Celebrities finding new Lucrative Markets in the Middle East


By: Hyacinth Mascarenhas

Joining a plethora of other American and international celebrities, these celebrities have found all lucrative ventures in the Middle East market from appearances in openings to promotions and performances.

In November 2012, reality star Kim Kardashian’s appearance at the opening of Millions of Milkshakes in the Avenues Mall in Kuwait and The Walk mall in Bahrain created a fan-frenzy as hundreds of fans gathered to catch a glimpse of the 32-year old celebrity during her first visit to the Middle East.

Not too far behind, Justin Bieber will be making his own debut in the Middle East at the Dubai Stevens Stadium on May 4 where fans as young as 10 years old are thrilled to see the teen pop sensation live in concert.

While fashion designers Giorgio Armani and Donatella Versace have their own luxury hotel developments in the region, other celebrities such as Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan have invested in real estate in the UAE.

But what makes the Middle East market so appealing to international celebrities?

Growing fan base

With about sixty per cent of the region’s population under 30, the Middle East provides for a young and consistently growing fan base for these international celebrities.

The upcoming Justin Bieber concert in Dubai for example is expected to welcome more than 25,000 loyal shrieking fans from all over the world.

“This could be the biggest concert… Justin Bieber was the most requested artist that I have come across in 12 years. He has the most amazing, loyal fan base,” said Thomas Ovesen, COO of the concert organizer DONE Events in a Gulf News article.

As international celebrities consistently grace the covers of magazines in the Middle East, one can only anticipate a positive turnout when the celebrity makes a live appearance.

The UAE’s biggest celebrity magazine and first homegrown celebrity publication, Ahlan! for example, publishes in three versions – A Hollywood version, an Arabic version, and a Bollywood version appealing to a variety of tastes and population demographics craving international celebrity gossip.

New career moves

For some celebrities the chance to perform in a region for the first time is a big career move in itself. For others, entering another international film industry such as Bollywood is an even bigger option to consider.

Wearing traditional Indian garb, American rapper Snoop Dogg’s guest appearance in the Bollywood film “Singh Is Kinng” in 2008 definitely made the West recognize the potential of becoming popular in the East. The singer’s fusion of hip-hop and bhangra in the movie instantly became a hit with the population and stood as an example of the immense success that could follow an East-West collaboration.

According to a Times of India article, the film’s director, Vipul Sharma, said the collaboration not only gave the film “a talking point” but also a successful song, which often times can make or break a Bollywood movie.

Regarding Snoop Dogg’s interest in the West, Sharma said, “I guess he saw one billion fans when he thought of India. After all, the West had begun to realize that India is a tremendous market for hip-hop and rock. Because of the song, those who wouldn’t have known otherwise came to know of Snoop Dogg.”

Similarly, pop star Kylie Minogue was paid a million dollars to sing the song “Chiggy Wiggy,” together with Indian pop star Sonu Nigam in the film “Blue.” Although the song itself got mixed reviews from the audience, the collaboration will continue to open doors for international artists eager to collaborate and tap into Bollywood’s incredible market.

Popular real estate

In addition to providing for a private getaway for celebrities, property developers in the Middle East increasingly look towards American and European celebrities to invest and help attract wealthy consumers as well.

Despite being one of the worst hit markets during the 2008 financial crisis, the real estate industry has been showing some hints of a comeback in 2012 through more efficient regulatory laws and careful development of new projects.

In 2008, Bollywood power couple, Abhishek and Aishwariya Rai Bachchan, snapped up a villa at Sanctuary Falls within Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai at an estimated cost of $5-8 million. The Golf Estates residential and recreational community itself has a star-studded backing by the most famous names in the business namely the ‘Shark’ Greg Norman, world-renowned golf course designer Pete Dye and professional golfer Sergio Garcia.

“Real-estate branding involving global celebrities is here on a scale that doesn’t happen in markets anywhere else,” Blair Hagkull, former managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Middle East unit said in a Wall Street Journal article.  “Celebrity endorsements make sense where they clearly add value to a project and there’s a direct correlation between the celebrity and the development.”





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