Miriam Tukahn is the first Arab contestant on 'A Star is Born.' Her family is not surprised by her success and hope viewers will avoid politics
In January, MK Raleb Majadele became Israel’s first Arab minister. Now, Miriam Tukahn, 25, from I’billin, is the one making history by becoming the first Arab contestant on “A Star is Born”, Israel’s answer to “American Idol”.
At the tryouts, she wowed the four judges. One of them, Tzedi Tzarfati, an established producer, did express some minor concern about Tukahn’s accent, but in the end, the decision was unanimous. Tukahn made the cut.
Tukahn’s neighbors in I’billin, a village situated northeast of Kiryat Ata (near Haifa), say they are proud of her and are eagerly awaiting her television debut. But the Tukahn family – including father Wassim, a retired teacher, mother Muhlissa, a homemaker, and 14-year-old basketball playing brother Bolus – expected nothing less of their gifted daughter and sister.
“She would always say that her dream is to go as far as possible, that the whole world should know her,” they recall. “We all encouraged her to go to the auditions. We knew about her ability. She needed this opportunity, so that everyone can know who she is.”
Miriam Tukahn is not the first Arab woman to try her luck at show business. Yet most of the others never really lived up to their initial promise. For instance, after the 1999 Miss Universe competition, the first Arab Miss Israel Rana Raslan married a Gulf Emirate millionaire and left the country.
Also, Nirel - the hot-tempered Arab winner of “Dugmaniot 2”, a reality television based on “America's Next Top Model” – called for world peace and then disappeared, together with her career. Finally, Druze beauty Angelina Fares was
threatened by her community and forced to withdraw from the Miss Israel competition earlier this year.
But Tukahn’s family insists that their daughter is different. According to them, Miriam was born for greatness, and she’s more than just a media gimmick.
Why do you think the others’ show-biz careers didn’t pan out?
“They were in other fields; singing is art,” Wassim Tukahn, Miriam’s father, explains. “Music unites all people and all nations. In my opinion, everyone has their own approach, and Miriam is a different type. It’s in her blood.
“She’s different in many ways. I have been in education for 35 years, and I have a feeling that she’s going to be different than the (others on) the list.”
As a father, weren’t you concerned?
“If she has talent, what’s there to be concerned about? From the first song, they saw her ability. So they weren’t surprised that she made the cut.
Tukahn. On her way to prime time (Photo: Eldad Refaeli)
“It’s a precedent, the first time an Arab reached the advanced stages. And perhaps, this will push young people in future years to act like Miriam, because there’s a lot of talent in the sector.”
What about her accent?
“Singing is a universal matter. One doesn’t have to understand the language, because it’s a matter of the spirit. Margol (a singer who is one of the judges) said that even Yemenites have a Mizrachi (Oriental) accent.
“If she sings in Arabic, what difference does it make? Really. Everyone loves to sing.”
Did you receive any negative feedback?
“Since she’s an Arab and sings in Hebrew, there are those who want her to sing in Arabic. Each person is entitled to have an opinion. I can’t say that there’s nothing to it, but the main thing is that she’s participating and that she has a platform.
“Even in English, she sings incredibly. She took a matriculation exam in French; she knows Italian, Spanish. She sings ‘Ibrahim’ in Turkish. In the future, she dreams of reaching all types of people and singing in all the languages that she knows.”
Meanwhile, Miriam is busy with intensive rehearsals. She spends time honing her vocal skills and practicing her Hebrew pronunciation.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “It’s getting close. It seems to me that I have a big responsibility. More than anyone else, people are going to try and test me.”
Do you really feel that you represent an entire sector?
“Absolutely. I bring with me all the beauty and the good things that I took from the village and my culture. There are things that aren’t revealed to our brothers in the State. I hope that I can transmit this, and they’ll see the warmth of the people in my sector, the love and the peace that they seek.”
How did your family’s support help you?
“It’s first rate, the main factor. They don’t support with words. I feel it even without hearing it every day. Even when I was little, my father said that he sees something in me, that I’ll be a star, and he always gave me that feeling.
“When Mom calls and worries where I am, and then when she enjoys hearing that I spent the entire day in rehearsals, that’s what I call support.”