Meital has been called “a Renaissance woman of the type rarely seen these days” by Interview Magazine and has been featured on MTV, EXTRA, FOX, TMZ, USA Today and VIBE. She has toured the world and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music including Sean Kingston, Reflex (Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna), R3hab (Lady Gaga, LMFAO, Calvin Harris) and Che Pope (Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem) and her 3 music videos have clocked in over 12 million YouTube views. After taking Israel by storm with two Israeli Oscar nominations and an Israeli Tony award, Meital quickly gained fame in America with her breakout recurring role in Showtime’s “Weeds.” She has reached the Billboard Top 10 charts with her previous single “Give Us Back Love,” entering #1 on iTunes Dance Chart in Italy, #4 on UK’s Commercial Pop Club Chart and #7 in the US Billboard Club Chart. We had the good fortune to be able to have a refreshing conversation with Meital Dohan, and we covered the gamut from feminism in the arts, to body image, to what she’s really trying to say. We look forward to more from this talented young woman.
AMFM: One thing keeps emerging as I researched you – you’re trying to say something, I see a theme. They’re calling you a Renaissance woman. You’ve written books, you’ve been on television, you’ve been on film, now chart-topping musician, it seems like you’re a very driven person.
MEITAL: Yes, good question, but who drives who, you know? Is it me that is driving my life, or is it my life that is driving me?
AMFM: With all the things that you’ve done so far, what’s your most favorite thing, acting or singing?
MEITAL: Acting is what I’ve done my whole life, since childhood. I like to sing and write, but acting feels like home to me. I love singing, I love the music world, but acting is what I know that I know.
AMFM: I see that you haven’t put out a CD yet, so I didn’t know if that was in the works or you were just putting out singles.
MEITAL: Well, I’m working on a big project right now that I can’t elaborate on, besides some others that I can elaborate on. A specific project that involves my music is hopefully going to be released very soon so that my fans can enjoy it, but this is what I was working on – a CD with a bigger project and it’s going to all be released together.
AMFM: What so far has been your favorite acting performance so far?
MEITAL: I’ve been really lucky, and it’s been really hard for me to choose one part, the roles have been so different. It’s almost as if I got to hang out. Every project that you do in acting, whether it’s a theater piece, or a tv show, or a movie that you love, it’s like an adventure, it’s almost a love story that you get into. Everyone is part of it, the script writer, the director, the crew. I really enjoyed “Weeds,” that was a fun experience.
I was performing in this huge Israeli hit in theater called “Best Girlfriend,” I actually received the Tony Award for it. I have to say this was also an amazing experience. But, I think that part of being an actor is the fun of doing different characters.
WHAT WOULD BE A DREAM ROLE FOR YOU?
MEITAL: It might sound funny, but I was doing “Dancing With The Stars” in Israel, that’s when I got the advice from my spiritual guide to be a singer, but I would really like to do “Dancing With the Stars,” it’s not a role but it’s a really fun project, in order to learn how to dance, actually.
In terms of my dream role, I always wanted to be in a story as a strong character, I think there’s something fascinating about that. Basically I’m inspired by strong women and people that have changed lives, and have been revolutionaries. I actually wanted to play Emma Goldman for a long time. She’s one of the first feminists and very inspiring. We don’t necessarily look alike, but she’s fascinating.
AMFM: That’s the theme that is jumping out at me as I researched into your career. Seems to me that you are a feminist, that you’re trying to say something about the strength of women. The way that you’ve chosen to say it, is in the way that men perceive women as objects or things. For example, the music video “Yummy” – you are showing yourself as what men perceive to love women as, but you’re knocking people out. That must have been fun.
MEITAL: It was! I’m very happy that you dived in and see the messages in my art. I say art because I really see my music videos as part of coming from theater and acting, and in my message that I’m trying to say even if it goes through silliness or comedic exaggeration of sexiness and provocations, it’s all to make a point. I’m always happy when people are seeing what I want to say. I’m very inspired by women that are outspoken, like Simone DeBeauvoir or Emma Goldman.
In general, through the waves of feminism, women have made tremendous strides and have gained a lot of power and freedom. However, I think that we really need to be careful, and inspire women to accept their own natural beauty, and not to chase after an epidemic illusional trend of body images that don’t exist. Women are not born like that, and go through many surgeries, tortures, and literally risk their lives. This is a really sad epidemic, and we’re not paying full attention to it.
AMFM: I saw your book “Love and Other Bad Habits,” and that’s brought out in the book. I think you’re right, there’s a dangerous epidemic, what are we teaching our young girls? The fact that women risk their lives to change their image to be what somebody else thinks is appropriate, not what they really are. I agree totally with you. That’s why I was asking you “what are you trying to say” earlier.
MEITAL: Of course, as humans, everything about being advanced and innovative, the world is evolving, technology and the internet has changed everything. The dynamic of the way we relate to ourselves and one another has changed. If we look down at society, the ratio of people who go on anti-depressive medication, who are commiting suicide, underneath it all people are having a hard time connecting and just being themselves. Just to accept one another for who they are. I try to talk about these things, because we are all trying to portray this image that everything is so great, but deep down, a lot of people have those needs to back to old values, old roots and communication.
AMFM: It’s very similar to what Lady Gaga has done. In the beginning she was outrageous with her meat dresses and videos, but she’s always been a very good singer. People didn’t really concentrate on that, they were more enthralled with her outrageousness. All of a sudden she sings the National Anthem, and everyone seems to be shocked at the fact that she can REALLY sing. She could sing all along – and I think she’s trying to say something similar.
So what I want to ask now, is knowing what you know today, and being in the industry for awhile now, what would you say to your ten year old self? A young Meital?
MEITAL: They need to understand. First of all, if my daughter came to me and asked to do any surgical work or to change the way she looks at an early age, without her being a grown woman who has fully developed spiritually and emotionally, I would highly advise against it. I would make sure that my kids are eating healthy, that they are exercising, they go and meet friends, they’re not sitting at home stuck on the computer on social media and all that. Just making sure that they understand life is not only what is coming across your screen. Life is about the exchange of love and communication between people.
AMFM: Beautiful, very well said. So now can we back up to where you decided to come to America. I understand you were an exchange student when you were 16 years old. Where were you an exchange student in the U.S.?
MEITAL: I was in West Virginia.
AMFM: How did you like that?
MEITAL: It was fascinating! I really learned a lot. I was staying with one family, then moved to another family, and went to Idaho as well. I was young, I was perceptive, kind of a fly on the wall. I got to grow as a person, and learn about American culture from an insider perspective.
Photo by Henry Diltz
AMFM: What’s the difference between the Israeli culture and American culture in film?
MEITAL: The main difference is size. They say size doesn’t matter, but the comparison of 300 million people in the U.S. versus 8 million in Israel. Not sure about the exact number, but if you compare it’s significant. It starts with the people that you can reach with your art or your creation, so obviously in Isreal they are smaller, with a much lower budget. But at the same time, I feel like a lot of the American films are more commercial these days. They’re about what’s going to make money. Israeli films are still in the vein of European films. They are about life, and relationships. Of course there are American movies like that as well.
AMFM: We cover Indie films here in Austin for SXSW, we’ve seen some of the Israeli films, there are some amazing ones that have come out of Israel. I want to ask now about the deeper part of your personality, the transcendental meditation. I thought I read that your were going to teach that to the Israeli soldiers? Did that ever happen?
MEITAL: Not me, we are working on a program to facilitate it. I’m not a teacher personally, but I’m a meditator and I do this almost every day. And I really owe it to my dear friend and mentor Bobby Roth, who is the head of the David Lynch Foundation for Transcendental Meditation. I started doing it many years ago. It really did help me in many different ways. It’s a really inspiring and helpful technique. In Israel serving in the army is mandatory, I have empathy for the soldiers and the veterans. The David Lynch foundation works with veterans in the U.S., so I made a connection to the Sheba hospital in Israel. We’ll see what happens.