embrace and love yourself and your culture.”