Dawn Collinson talks to Actress Christina Blunsum about how a disaster turned into a Dream Come True.
LChristina Andrea Blunsum thought a social media job in Dubai would be the chance to find her life purpose in a glamorous country, thousands of miles from her home in Liverpool.
But when she got there, the job didn’t exist and she was left stranded, working 80 hours a week as a waitress and sharing a room with another girl, miles from the city in the middle of the desert.
Feeling trapped, with no friends or family out there to turn to, the 22-year-old enrolled in acting classes to escape the reality of her nightmare situation.
Now, three years on, Christina is starring in cinemas across the UAE in a hit comedy film, and currently shooting the lead role in the UAE’s first ever action movie.
“It’s been crazy, an unbelievable adventure, and it’s all come from being determined not to quit and fly straight home when everything went wrong,” she says.
Christina’s diary now is full of exciting new projects, but she admits it could have been very different.
In fact, she almost never followed her dream of acting, convinced that she’d missed her chance.
“When I was younger, I was always telling people I wanted to be an actress or a singer, and I’d do shows, but it wasn’t really encouraged at school and I listened to everyone who told me to be realistic and get a proper job,” she explains. “I think I thought it was too late, even though I was only 18, so I took the advice and went to university instead.
“I studied IT because I was good at art and graphics – I’d taught myself how to make websites because I wanted somewhere to put my own artwork – but it was the worst three years of my life.”
After graduating, she worked for a small company doing graphic design and social media but when they closed down and she lost her job, the Dubai opportunity seemed like the only option.
“I went out there within a week of finding out about it, even though I’d only ever been once on holiday before. But it seems like a good deal, it was social media and they said I’d have my own paid-for apartment.
“But when the car picked me up from the airport and was driving me into the desert, I thought, oh my god, what have I done? I was sharing a room with another girl, we were in the middle of nowhere, and there was no office job. They kept saying the office wasn’t ready, so I had to waitress while I waited. But it just kept getting put off and put off and I ended up in the restaurant for six months.
“The hours were really long and the money was so bad, but I couldn’t afford to leave because it’s so expensive to rent in Dubai so I was stuck. That’s why I Googled ‘acting classes in Dubai’ because I just needed to do something to keep me positive.
“I didn’t have much money but I used what I had, went along and started going regularly. I wasn’t thinking I’d do it professionally, I was really just planning my escape route out of Dubai, and I wanted to meet other creative people.”
Signing to an agency, Christina started to go for auditions but her shyness meant it took 10 months to land her first job – dancing in an Arabic pop video.
“I basically had to pretend to be a dancer, but luckily it wasn’t super-hard and I got paid more for that one job in a day than a whole month’s work in the restaurant so that really encouraged me.”
Christina soon landed parts in TV adverts with HSBC to support the message of “Human Ambition” English-speaking TV series and the lead in a comedy series for the Radisson Blu hotel group. “That was called Lara Turns 30 and I played a Lebanese woman going on some really awkward dates, trying to find a husband. The first episode went viral because it was funny, but then lots of people complained and were offended so it ended up being cancelled.”
It was while she was touring the UAE presenting a children’s show that 26-year-old Christina heard about castings for the film Wesalna Wela Bada (Are We There Yet?), a light-hearted comedy of confusions about a British girl who moves to the UAE and her experience with the culture.
“I’d done quite a lot of short films and series, so I saw it as another amazing chance to travel and see more of the country, getting paid to do something I love, but I had no idea it’d be such a big deal.
“I was back in the UK when I got a call asking me to come back to Dubai for the film’s release. I thought it was just some of the cast getting together, so I flew back the night before. I was so tired when I got there but then they sent a car for me and it took me to a huge red carpet premiere, with media from across the UAE.”
The film has been a big hit and Christina has been inundated with offers since, including the English lead in the UAE’s first action film Unstoppable Fighter which is due for release in August.
Although most people speak English on film sets, she’s learning Arabic now. “Dubai is very multi-cultural but I want to be respectful, and I feel comfortable here now. I’d love to invest in property here this year.
“Before I came out here I had this fear of wasting my life and I had this strong desire that I needed to know why I came here and had so much energy and passion but didn’t have the courage to use it. I think we all know deep down what we can do, but self doubt and fear clouds our vision of what we are capable of and can lead us on to the wrong path like I did.
“That’s why I wrote the book “Words That Will Make You Believe In Yourself” to give others a tool whenever they feel doubt. I really feel strongly to share this because I know what it feels like to not feel good enough to do what you want. We all have something so unique, it’s just the limiting beliefs that make us think we are not, but when you know the basic tools and principles you can use them anytime to push through whenever you need it.
I’ve started a website and now it’s my dream to one day come back to England and run belief workshops in schools to help young people have the courage to do what they really want to do.
“Working in films has been an incredible experience which I’m very grateful for and I would love to create inspirational films with a purposeful message just like the HSBC Advert. The bigger picture is to give something back, and this has given me a chance to do that.”