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Elisa Sednaoui

Elisa SednaouiElisa Sednaoui, born the 14th of December in 1987 is a model, actress, and director of Italian, French and Egyptian descent. She is also the founder of the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation - a charity focused on children. She has appeared in films including Eastern Drift, La Bate Du Renard, Bus Palladium, and Remember Now, as well as in fashion campaigns for Chanel Eyewear, Giorgio Armani and Roberto Cavalli to name just a few. Her first feature film, Eastern Drift was released in Paris in December 2010. In the film she played the lead female role of Gabriella‟, alongside Bartas. The film was shown at La Berlinale 2010 in the International Forum of New Cinema. In La Baie du Renard, a short film selected to close the Critics Week (French: Semaine de la Critique) at Cannes Film Festival 2009, Sednaoui starred alongside Pierre Torreton. She was recently seen on French screens in Christopher Thompson's first feature film Bus Palladium, co-starring with Marc André Grondin and Arthur Dupont. The movie is about a rock band called Lust and everything that happens on their journey on the road. Sednaoui also starred opposite French actor Pascal Greggory in Karl Lagerfeld’s short film Remember Now, the introduction to the 2010 Chanel Cruise Collection. Sednaoui has also appeared in Love Lasts Three Years, released by Europa in January 2012. In the film Love Lasts Three Years Swiss-Slovenian thespian Gaspard Proust plays Beigbeder's alter ego, Marc Marronier, a sad loser whose divorce from his beautiful wife (played by Sednaoui) leaves a sour taste that he channels into an unexpected bestseller called "Love Lasts Three Years." The downward spiral from the couple's whirlwind romance to their painful separation is effectively conveyed in a sleek opening montage that immediately establishes the mock-tragic tone of the film. She also did The Legend of Kaspar Hauser, a surrealistic adaptation of the 19th century Teutonic foundling story transposed to Sardinia.

She took part in the 2013 Pirelli Calendar shot by photographer Steve McCurry in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to Sednaoui, the 2013 Pirelli calendar will also include Adriana Lima, Petra Nemcova, Liya Kebede, Kyleigh Kuhn, and Isabeli Fontana to name a few. Generally the Pirelli calendar is famous for being populated by the world’s most beautiful women, unencumbered by clothing, and its distribution is so very limited that most people have probably never actually seen one in person. While the calendar usually serves as an artistic showing of the most elite of the world of beauty, in this year’s edition, it’s the naked skin that is more elusive than ever before. The 2013 calendar features fully clothed models set against the backdrop of Brazil. Breaking even further from tradition, some of this year’s models were chosen as much for social consciousness and good deeds as their for their looks. The Brazilian actress Sonia Braga makes an appearance, even though she is in her early 60s, and Adriana Lima has the distinction of being the first ever visibly pregnant Pirelli Calendar model.

Elisa SednaouiSednaoui co-directed with Martina Gili the documentary Kullu Taman (English: Everything is Good). The film showcases Egyptians not covered by mainstream media by telling the stories of characters who, despite their differences of age and belief, share the sudden discovery of what is usually referred to as freedom of expression. The film depicts much of the countryside around Luxor. In addition to film, Sednaoui has appeared in campaigns for Chanel Eyewear, Giorgio Armani and a Roberto Cavalli fragrance campaign in February 2012, shot by Steven Klein for print and Johan Renck for television. Sednaoui has been featured in magazines such as Vogue US, Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair, L’Officiel, Flair, Marie Claire and Elle. LA-based model Elisa Sednaoui is 24 years old, exceptionally beautiful, has a really interesting sexy accent - being Italian, French and Egyptian, and is one of Karl Lagerfeld's top muses as well as being the godchild of Christian Louboutin. In the March issue of C Magazine, Sednaoui reveals that she can now add filmmaker to her marketable repertoire, thanks to her latest producing and co-directing job for the Egypt-based documentary, Kullu Tamam. The title is Arabic for “everything is good" and was made "to expose how different rural generations are coping with the uprisings in the Middle East," says Sednaoui. In addition to her print and acting work, Elisa is now being recognized for her work behind the lens. Chaim's Robots on Meth, whose video Elisa co-directed with Martina Gili is a visual melange and the documentary on rural Egypt, where her father is from, will add another notch to her to directorial belt.

Elisa Sednaoui"I am a big fan of Chaim's music. I collaborated with him on his first album, ALIVE, that was released last year, on a track called Who said What for which I wrote the lyrics and in which you can hear my voice in English and Italian. We've been thinking of doing a music video together and when the release of "Robots on Meth" came up, it just felt like the perfect timing. Also, my best friend Martina - who is my collaborator and directed the documentary with me, have been inspired by what we felt was the message coming across."

"The song goes "Again and again, we keep on doing the same, like robots on meth. The repetition is a leitmotif that points at the incapability of breaking mental loops that isolate us, alienating city life. We decided to portray the stream of consciousness of a young, beautiful woman - who happens to be one of our best friends. The video wishes to depict the ongoing quest of two girlfriends who keep on dancing in the darkness, in the daylight, striving to feel alive. We've tried to mix reality, dream and surreal images (memories stay in our soul as impressions), that for us evoke the existential dissonance addressed by the song."

"The main goal was for it to feel honest. I guess the real challenge was that this was our first music video ever. So we started learning in the process, Martina and I are holding the camera in our hands. We had a lot of fun shooting it and just letting the creativity flow. We are very lucky, because the subjects, who are two of our closest girlfriends, allowed us to simply film them without changing their attitude in front of a camera. It is an experiment involving real-life improvisation."

Elisa SednaouiItalian born, Egyptian-French Sednaoui is known for her cheekbones, her smile and the many ad campaigns she modeled for. When asked whether it was difficult making the transition from being in front of the lens to being behind it, her response was:

"It actually feels like a totally harmonic progression. For me the one thing doesn't exclude the other. I love acting, and will continue to do so, but I've also always been attracted by the whole process of directing, the photography, the angles, colors and lights. I like expressing things I have in me in as many different ways as possible. I've realized I truly love filming people."

"The Egyptian documentary is not about Cairo, but about a small village in southern Egypt with only 200 inhabitants. We wanted to show Egypt under a different perspective, and research the level of self-awareness and awareness of what surrounds them in a more rural area."

"What I'm interesting in are human beings. I love to observe them. Egyptians and their way of looking at life has touched my heart and deeply influenced me, so there was a desire of sharing that. It just felt right to start directing on a subject I know."

Elisa Sednaoui"I am so proud of the Egyptians and of the strength and determination they've shown. There are times that I still can't believe that a year has passed from the beginning of the revolution, that they really did it. Now the situation is very difficult, because democracy without corruption is something they have to build from scratch. Everybody is thirsty for power. And also media is exploiting fear, and the information we get of the various intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists or the Army, isn't precise. What we tend to forget is also the interest that foreign countries have in Egypt because of its strategic position. I guess only time will tell. Who will be elected will enter in power and show what they can do. I think the good thing about people still manifesting in the streets is that they're basically saying, 'We're not letting go until we get what we want. We're not lowering our guard.' There have been some accomplishments. For example, the abolition of the use of 'virginity tests' on female detainees that the military rulers used to practice."

"When I was little, I really wanted to be a cultural attaché," Sednaoui says.

"A friend of my parents in Egypt was a diplomat and his job just seemed so interesting. I started modelling when I was very young, and I shot my first film when I was just 18, so I didn't really have a chance to begin that path - but now I'm very fortunate to be able to take on projects that interest me."

Elisa SednaouiPrimarily known in the United Kingdom for her modelling where she did campaigns for Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Diane von Furstenberg and others. Sednaoui, who signed with Storm Models, is now known as a film star first and foremost in European, and has gone on to try her hand at direction as well. But what interests her most right now is her foundation which she launched with the goal of providing children with a wide range of life skills through after-school classes. The Elisa Sednaoui Foundation will begin its first project later this year in Luxor, Egypt - a place close to Sednaoui's heart, as she grew up there - providing arts workshops for children.

"My dream is to launch a cultural centre where children can learn values - like equality, listening when others speak, empowerment of women: the arts has proven itself as an incredible tool in teaching values - starting in Egypt and then expanding to other places," she explained.

"Even some so-called developed countries have huge problems in the way children are being raised. So, I'm starting where I know: Egypt and Italy."

Much is made of Sednaoui's cultural background - she has a full-blooded Italian mother (with all its connotations of beauty and passion) and a French-Egyptian father - and her exotic looks are often credited to her gene pool. But what else her upbringing gave her - besides the ability to speak five languages - English, Italian, French, Spanish and Arabic, is a keen sense of herself as a citizen of the world and the urge to change things for the better for all people.

"Bill Clinton once said: 'Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,' and that was one of the things that really made me think about what we could do," she said.

Elisa Sednaoui"When I was in Egypt recently filming a documentary, a group was asked, 'What would the child you were think of the adult you've become?' - and no one wanted to answer the question. The country has a lot of problems, but some of the difficulties could be changed by working with children to change the mindset."

"Pregnancy made me so active, like, labelling everything, organising everything. I just wanted to get everything done. It made me really productive - and it also made me think a lot about what I could do - working proactively to try and change things in the world that my baby would grow up in. I think now, as a parent, motherhood has made me more relaxed with other people and myself. I'm less judgmental and more focused, too."

Aside from her time spent in London, where she lives with boyfriend Alexander Dellal and nine-month-old Jack, Sednaoui still travels widely for the select projects that excite her. Whether in front of or behind the camera, she finds something that she enjoys about all facets of her working life - and only takes jobs so engaging that they justify time away from her boys.

"What I love about film directing is the control. Modelling and acting are both incredible, but both involve being chosen. Filmmaking - and the editing part, too - fascinate me. I love to be able to tell that story."

"In the same way, acting is part of a process that is really democratic. It occurred to me that, on set, if that guy doesn't move the wire, or the light, at just the right time, the take is ruined. So it's just as important that he gets his role right as the actor learns his lines. And modelling - wow! - it's like a spa for me now! Having a baby means someone else taking care of your appearance for one day is really nice."

Elisa SednaouiSednaoui is in no hurry to dismiss the fashion industry that helped her make her name the world over.

"Modelling has given me the occasion and the means to produce my own film and to start the foundation," she said.

"I definitely want to continue directing because there are stories that are important to tell - but I also try to look at what I do on a project by project basis. People are very keen to say, 'she's an actress now' or 'she's a director', but I'm just trying to do the things that I believe in."

She recalls living next door to the shoe designer, Christian Louboutin in Luxor, Egypt, and watching his rise to success.

She remembers when he took her on her first trip to New York when she was 18.

"People were asking him, 'Who is your date?' and he said, 'That's my goddaughter, actually,' " recalls Sednouai.

"Our relationship is really tied to Egypt and specifically the countryside. We were in Luxor, which is the antithesis of any type of glamour. It's a desert with ancient Egyptian monuments. When I was a kid, he wasn't that famous. Caroline of Monaco knew him, but he really wasn't famous. I saw him become what he is. He's always been a mentor — both supportive and inspiring."

"What is most inspiring about Christian is how much fun he has doing everything he does. His energy and his positivity is contagious, and I think that's a big part of his success."

Elisa Sednaoui"Karl Lagerfield is also extremely inspiring. He's the type of person that will enter any room and know who painted that painting, when, why — the whole history of it. He has a richness of knowledge, humor and the ability to look ahead and is very attentive to what is going on. The great thing about Karl is the extreme fashion talent and vision, but it's accompanied with a very solid culture."

As for modeling, she says it happened by chance, and she seized the opportunity in order to travel the world. Though she struggled with it for some time when she was breaking into acting, she's come to terms with it after having her son last year.

"The cinema world in France is extremely snobby, and they made me feel like I couldn't model anymore. After I had a child, I thought, 'This is stupid!' I am letting other people make me feel uncomfortable about who I am."

So she returned to modeling and refocused her energies on starting a foundation and co-directing a documentary about Egypt.

Louboutin has been very supportive of Sednaoui's new foundation. In fact, the two just collaborated on the charity's first fundraising drive. Sednaoui has also established a cultural center for Egyptian children.

"The idea is to give children a space where they can be kids, have fun, learn tolerance and be equal — both girls and boys — and where they can learn from local artists."

"Children have suffered quietly in the economic crisis and especially since the revolution - something she hopes her foundation can alleviate with classes in art, photography and music."

"Children need to have hope, to be accepted and to have the opportunity to think big."

Sednaoui and Louboutin's first fundraiser went well, she reports, and the two will continue to collaborate.

Elisa SednaouiAbout her own personal style - "I like things that are very minimal, and I never wear too many accessories." Sednaoui says.

She dresses well yet keeps it simple with barely any makeup and loose, natural hairstyles. She goes for elegantly low-key looks from favorite designers like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Haider Ackermann, and Rad Hourani.

She's the "spiritual goddaughter" of Christian Louboutin - Sednaoui's half-French, half-Egyptian father is the architect of the shoe designer's Luxor home - which begot a fast friendship between the two.

Part of her charm comes from her interesting, hard-to-place accent. It's evidence of a childhood spent in her mother's native Italy, in Cairo and Luxor and finally on the streets of Paris, where she began modeling at the age of 15 and acting three years later. As of 2006 she moved to New York, where she is currently living.

The Elisa Sednaoui Foundation was founded by her in 2013 and she currently is the acting Executive Director.

The foundation programs aim to nurture youth's and children's ability to experiment and develop their own unique potential to envision and create a better world through hands-on experiences with the arts. They focus on widening perspectives; nurturing healthy relationships with “the other” and celebrating the richness of multi-cultural knowledge and the importance of accepting differences.

The foundation promotes acceptance; building a sense of self rooted in dignity and respect; fostering civic participation and engagement while encouraging social entrepreneurship and responsibility. It utilises horizontal forms of education; provides nondiscriminatory opportunities for participation while nurturing equitable global perspectives and common humanity.

The foundation believes that access to the arts and creative learning, especially using creative facilitation, have the power to: 1) transform the early social and cognitive development of children
2) foster innovators and problem-solvers
3) facilitate self-discovery, curiosity, acceptance of difference and interest in lifelong learning
4) build a sense of community and promote civic engagement

Elisa SednaouiThe foundation launched its pilot project in Luxor, Egypt in April of 2014 with a youth workshop. Since then, they have conducted two additional youth workshops - reaching more than 300 youth, and four progressive adult trainings, allowing them to build facilitator capacity. In January 2016, they inaugurated FUNTASIA, a permanent cultural center that offers year-round activities.

Today, the foundation program in Luxor consists of three components: weekly after-school classes, youth workshops with artists, and adult facilitation training programs. In September, they started weekly classes, with nearly 20 students each, enabling them to engage, between the classes and workshops, over 350 students per year in creative learning experiences.

Their adult trainings to date, led by PYE (www.pyeglobal.org) and based on the Creative Community Model, have served a total of 60 adults, with 25 adults enrolled in our ongoing training program and six of them forming part of the core ESF Luxor team. As of January 2017, the Luxor-based facilitators will begin leading adult trainings outside of Luxor.

With their inaugural youth workshop in May 2016, ESF expanded to Bra, Italy. They partnered with Save the Children, the local City Council and Partnership for Youth Empowerment (PYE) to provide a week of a creative learning experiences for 140 middle school students, as well as facilitator training for 30 adults, composed of 10 governmental school teachers and 20 after-school programs' educators, including facilitators from Save the Children's Punti Luce (Points of Light) centres.

With artists leading different art forms such as singing, drumming, film directing (the young people even directed short films, including one about the making of the workshop), acting, photography, and circus, young people had the opportunity to explore their own creativity, work together, and build self-confidence all in a safe, nurturing environment. In the fall the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation curated curriculum will be implemented in the after-school programs at two Save the Children’s centers across the country. For more information or to send us your ideas, please email us at: info@elisasednaoui.org or visit the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation website.

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Elisa Sednaoui appeared in Christopher Thompson's first feature film Bus Palladium, co-starring with Marc André Grondin and Arthur Dupont. The movie is about a rock band called Lust and everything that happens to them on the road.

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