Kenza Fourati is more than just a model. This is how fashion icon Giorgio Armani described her: “I see in her the charm of Arab women – a charm that makes them capable of seduction with just a look. Women who do not like ostentation at all costs, and who have a private and individual concept of elegance.”
Fourati’s statuesque frame and smoldering gaze have earned her many a spot on many a magazine. But still, she is more than just a model.
She is a patriot, an entrepreneur, a daughter. Her biggest inspiration is her mother, whose filmmaking career served as the foundation for Fourati’s own stellar rise into the world of modeling. She grew up under bright lights and in front of cameras.
Today, it’s Kenza’s 32nd birthday, and we’re looking back on Kenza’s best moments as witnessed by Vogue Arabia. Ready for a trip down memory lane?
When she was our cover star in October 2017
We interviewed Giorgio Armani about Kenza Fourati and then asked Kenza Fourati about Giorgio Armani. The result was a fascinating conversation that gave our readers an insight into how strong the connection between designer and model can really be.
“During one fitting, Mr Armani told me in impeccable French, ‘La Tunisina, pull your shoulders back and stand proud, always stand proud.’ This still resonates in my ears today. Always stand proud. Proud of who you are and what you do,” Fourati said about Armani in an exclusive interview with Vogue Arabia.
As one of the first Tunisian women to break into the modeling industry, Fourati remains conscious– and proud– of where she came from. Alongside her fellow cover stars, she reflected on the impact of Arab women finally walking the runways. “Today, Arab women are so modern and sophisticated. Their image has totally changed. They support the art of beauty. They are extremely feminine but at the same time, they are so powerful,” she told us.
When she supported the Tunisian fashion industry
Fourati has learned a thing or two about fashion from the designers she’s walked down runways for. In 2018, she announced that her latest project Osay (Our Stories Are Yours) would feature the work of local Tunisian designers like See Me and L’Odaïtès, a French pharmacy beauty label. Some of Osay’s labels even featured artisanal, homemade products like those by shoe designer La Babouche. Through Osay, Fourati aims to bridge cultural gaps through fashion and bring Tunisia’s burgeoning designers into the limelight.
“I owe everything to the industry and I truly care about it – that’s why I see the opportunity for change,” Fourati told Vogue Arabia in October 2018.
When she sent out a heartfelt message to her mother
In 2019, Fourati became a mother of two. She spoke to us about her mother, her upbringing and her hopes for her children’s future.
“My mother is a filmmaker. She pours her passion into her projects. It gives her a drive and energy that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. My sister and I were taught from a young age to be self-reliant and independent. We had a different experience than most in our community,” she said of the lessons her mother has taught her.
Becoming a parent herself has taught Fourati that part of growing up is growing into your environment. Fourati’s own upbringing in conservative Tunisia brought a unique set of challenges. But her children’s life in New York, while exponentially different, will bring its own difficulties.
“Today, as a parent, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for mine to trust their baby to go off and wander around an adult’s world….[My children’s] world is exponentially grander and more diverse than my small hometown of La Marsa,” she said.
She’s made history as one of the first North African models to achieve worldwide fame, as the first Muslim model to appear on a Sports Illustrated cover in 2011, and now as an entrepreneur uplifting local brands in her country. Where to next for Kenza Fourati? We’ll let her answer that question herself.
“Every day, as every working mother, I challenge my definitions and my expectations as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, and an entrepreneur. Some days are victories and many aren’t. But now, more than ever, I connect with my mother’s journey, her failures, and her worries as much as her successes. I deeply admire and am grateful for the path and the example she led.”