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Sanaa Hamri- African Diva, Enriching Lives…

Sanaa Hamri

Traditional beliefs and gender stereotypes were not enough to stop her, she had a mission…….

Born in Tangier Morocco, Sanaa studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. After her junior year in college, she relocated to Manhattan; where she hoped to live the big dream as a flourishing actress.

The journey turned out tougher than she envisaged; the big life wouldn’t just come easy.

…..endless auditions, unemployment, daily struggles to survive……. yet she stood unwavering, with her eyes glued to her vision.

"Just Wright" New York Premiere

Sanaa had learnt the first rule of embracing opportunity; you must be ready when it comes. And surely, it came just in time for the teenager and as expected, she was ready to go all in.

Sanaa heard of an opening in a post- production firm in New-York; she applied to work as an assistant under cinematographer Malik Sayeed, who would eventually become her mentor and a link to the future she had always dreamed of.

”I watched his videos, pored through his photography books, sought advice, and asked him as many questions that I could.”

Soon after, she began working with Malik; he introduced her to Mariah Carey; who by her dedication and counsel redirected Sanaa’s career trajectory, opening her eyes to other available oppotunities.

It became clear that, that encounter was all Sanaa needed to step into her place and take charge of it.

Since her appearance on the big screen in 2006, she has directed videos for an impressive list of stars including Mariah Carey (who Hamri also credits as a mentor), Jadakiss, Prince, Kelly Rowland, Nicki Minaj, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Benet, Amel Larrieux, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and Christina Aguilera. Through editing and directing music videos, she mastered the craft of film making.


She has been celebrated as one of the most successful African American women music video and film directors. Yet, she has never taken a class in film production.

Her videos include Kelly Rowland’s ‘Stole”, Jadkiss’s “U make me wanna”, Prince’s “Musicology” and “Mariah Carey’s “Crybaby, Bringing On The Heartbreak, “Don’t Stop (Funkin 4 Jamaica and Mariah Carey’s “Last Night a DJ Saved my Life”. Since her first film, she has directed Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008) and Just Wright (2010) and appeared on various TV shows like “Elementary” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Sanaa’s passion has been to constantly project positive images to the people; especially the youth. Her reason is clear,

We have to educate the youth,” she explains. ”If we show them what the right realities are, what the positive realities are, what values are about, we can change the world. I believe it starts within the media: music videos, commercials and cinema. Young people are being educated by what is shown on the TV screens because parents are not paying attention. It is all linked to us and we have to make a difference. What is happening now is simple. If you sit a child in front of a TV and show them negative and demeaning imagery, they will become that. However if you show them an alternative that is positive and imaginative, they will be inspired. Let’s provide that alternative.”


Despite her many laurels, the leading lady has kept her eyes on the bigger picture “I definitely want to create in Morocco as a base a very large studio that would be in competition with the big studios in Hollywood,” she says. “We would be able to go on location and stuff, but just really creating like the biggest entertainment hub in Africa.”

{Quotes lifted from crossroads}

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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