Watch the video for Israeli musician Meital’s single “Yummy”—in which the singer, nude except for a pair of red leather knee-high boots, a pair of boxing gloves, and two fluorescent-pink, strategically-placed censor bars, gleefully tromps around a city knocking out everyone she meets to an electro-house beat—and you’ll start to get a sense for what Meital Dohan herself is like. She’s funny, uncompromising, a little naughty, and irrepressibly fun; but she’s got some big ideas, too, and she’ll be the first one to tell you so. (For what it’s worth, if we looked like her, we’d run around naked, too.) There’s always the sense with Meital, in the vein of Katy Perry and Ke$ha, that her brand of provocation is both silly and deliberate, and always tongue-in-cheek.
Meital is a Renaissance woman of the type rarely seen these days—in addition to her music career, she’s been a nonfiction author and playwright, a radio host, and an actress (she’s been nominated for the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar twice and has won an Israeli Theater Award, the country’s highest theater honor). She’s the sort of person who makes friends wherever she goes—including producer Che Pope (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Lauryn Hill), who produced her upcoming album I’m in Hate With Love; and, most recently, Sean Kingston, with whom she collaborated on the irresistibly catchy new track “On Ya,” which we’re very excited to debut below. Our interview with Meital follows.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: There are a lot of multi-hyphenates in show business, but not a lot of quintuple threats. You’re a singer, actress, comedian, playwright, and author. What were you like as a child? What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?
DOHAN: I didn’t know! It wasn’t anything that I thought I was going to be—a singer or an actor or anything like that. I really started acting just because I loved it, and it was more from a need to act and express myself. I started acting when I was 13, but it really wasn’t my plan. The actual decision to become an actor was when I was 17, after I didn’t act for half a year because I came to an exchange student program in the US, and I realized how much I missed it.
SYMONDS: And what about the singing? When did that get started?
DOHAN: The singing started three years ago, when I was doing the show Dancing with the Stars in Israel and I met this spiritual guide that I have in Israel, and she basically said, “Okay, you have to leave to go back to America and have a singing career.” Now, I thought she was completely crazy—”I’m just an actress, I’m not a singer”—but before then I would sing on soundtracks, and I did a show with an Israeli woman singer Ivri Lider, just kind of playing around with music. I always loved music, but it’s not something I thought I was gonna approach on a professional level. It wasn’t something I thought I was going to concentrate on. Only after, about two years ago, when I had that conversation with my spiritual guide, that’s basically when I started pursuing it. [laughs]
SYMONDS: Have you found that it’s the transition to full-time musician has been difficult, or have things just fallen into place really easily?
DOHAN: It wasn’t a decision, it was completely like “follow the path.” I went back to the US, and three weeks later I met Che Pope, and Che Pope and myself started working together on my album. And it was love, and I was just really honored and pleased to meet Che. I really love the people he was working with in the past—Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Lauryn Hill. These are all people that I very much appreciate, so, when all that happened, the music just really took me by surprise and took over my life. It really wasn’t a decision, it really happened much faster than I would have ever imagined.
SYMONDS: How did you meet Che? How did the two of you first connect?
DOHAN: We had a friend in common, so we made three phone calls, and Che was the third person.
SYMONDS: Where are you living? Are you in LA?
DOHAN: I live in LA.
SYMONDS: Have you found it to be a culture shock after living in Israel?
DOHAN: Well, it’s the modern world, so it’s pretty much the same. Everyone follows America, from all over the world. So, you know, of course I knew how to talk English, but still it’s a different mentality, you know. Now I’m all mixed up, you know what I mean? Half-Israeli, half-American.
SYMONDS: Is the Israeli theater and film scene different from Hollywood?
DOHAN: Yeah, it’s completely different. What happens in Israel, it’s not so divided between being a film actor, or a TV actor—usually, we just do everything. I do theater, film, and television, and the theater is mostly financed by the government.
SYMONDS: That sounds nice.
DOHAN: Yeah, so that’s more like Europe. It’s not so commercial. I think everything is different because Israel’s such a small country. There’s only six million people in Israel, so everything is different because of the size.
SYMONDS: Of course.
DOHAN: I’m not trying to make, like, a sexual grand comment.
SYMONDS: I wouldn’t have taken it that way, but now you that you said that… [laughs] I know that you won an Israeli Theater Award, and you were nominated for the sort of Oscar equivalent in Israel. What were those roles like?
DOHAN: The Israeli Tony I won, during my career in Israel, was when I graduated from acting school. My first theater production was this Israeli play written by a very well-known Israeli playwright, who’s my friend as well. It was basically a comedian role, it was about three best girlfriends, and it was really a blast, and the show was a huge hit, and ran for seven years.
DOHAN: Yeah. And that was the first Broadway show that I did in Israel.
SYMONDS: What was your character like?
DOHAN: My character was, she was very a very demanding, self-centered person, but adorable and funny at the same time. And then the films, one of them was called God’s Sandbox and the other one was called Giraffes. Those were the Oscar nominations that I got for my movies. And the role in Giraffes was very introverted, basically it was about this girl who accidentally drives over somebody, and then she has to run away and change her personality, and pretend to be French. And then she starts painting, and becomes this artist. So that was for Giraffes, and for God’s Sandbox, it’s actually, a very important movie. It’s about women’s circumcision, about communities around the world that are still circumcising women. My character was a young tourist in the Sinai who falls in love with a Bedouin, who loves her as well, and as part of making her his wife, he tries to circumcise her. She basically kind of lost her sanity after that. Actually, there’s a sad story about it: the actor, my co-star, he was murdered. It’s a very, very sad story.
SYMONDS: Oh, my God.
DOHAN: He was a Arabic Palestinian actor, who was very involved in trying to get peace, and to do it from theater activities through the Palestinian villages in Israel. Unfortunately, probably an extremist Arab killed him to make a point, that he doesn’t like that he’s associated with Israel. It’s really sad.
SYMONDS: I’m very sad to hear that. That’s awful. Does doing theater in Israel feel more dangerous?
DOHAN: Theater in Israel is not more dangerous than walking in the street.
DOHAN: I mean, Israel is not dangerous on one hand, but on the other hand it is dangerous. Human life is just dangerous, in general. You know, waking up in the morning, you could get hit by a car. Wherever you go, you could choke on a fish bone and die. You never know. I believe life is destiny, and really the capture the magic of life, and the same for the magic in the disaster. They’re all together in the same kind of weird destiny binding, you know?
SYMONDS: Sure. I also wanted to talk to you about the video for “Yummy.” You obviously have great comedic presence—the video is fun and sexy, but it’s also kind of funny. Where did the concept come from, and what was it like to shoot?
DOHAN: I came up with the concept about a person that wakes up in the morning and gets out of bed and throughout his day, knocks down everyone he sees. In my case, it was a “she,” which was me, and it was kind of a combination for me between Rocky and a single kind of secret dream that I think everyone can identify with: “What if I could,” you know? That’s on the surface.
On a deeper level, I just feel like women have so many expectations they need to carry, so many different laws these days, and one hand they need to be sexy, and on the other hand they need to behave properly, and on the other hand they need to get what they want and take care of themselves. So, I tried to kind of put it all inside the video, especially when she kisses the homeless person, and she gets his moustache, and then she has to go and shave. She’s still beautiful, because she’s naked. But she still needs to punch people to get whatever she needs to go through the day. It’s kind of like a sexy superhero.
SYMONDS: I thought it was so funny that the top comment was like, “Where is the uncensored version of this video?” It was kind of like, “You missed the point, dude.”
DOHAN: Yeah. Right. We should release that!
I’M IN HATE WITH LOVE IS DUE OUT THIS SUMMER. FOR MORE ON MEITAL, VISIT HER WEBSITE.