Nothing prepared the Israelis for the phenomenon called Ninet. How did the beautiful girl from a provincial southern town of Kiryat Gat conquer Israel's entertainment world by storm and become the biggest and probably the only real star in the land of milk and honey?
Ninet Tayeb is a celebrity on a scale never to be seen before in Israel's pop canon. She's famous for being famous. She's supposedly renowned for her singing abilities, but has yet to produce an album. She does, however possess singing and performing talents and has recorded a few songs over the years. With nothing to show for but a beautiful face and voice, she managed to get the leading role in what later became a very successful daily series dubbed Hashir Shelanu (Our Song).
Ninet with Ran, the ex (Photo: Itzik Biran)
Ninet is Israel's first "Idol." She was a 19-year-old soldier in 2003, when she auditioned for "Kochav Nolad," the Israeli version of "American Idol.”
She was marked as the new sparkling media gem by the press due to the viewers' fascination with her. Young audiences especially, but not only, crowned her as the most beloved contestant on the show. She obviously had lots of charisma and style from the very beginning. She was the nation’s singing Cinderella sensation.
After winning the contest, Ninet's celebrity status was cemented. Others contestants also became famous; examples include Shai Gabso, a singer-songwriter that released a CD right after the show ended, and Shiri Maimon, who won 4th place in last year's Eurovision song contest. The second and third seasons were filled with stars as well, but none of them received the same amount of love as Ninet.
Managed by her brother and signed by the powerful "Teddy Productions," Ninet gradually decreased her public appearances. Every picture posted of her was celebrated media event. Ninet, who began her way in Israel's scarcely star-studded scene as a chubby girl, was now losing weight very rapidly. Her diet provoked endless discussions, and her name was on everybody's lips.
Ninet and the current boyfriend, Yehuda Levi (Photo: Yaniv Katz)
On the set of her daily series, she became romantically involved with her TV costar, 22-year-old newcomer Ran Danker. The relationship between the couple sparked the imagination of teenage girls, who crowned them as a romantic fantasy dubbed "RaNinet." Online articles depicting Ninet and Ran's doings and whereabouts generated a striking number of talkbacks, and magazines with “The It Couple" on their covers became every marketer's dream.
Meanwhile, criticism and questions arose concerning Ninet's hesitance to record her long anticipated album. Instead, she released a few singles to the radio and focused on live performances.
Though both went on a parallel path, Ninet is no Kelly Clarkson. Not yet. Nevertheless, her vast success has catapulted the small-town girl to the top of Israel's showbiz list of moneymakers. In March 2006 she finally entered a recording studio with one of Israel's most celebrated musicians, Aviv Gefen, to work on that long awaited first album.
Just when it seemed that all is quiet on the Ninet front, she and Ran split up and rumors surfaced about her hooking up with another big celebrity, one that already has a girlfriend. And not just girlfriend, but one happened to be one of Ninet's co-stars in her TV series. The media was in frenzy.
The rumors were true. Ninet is currently dating mega-actor Yehuda Levy ("Yossi and Jagger") and the press can't get enough of them. The public might think differently, and despite its massive collective love for her, it may be starting to suffer from a Ninet overdose.
Meanwhile, Ninet continues to win every popularity contest. If there was a survey: "What's your favorite tea brand?" you can be sure one of the most frequent answers would be: Ninet.