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Spring 2007 Vol. V, No. 3

Alumni Profile

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, Karam’s 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 AUB’s 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 person’s 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, promote, and

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 once—usually 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.”

Karam’s 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 balance—even 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.”