Yasma Baalbaki, School News Editor, The Pawprint
Rima Maktabi is a Lebanese TV presenter and an award winning journalist who moved mountains to land where she is today. Her life is a roller coaster, filled with a wide range of emotions varying from fear and terror to excitement and laughter. With every bump and descent Rima faced, she chose to persevere and overcome the challenging obstacles rather than resort to fight or flight responses. Furthermore, thrill is the fuel that drives Rima’s life forward. Electrifying experiences feed Rima’s curiosity and motivate her to stride across the grounds of planet earth with confidence and purpose. All the exhilarating ups and downs of Rima’s personal rollercoaster shaped who she is today and paved the way for her success and international fame. Not only did Rima face challenges in her personal life, but also career wise. The journalism industry can be a very discriminative, physical appearance oriented, stereotyped and mentally demanding field. Rima developed herself and her values through her experiences and succeeded independently.
Rima Maktabi was born on July 4th, 1977 in Beirut, Lebanon. She grew up during the Lebanese civil war which lasted from 1975 to 1990. During the war, the soil of Lebanon drenched in blood and the soul of the people sunk in tears. Rima witnessed her country rip apart and build itself up again with strength, hope and resilience. However, that hope was completely shattered as Lebanon drowned once again between the hands of corrupt officials and angry citizens. On August 4th, 2020, an explosion occurred in the port of Beirut and it completely demolished the city. In fact, Rima Maktabi was in Beirut during the explosion. She watched the fumes destroy her home and take away the Lebanese spirit. Minutes after the blast, Rima tearfully told Al Arabiya, the channel where she works, the following words: “My house is gone I think.”
Rima lived a very tough childhood. On top of the fact that she survived the Lebanese Civil War, she lost her dad when she was 2 years old and was raised by her mother. The entirety of her infancy was reigned by trauma and poverty. However, Rima pursued her education with great passion and big dreams. She attended the Lebanese Evangelical School for Boy & Girls and held her future between her hands. Her dream was to become a Broadcast presenter on TV. That dream was Rima’s one and only purpose. It held her up, empowered her to resist tough situations and provided light at the end of her dark chain of thought.
Rima took her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from Lebanese American University (LAU). At university, Rima studied journalism and international affairs and started off as a weather presenter and a game show host. However, she decided to shift her career in TV from entertainment to broadcast news in pursuit of her childhood dream. Rima started her career in broadcast media at Future TV, a former Lebanese television station. Then, she moved to Al Arabiya news network in 2005; after that, she joined CNN in 2010 to host a show; in November 2012 she moved back to Al Arabiya, the television channel she still works for today.
According to Rima: “A career in media and journalism takes all of you. It is a field that requires full devotion and dedication. This comes at a price which is usually our personal life. Yet, it’s my passion, and if you take me back I would do it again.” Rima worked very hard to succeed. She gave her heart and soul to her career while rebelling against media beauty standards and advocating for her natural self. The journalism industry is tough especially for women as society evaluates the work of women based on their appearance rather than their talent. Nevertheless, these standards didn’t pull Rima down. As she onceone said: “Accuracy, knowledge and truth are at the core, everything else is just an addition.”
On another note, Rima received several awards for her hard work such as: The inaugural 2018 Communication Arts Alumni Award by the Lebanese American University and the Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum award for her July war coverage in 2006. Rima covered and still covers major news and events regarding important leaders and decision making. The heart and soul of her journey as a reporter was based in war zones including Lebanon in 2006, Syria and Iraq.
In the midst of her adulthood and successful career, Rima crossed paths with another obstacle. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor; luckily, the tumor was benign, meaning non cancerous and could be removed with surgery. Rima knew that undergoing brain surgery will most certainly impact her career as well as her well being, but she did it with a positive paradigm. “The day I did my brain surgery I knew that my life had taken a different turn but I also felt very lucky to come out of such a major health challenge with minimal damage. I have learned a lot about my body, how I heal, when to slow down and when to push myself to work harder. I have learned to embrace pain and embrace happy days”, said Rima.
After surgery, Rima lost her voice and had to undergo intensive care to fully recover. As a result, a piece of her identity was gone as she couldn’t use the power of her voice. Her case was just like a soccer player with no leg. As recovery came to an end, Rima started building her life up again and resumed her dream job with passion and purpose. Rima has two brothers, one nephew and two nieces. Moreover, she married the man she loves.
Rima learned the hard way that everything happens for a reason. She is an advocate for change and an influential figure with a unique story. It is important to share stories as such with the world as they show people that nothing is impossible and that it is integral to remain persistent by fighting hard battles. Finally, some words of wisdom from Rima: “Do not be fooled by sparkling images of women on screen — women in journalism face a long, bumpy road.”