Reality TV

My new show will be a reality TV show about me becoming a singer/artist in Chechnya. There is a new rule that all singers must perform live on stage. Previously everyone was lip synching – so this will be interesting.

Kristall

I’ll be working with Aimani Aidamirova, Tamara Dadasheva and many others. I have to admit, I’m nervous about this show because it’s going to be difficult to learn so many songs, dances, movements and I must take acting classes. The reason for the acting classes are because I have NO facial expressions when I am performing – lol. It is tragic.

Today I will pick up a song from Islam Ahmedov – he has so many hits – I’m excited to work with him.

Ислам Ахмедов (Islam Ahmedov)

He did this for for Tamilla Sagaipova:

He is also in the group “Grozny” ( Гр.Грозный )

Гр.Грозный ("Grozny")

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>MY FIRST NATIONAL COSTUME!

>I am so happy. My first national costume is complete!!!! I picked it up today and wore it to shoot a segment of my show. It looks awesome. I was dancing with Tima. Actually the costume he is wearing is mine as well. It was a present that i received from a lady named Mariat this week. So I suppose I have 2 national costumes. How cool.


Amnat ( my dressmaker ) and I

It was 41 degrees and we were dancing directly under the blazing sun! Oh well, it looked good even though i was completely SOAKED.

My dance teacher Ashab Meijidov was there to guide me …



>Oooohhh, so sensational baby!!!

>An article about me came out today by a rather unprepared and uniformed “journalist”. I actually feel sorry for him. How humiliated he must feel in front of his professional colleagues for writing such an insane story…. or maybe the more insane the better?
I reckon he was upset when I embarrassed him in the interview by reminding him that Chechnya was a republic, not a country. I also asked him how some journalists (hint, hint ) could be so ignorant and arrogant to imply that the Chechen Republic should not have any light / entertaining television programs and us western superiors should obviously have it all.
Poor fellow was so stirred up by the time we ended our conversation, I knew the article would be ridiculous with a hint of nasty sprinkled on top. Hahaha.

In the end he took things very personally. I know he couldn’t stand me, but here’s where things get interesting – and I don’t quite understand it….
He used nothing I mentioned in the interview that made him look bad ( which was the entire interview ) so, why in the world would he then make me even more popular by releasing the most sensational article online about me with the most flattering photo??!!!!!!

All I can say to him is – THANK YOU. Big kiss from me!!!!!! xoxoxox

Hahhahahahahahaha

Cutting and pasting quotes together randomly….talk about propaganda and sensationalism at it’s best!!!!

Canadian panned as modern-day Tokyo Rose

A Canadian ex-fashion model, known by some as the glamorous new face of Chechnya and by critics as a modern-day Tokyo Rose, came under criticism Friday by human rights groups over her promotion of strongman Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Torontonian Chrystal Callahan, who has anchored a weekly news and entertainment program for Chechnya TV since last year, was described on a CNN profile broadcast this week as “Kadyrov’s most enthusiastic and visible western defender.”

But both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said her program, directed to Chechens both at home and abroad, provides a one-sided view of developments in the Russian republic.

Allison Gill, director of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office, says she has no objection to Grozny TV using a westerner to promote locally and internationally the local government’s achievements in rebuilding the city devastated by two wars since 1994.

“What I find problematic is when that kind of attention is used to mask problems, to deny their existence and to do really nothing to resolve them,” Gill said Friday.

“It seems pretty clear she was hired solely for propaganda purposes.”

Amnesty International Moscow-based researcher Friederike Behr wouldn’t criticize Callahan directly, but said the Canadian is collaborating in an effort to present only one side of Chechnya’s evolution.

Kadyrov, a former warlord installed as president in 2007, is accused of direct involvement in torture, extrajudicial killing, and disappearances that continued in 2009, according to both human rights officials.

Callahan’s program, which she describes as “entertainment and light news,” focuses only on Kadyrov’s achievements.

She began one program by declaring in English, with her words translated into Russian with subtitles, that “the Chechen Republic is steadily becoming a region (that is an) example for other parts of Russia.” Callahan, saying she knows nothing about “rumours” of rights violations, said her state-funded program is intended to provide “uplifting” news for an area that has suffered deeply from war.

“I’m showing a side of the Chechen Republic that obviously no one has ever seen before,” she told Canwest News Service.

Callahan stresses that much of her work involves documenting Chechen culture, and she’s taken a first-person approach by driving a tractor, trying on head scarves worn by women in the Muslim republic, and even performing a folkloric dance while singing in Chechen.

But she does occasionally delve into politics.

In the CNN interview she stated bluntly that Kadyrov’s many critics, and various human rights groups, are wrong in accusing him of orchestrating the assassination in Austria last year of Chechen dissident Umar Israilov in Vienna.

Israilov, the Chechen president’s former bodyguard, went to the European Court of Human Rights to accuse Kadyrov of participating directly in kidnappings and torture.

“Do I think he killed him? Absolutely not. What would he have to gain by that?” Callahan told CNN.

She added: “If there’s no proof and there’s no concrete evidence, who cares?”

Callahan wouldn’t reveal to Canwest her age or anything about her family, though she confirmed she was born and raised in Toronto and spent most of her modelling career in Tokyo.

She said she was introduced to Chechnya while embarking on a career as a documentary-maker, and caught the attention of one of Kadyrov’s top aides after producing a documentary on young Chechen wrestlers.

Callahan appears to delight in her role, expressing her enthusiasm with a teenager-like tone in both her blog and in her conversation.

She describes individuals and events in Chechnya as “cool,” the “coolest,” and “awesome,” while critics are “such a drag” and jealous of the success of others.

People were so nice to her upon her arrival, she told CNN, that she concluded: “This place rules.”

Callahan said she has never gone on websites to learn more about rights violations in Chechnya, saying she’s too busy.

She also dismisses accusations that she’s a propagandist along the lines of Tokyo Rose, the generic name given to female Japanese whose radio commentaries were intended to sap the morale of allied troops during the Second World War.

“I’m out there driving tractors. I’m not a hard news journalist. I’m sure there are enough journalists covering that, all the negative aspects and the rumours.”

CNN interview

>Hi everyone,

I am still on vacation…somewhere in North America….. I started getting emails that I was on CNN.com, so I checked it out.
What a surprise, I forgot I did it – I think it was from 2 months ago. Ivan Watson is a fair reporter – I like the interview and video that goes with it.

Click here to watch : Chrystal Callahan – CNN Interview

Here is the text :

Canadian model finds fame in Chechnya
By Ivan Watson, CNN
June 16, 2010 7:51 a.m. EDT

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

* Canadian former fashion model is perhaps the most famous foreigner in Chechnya

* Her TV shows range from current affairs to religious instruction to hobbies

* She defends Chechen president who was named one of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom”

* But Chrystal Callahan is also a symbol of peace and stability

Grozny, Chechnya (CNN) — The news in Chechnya has an unlikely Canadian face: a former fashion model with a catchy name who anchors the news in English on state-run TV.

“Good evening. This is Chrystal Callahan and these are the highlights of the week,” says the smiling anchor at the start of her program. “The Chechen Republic is steadily becoming a region of example for other parts of Russia!”

Aided by a constant stream of Chechen sub-titles, Grozny TV’s English-speaking anchor from Toronto has arguably become the most famous foreigner in post-war Chechnya.

Callahan first traveled to what was long the most war-torn, dangerous corner of Russia several years ago, while filming a documentary about a Chechen Greco-roman wrestling team.

“When I [first] came to Chechnya I was so happy and grateful that I got to come here,” Callahan said, in an interview in one of the studios of Grozny TV. “It was so awesome. Everyone was so nice. And my first impression was “wow, this place rules.””

Today, Callahan lives in Grozny and hosts a series of current affairs and cultural programs.

The program might show her on any given week learning to manipulate manikins at Grozny’s puppet theater or preparing traditional Chechen recipes in the station’s kitchen studio.

She says she has a responsibility to broadcast to members of the Chechen diaspora who have lost touch with their homeland after being scattered around the world by a decade of war.

Though she is not a Muslim, Callahan also offers viewers weekly lessons in Islam, the main religion of the region.

“This week in Islam, we learn about Doomsday,” Callahan announced, at the beginning of a recent interview segment with a Chechen Islamic scholar.

And the tall, dark-skinned Canadian has even begun singing and dancing traditional Chechen folk songs in music videos.

“Everyone needs entertainment and a lighter side of things. So the show I do is light and it’s entertaining,” said Callahan, during a walk through a park in Grozny that includes a memorial to slain journalists. “It’s such a drag, can you imagine? Everyone talking about the war, the war.”

But her “lighter side” approach to the news also extends to Chechnya’s young leader. Callahan devotes a lot of time to documenting the daily achievements of Chechnya’s 33-year-old rebel-turned-Russian-backed-president.

“Horse-racing season has begun in the Chechen republic. The president of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, opened the tournament,” announced Callahan in one recent broadcast. “The horse races were devoted to the counterterrorist operation’s regime cancellation day as well as the birth of a son from a close friend of the president,” Callahan narrated, over video of Kadyrov watching the contest with uniformed officers.

Kadyrov had a race track constructed at the entrance of his presidential mansion. “In the second race the president’s horse Ergies took first place.”

For years human rights groups have accused Kadyrov and his security forces of kidnapping, torture and even extra-judicial killings.

In 2010, the Paris-based watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders added Kadyrov to its list of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom.”

The group pointed out vocal critics of Kadyrov keep getting murdered. Most recently, Austrian police linked one of Kadyrov’s top aides to the fatal shooting of a Chechen dissident named Umar Israilov in Vienna, Austria.

Kadyrov routinely denies these charges. Callahan dismisses them too.

“If there’s no proof and there’s no concrete evidence, who cares?” Callahan asks.

“Do I think he killed him [Israilov]? Absolutely not,” Callahan says. “What would he have to gain by that? You know, he did so much to try to make this a safe place so kids could run around. There’s no war!”

She speaks while strolling through a Grozny park where elderly women sit chatting on benches and music plays from speakers at an outdoor café that serves instant coffee.

In this relaxing place, Kadyrov’s most enthusiastic and visible Western defender is something of a celebrity.

Young Chechens begin drifting up to Callahan, asking to pose along side the Canadian for photos snapped on their cell phones.

“It’s really nice that she’s from Canada and that she traveled here to host the show,” says 18 year old Avsan Veshal after smiling for the camera.

To these star-struck Chechens, Chrystal Callahan is more then just a mouthpiece for the Kadyrov government. The presence of Grozny’s most famous foreigner also symbolizes something everyone here is hoping for after years of conflict: stability and peace.

>2nd Chechen Video Shoot

>

I m toast. I can’t even think I am so tired. Today started off with rehearsal at Ministry of Culture. After that, I went to get changed where Aimani keeps costumes for herself and her ensemble.

After myself and all the backup dancers and singers got changed – we went to the location to shoot the video. Ibrashka was the cameraman.

Before we could shoot, Aimani’s assistant Idris had to run down the hill and shoo the grazing cows away to another location.
There were cows everywhere.
I am nervous – trying to practice my lyrics and dance moves.
It was also crazy windy today.
I get a lesson from Aiman on how I need to spin – because mine looks crazy.
Aimani is directing the shoot.
I finally pull my spins off. Yes!
My friends from Aimani’s ensemble.
Shooting a scene.
My friends in the dance group.
And the part I am most proud of – I can finally pull off the move that EVERY Chechen singer that performs on the big stage can do.
YES!! Progress.
The video will air on Sunday for the holiday ” Day of Chechen Language”

>The end of the week ( April 7th – 10th 2010 )

>

During the day on Wednesday I was walking to Dom Pichati through the “Journalist Park” when I noticed that the name of Dom Pichati had been changed to the Chechen version. It’s now called Zorbanan Ts’ ah.

On Wednesday night I decided to go to Chernolechie and visit my friends. I had been working so much I hadn’t seen them in 1 month.
Fatima made a Chechen dish that is in season right now – I think it is called “Yizan Galnash”. I could be wrong…..

It is made from nettles, garlic shoots and fat from a cow or sheep with a lot of salt.
Fatima is making the dough for it now. The nettle mixture is put into round pieces of dough and looks like dumplings.
It tastes great!!!!!!
Fatima’s son is behind me and giving me rabbit ears in this photo.

Thursday morning started early. I had to be at dance and singing rehearsal at the Ministry of Culture by 9am .
Rehearsal was packed – all the young girls were there on this day. The little ones are so cute because they are just learning how to dance.
Here is the routine I am working on at the moment. I am recording a new song with Aimani’s ensemble. We will shoot a music video in the next week for it.
Dancing is such hard work. I had no formal training before and now I am dancing everyday on my toes like a ballerina – it hurts!!!!!
This is the part of the routine that I have difficulty with. After the 1st verse I have to go out and do a dance. Hopefully it will all come together by the time the video shoot is on.
And on Thursday night in editing – I caught the entire process of a guy breaking an apple in half. Artur did it. here is the process……
And finally, last night was Friday. My friend picked me up and we went to a place in Microyan. I was bored of going out to places in Grozny and wanted a change of scenery. This cafe was awesome. They had the best sound system and played the best music. The cabins were all private and it was decorated well. There is a song by Akon they were playing. I am going to download it from ITunes now!
This is the place in Microyan.
Me chilling out in a private cabin after a long week of work. Akon is playing in the background.

>Chechen Theatre

>

I did a show about Chechen theatre today. I really have never been that into plays – they always seemed so boring to me. However, this was one of the best times I’ve had filming a show. Everyone on the cast of this play had great attitudes and were really good actors.
The year is 1935 – the revolution is over. I am playing the role of a peasant girl named Kelisat who lives in the highlands of Chechnya. I am from a poor illiterate family and have just received a degree. I can read and write. No one else in my family can. All the guys in the village want to marry me.
Kelisat ( AKA Chrystal ) I am nervous and worried I won’t be able to pronounce my lines in Chechen .
Rehearsing with Khava Akmadova ( director of this theatre group ) and other actors.
In this scene, I am proving to my family that I can write their names – they are so impressed – because none of my family can write their own names.

This is me and Khava Akmadova. She is also a singer and has a TV show on Grozny TV called Daimokh.

My next scene: I am going to the stream to get water. I have called all the guys that are in love with me there. I want to tell them all that I am getting married and that they should stop bugging me.

But..they continue to profess their love, sometimes trying to give me gifts.

And…some offer me a wonderful life. However, I have already made my decision and I leave them all standing there. I pick up my water jug and go home.

The cast of the play.

This is Kameta – she is the girl that plays the part of Kelisat ( I just took her spot for today )

Cool day – acting is fun !

>Radio Free Europe Interview

>

Canadian Model Unlikely New Face Of Chechen TV

Chrystal Callahan calls her job ”a dream come true” and says she has never regretted her decision to trade the catwalk for a career on Chechen television.
January 13, 2010
By Claire Bigg

Chrystal Callahan likes shopping, designer clothes, and fine cuisine. Much of her weekly television show, “Highlights of the Week with Chrystal Callahan,” is devoted to beauty and fashion, with a sprinkling of folk culture and music.

From her job description, one would never guess the Canadian model-turned-anchor is broadcasting from Chechnya, a region still reeling from two devastating wars.
Although the conflict is officially over, thousands of civilian war victims are believed to still be buried in the dozens of mass graves that dot the Russian republic. Kidnapping and murder are rife in Chechnya, which remains one of the most deadly places in the world for human rights activists.

But the Toronto-born former model says she feels at ease in her adopted land. Speaking to RFE/RL by phone from Grozny, she acknowledges life in the Chechen capital can be dangerous. But she insists the risks are now no worse than those in crime-troubled Western cities like Chicago or Mexico City.

“I feel completely safe. I think the problem with many people and why they might feel so frightened about coming to Chechnya is because of all the negative press,” Callahan says.

“There’s usually never any good stories coming out of Chechnya that are covered by the media, so I think that’s what the problem is.”

The Face Of Chechnya

Callahan is determined to set the record straight.

Since June 2009, she has hosted her television show on Chechen state-run television, which casts a decidedly positive spin on life in the North Caucasus republic.

The show appears every Sunday evening in English with Russian subtitles. “Highlights of the Week” consists of three sections — a news review, a cultural feature on a topic of her choosing, and a Q&A session in which she answers questions sent in by viewers.

Callahan says the 20-minute program deliberately avoids difficult and negative topics.

Initially intended for Chechens and Chechnya-watchers living abroad, it broadcasts both across Russia and abroad via satellite. But Callahan says the program has also proven popular in Chechnya, and has transformed her into a local celebrity.

Callahan, who says she’s in her 20s, calls her job “a dream come true” and says she has never regretted her decision to trade the catwalk for a career on Chechen television.

She first came to Chechnya in 2007 as a budding filmmaker to shoot a documentary about a group of teenage Chechen wrestlers struggling with the legacy of war.

That’s when Callahan, who describes herself as “obsessed” with Chechen traditional music and dancing, floated the idea of working for local television.

She is now the head-scarf-wearing spokeswoman of Chechnya’s state campaign to improve the image of the republic and convince the world that the separatist insurgency has been crushed and that wartime tribulations are a part of the past.

WATCH: “Highlights of the Week with Chrystal Callahan”



‘Positive, Not Propaganda’

Many Chechens are grateful to Callahan for shedding light on everyday life in a region known for little else but war.

But critics say her view of Chechnya is skewed. They accuse her of being a willing cog in the propaganda machine of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-installed leader of Chechnya, who has been aggressively promoting his own cult of personality and whom rights groups accuse of massive abuses, abductions, and torture.

She has been compared to famous British journalist Walter Duranty, who headed “The New York Times'” Moscow bureau from 1922 to 1936 and is now widely criticized for his favorable portrayals of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

A series of ads for Russia Today were recently rejected by U.S. airports.

In fact, Callahan is just one of many bright young Westerners who make a living by helping spruce up the image of troubled regimes across the post-Soviet space — at outfits such as the English-language television channel Russia Today, for instance, or the U.S. PR agency Ketchum, hired by the Kremlin in 2006 to manage its public image.

But Callahan, who declines to discuss how much she earns for her work, defends her program, saying she is honoring the Chechen culture.

“I show the beautiful side of how people try to preserve their culture and traditions. I feature people and stores that make positive changes to the republic,” Callahan says.

“The last time I checked in the dictionary, the word positive did not equal propaganda.”

Inspired By Kadyrov

Kadyrov features prominently in the news section of Callahan’s program, which week after week airs footage of him opening hospitals, visiting schools, and unveiling monuments.

The website that carries Callahan’s show, chechnyatoday.com, regularly runs stories extolling Kadyrov, with headlines such as “The Chechen Republic President Is The Greatest Hope” or “Activity Of The Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov Has Been Compared With Policy of Peter the Great.”

Although Kadyrov himself has publicly admitted to killing some of his opponents, many see the Chechen leader — who has taken much of the credit for a vast reconstruction program bankrolled by Moscow — as the man who ended the war and rebuilt the North Caucasus republic.

Ramzan Kadyrov with his son at a racetrack on Police Day in Gudermes.

Callahan, who first met Kadyrov in 2007 over ice cream and coffee, is one of them.

“My first impression was, wow, what a down-to-earth person. He was funny; he made really funny jokes. He was clever. He was a gentleman.

But what stood out the most was that he is extremely proud of his homeland and culture. He’s very charming. To be honest, I’ve never met anyone like that.

“It made me want to work even harder on anything I did from then on, because I saw this person who was giving his entire self, making massive advancements in preserving culture, reopening schools and hospitals.”

The killing of several Chechen human rights campaigners last year, including fierce Kadyrov critic Natalya Estemirova, has not shaken Callahan’s stated faith in the Kadyrov regime.

As far as she is concerned, accusations of rights abuses against him are mere “speculation, rumors, and gossip.”

Despite the controversy surrounding her employer, Callahan is in no hurry to leave Chechnya. She has just signed a new, one-year television contract and is exploring the seemingly endless career possibilities offered by the postwar region.

She has recently published a book, “Diary of a Fashion Model in Chechnya,” and even appears to be eyeing a career in music, with the recent release of a song in Chechen.

>I hate Sunday’s – but not this one…

>I usually hate Sunday’s. Always have. There is never anything good on TV and nothing to do. However, this Sunday I spent in my apartment eating sunflowers seeds, carrot salad, surfing the web (yes, Chechnya’s gone 3G!!)  and watching Season 1 of OZ. Why did I only bring one season of Oz and 5 season’s of Footballer’s Wives?? I watched all 5 seasons of FBW’s in 2.5 weeks.
I was supposed to go to my Chechen language lesson at 1pm but my teacher called and canceled. Can’t say that I am sad about it. I am happy to stay inside and in bed all day before going back to work tomorrow.

In other news, I need to re-record my 1st Chechen pop song. Well, it’s not really pop because I decided to go with traditional / national style music. It isn’t working out too well. My manager Yusup ( AKA Yurt DA ) thinks the tempo needs to be sped up. I agree. The only problem is….I still can’t pronounce the following sounds ( г1, Кх, Къ, КI, Оь, Уь, Хь, Х, ЦI, Юь, Яь ) I feel like I will never be able to make these sounds, but I do see progress.
No esharsh (эшарш ) debut for another 2-3 weeks.