Name: Paula Yacoubian Harb
Date of Birth: April 4th, 1976
Occupation: Interviewer on prime time program on Future TV, acclaimed journalist, media trainer, political strategist, and CEO of Integrated Communications
Acclaimed Lebanese journalist, Paula Yacoubian, plunged into the political scene many years ago. With a knack for asking the most probing questions, she has interviewed an extensive and impressive list of politicians from not only Lebanon, but from around the world. Appearing on television at the young age of 17, she explains to Fit'n Style how she got her first break in the media, how passionate she is about politics, and how the most important part of her life is unequivocally her young son.
When and where did you get your first break in television?
I read my first news bulletin at 17 years of age at ICN. I had no experience at the time and was planning on studying nutrition at AUB. While visiting a friend at ICN one day, I was asked to do a screen test. I said I was 21 years old and studying political science! Once I had my foot in the door, and basically had their approval, I told them the truth, and at that point, it didn't matter anymore.
You were so young and still in high school when you began your career. How did you manage to advance into the media world?
At only 17 years old, I was actually approached by The Guinness Book of Records! They thought I may be the youngest person to ever read the news. I applied - but at that time - they didn't have a category specifically for 'news bulletins' and there had been younger anchors in the past. I had short hair at the time, I looked older for my age, and they liked the tone of my voice. I studied extensively for months to perfect my Arabic! I had a boost in my self confidence when the President of ICN complimented me on both my work and my Arabic. I used to work 7 days a week - even though I didn't have to - simply because I love TV and wanted to work hard.
Do you find it challenging in your line of work being a woman?
Yes. Being a woman is challenging, especially in Lebanon, and in this field in particular. You have many opportunities in Lebanon when you are a woman, but you don't climb up the ladder easily. When you are young and going for a serious position, they start fighting you. In Lebanon, this means talking about subjects that are inappropriate and not related to your job - just to undermine what you are doing. This hurts and it comes from men and women alike. If women don't help one another, we will go nowhere. There is always a price to pay and I have no problem paying it.
Who has been a role model for you within the media?
Christiane Amanpour! I like how she managed her career: she was first a field journalist, and then after years of covering stories from all over the world, became a news desk anchor, and then finally had her own show. I did everything the other way around! I was only 19 when I had a prime time show. I would have done a better job if I took it one step at a time as she did.
What is the secret to a successful interview?
Asking the right probing questions and listening for cues to take you in another interesting direction. Plus, you have to do your research!! If you have a decision maker who is willing to give you some news - this makes for a good political interview. In regards to 'analysts,' you must dig to find something new to talk about. Timing of an interview is also crucial in regards to the political climate in the country.
Who would you say has been one of your favorite people to interview?
George W. Bush. I interviewed him in 2005 in the Oval Office when Lebanon was a top priority in Washington and the Cedar Revolution had taken place. It was a great opportunity for me. He was very interested in knowing more about Lebanon as well. When the cameras were off, we spoke for about 40 minutes. He was very interested and asked about many key figures such as Walid Jumblatt; he asked about what he does...he also asked about the Druze and who they were.
Any funny situations ever occur during an interview?
For sure! I have been in situations with friends that I am interviewing and we get the giggles due to an inside joke. It definitely happens on occasion.
C'est la vie…
How do you define your life?
A mixture of many things. Basically it boils down to work, work, work, and my lovely 8 year old son Paul. It is a very busy, often crazy, lifestyle. I travel a lot and try to spend as much time as I can with my son.
What is your biggest fear?
I can handle just about anything, but I fear sickness and death when it comes to my loved ones.
What gives you the most pleasure in life?
My son Paul.
What is your motto in life?
To live everyday like it might be your last.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Sure I have regrets. I regret that I may have hurt certain people in the past unintentionally. I regret maybe not being there enough at times for those I care about.
Who has touched you most deeply in your life?
My father. I was only 9 when he died and he left a big impact on me. He was a genocide survivor and the son of a Prince in Armenia. He had walked through the desert, he almost starved to death, he lived in an orphanage. He tried to make the best out of life and didn't feel any hatred. If he was alive today, he would have been 101 years of age.
When did you know you were talented?
Till today, I doubt that I am talented and compensate by working hard. I am very critical of myself; I don't like to watch myself on TV and always see where I could have done better. I like myself as a guest... but not as the interviewer.
What did you study in school?
I did end up studying political science in the end! The opposite sex…
What is the first thing that you notice in the opposite sex?
Sense of humor.
What is the most irritating trait for you in the opposite sex?
Not knowing how to take a joke, not smiling, and being too serious.
What do you think is the sexiest trait in the opposite sex?
A nice muscular body!
Do you believe in love at first sight?
NO! Not even the second or third sight! Attraction yes, love no way.
What is the last thing you do before sleeping?
Check my emails and read news websites!
How do you keep in shape?
I don't follow a rigorous workout routine. I like to bike ride, play tennis, and play football with my son when we have the time.
Do you follow a certain type of diet?
NO...I pretty much eat everything. I am trying to pay attention to my calorie intake however, and trying to focus on portion control. I love food!
Do you have any other hobbies?
I love to read - especially political books.
When you have spare time on your hands, what do you like to do?
If I have any spare time on my hands, I prefer to spend it with Paul. We love to go to the movies and travel when we can.
Are you very selective in the brands or types of clothes that you wear?
No, I wouldn't say I am very selective. I love a good bargain too! My favorite brand would have to be Antonelle. I wear this French brand on television all the time. The simpler the better.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
It's a matter of doing whatever it takes to make the time for both! It could mean working late at night when my son is sleeping...and making time to pick him up from school.
Who is your favorite author?
I like Amin Maalouf and am very proud of his work. I also like Alexandre Najjar.
What is your favorite show to watch on TV ?
I like to watch Kalam El Nass and The Voice.
What is your favorite type of food?
I love fish and sushi.
What is your favorite sport?
Do you have a favorite perfume?
Prada Infusion de Fleur D'Oranger.
Where is your favorite place to travel?
I prefer the islands... Maldives, Thailand... anywhere with white, sandy beaches.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Iron Lady. I love to watch biographies.
Do you have a favorite watch brand?
What is your favorite snack?
Chocolate chip cookies!
Do you have a favorite quote?
The slogan for my company Integrated Communications: Maximize your message... Make yourself heard.
Do you have a favorite singer or band?
I like Adele and Amy Winehouse.
Favorite actor and actress?
Angelina Jolie - simply for her fantastic humanitarian work.
What beauty product can you not live without?
How important is money to you?
Money is important to pay the expenses we are faced with today in Lebanon, and it is necessary to put your child in a good school. I am very thankful.
What makes you cry?
I cried recently when my son's teacher told me what a good boy he is. I cried with pride.
As a child, what did you dream of becoming?
Famous - I think everyone has that dream.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
I can't remember a piece of advice passed on to me; however the advice I give to others in this field is to stay modest and nice, and always listen to what others have to say...even if you think you know better.
What are your future plans?
I am working on my company Integrated Communications. We offer communication strategies and training for parties, we do speech writing, we organize press conferences...
Do you have any dreams?
My dreams are for Lebanon - I dream of a better country, more awareness, and less Secretarianism - so we can survive. I love Lebanon and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
What challenges do you face in your career?
To score every week - you're only as good as your last show. So the challenge I face is to keep on climbing and succeeding with good interviews. It's an ongoing battle and I must be prepared to deal with criticism.
What do you believe is the key to success?
Working hard and truly enjoying what you do.