She is a strong woman with strong intuition, just like Handan, whom she portrayed in Forbidden Apple. She lives with a high awareness, at peace with herself, without consuming her energy and without sacrificing for the sake of power, thanks to the experience that her life journey has given her. Şebnem Dönmez is a deep woman who can interpret success not from someone else’s eyes but within the framework of her own happiness, embraces her career, which she defines as a creative process, not with ambition but with her feelings, seeks the truth in all areas of life and cares not to be beautiful in the simplicity she finds, but to feel beautiful.
What made you accept the Forbidden Apple project? What attracted you to the script?
Forbidden Apple was not a project that was on my radar until I got the offer to play the character of Handan. Of course I knew of its existence. The appealing aspect of the series is that it is the only feminist work that can be found on Turkish television.
I entered the Forbidden Apple as a guest actor for six episodes. But our togetherness continued until the end of the project. The Forbidden Apple family loved me. I them too. When the audience loved Handan, a very nice union emerged.
What kind of message did Handan, who is a strong character, have for women? What did you like most about it?
In the series, not only Handan but all the women we watch as the main characters draw strong profiles. This is the success of writers Melis Civelek and Zeynep Gür, who created these characters for six seasons without losing the interest of the audience. Handan is a unique, funny and very intuitive woman. She is a survival professional who finds herself in impossible situations but can exist without ever stopping to be herself.
What’s your strong woman recipe?
The answer to this question has changed according to different periods of my life. In the past, I used to answer the woman who can stand upright in the face of difficulties and do not collapse. To be strong today; I define it as a woman who does not consume her own life energy to appear strong, who is at peace with the feminine and masculine in her, who has learned what it means to be herself, and who lives without compromising. She is a woman who knows how to rest a lot as well as work a lot, open up space for herself, stay calm and know how to listen deeply.
You underlined that Forbidden Apple is a feminist work. What can you say about the concept of sisterhood, which is emphasized in the series and also emphasized by Merve Dizdar and Melek Mosso, who recently talked about women’s power and solidarity?
A rising value among all women in the world is sisterhood. I don’t think it’s just unrequited love. I started healing by giving my sisters the love I wanted to see. Healing continued by supporting them, staying with them no matter what. I have sisters who pray behind my back, not talk behind my back. This fire continues to rise in the lands we live in. I think the modern world’s women’s liberation movement has officially started with #MeToo. While terrible things continue to happen, awareness of the impact of our voice and the importance of making a sound is simultaneously rising.
You had a great breakthrough in your career with Sabah Candy, which you presented with Murat Başoğlu in 1996. What kind of changes do you see when you compare the Turkish TV/TV series world with those times?
Unfortunately, where we are today is much further behind than the starting point. It’s like there’s no television programming. There are a few good programs that I follow, but they are also chat programs. After years when the creative field occupied a large part of the work, different formats came to the fore, and even these formats were followed on world television and adapted to Turkey, today’s landscape is sad. There is nothing but television series and political programs on television. Colors are left. The fun is over.
As a storyteller, I also care about serials, and it’s obvious that we are much more advanced than before, but television programming has gone backwards.
Being a server was a job I loved very much. I missed it. I have plans regarding this issue for the coming periods.
Apart from presenting, you have also been acting for years. What do you like most about acting?
What I love about acting is that it brings out the unique world of different characters from the depths of my unchanging being. The characters actually change each time, but their origin is always the same. They come out of me and then lead a life of their own.
Is there a character/role that you haven’t played yet but would like to portray?
There are many, but how those characters are written is more important than who they are. The most uninteresting person in the world is so processed in the script that you would love to play him. What matters is the story and the whole story. The important thing is what kind of space that role occupies in that whole. In short, the character alone doesn’t mean much. I still have the characters in mind. For example, he may be a very good detective or a dancer at his job. Or, giving life to a personality struggling with mental illness but not perceptive about it sounds good right now.
What do you think is success? Do you consider yourself successful?
Success is being happy. Success is the ability to overcome unhappiness by gaining wisdom even if you seem lost and unhappy. It is very important to ask the right questions. The only thing we have left in the journey of life is the experience itself. In the past, I used to evaluate these issues from the eyes of others, I cared about how others saw me.
Success is beautiful. But I’m not interested in that. I believe that when you do your job with passion, success will come automatically. The goal should not be success. Otherwise, we will always live a life according to others. The aim should be to enjoy making, creating and moving in life. When you focus on the process, not the result, you can see the real thing.
My mottos are: Enjoy life, be happy, do what you love. Follow your own desires, not others. Live according to what brings you joy. Close your ears and eyes. And keep moving. Could I have just given you the formula for success?
How do you dream for your career from now on? What’s in your plans?
I don’t feel very close to the word career. I prefer to talk about creative processes. And in the creative process I’ve been on, I entered quite fertile land nine months ago. I started writing with a partner. His name is Emre Cicek. We’re writing a series. We have a lot of fun, work hard and like what we write. Slowly, someone started to read the scripts we wrote. Feedback is also good. I’m excited obviously. I aim to create creations in a brand new field without rushing.
You are always energetic. How would you describe yourself?
I am full of joy. My heart is too big. I guess that’s what it’s like to be young in spirit. My soul is young but at the same time an ancient soul. I’m not interested in anything that isn’t genuine. I am exposed, but I do not let it seep into my being. I am looking for the true in emotions, in the creative field, in my relationship with life, myself and my environment. In order to reach the truth, it is necessary to remove everything that is not genuine.
I had a difficult childhood. I stumbled from time to time, but I did not turn back. The goal was always to find the highest version of myself. I continue to grow.
How would you describe love? What can you say about the relationship between marriage and love?
Low-frequency love is possessive and restrictive. However, the highest state of love is that which is felt with unrequited love. I’m talking about a non-dominant love, the love of a partner who is by your side unconditionally, speaking the truth. I observe that people are very afraid of being alone, and that is why they approve of the lower frequencies of love. For love, first of all, it is necessary to be able to be a crowd in solitude. It can be a sacrifice provided that it does not miss the measure. But I do not approve of compromise.
We deserve to be ourselves and feel free while we experience love. But do we consider ourselves worthy of it? That’s the point. I don’t believe in marriage. Why would it matter if a couple who lived in the same house without being married for 10 years should not inform the municipality about this? But there is also a part of me that finds marriage romantic. I’m neither against nor very close to it. The important thing is to be satisfied with the relationship and feel happy.
What are your summer vacation plans?
I’m planning to write a screenplay this summer. Maybe I can squeeze in short breaks in between. I don’t like to take a vacation where everybody goes in the summer. Because I don’t like crowds. I want to experience the enthusiasm of vitamin D in quiet places around Istanbul and continue the scriptwriting process that Emre and I started in the winter.
Do you follow fashion? How would you describe your style?
There is no blind follow-up, but there are brands on my radar. Clothing designed with fabric that is comfortable and feels good when it touches my skin defines my style. I wear oversize in winter, I prefer hoodies, sweatpants and trousers made of good fabric. Flared skirts with cool fabrics are my favorite in summer.
What are the indispensable items in your wardrobe?
There are no indispensable items in my wardrobe. I can give up everything. I often do a wardrobe detox. I donated the items that I had accumulated at home at the beginning of the summer, that I did not wear or rarely wore, to givin.co, a sustainable second-hand fashion platform. It is also meaningful that the sales revenue of the platform will be donated to earthquake victims. In short, my wardrobe is almost empty. White T-shirts, shorts, jean skirts, one or two Vivienne Westwood silk shirts, a few winter jackets, summer silk trousers by my friend Rojin Aslı Polat; among the remaining parts.
What are your beauty and care tips?
Go to bed early and get up early. For lots of water. Don’t gossip. Gossip darkens your aura. Do sports. Laugh, have fun, laugh. Nourish your skin with moisture inside and out. If you really want to care for your hair, concentrate on the roots rather than the elongated strands. Research the oils that are good for the hair and massage the scalp with a nice mixture. If possible, sleep with the remaining oil in the hair, wash it in the morning. And above all, focus on feeling beautiful, not on being beautiful.
PHOTOS: MUHSIN AKGUN
FASHION EDITOR:RANGRAZ TO YOU
Taken from ELLE Türkiye July 2023 issue.