Who is Mena Massoud?
By: Nana Osei/Arab America Contributing Writer
Who is Mena Massoud? The star of the new Disney movie hit Aladdin of this year is now in the spotlight. Arabs all over the US and overseas are talking about his amazing performance. They’re proud that he has stuck to his Arab roots while allowing the movie to do so also. However, there is more to Mena than just Aladdin. He’s an amazing and diverse individual.
Mena Massoud was born in Cairo Egypt on the day of September 17, 1991. He is the youngest of three with two older sisters. At the young age of 3 Mena and his family immigrated to Canada. There he lived in Markham Ontario. He went to high school at St. Brother André Catholic High School. This is due to the fact that he was raised by Coptic Orthodox Christian parents.
Interestingly, Mena still holds on to his Egyptian background and childhood. He even brings it into his career as he has quoted about how the movie Aladdin relates to his Egyptian background. In an interview, he said the movie was, “a very positive depiction of where we came from.” He has also talked about how the original cartoon resonates with him greatly. In a phone interview with the New York Times, he explains this.
When asked if he loved the movie growing up, Mena stated, “Yeah, he’s one of the only characters that I could relate to on a cultural level. I have two older sisters. They had it on at the house before I could even walk, so I grew up with it in my childhood in a big way.”
From an early age, Mena knew he wanted to be an actor. Ever since he was a child, he would reenact scenes from popular movies. Of course, you know he even did Aladdin!
As stated before, Mena Massoud went to St. Brother André Catholic High School located in Markham, Ontario, Canada as a young adult. The school is based on grades 9 to 12 and even includes religious studies in its curriculum. Mena Massoud is known to be a notable alumnus there and has recognition. He even went back this year to give an inspirational message to the teens of his hometown.
In high school, Mena was known for his great acting. According to his former drama teacher, Dori Elliott, Mena Massoud had an exceptional ability to perform any role he was given with great talent. In an interview Dori Elliott, a proud supporter of her former student said, “He sort of flew under the radar until he got up to work. And at that point, he was like a force of nature. He was volcanic.”
Mena went to the University of Toronto for a year. During that time, he chose to study neuroscience contrary to an amazing gift for performance and acting. The University of Toronto is ranked among the top schools in North America. It can even compete with Ivy leagues in terms of academic prowess and scores.
However, Mena Massoud couldn’t give up on his dream. He transferred to Ryerson University after a year into their theatre performance program. Mena Massoud stated about this experience during his inspirational speech stating, “I put in my time, I worked hard and I followed my dreams. So, whatever it is that you guys want to do in your life, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, because you can.”
Mena has been in many films and television shows before his recent debut in Aladdin. He first got his chance to shine on the ABC Spark and Teen Nick’s mystery-drama television series “Open Heart” as “Jared Malik.” He has been in other films and shows such as, “Combat Hospital,” “King” on Showcase, “Masters in Crime,” “Ordinary Days,” and “Saving Hope” on CTV. Currently one of his biggest career achievement outside Alladin is his role in hit show “Tom’s Clancy’s Jack Ryan” in which he stars as “Tarek Kassar.”
In 2018 he first announced that he had earned the role of the live action film “Aladdin” directed by Guy Ritchie. He sent his acting tapes twice just to get past the online casting. He had to go against over 2,000 other actors in auditions to get the part. Mena deserved his role in Aladdin, not only because of his extravagant performance but, because he allowed the film to show the true cultural representation of Arab culture.
Something that many people may not know is that Mena Massoud is vegan. It also plays a huge part in his identity and his daily life. He made this lifestyle change at the age of 26. In an interview with Esquire, he recalls his mother’s reaction saying, “I’d told her [earlier that day] that I’d wanted to transition into a plant-based lifestyle so I was giving up eating meat. I think she thought I was joking so she kept trying to call my bluff!”
Mena Massoud has even integrated his identity as a vegan into his career. He owns his own vegan business called Evolving Vegan. The goal of this company is to promote the vegan lifestyle and to get people to give it a try. Mena stated in an interview with LiveKindly, “I wanted to create a community and lifestyle brand that encouraged people to evolve vegan and move in that direction. I want the public to try their hardest and do their best to eliminate animal products from their life. To begin the process. I think there is a benefit anytime anyone reduces their animal intake and their environmental impact.” Mena Massoud has earned respect for his tenacity and drive for his vegan lifestyle. You can find out more about Evolving Vegan here.
Currently, Mena Massoud is soon to be starring in a Hulu Dramatic thriller called the Reprisal. He also has planned to make a show for his company, Evolving Vegan, in which he travels around the world promoting various vegan dishes and restaurants. Regardless of what Mena chooses to do next; he already earned the respect and love from people of the world.