Inspirational Souls is excited to have just completed our first year of the Inspirational Interview Series, No Wonder You Were Afraid to Ask. This series was built on our desire to share Inspirational people with the world. The series began with our friends and family, then extended to the amazing pool of awesome humans we’ve connected with online. We are so stoked to bring you the amazing actress, screenwriter, and overall beautiful Earthling, Reem Kadem to kick off our second year of spotlighting our amazing fellow humans. We hope you enjoy this intimate and intelligent interview with a wonderful and empowered woman. Prepare to be Inspired!
Where were you raised?
I was born in San Diego, California, which is a wonderful place to grow up. It’s a grounded place to be, it’s beautiful, and there are a lot of really great people there. I certainly grew up in an environment that had a different set of expectations for where my future would go, but I’ve always been a passionate soul that believed in following your heart, and I felt like there was a bigger calling for my life that went beyond what was conventional. I have always loved my culture, however, I knew my path was going in a different direction than what was “standard”.
Can you tell us a little more about your background and how that has conflicted with your endeavors?
I come from a background of tradition and expectation, and my family expected that I would go on to become a doctor or a lawyer… I’m Iraqi and grew up for the majority of my life in the upper echelon area of La Jolla, which is known as “the gem” in Spanish. Gorgeous… And of course, there is a lot of love and respect among my family’s friends and me, who have known me for years since I was a little girl, some since I was born. My family has wanted me to follow their thinking more, and walk the straight line. I was born an artist and that is certain. It can be a tough tug of war, but one that you must pull for in the end, if this means the life of your soul versus the death of it. It chose me, as they say, I didn’t choose it.
What do you feel has helped you succeed?
I believe what has helped me in my journey is a combination of things. Determination is one of them. I think that people can possess a lot of talent, but they may not have the necessary drive to get them where they need to be. I think work ethic goes hand in hand with that, it’s one thing to keep that positive mindset and motivation, but it’s also another thing, to put in the work, day in and day out. I’m always working toward my career and finding ways I can re-create and further it. Giving all your focus and skills to the work is a key element. I’ve trained for years and when I give to my work, I give 100% of myself, so I also think that is essential to one’s success.
We all have different capabilities – practicing your craft and putting forth the utmost passion is everything. Surrounding yourself with those who lift you up is just as important. I’m grateful that there have been some significant mentors/confidants in my life who have been there for me, and who have kept my head high during the more difficult times. I’ve also known the power of manifesting one’s dreams, and when this is combined with knowingness, action, and consistency, you are bound to have a formula for success.
Where do you live currently?
I live in Los Angeles, California, as I pursue my career as an actress and screenwriter. I got my degree in screenwriting at Cal State Northridge which was part of the motivation that also helped me move to LA, along with the first drive, which was my acting career. It’s definitely the place to be to go after film and television.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about my art, certainly – acting and writing. I love all kinds of motivational speakers, quotes, being able to pass that on to others… Spreading laughter. I love making people laugh. Love — and what that can do for the world, true friendship, traveling, dining at restaurants, hiking, bike riding, dancing, accomplishing goals, good wine, good movies, good conversation, good music. I guess that’s a few things right there, but most importantly, how I can make a difference in the world through the art, and through this calling.
What are you especially proud of?
I think on a personal front, I’m proud of always wanting to see the best in people. I think with all the road bumps in life, that can be especially difficult, but somehow, my brain operates in such a way, that I don’t wish to harbor negative thoughts toward people. I may feel hurt. I may feel disappointed. I may cry it out, sometimes a lot. But, when it comes to my heart, I’m not a mean spirited person, even when someone chooses to be toward me. I won’t let someone walk all over me, don’t get me wrong. I can be a bold, fierce woman, but I am not a person who antagonizes, and I’m thankful that I’m wired that way.
Professionally speaking, I would say, especially with the obstacles of having to fight for the dream of this career path, I’m proud that I spent over 4 months studying Malayalam to star in “Nawal the Jewel” and actually ended up speaking it on set, on a sync sound set, which was considered historical as an American who had never known the language, and most importantly of the work I did in this film, in honor of the woman whom it is inspired by, Reyhaneh Jabbari.
Reyhaneh was hanged in 2014 by the government of Iran for defending her life against an officer who tried to rape her, and she was sentenced to death. There was an international cry to save her life, by The United Nations, Amnesty International and many more. This is a calling card, for her and all the women who have suffered injustice in this world, particularly with today’s climate.
I recently began talking with her mother Shole, which has been quite emotional, for her and for me. She and I are about to work together in helping build on this greater movement for women around the world. The fact that I was received so greatly in the film by the Indian audiences and by some of their biggest press, meant the absolute world to me. I’m also proud that our film “Blood Ride” that I starred in with James Franco, just won Best Ohio Feature Film. What that re-affirmed to me most of all, was a sign, that I am on the right path, and it holds great weight when you’re applauded by the industry that you wish to excel in. It’s such an honor and brings me great joy to know the work I’m creating is being embraced, from that little girl who used to watch movies and wonder: What if? To having it become a reality. What a beautiful feeling.
What would you like others to take from this in your journey of going against the grain?
I say, keep on with your dream, and like I said to my family, about being a doctor or a lawyer… “I’ll play one on TV.” You must follow your calling in life, even if it means working double time to go for it, that is the only way you can serve others wholly, by loving yourself enough to fulfill your destiny, as opposed to operating from fear. Go after your dreams. All the way.
You started acting consistently at 14. But did you ever have people approach you before that, or did the world give you signs that you were meant to do this prior?
It’s funny you ask that. I was just thinking about this story the other day, and I haven’t really shared it publicly, I don’t think ever… I know for instance Denzel Washington and John Travolta have stories of fortunes being told to them, that they would become famous one day.
First of all, I never did this for the fame and fortune. I did this because I had an undying need in my soul to pursue it. But years and years ago, my father came home one day, and he owns a financial service industry, so people solicit his business all the time with offers etc. I’ll never forget because he walked in the door, and he was almost flustered by it, it was like, he didn’t really want to share the news. At the time, I had expressed my love for acting. I had done a play in 4th grade playing one of the mice in “Cinderella” and even following that, in Catholic School, I was always trying to find ways to perform, for the Christmas Shows and such. I had been sought out to model as a little girl as well, but my mother wouldn’t let me at the time, I was very young. Anyhow, he had this glazed look on his face, and he said a fortune teller came to his business that day. He isn’t one to engage in that type of stuff, but she insisted to read for him, and he gave in. He told my mom, my siblings and me that she said to him, “One of your kids will be known to the world one day.” Then my siblings and I laughed and everyone competed to say who it was going to be, even though we all knew I was the actor of the family. When my film in India happened, and the billboards were up, then the Franco film arose, and my life started to take that turn… I couldn’t help but think of that fortune teller. It’s something I haven’t really shared, I guess because it didn’t feel fitting to reveal it, but once it started to manifest, it was surreal to recall that. That memory has stayed with me forever.
What has helped you most to learn the importance of tolerance?
I went to Catholic school and I always wanted to be “popular”… I felt that I didn’t quite get the opportunity to fit in the latter part of grade school and middle school. I would say, that looking back, this taught me a tremendous deal about tolerance, and it was a catapulting fate for me, to be treated in such a way. It developed me into an old soul fast. In fact, I became very close to my 5th grade teacher, Linda Mashburn, who became a mentor to me in life, and still is my dear friend and mentor today.
I believe I was meant to carry tolerance forward and show others the way not only through art in empathizing with all kinds of roles and people, but as a human being, it has shaped me so much as a citizen in society, with who I am today, and how I look at others. I guess, when you are not tolerated, which we have all experienced in some way, it is a test of our character, not when we are at our highest, but at our lowest, how we choose to act, and how we allow that to empower us, and in effect, empower others.
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What is your latest interview to date before this one that we can share with the public?
I just did an interview promoting my feature film “Nawal the Jewel” – and in it, I talk about acting and life altogether – which can be seen through Sanna Khan’s Youtube Channel – World SannaKhan – Where Bollywood Meets Hollywood.
What else are you up to these days?
Been working in TV more recently, working on getting a couple projects off the ground and writing a true story script, which has been coming along great.
I’m one of the founding members of an organization called Women Creating Change in Hollywood, and we have been working toward our upcoming launch event which will be happening this coming Saturday November 18th. It will be a groundbreaking event for women in the industry to come together and build relationships, particularly those of the MENA region, in exploring their artistic voices, and connecting with all women, so that we may build bridges and break barriers.
I am also launching a script consultation business soon to help mainly aspiring and working writers – while also offering talent consultation with things like a press package for any artists/professional that may seek to promote themselves most effectively. The business is called ScReemPlay Services, and there will be more to come on that soon.
Here are Reem’s answers to our BONUS questions.
What do you think is the meaning of life?
I believe that the meaning of life comes down to how you handle the physical world and its obstacles, by rising above through your higher spirit. It’s how you give meaning to things. It’s knowing, that overall, you’re creating what’s in front of you.
It’s a test of humanity. It’s experiences. It’s your ability to grow. It’s how genuine you are to yourself and to others, how many lives you’ve touched, what you did to make an impact in the world, through life and through your calling, how much you gave to others, how much you loved and how deeply you felt.
Do you believe in past lives?
You know, it’s fascinating to me, especially being that India is so dear to me – it’s like a second home for my heart. As a whole, they tend to believe in that. I say, it’s possible, yes. I’m not opposed to the concept. We are souls inside of these bodies.
I’ve known people and have experienced relationships where I felt like I’ve known them and we had barely talked. It’s like hitting it off with a person so quick and building a deep bond – it happens almost instantly. What is that? Like you feel as close to them as you would if you know them your whole life. So there is something to be said about that, I think. That’s happened to me a few times, on different levels.
What makes you cry?
Seeing people’s dreams come true, especially like, if I see someone belt it out on America’s Got Talent or something and it just blows everyone away, and they know, their life just changed in that moment, that just kills me. I ball like a baby, I guess because I can relate so much to that feeling. A lot of things make me cry though. People I love, songs, past memories. That’s a specific one though that hits me hard.
What do you think is the key to a healthy relationship?
I think the key to a healthy relationship is the balance of give and take and the purity of intention. When you show your concern and your desire to be there for a person, without wanting anything in return, that’s a beautiful thing. I think you need to watch people’s behavior too, and let that speak. Like Oprah Winfrey says, “Let people show you who they are.” You can’t just continue to run after someone in your vulnerability, when it continues to hurt you. You must allow others to show you their love in return. It cannot only be you. That’s not give and take. That’s you giving and the other neglecting, and that’s a form of emotional abuse. It’s something many people can easily fall into, not matter the relationship, whether it be parent/child, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friends, etc. It’s not right, and you should love yourself enough, not to allow it.
Sometimes we open our hearts so big, we can blind ourselves with our love for others, that we neglect ourselves. That’s not okay. People who truly love you, won’t neglect you in the end. It goes the other way around too, when trying to control everything in a person’s life.
It’s important to put your foot down with yourself when you know you have to draw that line, even if it’s to recharge your soul for a moment. It can be hard to confront at times, but indirectly, that sort of behavior can exist in a lot of relationships.
Regardless of that, I feel that communication can solve almost anything. The ability to communicate effectively with the correct gradient in any given dynamic, can turn pretty much any situation around. As long as both parties recognize that it is from the heart, and they are not out to hurt that other person intentionally, as long as there is true love there, pretty much all things can work themselves out. I’m talking about the closest of relationships. There are all sorts of dynamics, some are business and remain there, but when it comes to business too, being genuine, showing respect, give and take, intention, it’s all relative, just in different capacities.
If you won the lottery what 5 things would you do first?
I would finance and star in a movie with top talents I wish to work with (Meryl Streep, as the first). I would take a travel buddy and go on a huge trip to see more of India, Europe, and a bunch of places around the world, wining, dining and exploring. I would get a couple of new cars and a beautiful three-story home in Los Angeles. I would invest in other big real estate and possibly a restaurant or two because I’m a foodie. I would also would want to give back and donate to the right foundations, and see how I could do more to help others in the world.
What is the scariest thing about growing old?
I think a scary thing about growing old is mainly two things: (and my parents can laugh at this one) the first being, finding that partner and best friend in your life, and for me, I believe in true love and only that. I’m a total hopeless romantic! Straight outta the movies… Notting Hill, When Harry Met Sally, Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding… That’s me. So I need to find a man who will fulfill that for me to the fullest otherwise I can’t settle for anything less. Second, it’s making sure you’ve accomplished all of your main goals in life, still though, for the life I’ve lived so far, I am happy and grateful for what I’ve accomplished, even though I have yet to scratch the scratch of the scratch.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as someone who helped make the world a better place, who made others laugh, who inspired humanity toward better, who uplifted people when they were in the dark, who touched people with my work as an actress and writer, who did what they said they would do, who was pure of intention, who practiced what they preached, in spreading love and treating others as they wish to be treated…
And yes, of course. I’d love to win an Oscar. I’d love to have a thread of Meryl Streep’s career. I’ll die happy if I can accomplish that on a professional front – and not because of the Oscar alone, but because of what it means to gain the highest achievement in your field in the same league of your heroes… If that’s not a reason to ball, I don’t know what is.
Do you hate anyone? Why?
I don’t believe in hatred in the sense that it harbors toxicity for yourself. I feel pity for those who are mentally ill, that’s for sure. I look at it more in that way. My hating them doesn’t change the outcome of their actions or who they are. I am not a hateful person by nature. I think we should all try to practice peace on a daily basis.
What is your definition of sexy?
My definition of sexy is someone who is purely genuine and authentic, and you can see it in their whole being. They just are who they are – they’re present, and they exude this magnetic vibe to them that draws people in, because of their intention and truth. They’re not afraid to laugh at themselves and with others, they have a sense of humor and heart… and I think that goes along with owning who you are, being a passionate soul, which makes you vulnerable, which makes you relatable and accessible. It’s someone who’s understanding – who shows sympathy, who goes as far as showing empathy, who allows people to see their true soul. It’s why some of our greatest actors are so loved and admired – why people flock to go see them in theaters because their realness is so present. That, to me, is the ultimate sexy.
Do you think bullying is avoidable or that it should be just accepted as part of a right of passage? Where does it come from?
This hits a cord in me, because I was bullied growing up, specifically from 4th to 6th grade, I would actually come home crying all the time, and all I wanted was to feel accepted for who I was. It happened in different ways even after that period, when I first attended my high school as well, it was a rich kid’s school… Kids can be mean. Guys try to get with you, and when you’re not that type of girl, suddenly, you’re not “cool”. Stuff like that. I was so focused on theater though. People ironically knew who I was soon into being in high school because I would be on stage all the time, and the whole school would come to watch our previews.
I think that kids and people in general need to speak up when it’s happening – so that the bully(ies) can be stopped. I feel that the root of all bullying comes from an insecurity within oneself. I would think at times, that it starts with how one is raised and how that person operates with love – whether they are feeling they get enough of it. However, I’ve seen people deal with a hell of a lot of abuse, and they turn out to be terrific human beings. So ultimately, I think it’s the meaning we give to the environment and the events of our lives – how we wish to let it overpower or empower us.
I feel that bullies are basically people looking for attention and glory in the most negative way, but they just need that boost for themselves because they have low self-esteem of who they are. That’s psychology 101, after having seen it first-hand. I won’t allow people to bully me anymore when it comes to allowing people into my circle, I just step away from it. Back in school, it was one thing, but I find if I run into it in my adult life, it’s mainly because that person feels threatened. I can see it from a mile away, it’s toxic behavior, and it’s not acceptable for anyone to have to put up with it. Usually, the person bullying won’t ever accept that as true, unless the truly grow. Still, I am always one to give people the benefit of the doubt.
One thing I’m grateful for is my forgiving nature. I look at the whole picture, I look at the intention, and I weigh things out when looking at people and circumstances. I don’t hold grudges either. I think in the end, we are all fighting our own battles, and sometimes, people take longer or work their whole lives to get to a heightened level of awareness that you may possess, in respect to your ability to relating and communicate with people. I think a big one too is validation. Everyone wants to feel validated, everyone wants to matter… Studies have shown, that gaining validation and giving it, is one of the biggest formulas in your journey toward success.
So in the end, we all handle things differently, but if we can come from a place of understanding, rather than defense, I think human relationships as a whole would benefit tremendously. Understanding is pretty much, the key to the kingdom.