Hidden Armenian and Greek Celebrities in Turkish Cinema

Being a celebrity is often associated with having a certain lifestyle. Fame often brings fortune, privileges, and opportunities—whether they are career-related or not. Celebrities are thought to have an “easier” life, in which they get special treatment wherever they go—well, except for celebrities in Turkey who are Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Jewish, or members of any other ethnic or religious minority. Sometimes, even being associated with them is considered unacceptable.

Ayhan Işık, for example, was the most beloved Turkish leading actor in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was also a movie producer, director, script writer, singer, and painter. He was nicknamed by Turkish people “the king without a crown”– a king who had to change his Armenian-sounding last name to be able to have an acting career.

Ayhan Işık

His parents were originally from Salonika (now Thessaloniki, Greece). Born in Izmir in 1926, Ayhan lost his father at the age of six. His family then moved to Istanbul, where he attended the painting department of the State Fine Arts Academy. He first became a painter and graphic designer and worked for several magazines in Istanbul. According to his known biography, upon the insistence and encouragement of the editor-in-chief of Yıldız magazine—for which he was then working—he entered an acting competition organized by the magazine and came in first. But before he entered it, he had a major concern: his last name, Işıyan, could have been perceived to be Armenian. This concern made him change his surname and adopt a Turkish one: Işık.

Thanks to his enormous talent, good looks, and charisma, he became a living legend in Turkish cinema and played in numerous movies. Işık died in 1979 at the age of 50, which shocked his family, friends, and fans.

Nubar Terziyan, another well-known actor from Turkey, was one of the few Armenian actors who did not change his name. He was devastated by the untimely death of Işık, who used to call him “father.” In 1979, Terziyan placed a notice in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, which read:

“My son, Ayhan, this world is ephemeral. Death is the fate of us all. But you did not die. For you still live in our hearts and in the hearts of millions of people that you have left behind. How blessed you are. (…) Your uncle, Nubar Terziyan.”

Ayhan Işık and Nubar Terziyan share a scene

Apparently, Işık’s family was concerned, terrified, and even infuriated that the notice could have made people think Işık was Armenian. They responded with a public display of racism in a counter-notice in Hürriyet:

“Important correction: Our dearest Ayhan Işık has nothing to do with the notice undersigned as ‘your uncle’. (…) We regretfully announce as we see it necessary. -His family.”

30 years later, Berç Alyanakziya, the son of Terziyan, gave an interview to Hürriyet in 2009 about the tension between his father and Işık’s wife following his death. According to Hürriyet,

“Events that happened right after he placed a death notice for Işık in the daily Hürriyet made him more sorrowful. Işık’s wife, Gülşen, reacted negatively toward Terziyan, who wrote below the notice ‘your father Nubar,’ as Işık called him. The reason was that the real surname of Işık was Işıyan, which had been kept a secret. Because the name Işıyan reminds one of an Armenian name, he changed it to Işık.

“Terziyan’s son Berç Alyanakziya said the following about the reason for the wife’s reaction: ‘Everyone thought that Ayhan Işık was Armenian because of his real surname, Işıyan. When my father placed this notice and wrote ‘your father Nubar,’ people thought that they were close relatives and Işık was an Armenian, too.”

Because of this negative reaction, on June 21, Terziyan placed another notice in the paper in which he disclaimed his former notice.

But according to Professor Fatma Müge Göçek, Işıyan was indeed Armenian. She wrote in her 2014 book Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009:

“Such silencing also occurred in the case of another famous actor, Ayhan Işık, who was also of Armenian origin but carefully silenced his ethnic identity.”

One of the precautions many Armenians in Turkey take against racist attacks is to adopt a Turkish name to use in their social and job-related interactions with Turks. One was Kirkor Cezveciyan, an Armenian superstar of Turkish cinema. He was registered with his real name on his official identification card, but used a Turkish name for the screen: Kenan Pars. The journalist Nayat Karaköse wrote in 2008 after Pars’s death:

“Pars was only one of the many Armenians who changed their names… he was one of the hundreds of Armenians with two business cards. 

Some Armenians−particularly men−possess two business cards in Turkey. They have both an Armenian name and a Turkish one they later adopted. Armenianness is visible only within the [Armenian] community; it is not visible in public sphere. Particularly 20 or 30 years ago, this ‘invisible’ Armenian phenomenon was even more widespread.”

Kenan Pars (Kirkor Cezveciyan) with child actress Zeynep Değirmencioğlu, also known as ‘Ayşecik’

In an interview, Pars said that because he was a non-Muslim, he was not given guns while doing his compulsory military service in the city of Balikesir. Instead, he was given tools to dig.

Hürriyet noted a reality that speaks volumes about the level of racism and bigotry against indigenous peoples in Turkey: “Most Armenian and Greek artists changed their names to Turkish names for the screen upon request of producers.” Adile Naşit, one of the greatest actresses in Turkish cinema, was only one of them.

Adile Nasit’s family: grandmother Küçük Virjin, uncle Niko, mother Amelya and brother Selim Naşit. (Photo: Hurriyet)

Known for her joyous and remarkable laughter, her family movies and her TV show in which she told children tales and stories, she was known by Turks as “mother Hafize”– after a character she performed in one of her movies. But the “mother” of Turkish people was hiding something: her Greek roots.

Some internet sources claim that Naşit was of Armenian origin. But according to the official website of the Women’s Museum Istanbul, Naşit was the granddaughter of a well-known Greek dancer, who was born in 1870 and known as Küçük Virjin. A graduate of the Galata Greek Primary School, Küçük Virjin was the first Greek canto dancer in the Ottoman Empire. Her husband, Yorgi, as well as her two sons− Niko and Andre−were all musicians. Her daughter, Amalia, also became a well-known canto dancer and theatre actress in the late Ottoman era.

Her granddaughter, Adela, Amalia’s daughter, was born in the Turkish Republic, which has been hostile to Greeks. She adopted a Turkish name, “Adile,” became “Adile Naşit,” and never used her real Greek name during her career.

The scholar Gönül Dönmez-Colin writes in her 2008 book Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance, and Belonging:

“The one-nation policy of the Turkish Republic established in 1923 made life difficult for all minorities. Many converted to Islam and kept their identity secret all their lives.

Nubar Terziyan

“Like the Kurds and other ethnic minorities, non-Muslims have also been invisible in Turkish cinema. Several ethnic minority personalities made their mark in the industry, but often their identity had to be masked… Nubar Terziyan (Alyanak) remains an important character actor in Turkish cinema with his lovable ‘uncle’ image in over 400 films. Although he never hid his Armenian identity, very few people knew that Kenan Pars, who played the bad man in more than 500 films, was actually born Kirkor Cezveciyan. Sami Hazinses, who devoted 45 years to Turkish cinema, had to hide his Armenian identity (Samuel Uluç) all his life for fear of reprisals; his secret was discovered only at his funeral when the procession had to be transferred from the mosque to the church.”

One could be the most peace-loving, law-abiding, and hard-working citizen of Turkey. One could even be unlimitedly talented, and have the best looks and work ethic. But sadly, one’s non-Turkish roots are still a “challenge” in one’s social life and career.

For one to have a safe life and a successful career in Turkey, he or she has to be Turkish and a Muslim. Turkishness and Islam are believed by much of the Turkish public to be intertwined. But if minority citizens still have the courage to keep their non-Turkish names and non-Islamic faith, they still know that they had better not be very outspoken about these things. Non-Muslims in Turkey – through real-life “experiences” − are always “taught” to know their place.

The Turkish state has demonized Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Jews, Kurds, and other minority citizens to such an extent that it has made many of them carry their ethnic roots like a burden on their shoulders. It has turned their identities into giant faults—even “crimes.” That is what prevented these very talented people from proudly expressing and being who they really were.

VASSY Took Home the WDM Award for Best Electronic Vocalist

Singer, songwriter, and producer, VASSY, has recently been awarded the Best Electronic Vocalist at the World Dance Radio Awards (WDM). The World Dance Radio Awards took place on Wednesday, March 5, 2017 at the sold out Estadio Azteca in Mexico city where VASSY appeared alongside some of the biggest names in dance music; David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Nervo, Alan Walker and Cedric Gervais, in front of 100,000 exhilarated Mexican fans. It was no surprise to see VASSY’s infectious energy fuel the crowd, upholding the talented songstress’s reputation as the queen of EDM. Fans from all over the world voted for VASSY making her the first ever vocalist to win a WDM award as well as the only female solo artist to win at this year’s awards ceremony.

VASSY’s career rose into the spotlight in 2014 with her Multi-Platinum and 12 X worldwide Platinum collaboration “BAD,” with David Guetta and Showtek, which garnered her an IDMA award for Best Vocal Performance in 2015. VASSY proved to be a true triple threat when the following years she released her collaboration with Tiësto and Kshmr on the No. 1 electro-house Multi-Platinum single, “Secrets,” which met massive successes, adding more awards and platinum certifications under her belt. Since then, VASSY has been taking over festival arenas with Tiësto during his 2016 Ultra, Electric Zoo and Tomorrowland sets, proving she’s unstoppable. Her latest high-energy dance-floor solo record “Nothing To Lose,” co-produced by Tiësto, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Charts and on U.S. Dance Radio, as well as vaulted into the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance/Mix Show charts within the first three months of its release.

In addition to her hit dance collaborations, VASSY’s catchy lyrics and distinctive vocals have been featured in campaigns for Victoria’s Secret, Target, Sketchers, Nike, and Pepsi commercials, as well as in Disney’s official trailer for Oscar-winning movie, Frozen, the film Admission starring Tina Fey, and television shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Pretty Little Liars. VASSY’s productions range across the musical spectrum; from dance to pop and reggae, while you can also enjoy her indie side on her latest acoustic album release, “VASSY Unplugged.”

Muli-Platinum and Gold recording artist of many talents, VASSY, knows how to individualize herself against the tide of followers. Originating from Australia with Greek heritage, VASSY’s vocal roots lie in an array of different genres. As a singer, songwriter, and producer, her music speaks for itself and her progressive popularity in dance music is massive. Conquering the DJ world with her authentic sound has lead to a worldwide No. 1 hit with David Guetta & Showtek on their track “BAD,” which is certified 7 times double platinum, as well as winning an IDMA Award for Best Featured Vocalist Performance in 2015. “BAD” has had over 600 million views on Youtube, downloaded 2 million times and streamed via Spotify over 280 million times. 

In 2015 she collaborated with Tiësto and KSHMR on their track, “Secrets,” hitting over 80 million Spotify plays and 130 million Youtube views. “Secrets” went straight to number 1 in 20 countries, reigned atop the Billboard Club Charts and Beatport charts, and earned an IDMA Award for Best Electro Progressive/House track in 2016. VASSY joined forces once again in 2016 with Tiësto on her #1 standalone hit single, “Nothing To Lose,” a high-energy dance-floor friendly masterpiece. Co-produced by the legendary Tiësto, this progressive house-gem is bound to fuel the urge to get up and dance. 

Filled with uplifting original lyrics and momentous energy, the record quickly hit No. 1 on U.S. Dance Radio, No.1 on the Billboard Dance Club charts, and vaulted into the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance/Mix show charts.

In addition to her success in dance music, VASSY’s songs have been featured everywhere including, Target, Nickelodeon, Sketchers, Victoria’s Secret, Pepsi commercials, Grey’s Anatomy, and even Disney’s Oscar-winning film, “Frozen,”. VASSY’s captivating voice is soulful and enchanting, and will lure you into any track she sings. 

The versatile artist has also ventured into indie-pop on her No. 1 Billboard Dance Club song “We Are Young,” channeling a vivacious tone that will put you in high spirits. VASSY’s effortless dexterity as both versatile singer and songwriter is undeniable.

Even with her music career taking flight, VASSY has always prioritized her philanthropic work with charity groups and civil rights organizations. She is an active equal-rights ambassador for the NOH8 campaign, a spokesperson for environmental organization Green IT, works with Studio Samuel Foundation helping girls in Ethiopia, and supports youth through Playground of Dreams. 

Be it through her music, volunteerism giving back to the communities, VASSY’s goal is to inspire people to fight for their dreams. Whether she’s singing, writing, or producing music, VASSY has an immensely credible portfolio to admire.

Greek Artist’s Painting Sold for $132,000 in London

Girl with Two Doves by Angelos sold at auction for $132,186 at Bonhams’ Greek Sale in London. Photo courtesy of Irene Vandaraki

The Girl with a Pair of Dovesby Greek painter Angelos Panagiotou, aka Angelos, was auctioned off for the top price of £106,250 including premium in The Greek Sale at the British auction house Bonhams, on April 10.The amount is equal to $132,186.

Angelos was born in Farkadona, Trikala. He studied painting at the Fine Arts School of Athens with teacher Giorgo Mavroidis. He continued his studies making multiple trips to the museums of Europe and especially the Louvre, where he studied Western art.

His works are in many private collections and museums. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Greece and abroad, mainly in Europe and the United States.

The periods of his career are: Religious (1983-1990), The Shroud (1995-1997), Pigeons (1990-2000), Still Life (1988-2002), Metaphysical Landscapes (2000-2008), and Full Moon Nights (2004-2006).

Angelos said “I want my painting to be an emotional and spiritual retreat. I want to be a serene, peaceful image, opening a path to our inner redemption.”

His representative in New York,Irene Vandaraki, said that she is especially pleased with the result as it justifies the assessments about the painter and his artistic value is provided by the Greek artists who have created large current in the United States and has quite significant private collections.

Angelos’ work was featured in the recent exhibition Phos/Greek Light, held at the Long Island City offices of The National Herald in December.

Bonhams holds two auctions of Greek paintings each year, which include works by Greek and European artists dating from the late 18th century to the present day.

Greek artists whose works have sold well and even made records in the past include Theodore Jaques Ralli, Pericles Pantazis, Theofilios Hadjimichail, Thanos Tsingos, Alecos Condopoulos, and Nicholaos Gysis.

Γιάννης Ξανθόπουλος – Έτσι ξαφνικά – Νικητής Rising Star Greece 17/4/17

Θρίλερ στο φινάλε του show! Τα δεκαδικά ψηφία ανέδειξαν τον νικητή σε μια ψηφοφορία για γερά νεύρα!

Ο Γιάννης Ξανθόπουλος είναι ο μεγάλος νικητής του Rising Star. Ο παίκτης που υπήρξε φαβορί από την αρχή του παιχνιδιού νίκησε στην τελευταία μονομαχία τον Σωτήρη Καρυστινό, σε μια ψηφοφορία πραγματικό θρίλερ! Η νίκη κρίθηκε στον πόντο καθώς το τελικό σκορ ήταν 72,28% για τον Γιάννη Ξανθόπουλο και 72,14% για τον Σωτήρη Καρυστινό!

Rising Star, το πιο πρωτοποριακό και διαδραστικό talent show παγκοσμίως που έχει σπάσει κάθε ρεκόρ ενεργού συμμετοχής των τηλεθεατών στη διαδικασία επιλογής των υποψηφίων, έκανε πρεμιέρα στον ΑΝΤ1! 

Τους υποψήφιους αναλαμβάνουν να αξιολογήσουν 4 κορυφαίοι καλλιτέχνες της ελληνικής μουσικής σκηνής. Ο Αντώνης Ρέμος, η Δέσποινα Βανδή, ο Κώστας Μακεδόνας και ο Χρήστος Μάστορας (Frontman του συγκροτήματος ΜΕΛΙSSES) παίρνουν θέσεις και ετοιμάζονται να μας χαρίσουν δυνατές στιγμές. 

Την παρουσίαση του Rising Star αναλαμβάνει ο Γιώργος Λιάγκας. Οι auditions του Rising Star που πραγματοποιήθηκαν σε Αθήνα, Γιάννενα, Πάτρα, Θεσσαλονίκη, Ηράκλειο Κρήτης και Κύπρο, σημείωσαν ρεκόρ συμμετοχών. Συνολικά, 3500 άτομα έλαβαν μέρος στις auditions με στόχο να κάνουν το όνειρο τους πραγματικότητα. 

Ο μεγάλος νικητής του ελληνικού Rising Star θα λάβει δυο μοναδικά έπαθλα. Ένα πλήρες δισκογραφικό συμβόλαιο με την εταιρία Heaven Music αξίας 35.000€ καθώς και το χρηματικό ποσό των 50.000€. Το Rising Star έχει ανατρέψει τα δεδομένα στα talent shows παγκοσμίως αποτελώντας την απόλυτη καινοτομία στην τηλεοπτική ψυχαγωγία.

George Michael’s grave is seen for the first time after protective screens are removed from the family plot

There was no sign of a headstone for the superstar on the family plot in Highgate Cemetery, North London.

GEORGE Michael’s final resting place can be seen for the first time after a protective barrier was taken down.

But there was no sign of a headstone for the superstar among the fresh white flowers on the family plot in Highgate Cemetery, North London.

The star was buried on his family’s plot in Highgate Cemetery, North London

The star was buried on his family’s plot in Highgate Cemetery, North London

His family have kept private their plans for any markings on the star’s grave

Still in place on the plot was the large white cross headstone for the singer’s beloved mother Lesley – and it is thought he was buried in the same plot alongside her.

His family have kept private their plans for any markings on the star’s grave.

George’s funeral was held on March 29, 94 days after he was found dead in bed on Christmas Day aged 53.

Before then, it was protected with a large green metal barrier to afford privacy

Still in place on the plot was the large white cross headstone for the singer’s beloved mother Lesley

Private funeral held for singer George Michael

‘We said goodbye to a beloved son, brother and friend’: Bandmates Andrew Ridgeley, Pepsi and Shirlie join George Michael’s family and lover Fadi Fawaz for a private funeral at Highgate Cemetery 94 days after the singer’s death

The order of service featuring Michael’s picture which was given to mourners at the ceremony

George Michael Credit: PA

The funeral of singer George Michael took place today during a private ceremony with his family and close friends.

George Michael’s grave, which people can’t get too close to.

The statement shared by his family read:

We can confirm that the funeral of the singer George Michael took place today.

Family and close friends gathered for the small, private ceremony to say goodbye to their beloved Son, Brother and Friend.

George Michael’s family would like to thank his fans across the world for their many messages of love and support.

Private funeral held for best-selling singer George Michael in London, publicist says. (Pic: Reuters)

George Michael died in December last year at the age of 53.

It is understood George was buried next to his beloved mum Lesley in a family plot.

George’s body was already inside the chapel of rest when the invited guests started to arrive in chauffeur driven limousines shortly before 2pm.

After an hour-long service, the coffin was taken in a hearse to the grave where the singer was laid to rest.

Kate Moss was one of the mourners

Martin Kemp was also in attendance

Andrew Ridgeley arrives at George’s home for the wake

Mourners left the cemetery at around 4pm and headed to George’s home in Highgate for the wake hosted by his sister Melanie Panayiotou.

But hairdresser Fadi, 43, instead went back to George’s house near Regent’s Park, Central London, where he has been living since finding the 53-year-old pop star dead on Christmas Day.

George’s former boyfriend Kenny Goss went to the funeral and the wake.

Fadi had previously been left furious by reports Kenny and George rekindled their friendship shortly before his death.

Supermodel Kate Moss attended the wake, though she had not been at the funeral.

A statement from George’s spokesman said: “Family and close friends gathered for the small, private ceremony to say goodbye to their beloved son, brother and friend.

“George Michael’s family would like to thank his fans across the world for their many messages of love and support.”

George Michael and Kenny Goss

The only access the public gets to the family plot in the West Cemetery at Highgate is by taking a £12 guided tour.

This is intended to reduce the chances of the grave being turned into a shrine by his many fans.

George’s final wish was to be buried next to mum Lesley.

In his 1990 book, Bare, he said: “There are things about my mum that I only realised later, things that make me really admire her.

“If there’s anything that I have got from her it’s that she’s like a rock. I’ve got that stability from her.” George once described “getting the singing bug” at the age of seven – partly inspired by his musical mother.

“Mum had given me a tape recorder as a present,” he said in 1985.

“As I got older, Dad was against the idea but Mum began to realise that I might have something and started to sympathise with me.”

His mum encouraged him to follow his dreams but was also determined to ensure that he had an education to fall back on. George was devastated when she died of cancer in 1997.


George Michael portrait by Damien Hirst sells for $580,000

The portrait was painted with household gloss.

A portrait of the late George Michael by artist Damien Hirst has sold for just under half a million pounds at a charity auction.

Artist Damien Hirst

The money raised from the sale of Beautiful Beautiful George Michael Love Painting will go to HIV/Aids charity The Goss-Michael Foundation.

The charity was founded by Michael and his former partner Kenny Goss.

Goss posted an image of the artwork on Instagram, writing: “Amazing result of $580,000 (around £461,011).”

He described Damien Hirst as a “superstar”, adding: “Thank you Damien!”

The canvas went under the hammer in Dallas, Texas, at the MTV Re:define charity gala.

Michael, who enjoyed a lucrative pop career as one half of duo Wham before embarking on a successful solo career, died on Christmas Day last year at the age of 53.