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In Bahrain, veiled models preferred

Commercial TV managers turn to local talent

BAGHDAD — Veiled means added value in Bahrain, according to commercial TV managers.

“Veiled women are preferred to nonveiled ones because they reflect the reality in the Gulf,” Ali Bahr, commercial development manager at a Bahrain TV production company told Al-Arabiya satcaster.

Local companies, he said, are increasingly turning to local talent for their advertising campaigns.

Bahr said his company, which has shot 50 commercials this year already, pays between $130 and $3,000, depending on the model’s experience. Veiled Bahraini models can earn double to triple what their foreign sisters pull in.

Unlike in Saudi Arabia, where it is difficult to lure women models before the cameras, female talent is favored and nourished in Bahrain, said Bahr.

It is easier, he added, to find models when the commercial is related to a governmental or social organization.

“We are a well-known and professional organization,” said Bahr. “We usually film during the day, and generally our productions are more conservative than TV drama,” he added.

Al-Arabiya cited one model, Mariam Hamad, who works in the Bahraini Ministry of Health, as saying she accepted the role of a doctor in a commercial for a newspaper because it “resonated culturally.”

“I took the offer because the producers said they want someone with Bahraini features and because the subject of the commercial is meaningful and decent,” Hamad told AlArabiya.net.   Once the billboards hit the streets, however, Hamad was flooded with phone calls — an equal number encouraging or disapproving her very public face.

“My mom found out later. In the beginning, she did not object, but later she changed her mind when my brothers disapproved and one of them gave me the silent treatment for days,” she said.

Outside the commercial industry, veiled presenters have recently begun to appear on television.

Manager designate of Bahraini TV Fawzia Zanil told Al-Arabiya that Bahraini women are generally conservative, which is why most women who appear on TV are veiled.

Many families hold conservative views about their daughters’ appearance in the media, Zanil added.

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