NOURI’s story is one that will inspire young aspiring females all around the world that if she can live out her dreams, they can too. Born in a Syrian refugee camp, NOURI’s family was forced to relocate to New Zealand when she was 3 years old, after their home was bombed in Kurdistan. But thankfully, Nouri would find music to be her saving grace.

In describing herself, NOURI states she’s “funny, at least I think I’m funny. [laughs] Humble, but confident. Loves life, always trying to be positive. A family person, family-oriented. Just love what I do, that’s me.”

At age 9, a life-changing talent show at her school would yield a standing ovation as she sang Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s “When You Believe,” discovering her innate passion and ability to sing and entertain. Since then, her journey and fanbase has only gone up, as she arrives on the scene with her own unique pop sound, with “very soulful husky tones.” She adds, “It’s vulnerable music that makes you want to dance and cry at the same time.”

Now calling Los Angeles home, NOURI’s had the pleasure of singing the national anthem twice at the iconic Staples Center — a surreal moment as she only could dream of moments like this as a little girl.

Sheen spoke with NOURI in downtown Los Angeles, who was rocking a black blazer, a lace bodysuit, sweatpants, and Nike Dunks. Read below as we discuss her roots in Syria, how she landed in Los Angeles, latest project Handle With Care, beauty go-to’s, goals, and more!

Being from a Syrian refugee camp, how did that affect you?

It’s who I am to the core. I grew up in a very Middle Eastern household where my mom made sure we never forgot where we came from. That’s made me and my sisters very strong, very determined to get more out of life rather than our start in life. That’s the example I want to set, doing what I do for people that are still in that situation. 

How proud are your parents of you with the music?

It’s insane. I released “Where Do We Go From Here” in 2018, I got this video back of people in the Syrian refugee camp listening to it and they were so happy. That moment was really really big, because it changed my whole perspective on my purpose, why I do it. 

Everything very much stayed the same, it was just so much bigger. I always say it’s bigger than music, that’s my saying, because it is. You’re inspiring people you don’t even know you’re touching people that help share some of the stories. They’re still in that, which is so insane to me. I feel very blessed to represent them. 

Do you think someone played it for them, and they said “oh my gosh”?

Maybe, I don’t know how it even made its way around there. But all across the Middle East, it was #1. That was my first song, zero dollar budget. Independent, it was just us [points to Maria] and my two sisters that were behind it. That was it. 

You’ve been singing since 4 years old, and did your school talent show at 9. How’d that feel singing in front of the school that young?

I’m 9, trying to sing “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I was confident though. Because I thought I could do it, that was basically the reassurance I needed. Cool, my family says I can sing. I just need to have strangers tell me I can sing so I can actually do this. [laughs]

I ended up winning it and the next day, the parent of one of the students had bought me singing lessons. She’s chasing me down like “hey, I bought you singing lessons. I really think you should continue.” Singing lessons are expensive, I’m like what? It was that moment: if a stranger can believe in me, I can believe in myself enough to do it. And I can make the rest of the world believe in me, because they’re technically strangers right now. Trying to turn everyone into a believer, that was my goal since. 

What brought you to Los Angeles?

Music, I wouldn’t be here otherwise. The first time I came out here was because I won a competition, it was a beauty pageant that I won. My sister was entering me into beauty pageants because they had a talent section. When it came down to the speeches, I forgot almost every single speech. I’m standing up on stage, looking like an idiot. I’m looking at my sister in the audience like “you bitch,” and she’s pissing herself laughing. My mom’s dying laughing. I’m like, can we skip to the talent section so I can show you guys why I’m here? [laughs]

I ended up winning! I’m like oh wow. It was a free trip to LA, I remember we were staying right across the Staples Center at the time. I was so inspired, all the concerts were down here. I’m looking like, I swear I’m gonna perform here one day. I ended up doing the national anthem twice there. 

I saw that! At the Clippers game right?

Clippers versus Knicks, then Golden State Warriors versus The Clippers. 

That’s a big game!

[sighs] It was such a surreal experience, I don’t even know how to describe it because the national anthem is the hardest thing to sing. [laughs] It’s a song that everybody knows here, there’s so much pressure. Having been born in a Syrian refugee camp, being from New Zealand, being from Kurdistan, Middle East, and to be doing the United States national anthem it’s insane. 

At the time, there were 7 countries banned from coming into the country, including Syria. But I was already here. On my passport, it does show I was born in Syria, so I’m just laughing. I’m about to do the national anthem and my country’s already banned? It’s insane, but it goes to show you can literally do anything. 

Were you nervous?

Oh yeah, I was nervous. I was scared I was going to forget the lyrics. That’s the only thing: don’t forget the lyrics. I know I can hit the notes, just don’t forget the lyrics. And I didn’t. One time, Jennifer Garner was in the audience and I’m her biggest fan. I need to meet her! She said “you did such an amazing job.” Oh my god, I grew up watching you! It was so so cool. My sisters would so want to meet her too.

What inspired your project, Handle With Care?

Myself, I had been through a lot at the time. Creating a project called Handle With Care meaning these are my feelings, this is my heart. I’m an open book, so please handle it with care.  Handle me and my feelings, whatever I’m going through and my experiences, my heart which was very fragile at the time, just handle with care. I love that title. I wanted that for so long, so to be able to finally do that was so cool. 

How’s the independent grind?

It’s a grind. Whether you are signed or not it’s a grind, because the work doesn’t stop when you get signed. Being independent, you always have an advantage because you now know certain things you would’ve never known had you not had to do it yourself, so I love it. Being independent, you can do it to a certain point, depending on your goals and your vision. How big you want to get, eventually you do need a big team and somebody pushing you.

That’s where I’m at in my independent journey anyways. You know what, I’m trying to be a household name. I’m trying to be one of the biggest artists, and now I know the steps. I know what to do now because we’ve done everything we possibly could by ourselves. That doesn’t stop though. The hard work starts when you get signed, it really does. It doesn’t stop, that’s for sure. [laughs] Doesn’t get easier.

Congrats on “Do You Mind” hitting over 2 million streams on Spotify!

It was so crazy because we have not promoted that song once. It’s so insane. In the last 6 months, I’ve been watching it and it’s growing out of nowhere. It’s faster and faster. From when I posted it 2.5 weeks ago, it’s now at 2,100,000 something. For a song to be growing that quickly independently with no promo, it’s playing somewhere. Something has to be happening. It’s a cool feeling, I love that song. I’m glad that people love it. 

What are your beauty go-to’s?

With makeup, I cannot live without my lipliner, my blush. I have a liquid blush I use for my eyelids and my cheeks. A 2 in 1, it’s really easy. And mascara If I’m not gonna wear makeup, those are my go-to’s. And lip balm, that’s #1. I can’t live without those things. 

My skincare routine, I keep it real simple: cleansing, toning, moisturizing, Vitamin C, eye creams. Sometimes, I won’t put anything on at nighttime. People say “you’re crazy!” No, I’m trying to give my skin a break and not be so dependent on these products. 

Do you game?

I try to. This is the thing: I was playing Call of Duty for a while. One of my producer friends said “you need to go on this, because we’re all playing.” I wanted to be part of that community so okay cool, you need to teach me. We were playing for 3 months, this was while I was in New Zealand. I found out it’s such a great networking tool. I can play Call of Duty with these people and create a great relationship with them? It’s a great networking tool. 

How’s Tiktok going?

TikTok is so much fun, I get to be myself. I love it so much! You don’t have to be shy. Everybody’s themselves and unfiltered. What I realized is everybody is the same person. We’ve all been through the same things, we all get the same jokes. It’s so cool because it’s a massive community.

What’re you most excited about performing at Atlanta Pride Festival?

I’m excited, it’s going to be my second performance since I’ve been back. I’m so excited, I’ve been to Atlanta once, but being back to perform at the Atlanta Pride Fest, that’s massive for me. I’m very excited. 

Do you feel you have a community in the LGBTQ+ space?

Yeah, I think so. That’s why I’m so excited because everyone is one big family. That’s how I want it to feel.

Favorite song to perform in a set?

“Do You Mind.” I always perform one unreleased song, just to test it out. You never know whether it works, or it doesn’t.

Goals for yourself as an artist at this point of your career?

Honestly, to become one of the biggest artists in the world. Not just the States, I want to be global. A massive global artist, to sell out Madison Square Garden has been one of my goals since I was very young. That’s when I say okay, I made it. When I sell out Madison Square Garden. [laughs]