Why Idris Elba and Sabrina are champions of change

Hollywood power couple talk about their 'bittersweet' TIME100 Impact Award

By Tanisha Sangha

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Sabrina and Idris on the red carpet
Sabrina and Idris on the red carpet

Published: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 5:56 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 6:07 PM

The TIME100 Impact Awards honoured celebrity couple Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba for their extraordinary efforts to tackle climate change and food insecurity in a star-studded event at the Museum of the Future in Dubai on Sunday night.

Presented by TIME magazine in collaboration with the World Government Summit (WGS), the awards, which debuted in spring 2022 in Dubai, recognised leaders who have built a legacy of influence and emerged as champions of a better future.

Egyptian actor Bassel Alzaro and Turkish actress Meryem Uzerli
Egyptian actor Bassel Alzaro and Turkish actress Meryem Uzerli

Celebrities, thought leaders, and visionaries from across the globe including rapper will.i.am, actors Salma Abu Deif, Shereen Reda, Bassel Alzaro, Meryem Uzerli and notable filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja also graced the red carpet and gala event. Lebanese TV presenter, Raya Abirached, who was the host of the evening, said she was excited to be celebrating amazing people that have truly made a difference to the world.

Lebanese TV presenter and host for the evening, Raya Abirached
Lebanese TV presenter and host for the evening, Raya Abirached

Speaking exclusively to Khaleej Times, Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Idris Elba said he was honoured to be on the list of global change-makers, but also saddened by the tragedy in Turkey and Syria.

"It's bittersweet. We know that in Syria and Turkey right now, a lot of people have lost their lives and are devastated. So, to be on the red carpet, accepting awards for using our voice while people are losing their homes is a bit bittersweet. However, we are here, and we are proud of it," he said.

Best known for his interpretation of the brilliant but self-destructive Luther, Elba is also an accomplished musician, songwriter and DJ. Having performed at Coachella, Sound in LA and Output in New York he has built a name for himself in the international dance music scene. He is set to take Dubai by storm at Elrow XXL with his headlining act on February 17 at Dubai Design District (d3).

Filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja
Filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja

As Goodwill Ambassadors for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Elbas have successfully channeled their fame and influence to focus on food security, climate change, and environmental conservation.

Sabrina also concentrates on challenges faced by rural women and girls. Expressing her gratitude, the Canadian actor and model said she was excited and honoured to receive the award, because it would have a huge impact on their work.

"It's an honour. Humbling is the right word. I feel so thankful," she said, "It means that we'll be drawing more attention to the work that we're doing. That'll be the impact of this award — to be able to speak with the voices that we speak for so often in a landscape like this. It means a lot to us."

Speaking on the intersection of food security with climate change, Sabrina said youth empowerment, equality and agriculture will come together to build a better world.

"Everything intersects and starts with agriculture," she explained, "For instance, women make up a majority of the informal market. So, when you're talking about rural agriculture, you're talking about gender issues, land rights and abusive power. But you're also talking about youth, because how do people send their kids to school and educate them if they're starving every day? You're talking about independence and equality for people who are in rural areas. All these issues are so combined, and it makes me proud of the work that we do."

In mid-January, the Elbas became the first couple to receive the 2023 Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos for their extraordinary contributions towards improving the world. Later this year, they are likely to attend the COP28 in Dubai as warriors of climate change and food insecurity.

Besides the Elbas, former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique, Graça Machel; environmental activist and conservationist, Farwiza Farhan; and legendary filmmaker, Jeffrey Katzenberg were the other honorees celebrated at the TIME100 gala.

Former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique, Graça Machel
Former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique, Graça Machel

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dan Macsai, Director of TIME100 and Executive Editor, TIME magazine, said Dubai is the perfect place to host a global event like this.

"Dubai is a global cultural hub with a ton of exciting things happening," he said, "TIME100 is a global list and a global community and so it only makes sense to do our event here in the Museum of the Future dedicated to visualising a better future. It's a match made in heaven."


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