Hollywood A-List celebrities to head to the Middle East after new joint venture


Dubai-based entrepreneur Oweis Zahran has teamed up with US television star Steve Harvey in a bid to open up the UAE and wider Middle East region to A-List celebrities.

Zahran, who is CEO of OWS Capital, told Arabian Business the joint venture with Harvey’s MELT Middle East, to create MELT-OWSC, will “change the landscape within the celebrity entertainment space in the region”.

He added: “What the region is about to witness just hasn’t been seen before, plain and simple.”

The joint venture company is to be managed by combined seniors of OWS Capital and the Steve Harvey Team and lead by CEO, Brandon Williams.

Zahran explained that the collaboration is based around a determination to bridge the gap between the Middle East and Western cultures and changing the false perceptions of the region that still exist.

He said: “I think you’ve had various attempts at bridging the gap but nonetheless it is still quite significant.

“I remember being on the movie set of one of the largest movies franchises in Atlanta and a portion of the movie was to be shot in the Middle East and one of the actors who was paid north of $20 million to star in the movie was offered to fly to the Middle East and he said he wasn’t interested. He said ‘build the Middle East in Atlanta and I’ll do my part here’.

“I asked him why not and his response was, ‘have you seen what’s going on in the Middle East’. You would think with all the positive press and the great work places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and others, you would have thought that perception would have been changed.

Zahran confirmed that US comedian Kevin Hart has already been signed up to star in a separate venture with the company, to be revealed later in the year

“We feel that, via this avenue, we really have a shot at creating significant change.”

The new entity will also give celebrities the opportunity to establish a footprint in the region, to launch business ventures, invest in any given sector, including real estate as well as supporting the start-up environment.

Zahran explained: “We do plan on supporting celebrities in establishing their presence here. A lot of these celebrities want to have a local presence and they just don’t know what the first step in establishing that local presence is.

“That’s something we intend on being the backbone on, coordinating it from A to Z with the various government authorities, the government bodies. The government has been very amazing to us on this concept because obviously they also see the value it brings to the economy as well.”

US television star Steve Harvey

internationally-acclaimed host Harvey is no stranger to the region and in December last year filmed a hugely popular six-episode docuseries called ‘When Steve meets East’, which saw him travel across the seven emirates of the UAE revealing the hidden gems of the country.

Launched in line with the ‘World’s Coolest Winter’ campaign, the episodes, which featured the mountains of Khorfakkan, desert and seas of Dubai, tribal life of Ras Al Khaimah, churches and mosques of Abu Dhabi and the nature of Fujairah, attracted millions of views.

“When I visited the UAE in 2020, I instantly knew I wanted to create a venture that would highlight the talent, culture and many business opportunities that the Middle East has to offer,” said Harvey, who is also a board member of consulting and investment entity MELT Middle East.

The glittering launch event for the company’s ambitious five-year plan, according to Zahran, will see 80 A-List celebrities compete in a charity golf match, at an as-yet unnamed course in the UAE.

“The objective behind it is to bring one billion eyeballs to the UAE and just show the world through social channels, live streaming on television networks, what the UAE is about, what the seven emirates has come together and created,” he said.

80 A-List celebrities compete in a charity golf match, at an as-yet unnamed course in the UAE

“With these stars all being here, and these are the largest stars in Hollywood, they’re not only coming to play golf, they’re coming to play golf and explore business opportunities,” he added.

And he is confident the tournament, which will include a charity auction and gala dinner, will become an ever-present on the region’s entertainment and events calendar.

He added: “We look forward to doing the MELT competition annually where it’ll be a brand of its own similar to some of these other big brands, whether it’s the annual government summit which gets held in Dubai, or the F1 in Abu Dhabi, where it’s an annual thing that people look forward to.

“You know that if you’re in the Yas Island area during F1 you’re going to bump into your favourite stars. We’re thinking that from a significantly larger magnitude, from a star-reach standpoint.”

Although Zahran was keeping the identities of the celebrities already signed up close to his chest, he confirmed that US comedian Kevin Hart has already been signed up to star in a separate venture with the company, to be revealed later in the year.