POWER HOUR WITH LEBANESE SINGER XRISS

Meet Xriss

We love celebrating strong, successful women here at The Caviar Spoon, which is why we’ve created ReBelles. These are the women who are working it and owning it in life, work, and everything in between. Our newest ReBelle is super talented Lebanese-born singer Xriss who is now also our LA-based #CaviarAmbassador!

Where do we even start? How is it that Xriss, the Quincy Jones-backed singer, is now a friend, Whatsapp chat buddy, and part of the Caviar Crew?

Xriss (pronounced like “Chris”) has a fiery personality and a fabulously rich and raspy voice that is as unique as she is. This whirlwind friendship with this blazing hot singer began just a short while ago when Pra was exploring the evening haunts of Dubai. Fancying a bit of jazz, we decided to head to Q’s Bar & Lounge at Palazzo Versace Dubai, a hotel that we have a particular sweet spot for.

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We headed into the jazz bar and were immediately stunned into silence (and that’s not easy to do!). The voice coming out of the woman on stage…WOW. Pra had a #caviarmoment, left on a high, and hopped onto Instagram the next day to reach out to Xriss herself who, it turned out, would only be in Dubai for a little while longer before returning to Los Angeles. We quickly set up a time to meet and Pra was soon sitting in Xriss’s hotel suite, wearing a pair of her Versace slippers, chatting it up like the best of friends.

The hour-long interview started in work mode and ended with introducing Xriss to our Managing Editor Yoko to kick off TCS LA! (Which reminds us…be on the lookout for #caviarmomentsLA with our awesome new ambassador!)

The Story

So where did Xriss come from and how did she score a juicy gig like the one at Q’s Bar at one of the most lavish hotels in Dubai? Long story short, she was a quarter-finalist on The Voice Ahla Sawt (the Arabic version of the popular singing show), won a competition judged by Quincy Jones, will.i.am, and Timbaland, and then was signed by Quincy.

Boom. Dreams do come true and good things do happen when you hustle hard!

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But let’s rewind things a bit. Xriss spent the first 9 years of her life in Nigeria where her father was stationed whilst working for the European Commission.

Since Lebanon is a trilingual country, Xriss speaks English (her first language), Arabic (which she only really learned to speak at the age of 11 when the family moved back to Lebanon), and French. She’s actually closer to multilingual since she also has a decent understanding of Spanish, so she clearly has a fine-tuned ear (and hence, why she’s such a bloody good singer).

When she speaks, it’s surprisingly with an American accent, although there’s a gentle lilt that sneaks in, hinting that perhaps she grew up elsewhere. Now that she’s officially moved to LA (more specifically, Venice Beach), we’ve noticed that she’s sounding more and more like she was born and raised there!

This chick has major looks and talent and if we could have even a splash of what she has…what a dream! But it’s her personality and approach to life that had us go, “You’re one of us!”. We like to use the phrase “People Like Us” (PLU). Xriss’s drive, charisma, rebellious nature, and unstoppable attitude are what ReBelles are made of!

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She’s also a warm and welcoming character, making you feel at ease within minutes, a trait that she recognises in herself and is proud to have. You can tell Xriss is one of those genuine characters who, if she accepts you into her fold, will have your back for life. Her friends are her family and she’d much rather have a small group of true friends than a huge pool of acquaintances and fair-weather friends. (We 100% agree – life is too short for disingenuous people!)

Her actual family is quite independent and she says that they’re not conventionally family-oriented. There’s love and respect but they’re not super tight knit.

“Just because you’re related to someone it doesn’t mean you have to love them. There’s no reason for you to love someone who doesn’t understand the way your mind or your heart works…There’s a big difference between tolerating someone and accepting them.”

The Early Days & Finding Her Style

Music is something that has always been openly accepted by Xriss’s family. Her father was, no joke, the kind of dad who would sit at the foot of the bed with his guitar and tell stories almost every night. On Sundays, he’d blast everything from White Snake to Led Zeppelin to classical music, exposing the family to an eclectic playlist. But from the young age of 9, it was none other than Celine Dion who held Xriss’s attention. She was obsessed with the French Canadian chanteuse and completely charmed by her voice – she knew all of her songs and tried to emulate her way of singing.

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Celine wasn’t the only influence, though. As the years went by, various artists continued to shape her style. There was Pink, followed by Alicia Keys. Led Zeppelin played a part, as did Ray Charles. And of course, the Queen herself, Beyoncé. So you see what we mean when we say that Xriss’s voice is as unique as she is!

Although the raspiness of her voice is now her trademark, it wasn’t always so. Whilst she was still building up her singing career, she kept being told by various teachers and coaches in Lebanon that her voice was too raspy and that it wasn’t right. Xriss wanted to go to lessons because she knew there was plenty for her to learn — how to read notes, how to harmonise, how to compose. But, without fail, she’d be corrected on her actual voice and steadily became convinced that her voice was wrong and that she’d never sing professionally.

That is, until, someone finally recognised her voice for what it is and told her that it wasn’t her voice that was wrong – it was the country in which she was trying to learn.

This bit of advice and truthfulness opened her eyes and things changed from there. Xriss decided to embrace her own unique style instead of being forced into a mould, which is probably why we love her so much. “Yes, I can!” is the (unofficial) motto of a true Caviar ReBelle! (And if you’re like us, there’s probably a nice, strong swear word thrown in there for good measure 😉  )

When she was about 19 and working at a karaoke bar, the owner heard her perform Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”. He happened to also be starting up his own entertainment company and upon hearing her voice, insisted that she come perform with his band.

Xriss ended up staying with that company, called 8è Art Entertainment, for 10 years as they soared in popularity. They performed all around the Middle East, doing everything from corporate events to weddings to fashion events.

During this time, she built up quite the reputation and one day, received a call from The Voice Ahla Sawt inviting her to audition. This was 2012 and she ended up making it all the way to the quarter-finals. She didn’t win but it wasn’t about the winning — it was THE opportunity to get into the spotlight.

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About a year after the show, Xriss heard from Richard Hussein, an A&R (artist and repertoire) for The Voice who she’d met backstage and had kept in touch with. He told her about an upcoming competition during Dubai Week where singers could have the chance to perform in front of a panel with some of the biggest and most recognisable names in the music industry: Quincy Jones, will.i.am, and Timbaland. She sent in her demo, was one of the five selected to perform, and swept the competition with her version of Beyoncé’s “Listen”.

The grand prize was a song and music video, which is a pretty big deal as it is. But rather than that, Quincy Jones’s production company offered to sign her with a management and production deal. Not too shabby, hey?

We asked Xriss which women inspire her and she said that as often as she’s asked that question, she doesn’t really have an answer because she admires characteristics in many different people. She started rattling off the different women in her life who have made an impression, like Sandra Tikal, the GM of Palazzo Versace Dubai. Her mother, with her fearless eyes-on-the-prize attitude and ability to hide her emotions, is another source of inspiration. Her sister is beautiful inside and out, incredibly smart, and has the kind of energy that can shut up a crowd.

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And then there’s her grandmother Eva who sounds like she could be the founder of the school of not giving AF. She might be closing in on 80 but she’s on Facebook, knows exactly how to use hashtags, and is a force to be reckoned with. Xriss describes her as someone who cares about her own happiness and isn’t afraid to prioritise herself when needed, and that’s what she loves and admires about the woman.

“She’ll just sit here, pull out a cigarette, the smoke alarm will go off, and she’ll still smoke it.”

Xriss recounted a time, not too long ago, when her grandmother was driving on a roundabout and discovered that the exit she wanted to take was closed. The police officer tried to insist that she couldn’t go through but he didn’t stand a chance against the sassy, strong-willed Eva. She matter-of-factly said to him “My baby is waiting for me” and the officer looked at her like she was crazy and replied (more or less), “What? You’re too old to have a baby!”

Things got cheeky and the exchange ended with her saucily saying to him, “You’re not my type” before driving off through the closed-off exit. That should tell you all you need to know!

“She wants her thing in her way on her time.”

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Final Thoughts

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
“Stop caring what other people think about you.”

If there’s any advice to give girls and women who are self-conscious, over here [in the Middle East] in particular, what would you say?
“You’ll notice that successful people do not show their emotion. You need to observe the right steps that people are making. Don’t do what they do but do it the way they do it.”

“If you’re going to be emotional about something, be logically emotional about it. Not emotionally logical, but logically emotional. If you’re going to make a decision, don’t do it when you’re angry or happy.”

If you weren’t doing this (music), what do you think you would be doing?
“I’d probably want to be a TV personality – I’ve always been into acting and social media. I did theatre, fine arts, and I have a teaching diploma.”

(Her mother is an artist and her dad is a professor so she’s clearly picked up talents from both sides – lucky her!)

Xriss is super active on social media (she’s always posting on Insta Stories) so definitely give her a follow. We can’t wait to share her #caviarmomentsLA with you!

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