While a lot of opportunities and windows were open to many Lebanese talents in their homeland, and while Lebanon itself has given favors to non-Lebanese artists in promoting them in the showbiz, there is still a wide range of gifted Lebanese who still haven’t got the recognition they deserve.
Committed to the mission of showing the radiant side of Lebanon, the961 is once again bringing another behind-the-curtain Lebanese achiever under the spotlight.
Elie Iskandar may be a familiar name to your ear, particularly if you are a social media regular. You may have probably bumped into one of his hilarious voice-over videos on different internet platforms, and laughed to tears without knowing who's the talented creative Lebanese behind them.
I have known Elie Iskandar for more than 10 years, since the good old MSN days. He was one of my closest friends who used to give me my daily dose of serotonin given his epic sense of humor and skills to turn things into decent hilarious jokes.
Introducing himself in his own words, Elie calls himself “Muljackisplitrady” meaning an advertising slave. He has come up with this name considering his sarcastic character and his tendency to laugh at words like “multidisciplinary” and “jack of all trades”.
His self-given nickname was the result of the countless jobs he has come to perform. In fact, Elie has been wearing many professional hats and doing so successfully.
From being a creative director, a commercial director, a TV segment director, and a writer to videographer, editor, animation director, illustrator, and a voice actor, Elie has proven to be truly one of a kind. We got to admit, he's a living treasure of skills.
Born on 17th of June 1986 in Beirut, not only was he gifted but also conscious of the skills he was blessed with. He left Sagesse High School after graduating from grade 9 to pursue his creative journey where he studied interior design in an institution in Dekwaneh and then fine arts at the Michelangelo Academy.
Holding his diploma in Fine Arts and Art History, which he never used as he funnily claims, Elie favored from encouraging and supportive Lebanese parents who had discovered his talent since his early age.
From sculpting recognizable shapes of well-known people at the age of 3 to leading his first exhibition at the age of 10 with the generous sponsoring of IPR group, he was a miraculous child, and that is no exaggeration. Following his successful exhibition, Elie appeared on a TV interview with May Matta in the time where she used to host her famous morning show: “Naharkom Saeed."
Elie's talents went gradually unleashing further. From his sculpted artworks known as Souk el Zouk el-Atik, which he sold for 1500 LBP (1 USD) each, he was able to get himself his first computer.
With such a great tool in hand, Elie taught himself to draw, animate, and create his own unique characters with their simultaneous voices. That was the onset of a new creative path for him.
Elie’s career took off from there, starting as a children’s cartoons illustrator at a couple of children’s magazines, such as Silhouette where he did over 300 illustrations a month for 6 different editions.
From there, Elie joined Digital Limits' agency where he was given his own recording studio. But Elie's creative passion was much bigger than being contained and he had to keep moving forward for more.
He enrolled with Berlitz US as the Manager of Animation Development and Head Animator, where he worked for a while before taking off by himself. His freelancing included e-learning and advertising until he was recruited by Leo Burnett.
During that period of time, he maintained his job as Segment Director of the LBC TV program “Lahon W Bas” hosted by Hicham Haddad.
Elie is one of those hardworking Lebanese who was carrying many watermelons in one hand, as we say in Lebanese. In parallel to all that, Elie maintained his job as a writer on MBC while simultaneously working as a freelancer with his clients in Lebanon and Dubai and having a wide range of voice-over clients around the world.
His voice-over talent is another story of this fascinating Lebanese multitasker and achiever. It started when, at the young age of 8, he would imitate the neighbor’s voice to his mother, and mute the TV to go on narrating the conversations himself using different voices.
In his funny words, Elie expresses his gratefulness and gratitude to his parents, saying that: “Luckily, I have cool parents who, instead of sending me to an exorcist, chose to help me develop my skills, and I’m forever grateful for that.”
It seems like if the world cannot contain the lively "package" of passion and creativity that is Elie. In addition to mentioned, this multitalented Lebanese has other passions he nurtures: Family, cooking, acting, stand-up comedy, art, and filmmaking.
For the past 3 years, Elie has been residing in Dubai where he started as a Multimedia Director for a small yet powerful agency called Netizency. Naturally, with a phenomenon like him, it was prone to happen that pertinent connections got built and his reputation grew exponentially, which brought him to co-own the current creative media company called Nudge Media, LLC.
Elie’s decision to move to Dubai initially was no much different than that of our beloved Lebanese overseas, certainly not an easy step to take. Three years ago, he found himself at a turning point of his life, facing a dilemma on whether to make that turn or stay put.
Staying put would mean continuing to live and work in Lebanon from 6:00 A.M to 4:00 A.M daily so he can afford a “comfortable” life to his family, which he was barely seeing. On the other hand, taking that life turn was to risk all that he had built to have his talents rediscovered in the gulf.
Like all Lebanese before him in the quest for better opportunities abroad, he opted for a leap of faith and the risks involved. He hence moved to Dubai, a decision he hasn't regretted at all considering the big accomplishments he has made in a relatively short period of time.
That move of his brought him to be more recognized and valued during these 3 years than he has ever been in his entire existence in Beirut.
When he shared that with me, I admit having felt conflicting emotions; I was proud, sad and happy at the same time and I said to myself: “What does it really take for someone with this incredible bundle of talents to be enough acknowledged and credited in his homeland instead of being scattered abroad?”
Despite all that Elie risked it all in search for decent opportunities, he remains in love with Lebanon and will always be. He claims to have been allowed a couple of opportunities that he is forever grateful for. It is with empathy that he salutes his friends in Lebanon who are still struggling to make it through. He knows how hard it could be.
Like most of the Lebanese living and working abroad, Elie is thankful to Dubai that gave him the chance to dream big and to live in security and stability, a thing he couldn’t, unfortunately, feel throughout his entire career in Beirut.
Elie is finding his peace in the UAE, and also his blooming ground and space, while almost none of the companies he had worked with previously in Lebanon had provided him with his basic rights, such as social security or insurance or any other form of stability.
As he shared with me, he simply couldn’t risk dragging his wife and future children into this kind of limbo and decided to leave the country. His return is not planned for now and any time soon.
This success journey of our Lebanese achiever Elie Iskandar brings us to wonder at how many of our gifted citizens has Lebanon been loosing as they go roaming around the world for due recognition. It also brings us back to the questions we tend to ask at such real-life stories:
What should Lebanon do to retain these incredible Lebanese talents? What steps should we take to credit those Lebanese achievers at home? Why does Lebanon give recognition to non-Lebanese people much more than what it is actually giving to its nationals?
On these questions, I will leave you with an epic video of the talented Elie Iskandar that sums up his incredible voice-over skills: