Creator Spotlight: Ali Rifai

Image Credit: Waleed Shah x Exhale

The Nobody’s Famous podcast has been making modest waves since it appeared on the scene in 2018 but its team are determined to take things to the next level as they prepare to launch their third season.

The podcast’s co-founder and host, Ali Rifai, spoke with Creativity Undefined from his sequestered residence on Yas Island, where he is balancing podcasting responsibilites and those as project associate for UFC Fight Island.

“It’s been a rather hectic time and while it’s great, it feels like I’m going to sleep for at least a week once [Fight Island] is over,” Ali said, laughing.

Rifai noted that along with working with his team on the podcast’s episodes – they recently wrapped up their Quarantine Session series – things are now shifting into high gear as they reveal the vibrant re-brand of Nobody’s Famous.

“I’m super excited that it’s been received so positively. I was nervous that a few people might [mis] interpret the new logo. Our old logo was nice and gave everyone a ‘safe space’ feeling but I wanted to push our boundaries a little with this,” Ali explained, adding that he had tried to work on rebranding the podcast last year but it didn’t work out.

Pop culture enthusiasts might pick up the inspiration behind the logo but if you’re not quite sure, here’s a hint:

“I worked with Loud Things [a design agency based in Jeddah, KSA] by what Shia LaBeouf did because it reminded me that in the end, we’re all human, we all struggle, have emotions and act because them,” Rami said.

He also noted: “People tend to blame celebrities…saying things like how can they be struggling if they’re so rich? But they have other pressures to deal with like looking perfect all the time and get targeted [for paparazzi]…it’s hard living without any privacy.”

Rifai indicated that he would love to have Shia as a future guest so that they can talk about Shia’s experiences in a relaxed, calm, and open environment.

In the meantime Nobody’s Famous fans can look forward to exciting things in its latest season from guest stars to merch launches.

“We’ve got some great people lined up for season three…we’re kicking it off in a big way with Naser [Al Sughaiyer], the founder of The Human Lab. I find him very fascinating, especially the way he teaches people to be human,” Ali said, excitedly. Rifai also revealed that he was very humbled that Naser approached him to be on the podcast.

“He reached out at the start of the year and said that the show resonated with him…it’s amazing since he’s turned down opportunities, such as TEDx Radio…[Naser] is eccentric but very much in touch with his inner self,” he said.

This is a testament to the efforts of Ali and his team to make guests as comfortable as possible so that they can have a relaxed, personal discussion.

Other notable interviewees include Shawn Chidiac, the man behind My Parents Are Divorced, Lebanese Olympic hopeful Chris Boulos, Shereen Abdulla of Spark! With Shereen, dance troupe No More 1, and more.

“It’s going to be amazing…I’m excited about how diverse our lineup is this season…I’m especially in awe of No More 1 because the members grew up in Abu Dhabi and actually came from the underground rap scene there – something I never knew existed,” Ali laughed.

More exciting news for fans: there’s going to be a full episode featuring co-founder Alex!

“I can’t wait for that episode to come out,” Ali grinned, “Alex has always been behind-the-scenes but now people are going to get to know him properly. It’s going to be a lot of fun too because we’re going to be talking about the video games – our favourite ones and the ones that we grew up with.”

Alex will also take on more hosting activities as he and Ali kick off their own mini-series over the course of the season.

Alex Wheeler. Image Credit: Ali Rifai/Nobody’s Famous

“I try to choose a mix of friends and people that I don’t know so that the conversations will be interesting…creative people who have businesses or who are trying to make a difference so that our listeners can have fun and learn something at the same time,” Ali explained.

He added that despite having more experience these days, he still feels nervous about making sure that everything goes smoothly and that everyone’s comfortable. That’s a far cry from the podcast’s early days.

“I can remember the exact day when I got inspired to do it…I was celebrating my birthday in a lounge in Lebanon when I saw an old university friend. I went up to him and while catching up, I told him the concept for the podcast…he looked at me and said ‘what are you waiting for?'” Ali recalled. The question was the push he needed and Ali soon got in touch with Alex to get things moving.

“I sent a voice note to Alex and said that I’m finally ready to get started and record our first episode but didn’t hear back until a few days later when he sent a video of all the equipment he bought,” Ali laughed as he recalled the ‘your move’ moment.

They quickly realised that there was a lot they had to learn but opted to get started and learn along the way instead of spending time trying to make things as perfectly as possible.

“Alex managed to get us a proper studio for season 2 and we shifted from a more improvisational style to something that’s a bit more structured but at the same time, we also got more personal with our guests. Oh, and we also upgraded our equipment to make Alex’s life a bit easier,” Ali said.

Then came the pandemic, which caused a worldwide shift in everything. The team shifted to organising and recording episodes on Zoom.

“Ideally, one day, we’d love to do live shows but we’re doing the best we can right now…one thing that we’re always grateful for is our supportive fans…we have a small but mighty community…because they’re proof that you don’t have to be famous to matter, which is the show’s philosophy,” Ali said.

He also noted that the indie podcast community as a whole is shifting, and not just because of COVID-19.

“It’s great that podcasts are expanding from being just audio because when you’re creating something, that’s content…you should use all the tools that you’ve got to get your message out there. Each platform, whether YouTube or social media, has its tools and audience, so why not take advantage of that?” Ali said.

He also noted that it’s good to give audiences a choice to interact with shows in their preferred way.

“I’m a visual person, which is why all of our episodes are video-first…I believe that we shouldn’t insult our audience’s intelligence by limiting their choice…the more you give them a chance to immerse themselves in your podcast’s world the better. Plus, when it’s audio-only, people can miss out on expressions and reactions that make the content that much richer,” Ali explained.

Rifai also highlighted that there’s a growing number of indie podcasts in the UAE and across the Middle East that are sharing diverse messages. The trouble is, not a lot of people know about them compared to international or popular ones.

“Anghami [a Middle Eastern streaming platform] launched a dedicated section for podcasts, which is great and and very helpful for us…it is a step in the right direction but much more is needed to offer our community the chance to grow…but I’m hopeful that things will look up in the future,” Ali said.

Follow Nobody’s Famous to stay up to date on their news and happenings: instagram, YouTube

You can also learn more about them here

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