Yasmine Al Massri stars in ABC’s latest series Quantico, where she acts as gutsy identical Muslim twins Nimah and Raina Amin, training to be secret agents.
Yasmine Al Massri may lead a glamorous lifestyle now, but this hasn’t always been the case. Born in Lebanon to a Palestinian father and Egyptian mother, her childhood memories are filled with hardship and adversity. Having had the refugee status branded on her as soon as she was born because of her Palestinian origin, Al Massri’s family was denied Lebanese citizenship, as well as basic human rights. Through enormous sacrifices, her family was able to send her to school in Lebanon, despite the obstacles that stood in her way. She then went on to study in Paris and graduated from L’Ecole des Beaux Arts de Paris in 2007.
It was in the same year that she made her first on screen appearance in the Lebanese LGBT themed dramatic comedy Caramel and ever since that opportunity came along, her successful career has been on the rise. In May this year, she became a naturalised US citizen and posted a selfie with Mercedes Mason on Twitter, captioned as “Sorry Donald Trump, we both just became American”.
Although she is surrounded by glitz and glamour, Al Massri has never forgotten her roots and struggles as a refugee. She has continuously used her star status to bring attention to those who need it the most.
This summer she was a speaker at the United Nations’ commemoration of World Humanitarian Day. At this conference, she used her own experiences to raise awareness about the thousands of refugees worldwide that have been caught in deadly conflicts, emphasising the need of humanitarian aid and political pressure to make a difference.
The actor opened up about how she feels when politicians in America speak critically of refugees that are simply trying to escape horrifying conditions and flee to safety. She revealed that it makes her feel deeply sad and frustrated because she can’t do anything about their ignorance. In an interview to Glamour, she disclosed: “In my opinion, those politicians are making decisions based on calculations related to polling numbers and strategic political agendas. But if they are to talk about refugees in a human way—far from how this would affect their careers or individual comforts—and if they, for a second, look at a mother, sitting on a road somewhere, holding her children, shivering with cold, and crying because they are hungry, I’m sure there is a part of their humanity that would shiver.”
Being a refugee herself
She recalled her experience as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon. Her grandfather fled Palestine in 1848 and ever since her family has been denied Lebanese citizenship. Due to this, they didn’t have access to social security, medical care, and public school services. The Palestinian refugees are also not allowed to own property, meaning they cannot build with cement. The only unit that helped refugees survive was the United Nations’ relief services. Her father couldn’t go to school and worked fixing cars since he was seven, so the fact that he was able to send his children to work was a big deal.
Yasmine believes that technology holds a key to easing the many struggles that the refugees face today. She said: “I have met so many people this year that were getting boxes full of toys, clothes, and food and sending them to Greece, to Turkey, to Jordan. The world is not separated anymore. We are not divided. It is very easy to find refugees and help. The information is available and it’s everywhere.” She hopes that by improving public opinion and building communities that share beliefs and want to get together to make a change, the situation will improve for many.
Beyond speaking at the UN, Yasmine wishes to work alongside other humanitarian organisations in the future, but for now, she is focusing on making it her job to wake up every day and do one thing for one person and make them feel better. She says that she doesn’t wait around for opportunities to help others, but rather, she creates such opportunities herself.