Until recently, Americans knew Meital Dohan for her role on “Weeds” playing Yael Hoffman, the tough Israeli rabbinical school administrator who wore a strap-on in her brief affair with Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk). In her reprisal in the TV show's penultimate episode, when Andy tried to reconnect with her, she didn't even remember him.
But now the Israeli actress – known in her native country for her work in the theater and on TV – has turned over a new leaf as a singer, performer, comedienne and gay icon. Her 2011 dance song “Yummy Boyz,” in which she prances around in a pink corset turning schlubby men into yummy boys, garnered more than 1 million hits on YouTube. Her 2012 follow-up “Yummy,” which has a Gangnam-style beat, quickly went viral – in no small part due to her strutting around naked save for tall red boots. She punches people out Rocky Balboa-style and cultivates lots of delectable men to serve her.
Now Dohan, 33, is back with another fun beat, “On Ya,” with Jamaican-American rapper Sean Kingston. In “On Ya,” which is already No. 5 in the UK Club Pop Chart, Dohan wears a bit more clothes, switching between gold and silver leotards after jumping out of Kingston’s plane sans parachute. She lands in – what else? – a bevy of buff shirtless tribal men fighting, a conflict that only ends when they lift her and make out with her.
With her costumed antics it’s easy to dismiss Dohan as a Lady Gaga wannabe (or worse, as the trolls on YouTube have done). But a closer look at her recent oeuvre hints that there’s a deeper message beyond Scantily Clad Blonde Bombshell Makes Music Video with Hot Guys.
“In ‘Yummy Boyz’ I changed the role of the man and the woman,” Dohan says by phone from Los Angeles, where she has lived for three years after moving from New York. Her experience in the 21st century with technology, feminism and modern dating rules is that “men and women are so confused about each other’s role.” So she reversed the traditional rap culture paradigm where men objectify women as sex commodities – which explains the fondling of the multitude of men of different ethnicities, the firemen and the dancing with mannequin body parts. (“Look at them boyz behind the wall / Everywhere everywhere look at them all.")
Her aggression and nudity in “Yummy” – redacted on YouTube with two pink strips – also has a purpose beyond titillation. “I just played the many roles required of a woman today – she still needs to be a housewife, a career woman, a sex object. She almost needs to be a heroic character."
So is she a feminist? She eschews the label – or being boxed into any category. “Maybe it’s a new type of feminism,” she concedes. “One that wants to have the man empowered and the woman empowered as well."
Despite her assertive “Weeds” character and her KOs in “Yummy,” she doesn’t advocate the emasculation of men (to be fair, she also hits women in the video). On the Israeli game show “Basic Instinct,” where two celebrities chat and compete for a prize, Dohan insinuated that American men are wimps. “They’re afraid of everything,” she complained. (When host Aviad Kisos showed a man-on-the-street video about what Israelis think of her, most called her some version of hot, others said she should stay in America.)
"I would love to find my match,” she says, but thinks that Americans are too focused on their careers to date properly.
Not that music is her career. She fell into it rather capriciously. After a stint in “Stitching,” an off-Broadway show (in which The New York Times called her “extremely gorgeous”), Dohan returned home to be in the Israeli version of “Dancing with the Stars.” She hoped to stay. She had made her mark in Israel with two Israeli Oscar nominations, performing at the Cameri Theater and in the TV show “Ugly Esti,” for which she won an Israeli Tony Award. But when she consulted her “spiritual guide," she was told she needed to go to L.A. to make music.
"It’s never something I wanted to pursue – I still don’t know if I want to pursue it,” Dohan says. “But since it’s what’s happening right now, I’m just going with the flow."
The flow is something Dohan’s good at – and that’s what “On Ya” and her album “I’m In Hate With Love,” is about. “The top of our priorities is ‘we won’t stop till we’re number one’… we keep climbing," she says. "We can always chase and chase, but we can love who we are. Just go back and have some fun.” The scene where she ends the tribal conflict is “kind of a joke,” she says, explaining, “Hey guys, just chill! You don’t need to fight, just make peace and take life with humor.”
And that’s one difference between someone like Gaga and Dohan (who sounds more like an Israeli-accented, breathy Nicole Kidman than any of the others she has been compared to). Consider her satiric “Fitness Video” in which she samples “Yummy” and says, “Health is very, very important, and keeping in good shape is important for artists,” as she works out on the slick backs of gorgeous men. They eventually carry her like a queen in a palanquin as she “runs” the marathon.
“I’m a pop star and I’m making fun of it at the same time,” she says. She also spoofs celebrities in “Meital Dohan Adopts a Tiger,” where she says she went to Africa to adopt a kid, but the tiger ate the baby, so she adopted the tiger. “Which is almost the same, believe it or not."
These humorous videos are more in the direction of where the actress/musician/comedienne is headed: She’s vacillating between TV offers in America (which she can’t talk much about) and offers for reality-style projects in Israel.
Dohan misses Israel. She grew up in Kfar Harutzim not far from Tel Aviv and served in the Israel Defense Forces' entertainment corps, later studying at the Nissan Nativ acting school.
“I’m kind of stuck here. Every time I want to go back [to Israel], something happens,” she says. “Maybe you don’t need to play it by ear, maybe you don’t need to go with the flow, [and you have to say] ‘enough is enough, this [project] is outside of Israel’ – and I have to put my foot down."
“I still haven’t figured it out,” she says. “I’m debating those questions every single day."
Meital Dohan performs at 10 P.M. on Thursday, March 21 at Tel Aviv's Mitham HahatulV’hakelev; 23 Carlebach St. It's the opening of Clubbing TV, a channel devoted to electronic music.