“The girl on the bike”, or “the bike singer” was the nickname that Egyptians gave to Ruby, after her first hit song ‘Leih beydary keda’, (Why Does He Hide Like This) where she appeared singing and dancing in a music video that the Egyptian public then deemed sexually provocative. As much as many people loved her performance in the video, Ruby was seen as too bold and caused an unforgettable hype, mainly among the older, considerably more conservative generation.
Ruby, whose actual name is Rania Hussein Muhammad Tawfiq, shyly started her career as a model, and starred in multiple television commercials. She then landed a role in the legendary Youssef Chahine’s film ‘Sokout Hansawar’ (Silence, We are Shooting) in 2001.
In 2003, her debut music video ‘Enta aref leih’ caused a fuss among public opinion because she appeared in a belly-dancing costume, which many thought was inappropriate. Although belly-dancing is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, dancing styles in Egypt, it was looked down upon in her case. Her major hit ‘Leih beydary keda’ hit screens in 2004, cementing her as the singer on the exercise bicycle.
Though there were a few singles she released over the following years, as well as a movie she appeared in, ‘Al Waad’ (The Promise), with Egyptian actors Mahmoud Yassin and Asser Yassin; she also made a glorious appearance on television screens in her role as ‘Reda’ in ‘Segn el nesa’ (Women’s Prison) in 2014. Reda was a young working class woman who suffered from societal inequality and ended up in the women’s prison after a fit of rage where she committed arson. Through this character, Ruby demonstrated a moving performance as a talented actress.
Despite being inactive for a few years, in music releases or television and films, Ruby was never forgotten. On the contrary, people always celebrated her appearance even if only for a few minutes. When actress and presenter Esaad Younis announced that she was one of her guests on the New Year’s eve 2020 episode of ‘Sahibet Al-Saada’, her loyal fans were ecstatic.
In a world where Western and globalized beauty standards pervade, a strong ‘popular’ characteristic of Ruby’s popularity is her capacity to evoke ‘natural Egyptian beauty’. With wide and prominent eyes, attractive facial features, and a tanned skin tone, Ruby has always represented the beauty standards most associate with Egyptian women.
In February 2020, along with Egyptian actors Maged El Kedwany and Ahmed Malek, she appeared in a TV commercial for Molto. Although it was a creative advertisement with a catchy song, she stole the spotlight. The last few seconds of the advertisement, where she danced, kept everyone wondering when she would be back to singing and dancing on screen. Similarly, in Ramadan 2021, she starred next to Egyptian actress Dina El Sherbiny in a commercial for Fresh; her presence in the ad was one of the main reasons for the ad’s success and virality.
There was also a time in December 2019 when the entire country woke up to viral videos of Ruby in a shiny golden dress, dancing on stage, at what seemed like an outdoor party which was later revealed to be the after party of the 2019 Cairo International Film Festival 2019’s closing ceremony. At the time, 20 and 30-year-olds who witnessed Ruby’s rise in early 2000s were delighted to see how she grew more beautiful with age, flaunting the same dance moves that they once fell in love with when they were younger.
This summer, on the other hand, was like a rise back to fame for Ruby. So far, two songs that she released, as part of her mini-album, ‘Hetta tanya’ (Somewhere Else) and ‘Alby plastic’ (My Heart is Plastic), have been playing across all Egyptian weddings and nightclubs this season. Accompanying her successful return are her multiple concerts in Sahel and Alamein – some of the biggest concerts organised this summer- which saw thousands of attendees.
The 39-year-old artist’s fame may not have been granted due to her voice because her voice is generally not considered distinctive, yet, she retains a place in the hearts of millions of Egyptians for her sensuous dance moves, her lively spirit while performing, and her indisputable confidence in her talent.
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