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A Candid Conversation with Sami Basbous, The Newly Appointed Editor In Chief at Habibi Plz

Step into a world of brilliance and daring with Sami Basbous, the recently apointed Editor In Chief of Habibi Plz. Join us for an exclusive interview where we peel back...

Step into a world of brilliance and daring with Sami Basbous, the recently apointed Editor In Chief of Habibi Plz. Join us for an exclusive interview where we peel back the layers of Sami's unique perspective and unravel the exciting chapter he's set to bring to Habibi Plz. 

 

1. Tell us about yourself, what is your background:

I was born in Lebanon, but I practically have stardust in my veins. When I gaze at the sky, that's my comfort zone – it's where I truly belong and feel at home. Now, let me take you to a place that used to be my second home and my sanctuary, a village home that witnessed the chaos of the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1989. Talk about being born into the drama, right?

This cozy haven was my mother's pride, built by my great-great-grandfather. It stood tall until war knocked on its door. Summers were a beautiful vibe there, the safe haven where I rocked my true self from birth till the tender age of 12, when my world flipped upside down with my mother's passing. I lost my sense of home during the awkward early teen years of my life.

From a little boy I knew I was different. Not your typical "boy," according to societal norms. Dad wanted me to “man up” but I loved dancing to my own drum beat, unapologetically me. I didn't feel tied to any gender norms or specific roots. I knew I belonged to the stars and to the universe in general, not to any specific roots tied to this world.

Being the baby of the family comes with its perks. Some believe moms cook up a gay concoction for the youngest in the womb – blame it on those hormones! Before me, there was a miscarriage, and they were expecting a girl. Mom would playfully call me "habibti" (feminine form of my love in arabic) or "ya binti" (my daughter), it wasn't about molding me into her mini-me. It was more like our little tradition of tossing around sweet nicknames that just made us feel all warm and close to each other. 

I hail from a woman that defied norms. My mother, a trailblazer, was the first in her village to hit the university scene. We floated between the bustling Beirut to a picturesque village up in the mountains, a quick 15-minute ride away if you don’t factor in the traffic fuss. Distance, after all, is relative in this small but mighty country.

 

2. On a scale of 1-10 how excited are you about life right now and what is exciting you about it for you in this chapter?

My excitement for life is like a mood ring – it changes daily. This morning? A solid 10! New day, new possibilities, I was looking forward to our meeting today to talk about Habibi Plz, Habibi MAG, Habibi possibilities, and soaking in the glory of my new position with Habibi Plz as the Editor In Chief.

Now while I’m on this topic, I want to share my editorial vision for Habibi Plz. To me, editorial taste is like a fine wine, some have it, and others... well, let's not go there. on the same note, just like ice cream, it's subjective, but we all know when something is serving and slaying looks and class, right? None of that pop in your face; we're aiming for beautiful, inspiring, and eloquent – the triple threat of taste. Oh, and let's not forget the audience – gotta think about them, but you can't be at the mercy of their desires either. You just gotta write your best, trust the process, and let the magic unfold. It's like crafting a love letter to creativity, with a dash of sass and class, of course.

 

 3. What sets Habibi MAG apart from what’s already out there, and what makes you believe it's essential to create something like this for the current generation?

The Habibi Plz MAG is not just any regular magazine; it's a movement, a vibe, and it's all about owning our time. The SWANA (South West Asia and North Africa) voice has been taken away from us and kept on mute for too long, and it's high time we crank up the volume. We owe it to ourselves to shine unapologetically, to embrace who we are with a dash of inspiration, kindness, and a whole lot of love.

I want the MAG to be like a march claiming our spotlight and inviting everyone else to join the fabulous party. No more clichés, no specific image forced upon us. It's time to break free and let our voices soar. SWANA isn't some label handed to us by the colonizer – oh no, we created that term for ourselves which is why I prefer using SWANA when I refer to our collective. It's our time to snatch back our identity and celebrate it like there's no tomorrow. The MAG is here to slay and rewrite the narrative!

 

 4. If you were to give a title for the new chapter that our SWANA collective is embarking on, what title would you give it?

 "Habibi b7ebak wa 3eire feek" – it's like saying, "Sweetheart, I love you, but seriously, screw you." We're a bunch of love-givers, forgivers, and hosts with the mosts. We've been through the ringer with stereotypes, so we've got this knack for peeling back layers and being more understanding of others.

 Now, here's the real talk – we're experts at throwing a wrench in our own works though, especially when it comes to our history. It's like a messy tango of fucking each other up. But, now, imagine if we redirected that energy into fucking each other with love. All of the SWANA culture have so much in common – culture, music, causes, and yes, even traumas.

 I want the MAG to also be reflective. Time to face the music, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, "How are we really behaving that affects my other fellow SWANA folks?" It's about digging deep, finding that inner change, and starting the healing process from within. Healing isn't just a buzzword; it's spiritual, philosophical, cultural – it's the unfiltered truth. Whatever your truth is, as long as it's not hurting others, own it. Live it. That's how you change the game and others around you. We're in this together on a journey of collective healing and embracing our collective truth. It's time to sprinkle some love on each other and let the truth set us free.

 

5. Speaking of collective healing and change, what do you hope the Habibi MAG will change?

I want the MAG to bring change in everyway possible.  The SWANA community has been put on some weird pedestal. We've either been reduced to some bizarre fetish or wrongly associated with being explosive device experts – but guess what? We hold the power to change that. It's time to lift the veil on our own selves. Time to show up as who we truly are in the world. Whether that’s lifting the veil on our SWANA identity, on our sexualities, throw off the chains of inhibition, and be unapologetically real. We need to open up, spill the tea on our identities, and sprinkle kindness like confetti. I specifically want the SWANA community to stop with the LGBTQ+ drama; let's rewrite the story on who we are and what we represent.

Now, picture this: "Habibi plz" as a movement of collective healing. It's a vibe where people support and empower each other, unleashing skills and capacities for healing in our families, communities, and, most importantly, within ourselves. Habibi Plz has diverse teams across six cities, and guess what? They've done the inner work – sharing notes, lifting each other up which is how they’re able to come together and create this collective healing for themselves, others, and for the Habibi Plz community as a whole – whether staff, client, volunteer, reader, etc.

And the collections – the Habibi Plz collections are way more than just clothing lines. They're about forging community-ship, weaving connections, and stitching together a beautiful piece of collective healing. Take "Habibi Haram," "Habibi Pride," or "Habibi MAG" – each collection aims to build that community-ship. We're here, across six cities, creating unity and a sense of belonging for all. We're not just craving regular communities anymore; we're thirsting for communities of leaders and leaders of communities.

Leadership is also instilling confidence in others not just you. Knowing how to listen to others and who to listen to. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and others to be vulnerable with you. True leadership is more about the community than the leader, creating a space for everyone to shine. True leadership is a circle not a pyramid.

 

6. To wrap up this interview, what closing statement do you want to leave the reader with? What collective call to action can we rally around?

The call to action isn't just for me—it's for all of us. It's time for each individual to answer this question, to step into their authenticity. I'm not here to control; I'm here to stand beside you as Sami, embracing my true self. This is the heartbeat of our collective.

We're on a journey to freedom, to be our unapologetic selves. The key to peace lies in shedding victimization, guilt, shame, trauma and all the baggage. We want the world to see us for who we truly are—amazing, with boundless potential, a beacon of enlightenment, and sheer beauty. we've already achieved so much. Let's keep this momentum going, celebrating our accomplishments and continuing to pave the way for a future where our voices shine even brighter.

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