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Sally Bishai, Contributing

Uncensored Editor-in-Chief Sally Bishai of
X Culture Mag

Alexander Graham Bell once said “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Sally Bishai, 28, made sure that didn’t happen to her. When the magazine she was a writer for shut down, Bishai lost her outlet to voice her thoughts. When she tried submitting her work to other publications she found that her writings were often to X-rated for their comforts – too religious, too political, too [Insert Excuse Here]. Instead of letting this censorship remain a barrier to sharing her words with the public, Bishai decided to start a series of business endeavors that gave a uncensored voice to others: X Culture Magazine, X Culture Films and Photo X Quarterly. This week we spotlight the talents and drive behind continued success of Bishai’s media outlets as we feature her in our Young & Professional Profile.


X Culture Magazine
X Culture Films
Photo X Quarterly


January 2004




Sally Bishai
Contributing Editor-in-Chief




Jacksonville, Florida

Current residence

Tallahassee, Florida.


Florida State University, PhD in Communication, December 2007
University of West Florida, MA in Communication Arts, 2003
Jacksonville University, BS in Psychology, 2001

Work Experience

X Culture Magazine, and Photo X Quarterly–Contributing Editor-in-Chief (Current)

Director of “Children of Kemet: The Copts, Culture and Democracy of Egypt” and “Back to Square One? Fifty Years After Emmett Till” and “Strange Behaviour–How Westerners Feel About Gender Roles in the Middle East” (documentaries) and “Miss Behaviour” (Feature Length Film).

Author of “Mideast Meets West: On Being and Becoming a Modern Arab American” and “Date Like an Egyptian: The Egyptian American’s Guide to Finding a Mate.. or Date.”

Columnist, American Daily, Daley Times-Post (and several other papers and Egyptian and Coptic websites and publications–current)

Lead blogger on The AntiSocialite, under “blog” at www.sallybishai.com

Fashion Photographer (since 1998 and current)

Instructor, Florida State University, 2004-2007

Instructor, Pensacola Junior College

Instructor, Okaloosa-Walton College

Instructor, University of West Florida



How did you get started?

Well, X Culture Magazine began after a magazine I was writing for, Privy Magazine, shut down. I was a music editor and writer there, and suddenly, the one outlet I had for writing–albeit just music writing–was gone.

I had been writing since 1991 or so (for publication and pay) so now that I had finished college and almost finished my Masters, it felt wrong to stop writing for a living, however paltry that living had been.

But everywhere I looked, there were issues of “Well, we can’t run articles about this” and “Sorry, hon, after September 11th we would prefer to steer clear of religious issues” etc.

And I had been no stranger to censorship–my political and religious and “critical of a society that seems to go downhill with every step” columns had been butchered (I mean edited) or flat-out banned since the beginning.

So God put the idea in my head to just up and make my own magazine, where no one could edit me or “tone me down” if I got too fiery. My intent is never to harm or offend, by the way, just to provide food for thought. In fact, the motto of X Culture Magazine is “Food for thought. So dig in.”

After a successful year of both the electronic and print X Culture (and by “successful” I mean “people read it,” not “we actually make money,” because to this day, under my brilliant business non-acumen, I continue to pay expenses out of pocket. But that’s ok, because as long as we have readers, as long as there are points being made and issues brought to the forefront, then that rocks! That’s all we’re looking for!

A year later, though, I started having lots of demands for my political photography–photographic coverage of events with high-profile people from the political, nonprofit and entertainment sectors. And I knew that printing a photo out will almost always kill the beauty of the original photo (keep in mind I’ve been doing fashion photography professionally since 1998) so I thought, “Why not make a print-only magazine that highlights the same issues as X Culture.. but features some great photography, as well!?”

And so, Photo X Quarterly was born.

A bit more expensive than other magazines, Photo X uses print-on-demand technology so that if a person wants 100 copies, they get 100, and if a person wants one, they get their one, with no waste and no out-of-pocket costs for me and my staff. One day, I hope to move to subscriptions and bring the cost to $4 a copy instead of 8, but until then we’ll just keep on keeping on.

Finally, X Culture Films is the name of the outfit that produces my documentaries. One is about the Copts, and the one before that was about Emmett Till’s murder and the still-rampant racism in America.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Editing articles, editing film, writing when I have a minute, taking meetings with up-and-coming writers who’ve stuffed themselves under my wings, taking my puppies out walking, trying not to skip classes!

Most notable milestones

I don’t think I’ve actually achieved any milestones yet, BUT I do know that I have been incredibly fortunate to be successful and have an audience for all my projects. God has truly blessed me by letting me be involved with so many excellent people, and by letting each project bring awareness and understanding and tolerance to more and more people.

What’s the niche?

The people who seem interested in my work are the sort who are concerned with human rights and religion and the Middle East and Egypt and Copts.

What makes me unique (in terms of writing, anyway) is that I’m one of the few young, Coptic (Christian), female writers covering Egypt in English.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Finding time to do this all!

Also, to stay motivated when I sometimes feel that no matter what I–or anyone–can do, things will never change.

Also, to take care of myself when I hear about a new kidnapping or murder or case of injustice. Sometimes I won’t sleep for days, just thinking about what happened or how to help. Other times, I get so mad that I can feel my blood pressure skyrocketing (even though I don’t even have high blood pressure!)

Some might say, “Well, Sally, do you get sad or mad when you hear about these same things in America?”

Well, it’s always saddening to hear about a tragedy. But when you have two segments of a population fighting over religion and rights and such–basically, things that can be controlled or stopped by humans (unlike a tornado or tsunami) then that makes the tragedy worse somehow.

So the CHALLENGE, really, is for me to keep from grabbing someone and yelling “WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG??!!”

What’s in store for the future?

I’m at work on a new documentary now, this one on religious persecution. Post-production has slowed down a bit because of my other responsibilities, but that’s good, because now I can add some more recent things that have happened.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

Well, I always love hearing from people who have something to say about my work. Much of the time, I get snipy comments from people who disagree with me, and I’m usually unable to email every single person back, but let it be known that all feedback is nice to get.

Also, we love hearing from new writers who would like to work with us. We’ve had dozens of interns working on PR and the like, and it’s amazing to see how in-tune some of them get to the human rights issues of today (compared to when they walk in, I mean).

Finally, I love hearing from people who want to help and don’t know how–for example, a man once wrote to me offering thousands of dollars and a place to stay for Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, the Egyptian blogger on trial for an anti-Islamic essay he published.

Of course, by then it was too late, and Kareem was in custody, but it was nice that a perfect stranger was moved to offer so much to a person of a different nationality and faith, when so many Egyptians call Kareem a traitor or say he deserves what he gets for being inflammatory (back to that “WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG” thing).

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

1- Find something that people really need (whether they know it or not!) and
2- Be the best at whatever you do

Guiding principle in life

Love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemies, turn the other cheek and all that jazz. And of course, making sure God is the center of everything I do or else it won’t work out. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way!

Yardstick of success

Whether I’ve done all I can and exhausted every possible option.. To me, success isn’t about how others react to what I do, but whether I do what I can or should do.

In Arabic we say “3amalt ely 3aleya” (I did my part).. after that, the rest is up to God.

Best practical advice

Never tolerate abuse or disrespect, do all you can to help, love everyone (even those you can’t stand), make a to-do list of 100 things and shoot for ten of them and be happy if you can accomplish five within a week (we’re talking big things here, not just “take out the trash” or whatnot), educate yourself, learn something new every day (again, talking important things, like “put the card from the parking garage in the visor above the driver’s seat so it won’t get lost and end up costing you a hundred bucks”), develop your interests, do what you love, take time for you, never turn your back on family (unless they’re on PCP and holding a razor blade) and just BE YOURSELF!

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

Well, seeing how I almost flunked out of middle school, high school and college, I consider anything my family says “encouraging.” (Also, they’re my best friends, so anything they say to me is encouraging, too.)

What motivated you to get started?

The human rights violations, the hatred for Arab Americans after September 11th, the ignorance, the intolerance, the hatred. I would have been heartless to NOT start when I was in a great position to start.

Like best about what you do?

That I do it for love and because I care.. if it turned into an actual job with a paycheck, I don’t know if I could maintain this passion for this many years!

Like least about what you do?

Laying out the magazine, and putting titles on the Arabic-language interviews I have!

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer or a rock star!

What was your first job?

A columnist.

Biggest pastime outside of work


Person most interested in meeting

Jesus, because even though He’s with me daily, I’ve never managed to give him a hug!

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I never eat the ends of French fries.
2. I used to be the lead singer in a band.
3. I would go mad (literally) if I couldn’t write every day. (That happened to the Marquis de Sade, didn’t it?) In fact, when I was in high school, I wrote something like 41 full-length novels and forced my parents to buy me a machine that bound them into hard-covered books. (This was back in the days when I wrote mostly fiction. Ahh, for the time to go back to that!)

Three characteristics that describe you

1. Feeling
2. Eccentricity (I don’t try, it just happens)
3. Excess

Three greatest passions

1. Creating
2. Expressing
3. Educating/Enlightening/Forcing people to think

Favorite book

The Bible (although I’m down with historical fiction and Ted Dekker and some sci-fi and some cyber and some gothic and some drama and some thrillers)

Favorite cause

Ending ignorance and stupidity!

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Interview by Myriam Bouaziz
Introduction by Sumaya Kazi
Edited by Sumaya Kazi

Also this week

Danny WenKenia DavalosNirali Patel

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