Mani Nordine: “My Network is my Net Worth”
Born in a tiny village in Morocco, Mani Nordine’s dance moves never failed to impress, as he pivoted his way to the new status of artistic director for the likes of Ricky Martin, Phil Collins, Gipsy Kings, Gala, Julio Iglesias, and Stevie Wonder. Mani found his natural forte in film and fashion, making a global name for himself with his work on the Charlie Chaplin movie whilst bringing a fresh eye to directing fashion shows for designers Jean-Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Lancel, and recently, Philipp Plein.
Today, Mani’s little black book is a star-studded list of celebrities, from Rihanna to Enrique Iglesias, making him the entertainment industry’s go-to for brokering commercial connections through his role as president of the American Artists Company.
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects you are working on?
Yes, I have many upcoming projects because keeping busy is how you must stay relevant in this industry and share the essence of what we are about. We just launched a fashion sneaker collection with artist Snoop Dogg and Philipp Plein. The collection is called Plein X Dogg and has sold out already. We did an amazing launch event in Bel Air, Los Angeles, at Philipp Plein’s house with an electric crowd including press and celebrities like Tommy Lee, Rich the Kid, etc. I co-executive produced a movie called “Bell Keeper” in the USA, and that will be released this year and distributed by Lionsgate. The film will star the famous US actor Randy Couture (he played the character Toll Road in the 2010 movie “The Expendables” and reprised the role in the 2012 and 2014 sequels). I’m also working on Snoop Dogg’s Europe tour, which will start at the end of March 2023. We haven’t brought this tour to Europe for eight years, so the tickets are already sold out.
Right now, I am in Riyadh working on closing a deal for creating a historic fashion week in Saudi Arabia, coming in September 2023. My team, in a company I co-founded, will be releasing our Metaverse experience later this year. The project is about David Guetta and features Akon, Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg and more. There are also quite a few other projects I am currently negotiating, but I can’t talk about these right now. Confidentiality is key in my job!
Tell us the story of your career growth. How did you start and why showbiz?
I have a very different career trajectory from other celebrity agents because my career started when I was very young and working in the entertainment industry. When I was eight years old I began practicing conservatory dance and at 14, I won the national gold medal. The French government awarded me a scholarship to continue studying in New York, and of course, America is the land of opportunities…
Is there any institution that teaches your profession?
Unfortunately, no. The opportunity to study my job academically doesn’t exist at all. What I would suggest would be the best mix would be intuition, passion and learning the basics of law. Law is important as it is needed for negotiating contracts and for networking. But most important of all is to practice consistency every single day. My favourite saying is “My network is my net worth.”
This industry has its fair share of narcissists and egocentrics. How do you manage to deal and work with them?
For me, narcissism and egocentrism can be advantageous qualities if you know how to manage people who possess these qualities – these characteristics give a lot of confidence to the talent. How can you perform in a stadium filled with 40,000 people if you are not self-assured? The problem comes when some artists lose themselves in it and confuse the artistic stage character with real life. Our job as producers and managers is to remind them every day about what is real and what is not. Usually, all the best and most talented people are insecure. What is presented is just an image and once you get close and get to know the real person, it’s all part of the marketing.
Is it possible to have friends in this industry?
Yes, absolutely. Before anyone is an artist they are human. You can meet amazing human beings as well as crazy and stupid ones. But in my opinion, artists are very interesting and very deep, if you can understand them. They see the world differently.
What projects in Morocco are you involved in?
In Morocco, I’m the main judge on the most popular TV show, “I Have a Dream”, which is aired every Saturday at prime time on Channel 1. It’s the franchise of “America’s Got Talent”. It’s been a massive success. I’m so blessed to be a part of the show for one year so far and to be able to support my country with my entertainment expertise and to help the industry grow. I’m also very involved in charity work because there is a lot of need in Morocco. I have a foundation called “Les Bonnes Oeuvres du Coeur”. It is dedicated to babies born with diseases. We raise money to help them. We do this by organizing events and all of my celebrity clients give their items for auction.
Who have been the most easy-going stars to work with and what has been your happiest professional collaboration during your career?
Honestly, in my twenty-five year career so many people have made great impressions. Snoop Dogg, Akon and 50 Cent are definitely the easiest to work with because I consider them friends. With them I don’t feel pressure or have the feeling that I am working. I’ve had the chance to work with Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson. I’m proud of the opportunity I’ve had to work with them as I consider them to be legends.
Can you share a hilarious challenge you’ve experienced in your job?
Yes, I have a funny one. I was on tour in Tunisia with Mariah Carey. She fell in love with a small village close to Tunis. She asked us if it was possible to clear the town of people for the weekend just for her and her kids. It was very complicated to explain to her that it was impossible to do so – even for money! (Laughs)
Every year, it gets more difficult to gain a following. What is needed for fame: money, talent or both? And has the rise of social media changed the rules?
I totally agree gaining popularity is more difficult – social media has changed all the rules. Everyone can be famous now, if they want. But to be a real star is very different. You need to work hard and have fantastic talent – this is the other level of fame. To my mind, it’s no bad thing to recognize who makes it and who does not.
In the last decade the showbiz world adopted the term ‘influencer’ as prominent figures saw their social media being followed by millions, opening new opportunities for connecting directly with legions of fans. How did this affect the industry?
It is a revolution for our industry – it has represented an unprecedented opportunity for new artists to gain a platform for their work. Imagine an artist hosting a concert with 500 bloggers in the audience, each with a following of at least 100,000. These bloggers then wholeheartedly share a performance video on their social media. The reach is extraordinary, so this represents a revolutionary new way for a single track or emerging artist to be promoted.
How do you use social media – how much time do you dedicate to it and has it been instrumental in helping you reach your goals?
I’m a social media addict! But I like to think of this as a good thing since it is an amazing tool to reach my audience, inspire others and discover new talent.
What’s your audience profile?
My audience evolves. Last time I checked my main following were mainly women (laughs) between 20-35 years old. I have a lot of followers in the USA and also a huge fan base in Brazil, though I really don’t know why! I have noticed that my most popular posts tend to be the ones where I do simple, everyday stuff with my family or work out at the gym. I assume this is because my followers already know about my ‘celebrity life’, so this is not a big surprise to them. They love the novelty of seeing me just being an average person, doing everyday stuff.
Who do you follow on social media?
Some of my favourite picks are Snoop Dogg, Paris Jackson, Paris Hilton and 50 Cent.
If you had to pick a favorite to recommend to someone?
My favourite feed is Snoop Dogg’s. I get so distracted by his feed because of the wide variety of stuff he posts – he’s very entertaining and super funny!