Vivian Nouri was born into a Syrian refugee camp after a bomb destroyed her home in Northern Iraq during the Kurdish uprising, and now she has burst into Hollywood as a singer for an upcoming Christmas film.
Now she is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Diplo and Chance the Rapper, but the talented 24-year-old hasn’t always lived in luxury as she is one of six siblings born to a heroic mother who made the perilous journey to Iran in 1991 along with about two million other Kurds fleeing the violence.
After making it by foot to Iran, Vivian’s two elder sisters and her mother were sent to a Syrian refugee camp where Vivian was born and lived for her first two years.
Here’s her cover of Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love…
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The family were granted refugee status in New Zealand in 1995, where they have called home ever since.
Vivian’s 27-year-old sister Jennifer told UNILAD:
In 1991 after the gulf war and during the Kurdish uprising in Northern Iraq our house was destroyed by a bomb and so my mother fled with me and my eldest sister at the time.
After the house was destroyed by a bomb and we fled, my mum said a lot of people died of hypothermia or starvation because it was a long trip to Iran. It was snowing in the mountains at the time, so we had to walk through the mountains. We did the whole journey by foot .I was seven months at the time so our mother carried us.
About two million Kurds went towards Turkey and the other half went towards Iran and subsequently we were living in a refugee camp and that’s where Viv was born in 1993.
She grew up in a Syrian refugee camp. What I remember about it is that we lived in a tent and my mum would walk a long way everyday to fetch water with one of us with her. That’s how much I remember of it. She’s our main inspiration. We’ve all gone on to do big things and it’s all thanks to her.
We were there until 1995 when were granted refugee status in New Zealand because I needed medical attention, so it was on those grounds we were granted the status. We have been here ever since and call New Zealand our home now.
Vivian has gone from the refugee camp where she famously used to graze on ants, to singing on the big screen.
From a very young age, Vivian sang and she recollected the standing ovation she received at the school talent show which confirmed her dreams of being a singer.
Speaking to UNILAD, Vivian said:
At the beginning of the year I made the decision to drop everything in New Zealand quit my job in IT. I was studying IT as well at the time and only had a year left on that but I just needed to put it on hold so I could go to the States and see if I could do it. I only went knowing one person out there, Brian Kennedy. I sent my video of Close To You by Rihanna which is a song he produced and he really loved it.
I quit my job, went over at the beginning of February this year and I was going to go for a month, but while I was there they wanted me to extend it because we had so much stuff to record. At the time it was Grammy season so Brian would take me to all these pre-Grammy parties and events where I would get to meet more people. Through that I met Jason, the Music Supervisor at Paramount Records.
I couldn’t believe the people I was around. At the party, Diplo was there, Chance the Rapper was just walking around so casually. I was in the right place at the right time.
Vivian told me how Fifth Harmony were her favourite celebrities to meet because when she met them at the studio she was the only girl around and ‘they were so welcoming and really friendly and they stayed with me the whole time’.
Having uploaded videos of her singing to Youtube and trying to gain contacts, Vivian sent her video to Brian… and it resulted in her getting a call from Paramount Studios asking her if she could try recording a song.
Instantly she agreed, learnt the song in an hour and sung it at the studio in LA.
This one morning Jason rang me and asked if I would be able to sing a song. He sent it to my email and before I even listened to it I just said yes and then learned it in an hour and then met him at the studio.
The studio that we were at, the engineer showed me photos of where Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie had recorded albums. I just felt like it was crazy and it really got me in the mood.
The Christmas song they gave me had an Amy Winehouse kind of vibe so I warmed up with an Amy song and then sang the song and they loved it. Then a week later I got an email saying the song was locked into the movie.
My fingers couldn’t even type because I was so excited. It’s just crazy because I’m not signed under a label and don’t have any management or anything like that, so I’m completely independent. I’ve been told by so many people that for something like that to happen to someone with nobody behind them, it’s really rare.
The singer’s big break is a Christmas song featuring on the a big Hollywood film soundtrack, which is set to be released in the US on November 10 this year.
The movie stars Hollywood heavyweights Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Cena, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson and now the vocal talents of Kiwi Vivian Nouri.
Vivian went on to express:
Being from my refugee background and coming to Hollywood is really humbling. Coming from where I come from, I don’t think you could ever not be humble. That’s what drives me to want it even more, you’ve got people who say bad things, but I really don’t give a shit. I’m in a good place and I know the right people, and I’m very humbled to be in this position.
I was at the gym one morning when I got a call that blew my mind. I was asked to sing a song that would be featured in the hilarious upcoming film, 'Daddy's Home 2'. EXCITED to announce that it's locked in and will be released on 10 November in the US and 23 November in NZ. Listen out for my voice in one of the scenes!! ??Ahhhhhhhhh! A big thank you to Paramount Pictures. Forever grateful ? #isthisreallife #blessed
Vivian isn’t signed to any label and is her own manager. She is a completely independent artist and said that her refugee background is extremely humbling everyday.
All of her siblings have gone onto great things, crediting their incredible mother as their inspiration.
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