Lebanese fans celebrate Mayyas winning 'America's Got Talent' with tears of joy and hope

As the country battles a severe economic downturn, supporters at home and abroad say they finally have something to cheer about

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Mayyas winning America's Got Talent was worth so much more than $1 million for Lebanese viewers.

The dance troupe’s victory, which earned them the seven-figure prize on Wednesday night, offered a sliver of hope to the country and its population, who continue to battle a flurry of crises and bad news.

“We haven't shed happy tears in so long in this country and Mayyas made it happen,” says Reem Nasra, 24, a recruiter in Beirut.

Mayyas first made international headlines when they received a golden buzzer fromjudge Sofia Vergara for their performance during the auditions, securing their spot in the semi-finals.

"There are no words to explain to you what we were feeling over here," Vergara said at the time. "It was the most beautiful, creative dancing I have ever seen."

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We haven't shed happy tears in so long in this country and Mayyas made it happen
Reem Nasra, 24

Since then, the Lebanese group put on a series of breathtaking routines as they advanced to the final. And, their journey to the top connected with compatriots around the world.

“They are an example of what a synchronised group of Lebanese are able to achieve,” says Eli Lattouf, 26, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School in the US. “Such a win delivers a global message.”

Watch the moment Mayyas won on 'America's Got Talent' here

Lebanon is currently facing an economic crisis described as one of the worst in 150 years by the World Bank. According to a UN study, the financial collapse has pushed more than 80 per cent of the population into poverty while inflation and living expenses reached record highs.

The country’s plight has made global news, highlighting everything from its fuel crisis to the deadly Beirut port blast in 2020.

To see Lebanon represented in a different light, as a beacon of art and culture, was refreshing, says Lattouf.

“Most people know the Lebanon they see on the news, which might not be totally misleading, unfortunately,” he tells The National. “This time the world sees not one, but a group of Lebanese, full of art, creativity and discipline.”

Lebanese people celebrating the Mayyas win in a video shared by dancer Aya Charaf, who is part of the troupe. Photo: Instagram / @ayacharaf

Lattouf’s sentiment is echoed by many other Lebanese people, who are proud of the group’s outstanding representation on a global platform.

“This is our Lebanon, the real one,” says Rima Hijazi, 26.

Watching from her home in Choueifat, south-east of Beirut, the agricultural engineer fortunately had electricity overnight to stream the final live. Many other households across Lebanon were without power, which prompted private TV station LBCI to campaign for generator owners to keep the lights on ahead of the show.

Lebanon’s electricity crisis is merely one of the many obstacles Mayyas had to overcome while rehearsing.

Despite the many hindrances, the girls put in long hours of work, determined to grab the title.

According to the group's founder and choreographer Nadim Cherfan, the team were in the studio on a daily basis and would “only leave when the power goes off”.

“When it’s about art, nothing stands in your way,” he previously told The National.

Watch Mayyas perform during the auditions on 'America's Got Talent'

Their hard work and diligence made them all the more deserving of the win, according to many Lebanese. It is also testament to the country’s potential, despite the odds.

“This win means that despite everything we are going through, our will to live and be successful beats all miseries,” says Yara Youssef, 25, a marketing coordinator in Beirut.

Between pride and hope, Mayyas also evoked a solemn feeling for some.

“It's a bit sad knowing that if you have potential here in Lebanon, you have to leave in order to reach your goals,” Hijazi tells The National. “We’re in the wrong spot to bloom.”

But despite their international achievement, Mayyas are returning to Lebanon, where they will continue to work on their art.

While Cherfan has been asked why he continues to work in Beirut, he is adamant on going back to where they started.

“I’m never leaving my country because my country has never left me,” he says.

Updated: September 26, 2022, 10:16 AM
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