Dawn Collinson talks to actress Christina Blunsum about how a disaster turned into a dream come true.
Christina Andrea Blunsum thought an IT job in Dubai would be the chance for a new life miles away from her hometown 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 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, Childwall born Christina no longer needs to waitress or work in a restaurant. She is starring in cinemas across the UAE in a hit comedy film and currently shooting the lead role in the UAE’s first action movie.
“It’s been crazy, an unbelievable adventure, and its all come from being determined not to quit and fly straight home when everything went wrong.” She says.
Christina’s diary is now full of exciting new projects in the UAE & the UK, but she admits it could have been very different.
In fact, the former Gateacre student almost never followed her dream of acting, convinced she 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 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 to study IT, but it was the worst 3 years of my life.”
After graduating, she worked for a small company doing some graphic design and social media but, when they closed down and she lost her job, Dubai opportunity seemed like the only option. “I went out there within a week of finding out about it, even though I I’d only ever been there once. But it seemed like a good deal, it was social media and they said I would have my own 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 for me. 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 bad, I couldn’t leave because it was too much to get an apartment by myself and I didn’t really know anything about that. Thats why I googled “Acting classes in Dubai” because I needed something to keep me positive. At the time I wasn’t planning on doing it professionally because I was planning my exit route out of Dubai, but I wanted to meet other creative people and make the most of my experience.”
Signing up to an agency, Christina started going to auditions, but her shyness meant it took 10 months to land her first job, dancing in an Arabic Pop Video. “I turned up and thought they wanted an actress but they thought I was a professional dancer, so I just went along with it and managed to pick up the dance routine quickly and I got paid more for one day doing something I loved than 1 month working in the restaurant.
Christina soon landed parts in TV adverts with HSBC to support the message of “Human Ambition” after they heard about her story the director felt very inspired that she would be perfect for the story. She also landed lead roles in English speaking TV Series and the lead comedy for the Raddison Hotel. It was whilst she was touring the UAE presenting a children’s show that 26-year-old Christina heard about castings for the film Wesalna Wela Badna (Are We There Yet?!) a light-hearted comedy about a British girl who moves to the UAE.
“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 would 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, they sent me a car and took me to a huge red carpet premiere with media from all 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, Unbeatable Fighter, which is due for release later this year and film Louder.
Although most people speak English on set she is learning Arabic now. “Dubai is very multicultural but I want to be respectful and I feel like Dubai is my second home. I’d love to invest in property here in the future. Before I came here I had this fear of wasting my life and I had so much energy and passion but didn’t have the courage to use it.
That’s why I wrote the book “Words That Will Make You Believe In Yourself” because I know what it feels like to not feel good enough to do what you want.
In the future, I would love to run self-belief workshops in Schools to children know the power of believing in themselves at an early age and not listen to bullies and to ensure they have the courage to do what they want to.
Working in films has been an amazing experience and is something I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m grateful for this incredible experience and I would love to be involved in inspirational films. The bigger picture is to give something back and this has given me the chance to do that.”