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Sonia Hassan

34, South Loop

Real-life roles: Voice-over artist, commercial model, Africa Hi-Fi cofounder 
Starring in: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Why Hi-Fi? The daughter of Egyptian immigrants, Hassan grew up in Elk Grove Village, majored in fashion at the Illinois Institute of Art, and is an activist at heart. “Chicago is a segregated city, even when it comes to entertainment,” says the host, promoter, and cofounder—with the noted DJ Ron Trent—of Africa Hi-Fi, an ongoing music series (formerly at Sonotheque, now at HotHouse) with a special emphasis on activism; think part seventies funk fest, part HIV/AIDS fundraiser. “I wanted to create something different and transcend that segregation,” Hassan says. “It’s a way to bring people together and do something to fix the problems that surround them.”

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Name one thing that’s overrated: Bling.

Childhood nickname? In high school, I got called Sonia Walkman, which was stupid, and a lot of people called me Sony or Sone. My dad calls me Sansoon, something he made up, and my mom calls me Zanana, which means “whiner” in Arabic.

Worst advice you’ve been given? “You should go to beauty school.”

Drinks before 5 p.m.: always, sometimes, never? Always, if it’s tea. I don’t drink alcohol.

Where would you like to get engaged? Back home in the motherland, Egypt, floating on the Nile.

In a dream world, who would you look like? A peacock. Write like? A master Arabic calligrapher. Dance like? Coco from Fame. And sing like? Minnie Riperton.

Favorite movie hero? Napoleon Dynamite.

Most quotable movie line? “I’m a loner . . . a rebel,” from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Last movie that made you cry? Brokeback Mountain.

Most recommended book? The Alchemist.

When you’re alone, who do you play air guitar to? Led Zeppelin.

What song will be played at your wedding? Your Love Is King, by Sade.

What’s your go-to homemade meal? Going to my mom’s house in the suburbs and eating her homemade stuffed grape leaves.

Fill in the blanks: Vacations are for finding yourself, not running away from yourself.

You pull a Ferris Bueller and call in sick on a beautiful July day. What do you do? I go to Lake Michigan and visualize playing in the water—but I’d never do it, because I’d never even put my toe in Lake Michigan.

What Chicago neighborhoods or suburbs have you lived in? Elk Grove Village, Lake View, South Loop, Ukrainian Village, and Bucktown. Bucktown used to be my favorite, the way it used to be, when I lived there in the nineties. Not now, though. The South Loop was really great, too. But now I have three high-rises coming up on each side of my building, and they’re going to block my view.

How long is too long to spend looking for a parking spot? Forty-seven minutes.

Teacher’s pet or class clown? Neither. I was the good, strange girl: I was a polite student, but my hair was in a ’fro hawk. Then I had that new-wave haircut, with my hair long on one side and shaved on the other. Then I had dreadlocks.

What did you think you’d be when you grew up? A singer.

Name one thing you have in your house from your childhood: Henry, my stuffed animal dog, my best friend from childhood. I don’t hang out with him, though; he stays in my closet.

And one embarrassing thing you hide when guests are coming over: My room, because it looks like a tornado hit it. I have an overabundance of clothing.

What’s your power outfit? My Afro wig and one of my Egyptian dresses.

How much is too much to pay for jeans? More than what the designer paid to have them made in China.

Have you ever collected anything? I collected records for ten years.

When was the last time you told a lie? What color?

Do you have any tattoos? I’m proud to say I don’t have one.

But if you did? I would get a cartouche, an Egyptian nameplate, on my upper arm between my shoulder and biceps.

What time is your alarm clock set for? I don’t have an alarm clock; I use my phone. I don’t wake up at normal times, though. I don’t like structure.

Dive bar or nightclub? I don’t want to go to either. How about a jazz lounge?

What’s your remedy for a tough day? Being around someone who is nice to me, watching a good movie, and eating delicious food.

How do you show someone you’re not interested? I tell them I’m celibate.

What makes someone a Chicagoan? [Being] anti-Macy’s.

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