Countdown - 8 days until the end of winter:
With a side of denim:
Omar Sharif Jr.
Photo by M. Sharkey for OUT Magazine
The grandson of legendary Doctor Zhivago actor Omar Sharif has been the face of Coca-Cola for the Arabic world (2006) as well as a Calvin Klein model for a major print campaign in Egypt (2008). But last year he made a bold move when he published a letter in The Advocate, in which he came out as gay AND half-Jewish. He went on to castigate Egypt’s government for denying its citizens basic human rights.
From The Advocate:
“I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being. But I can’t.
And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.”
The Jerusalem Post noted that Sharif's Jewish heritage comes from his mother's side, making him fully Jewish according to rabbinical tradition. His maternal grandparents are Jewish Holocaust survivors, Muslim tradition, however, is patrilineal, meaning the faith is passed down via the father. Omar Jr. was born in Montreal (1983) with the given name Omar Joseph El Sharif.
“That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?
...While to many in Europe and North America mine might seem like trivial admissions, I am afraid this is not so in Egypt. I anticipate that I will be chastised, scorned, and most certainly threatened. From the vaunted status of Egyptian actor and personality, I might just become an Egyptian public enemy.
And yet I speak out because I am a patriot.
I am a patriot who remembers a pluralistic Egypt, where despite a lack of choice in the political sphere, society comprised a multitude of beliefs and backgrounds. I remember growing up knowing gay men and women who were quietly accepted by those around them in everyday society.”
Mr. Sharif left Egypt in January, 2011, just before the revolution, and today resides in Los Angeles, where he studies at The Lee Strasberg Institute of Theatre and Film. He has since made appearances across the US in some of the most reputable stand up comedy houses.
Omar Jr. holds a Master's degree in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Queen's University. Fluent in English, French, Hebrew, Arabic and Yiddish, he also speaks conversational Spanish. In 2011, he was selected to be the lone male trophy presenter at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, during which he participated in a comedic sketch with Kirk Douglas, the two men grappling over a cane.