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Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Farida Khelfa

Photographed by Jean Paul Goude

The former muse of Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, and Azzedine Alaïa, Farida Khelfa is now in the Vogue Arabia cover star alumni after featuring on the October 2017 issue. The French-Algerian model, who served as brand ambassador for couture house Schiaperelli for a several glorious years, starred alongside Tunisian models Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, Afef Jnifen, and Kenza Fourati for Vogue Arabia. Here recounts five must-know facts about the icon that is Farida Khelfa.

#1. On Her Background

Khelfa is the first woman of Algerian descent to have a successful modeling career, but she didn’t have an easy path. “At this time, I wasn’t French. I still had an Algerian passport. As an Algerian, when you travel with an Arab passport, it’s not easy. It was complicated. It was important for me to say to the people that I’m Algerian,” she told Vogue Arabia’s Caterina Minthe. Khelfa was born to strict parents in Vénissieux, surrounded by eight siblings. She left home at the age of 16 to start a new life in Paris. Throughout her eclectic career as a model, activist, and filmmaker, she has worked with the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaïa, and Thierry Mugler.

#2. On Finding Farida

Khelfa’s career kicked off in the 1980s. While working in a Paris nightclub, she found herself at the center of the city’s nightlife. Speaking to Vogue Arabia’s Caterina Minthe, Khelfa describes the time as “very joyful and fun.” With her six-foot frame and wild, curly mane, the then 16-year-old attracted the attention of photographer Jean-Paul Goude, who would go on to create memorable ad campaigns for the likes of Chanel. He was immediately intrigued by Khelfa’s unique and unconventional beauty. She became his muse and together the duo created unforgettable campaigns and photo shoots. Shortly after, Goude introduced Khelfa to famed Tunisian couturier Alaïa.

#3. On Khelfa and Louboutin

Before her modeling career began, the young Khelfa didn’t have a place to stay in Paris. Revered shoe designer Christian Louboutin invited her to stay at his parents home for one night – and she ended up staying for six months. The pair, who met at the Paris nightclub where Khelfa used to work, remain close friends to this day. The designer chose Khelfa to star as Queen Nefertiti for the brand’s 2015 lipstick campaign. At 20, she moved in with the photographer and filmmaker Jean-Paul Goude.

#4. On Her First Cover

In 1983, Khelfa appeared on the cover of the first issue of Le Style Beur (‘beur’ being a slang term for Arab), a supplement for French magazine Le Monde. The cover, which was photographed by Jean Paul Goude, showed Khelfa sporting vibrant red lips, smoked-out eyes, and a blanket of face-framing curls – it was an instant sensation.

#5. On Her Hair Transformation

Speaking to Vogue Arabia, Khelfa explains that she chopped her enviable mane of waist-grazing curls when she found out she was expecting her first child with husband, Henri Seydoux. The beauty icon opted for a lob, but continued to snip away until it was well above her ears. “I felt like another person,” she reveals, “it created my identity and new life as a mother and a lot of other things.” When asked if she would ever grow her hair long again, Khelfa says, “That part of my life is over.”

Photo: Getty

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