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Kenza Fourati

Kenza FouratiKenza Fourati (Arabic: كنزة الفراتي) born in Lille, France, on the 13th of May 1987 is a Tunisian model. She moved to her native Tunisia with her family when she was two months old, growing up in the coastal town of La Marsa in Tunisia.

Fourati's mother, Dora Bouchoucha, is a Tunisian film producer, and her father, Kamel Fourati, is a radiologist in Tunisia. Her paternal grandfather, Mohamed Fourati, was a cardiologist and a pioneer of heart transplant surgeon in Tunisia.

Her paternal grandmother, Michèle Roly, is French and a native of Lille in northern France. Fourati has a younger sister, Maleke Fourati, who is a PhD candidate in Development Economics at the UNSW Business School, in Australia.

Fourati attended a French high school in Tunisia and began modelling after graduation. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Paris, to study at the L'Universite de la Sorbonne.

Fourati graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature and Fine Arts in 2008. She then moved to London to study filmmaking at Kingston University, London where she continued modelling.

Fourati graduated with a master's degree in Film/Cinema/Video Studies in 2010. Fourati has said that she has wanted to become a director since she was a young girl. She also has been studying acting at the New York Film Academy since 2011.

Kenza FouratiFourati speaks Arabic, English, French and "a little bit of Italian" and travels on both French and Tunisian passports. In 2002, Fourati finished in third place in the Elite Model Look competition at the age of 15 and signed with Elite Model Management.

She has appeared in numerous international magazines, such as Vogue Paris, Elle, Marie Claire, L'officiel Voyage, Grazia, and GQ. Fourati has walked the runway for major fashion houses, including Armani, Céline, Gianfranco Ferré, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino and Vivienne Westwood.

In 2005, she appeared in the French film Frankie alongside Diane Kruger and in October of 2010, with Tunisian actor Dhaffer L'Abidine, Fourati co-hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Carthage Film Festival.

In November 2013, Fourati launched her own women's fashion line in Tunis, Tunisia. Her clothing line included a range of printed T-shirts; long, sheer dresses; and oversized, long-sleeved tops.

The fashion line was designed in New York by Fourati who was assisted by a pattern-maker; and manufactured in her home country of Tunisia. The By Kenz blog is no longer available and the Facebook Fanpage has not been updated since March, 2014.

Fourati appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2011 and in an interview with Global Grind, Fourati said:

“I grew up in a Muslim culture, but I can still be a swimsuit model too! Why should the two be exclusive? It is not - I am very supported back home.”

Following the Tunisian Revolution, Fourati became an advocate for artistic expression in Tunisia:

Kenza Fourati“We are at a point now in Tunisia where we are free. We should be able to portray art like this if we want to, as the extremists are allowed to express themselves, too. That is a debate that we want to create, but it must be a peaceful one.”

As the first Arab Muslim model to be featured in Sports Illustrated, she raised debates in Tunisian society and abroad about what it means to be Muslim and about variety within the Islamic religion.

In August 2011, during the Muslim month of Ramadhan, Fourati appeared in a bikini and body paint on the cover of Tunivisions, which created controversy. In a 2012 interview, Fourati was critical of the magazine, saying:

"Last year I shot a cover for a magazine wearing a bikini and my body was covered by a Victor Hugo poem. I loved the idea and the poem preaching love and tolerance, but the magazine edited it in an aggressively provocative way and it delivered the wrong message."

"So yes, that would be the only thing I would do differently. I was too naive back then."

Though she was living abroad at the time, Fourati participated in Tunisia's four week Jasmine Revolution that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The revolution which began on 18 December 2010, culminated with the flight of Ben Ali and his family on the 14th of January 2011.

Fourati was critical of the position the French government took, saying:

Kenza Fourati"We watched other foreign countries take a stand with Tunisia and the last country to stand with us, the one we have the strongest relationship with, was France. They almost took the side of the dictator."

"The French politicians didn’t get it at all. At that time, that action was almost like a divorce. But the press and the majority were supportive there. On the other hand, Obama said he would stand by the people fighting for their rights."

Of her involvement, Fourati said:

"When the turmoil intensified I asked my family for their permission to start publishing articles and videos connected to the subject and they allowed me to do it. They really are the brave ones because the danger was really for them."

"I got even more involved when my friend, who is an activist, got arrested and disappeared. His wife reached out to me and it was right at the beginning, on January 6th, 2011.

So, I decided to stop everything that I was doing and only focus on the history that was being made in my country."

Fourati has lived in Tunisia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States where she currently resides in New York City.

During a 2011 interview, Fourati compared her experience of living in France with the United States:

Kenza Fourati"If you were asking me how it is to be a Muslim in America, it’s much harder to be a North African in France than to be a foreigner here in America."

What about being a Muslim woman from Tunisia being a model?

I get this question a lot, but I don’t see it as being exclusive. Of course, the culture is a little bit conservative, but it’s not a problem either. Also, I think Tunisia has a specific place in the Arab world and in Africa because it is a tiny Muslim country; but it’s very open minded. It’s the first country to start the Arab Spring for example.

When you consider the relationship between Islam and the West, it seems that North African countries are more tolerant about certain things regardless of religious beliefs. For example, Morocco is seen as the “free spirit” of Muslim nations.

But, Tunisia is way more free than Morocco. It’s true! Even if you just look at the laws. We had family planning, the protection of women, divorce, abortion rights around the same time as in Europe; so way before Morocco!

Algeria was a colony, Morocco and Tunisia were “protected” by the French. The Arab world is seen as an entity, so different from the rest of the world. But, North Africa is different from the Middle East. And it’s true that, I think, we have a stronger bond with the West — geographically, too.

Asked about her experience living in France, Fourati said:

"My grandmother is French so I was there often. I went to the French lycee (school) in Tunisia so I feel French as well. But when I moved there to live, the experience was different. I remember people suggesting to me that I shouldn’t say I was from Tunisia!"

Kenza Fourati"I found that very shocking at the time. I thought, 'Why would anyone ever suggest that?' I am proud of where I come from. I didn’t think twice about changing my name so I could work more."

In France there are a lot of problems there, especially with citizens from former French colonies.

Yes, there is a social problem. For example, we had the revolution on January 14th, before the Egyptian Revolution. The riots were growing and growing.

We watched other foreign countries take a stand with Tunisia and the last country to stand with us, the one we have the strongest relationship with, was France.

They almost took the side of the dictator. The French politicans didn’t get it at all. At that time, that action was almost like a divorce.

But the press and the majority were supportive there. On the other hand, Obama said he would stand by the people fighting for their rights.

I have developed political awareness and it's the same with other Tunisians from my generation. We had a dictator for 23 years. We never experienced democracy.

Now that people fought for it, everyone feels very involved so I am absolutely not an exception.

Like every other African country, it’s a very young country where the majority of the population is under 30. And social media is extremely powerful there. But now that the word is free, it clashes a lot.

Kenza FouratiI’ll give you an example: I worked with some young artists from Tunisia and we did a body painting photoshoot, a poem of Victor Hugo about how love for the other is the only redemption possible. It made the cover of a magazine and you can’t imagine what the reaction was!

We are at a point now in Tunisia where we are free. We should be able to portray art like this if we want to, as the extremists are allowed to express themselves too. That is a debate that we want to create but it must be a peaceful one.

The first time I came to New York City I was 14 - I was on holiday and I loved it! I knew that I would come back to live here some day. It’s a city that makes you feel, very quickly, at home.

Fourati dated the R & B singer Ryan Leslie and appeared on several of Ryan's music videos.

On the 26th of April 2016, Fourati married Ayman Mohyeldin, a television journalist for NBC News, in an intimate ceremony in his home state of Georgia. She shared photos from her wedding day on social media.

Fourati wore an ivory bridal burnous over an ivory Balenciaga mini-dress for the ceremony in Marietta, Georgia. For photos taken in Savannah, Georgia, Fourati wore a custom Houghton "Moss" Gown.

Fourati revealed in a "Vogue Arabia" interview that she was expecting her first child with husband, Ayman Mohyeldin, in early 2017. Their daughter, Dora Fourati Mohyeldin, was born in New York on the 12th of March 2017.

Kenza FouratiMalcolm X converted to Islam late in his life. He was a hustler and he got locked up, came out of jail and joined the Nation of Islam. A lot of Black Americans who are converting have similar experiences. They are converting while in prison or when they get out.

When you are in such dire situations, you go into yourself, and start to think politically; think about your place in the universe and in America; and Islam speaks to them. That type of Islam, because there are so many versions of Islam.

That’s the thing most Americans don’t understand: that Islam isn’t just a monolithic thing; there are so many ways of practicing Islam. There’s a mystical aspect of Islam, there’s a strict version of Islam where there’s no room for interpretation or association. Islam is very complex but traditional media portrays it as extremely dangerous and corrupt.

And it’s not like that; and I think that’s what Malcolm X discovered, too. He was a certain type of Muslim in America but when he went on Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia he discovered that white people can be Muslims, too.

His consciousness changed again. When he returned from Hajj, he was a different person. The Islam he saw around the world was different from what he saw and experienced here in America and it upset the balance of things.

I was having a conversation with a British friend the other day. In France, it’s still very difficult to find a job or an apartment if you have a certain type of name or look, so people from second generations mainly grow angry against the system. It’s not the same in the UK. You can’t compare the two, I think.

I truly believe though there is a malaise worldwide. Because they don’t have jobs, no money; and their anger is growing. It’s terrible.

Kenza FouratiI come from a family of women. Women are very powerful!

That’s why I believe in women’s rights and why I fight for it. The rights are there in the laws, but the mentality can still be too conservative. It has to improve.

I think it’s very important now to see that there is Islamophobia growing all over the world and there is a problem with communication between the two worlds. I think it’s important to send the right message that there is no exclusivity.

I grew up in a Muslim culture but I can still be a swimsuit model, too! Why should the two be exclusive? It is not, I am very supported back home.

When I got the call from Sports Illustrated for the swimsuit edition I was, of course, very excited and proud. It’s a huge opportunity and, in a way, an accomplishment to be featured in such an institution.

I had, for half a second, mixed feelings about how it will be perceived back home, but I was wrong to feel this way when I saw how proud people were.

"Much of my University education was done online because I was always working. I have a degree in French Literature from Sorbonne; and I started a Master’s in filmmaking."

Kenza FouratiHer friends are inspired by her patriotism - it’s really inspirational. She has an iPhone that’s full of probably every news and journalism app that exists; but not only on English, but also in French and Arabic.

She has an incredible legacy in her home country. There are statues of her great Uncle around her home county, her mother is extremely outspoken and an incredible woman who serves on the board, I believe, of both the Carthage and the Cannes Film Festivals and is on the selection committee for the Cannes Film Festival. She is a producer of documentary films.

I think that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in that regard, and her grandfather being one of the first surgeons to perform successful open heart surgery.

Her attitude is so amazing and incredible - she has a sense of commitment and a sense of responsibility to her family, to her country, to be the best representative she can be.

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Bonesetters Waiting Room

In the Bonesetter's Waiting Room:
Travels Through Indian Medicine

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week India defies definition, and the story of medicine in India is similarly rich and complex: shaped by unique challenges and opportunities, uniting cutting-edge technological developments with ancient cultural traditions, fuelled by political changes which transformed the lives of millions and moulded by the energy of forceful individuals. Here, Aarathi Prasad investigates how Indian medicine came to be the way it is. Her travels will take her to bonesetter clinics in Jaipur and Hyderabad and the waiting-rooms of Bollywood's best plastic surgeons, and introduce her to traditional healers as well as the world-beating heart surgeon who is revolutionising treatment of the poor around the globe.

Like a Virgin

Exploring the Frontiers of Conception

Sexual evolution is a slippery business. Like all mammals, we humans seem to have been left no choice in the matter: even though it is costly, inefficient and dangerous, if we want to reproduce we simply have to have sex. Yet most human cultures tell the tale of a maiden who gives birth untouched by a man; and in the wild there are plenty of creatures such as turkeys, komodo dragons, sharks and the "Jesus Christ" lizard (which walks on water, too) that take various approaches to reproducing without sex.

In LIKE A VIRGIN, the biology writer Aarathi Prasad discusses how reproduction without sex is achieved in animals and explores why evolution hasn't made it an option for humans“ yet. In doing so, she provides a quirky, entertaining and perceptive overview of the mysteries of evolutionary biology, sex and reproduction – past, present and future.

It is a remarkable story that ranges across Greek mythology, natural history, agriculture, conservation and medicine; takes in some of the most exciting areas of developmental genetics and molecular biology that other popular science books largely ignore; and is packed full of a cast of amazing characters, be they obscure animals or eccentric scientists such as the respected geneticist Dr Helen Spurway who in the UK in the 1950s unwittingly sparked a nationwide search for a virgin mother.

There is now a plethora of strategies being developed in reproductive medicine that could ultimately keep our species going in a world of embellished sex: the creation of artificial eggs and sperm from bone marrow, labs-on-chips on which eggs are fertilized, silicone wombs and artificial wombs (where fetuses can spend their full nine months), and even research to prepare us for reproduction in space. What is more, we are finally beginning to understand what genetic modifications are needed to allow for the creation of women who could have babies without having sex. Now that we have the competent hand of science in our lives, will girls still need men?

Publisher: Oneworld (UK/US)
Pub Date: 16 August 2012
Status: Draft manuscript
Length: 288 pages

All rights available excluding:
UK & Commonwealth, US, Arabic (Arab Scientific), Japan (East Press)

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Yabanci is a book by a Dutch woman who moved from Holland to Turkey to start a new life in a Turkish village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A great read for those who are considering a move abroad or have lived in a different culture. Available in English as an ebook or in Dutch in both print and popular ebook formats... take a look

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