Born in Montreal, raised in Texas and hailing from Mexican and Lebanese heritage, actress Emeraude Toubia has struggled in the past with being placed into purely stereotyped roles. "One of the standout moments in my career so far was being cast in Shadowhunters for a role that was not defined by my background," the 28-year-old tells Bazaar. Instead, the rising star, who grew up on the pageant circuit as a teen (she's a former Miss South Texas amongst other titles) is being celebrated for her acting chops on the aforementioned TV drama, where she plays the feisty Isabelle Lightwood and is currently nominated for a Teen Choice Award thanks to her raw, fearless take on one of the show's leading characters. Happy to open up about her Arabian heritage and future career plans, Toubia reveals how the Middle Eastern family values have always been a source of personal and professional inspiration...
Harper’s Bazaar Arabia: What was it that first sparked your interest in acting?
Emeraude Toubia "When I was little, I always wanted to dance and model and as I got older I started hosting television shows and quickly realized that acting was the perfect next step for me. It was always going to be a challenge but I started training with a fantastic coach and never looked back."
HBA: What career goals are you looking forward to accomplishing this year?
ET: "I would love to work on a movie this year. I'd like to be a part of something that celebrates women and inspires others."
HBA: Have you had any 'pinch me' moments in your career so far?
ET: " I think being half-Lebanese and half-Mexican and being cast in a leading role (in Shadowhunters) that did not fit into any of those stereotypes was a huge moment for me. Playing a role that is not defined by my background is definitely a win."
HBA: What Arabic traditions did your family adopt when you were growing up?
ET: "Lebanese and Mexican values are actually very similar in terms of our hospitality, strong family ties, hard work and resilience so both my parents shared those sentiments with me when I was growing up. My dad, who is Lebanese, cooks the best Arabic food. I love his fattoush, fassoulia and bazella - he also makes the most delicious baklava. Arabic food is my absolute favourite cuisine."
HBA: We heard your favourite Arabic word is 'hayete'...
ET: "It is! I love that is means "my life." I speak English and Spanish fluently but I wish I could be more at my dad's level, he's fluent in five languages."
Emeraude Toubia photographed by Maarten de Boer wearing Zeena Zaki and Charles Albert Jewellery
HBA: Where in the Middle East is next on your travel bucket list?
ET: "Lebanon. My paternal grandmother is from Koura and my grandparent's grave is there as well, they are buried together in Diddeh and I would love to visit their graves one day and pay my respects."
HBA: How has your Middle Eastern heritage influenced you, especially in your fashion and beauty choices?
ET: "I think women, especially in Beirut, have such a great sense of glamour and poise. It's no wonder some of the world's most celebrated designers like Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad come from Lebanon."
HBA: Is there anyone from Arabic cinema would you like to work with in the future?
ET: "There are many, but one in particular is actress and director Nadine Labaki. Her work has broken boundaries. She takes a stand for female empowerment and is not afraid to make a change in her country."
HBA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
ET: Acting, and hopefully inspiring women all over the world to go after their dreams."
Photography: Maarten de Boer. Styling: Angel T. Make-Up: Anton Khachaturian. Hair: Andrew Zepeda. Stylist: Angel Terrazas