Spring 2007 Vol. V, No. 3
Behind the Scenes of "Wara' Al Eoujouh"
Maha Al Azar
If you ask Ricardo Karam (BS 91) for the secret of his success,
he will tell you that he pursued his passion. In fact, Karams current
fame as a leading TV personality in Lebanon has its roots in his childhood.
I was always passionate about music, he says, recalling how
he had his own music radio program when he was still a teenager. Nevertheless,
it was only after earning two degrees in chemistry, one from AUB and one
in chemical engineering from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des
Industries Agro-Alimentaires in Montpellier, and an MBA from the Lebanese-American
University that Ricardo decided to make his passion his career.
While his studies at school did not have any direct connection to his
chosen career, Ricardo says that the few semesters he spent at AUB had
an enormous impact on him. Recalling that he had to complete most of his
undergraduate studies at AUBs Off Campus Program due to the war,
Ricardo has fond memories of the three semesters he spent on the main
campus. I discovered the other, he said, referring
to Lebanese from a different religious background. Having lived
in a segregated community, I grew up with some prejudices which, as my
experience at AUB showed me, were completely unfounded. This experience
gave me a whole new perspective on life, and challenged me to not make
assumptions about other people. I think it sparked my desire to get to
know people, which led to my interest in interviewing.
Throughout his years of study, Ricardo stayed connected to the world of
media and eventually got his first professional job as a radio broadcaster
on then-popular Lebanese radio station Magic 102. This led to opportunities
in television, and in 1995 he started working for one of the leading local
stations in Lebanon, MurrTV, producing Souar, a program highlighting
the lifestyles of famous Lebanese personalities. In 1996, Ricardo began
to host Maraya, a show that ran for four years on MTV, and featured a
number of international luminaries including Empress Farah Diba, King
Simeon of Bulgaria, Prince Albert of Monaco, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carrerras,
Danielle Mitterrand, Boutros Ghali, Adnan Kashoggi, Mona El Solh, Carlos
Ghosn, Gabriel Yared, and Jehane Sadate. From 1992 to 1995, Karam's show
"Focus" was lanched on Tele-Liban. In 2003, Ricardo became both
the host and the executive producer of Wara Al Woujouh (Behind the
Faces), a 50-minute face-to-face interview program with leading pan-Arab
and international figures. The show took a behind the scenes
look at such famous figures as the Dalai Lama, Paolo Coelho, Yvo Pitanguy,
Giorgio Armani, Andre Agassi, Philip Starck, Celine Dion, Charles Aznavour,
Omar Sharif, Nicolas Hayek, Tom Barrack, Nazek Hariri, and Amin Maalouf.
When asked about the dozens of high-profile interviews he has conducted,
Karam speaks with real fondness for his guests. I leave each interview
with tears in my eyes because I know that such moments cannot be relived,
he said. He remembers four interviewees in particular: the Dalai Lama,
whose compassion was so powerfully transformative that Karam says he came
away from the interview a brand new person; the French singer
Charles Aznavour, who helped Ricardo see that success is enhanced by personal
will power; the Swiss-Lebanese Nicolas Hayek, who revived the Swiss watch
industry and helped Ricardo to see that our biggest opponent is
ourselves; and finally, the Lebanese-French writer Amin Maalouf,
who helped Ricardo realize that the road to freedom is not determined
by a persons roots as much as by the road they choose.
Ricardo currently keeps busy with his own Beirut-based production and
marketing company, RK Productions. He has also written two books. The
first, Recontres Privilégiées (Privileged Encounters), was
published in 2000, and is a compilation of his best interviews on Maraya.
His second book, Le Paris Libanais (The Lebanese Paris), was published
in 2005, and explores the Lebanese community in Paris from the beginning
of the civil war in 1975 to the present day. This large volume of some
600 pages including many photographs depicts the energy, faith, and creativity
of the Lebanese expatriate population and their will to succeed against
all odds. In addition, Ricardo has two new books in the works.
Ricardo recently founded The Olive Branch Awards to encourage,
reward excellence in the Arab World. A lover of the arts,
Ricardo surrounds himself with beauty. His exquisitely decorated Gemmayze
apartment reflects both his perfectionism and his love of art. As in his
professional life, there is a perfect balance of paintings, art pieces,
and books that express his passions and reflect his soul. I love
paintings, Ricardo says, noting that he buys a lot of paintings
and books. He generally reads several books at onceusually a mixture
of novels, political non-fiction, literature, and philosophy. I
buy from airports and bookstores alike, he said. Some are
for my professional advancement, others for my own personal fulfillment.
Karams discipline, perseverance, hard work, and organizational skills
are most certainly at the root of his professional success. They have
also been important to his personal development. He says that he learned
to limit his social engagements so he could keep up with his love of reading
and music. Every day, he goes for a run and plays tennis, activities that
give him peace of mind and help him to maintain balanceeven
when his passions threaten to carry him away.
Ricardo modestly waves off taking all the credit for his success. Destiny
plays a major role in your life, he says, Every person I worked
with helped me a lot.