Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Muses of Yves Saint Laurent Pt 2

Katoucha may eventually become the most infamous of Yves Saint Laurent’s women simply by the tragic circumstances of her death. Earlier this year in Paris, her body was found floating in the Seine after she had been missing for nearly a week. It was later determined that she drowned accidentally after falling from her upscale houseboat. She had been out partying that evening, and there has been speculation that perhaps she was intoxicated at the time of her death.

I guess what’s so tragic for me is that the way in which she died was not at all a reflection of the way in which she lived. Besides being a top model of the highest order, she was a pioneer, and not just on the runway.

At the age of nine, Katoucha Niane was forced to undergo female circumcision, a custom that is practiced in certain parts of Africa. The UN has lobbied against this tradition and, in its official terminology, refers to it as female genital mutilation.

Following a successful career in modeling, Katoucha devoted much of her life lobbying against this practice, and even wrote of it in her autobiography Dans Ma Chair (In My Flesh.) When she first disappeared, it was rumoured that perhaps a death threat had been carried out on her because of her lobbying efforts.

She is said to have paved the way for a slew of top models of African descent who came after her: Iman, Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede, Alek Wek, names now that are just as familiar as Katoucha was in the 80s in Paris.

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