Kenza Fourati is a model who is smart. If you add stunning looks and countless runway shows to political awareness, and a Sorbonne degree in French Literature, how could she be anything else?
If we then tell you that Fourati has walked for Jean Paul Gaultier, Armani, Stella McCartney, Valentino, Vivienne Westwood, Ferre, Celine, Giorgio Armani, Balenciaga and Tommy Hilfiger, while magazine features have included Belgium Elle, Vogue Paris, Grazia, Marie Claire, GQ and L’Officiel Voyage, you’ll begin to see what we mean. It all kicked off when the Tunisian came third in the 2002 Elite Model Look competition – not surprisingly, the agency lost no time in signing up the fifteen-year-old.
Providing the first Arab Muslim cover girl for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition of 2011 helped her to to start a debate on the issues around being a Muslim, and tolerating differences. In a Global Grind interview, Fourati said: “I grew up in a Muslim culture but I can still be a swimsuit model too!”, insisting that she has plenty of support in Tunisia. Having grown up in a Muslim country, she knows all about the conservatism that exists, but feels that Tunisia is fairly open-minded.
She believes that Tunisia’s compact size gives it a unique position within the Arab world and within Africa. This, in turn, may have led to its liberal attitudes; as she points out, it was the first country to embrace the Arab Spring.
In today’s post-revolution environment, she’s a strong advocate of artistic expression, believing that people should be able to portray art as they wish, in the same way that extremists have the right to speak: “We are at a point now in Tunisia where we are free”. She wants this debate to happen, but is determined that “it must be a peaceful one”.
Don’t think that the brown-eyed brunette has no sense of fun, though! She loves to dance, to hang out with her friends, or simply to spend time at home in New York with her husband Johan Lindeberg, of BLK Denim fame. She appeared in Diane Kruger’s film, Frankie, and in 2010, joined Tunisian actor Dhaffi L’Abadine to co-host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Carthage Film Festival.
Concerned about the lack of fashion choices in her native country, last year she launched her own line, By Kenz, with some designs inspired by Meen One, the Tunisian graffiti artist. Others were influenced by the lietmotif Art is Sacred, “which reflects the current events that we have to live through”.
Kenza Fourati comes from a family of strong women, and was raised in an intellectual atmosphere where freedom and education were important. She’s not afraid for her fellow countrywomen, convinced that they “will keep growing in power and strength”. Although she’s wary of being hailed as an inspiration, her own career has allowed her financial independence, and the freedom to make her own decisions. She concedes that “if my personal journey inspires some people, then I am proud”. And so are we!
Model Kenza Fourati By Unknown Photographer
Tunesian Model Kenza Fourati By Photographer Cédric Buchet
GQ Italia Editorial Model Kenza Fourati, October 2010
The featured photo is of Kenza Fourati By Photographer Curtis Eberhardt