Elisa Sednaoui: And so I found out who I am
Elisa Sednaoui: And so I found out who I am

When ELISA SEDNAOUI arrived from Egypt to Italy, she only dreamed of going unnoticed. Then she became a famous model, but even that didn't feel like she was in her place. Until she decided to fight, as she does today with her foundation, for all those children in need of opportunities who, after all, remind her so much of herself.

To understand what he has in mind Elisa Sednaoui you have to enter a world where opposites touch, talk and then embrace. Where everything is apparently a continuous contrast, starting with her. Elisa is a model and actress not yet 30 years old, but she made a choice of old tycoons: she created a charity foundation in her name. She is a girl used to posing for the most important fashion houses, yet she runs in overalls and very used shoes. She is someone who lives in London and who here in Milan has gone down to a prestigious hotel, but yesterday she was in Rome to understand how she can take care of young people from the suburbs.

After Jack, 3 years old, born from the marriage with the collector Alexader Dellal, Elisa is pregnant with her second child who will be born in the summer. The model sips green tea, brushing her hair that falls on her face with every movement. He has a wild air, green eyes, a powerful voice. Very small, it looks very strong. He is fresh from the day before the event, supported by Yoox Net-à-Porter Group, which was held on March 28 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, to raise funds for his project Funtasia. The foundation of Elisa (which has already opened activities in Egypt and, in Italy, in the Piedmontese municipality of Bra, in the province of Cuneo. Thanks to a partnership with the humanitarian organization Save the Children also in Rome, Bari and Turin, future in Milan, Genoa and Sassari) supports the development of creativity and self-esteem with projects dedicated to the weakest social groups.


Elisa, she is still a girl, but she already has a foundation in her name, like someone who, at the end of their existence, takes stock and understands that the time has come to give. It has burned the times, why?“It's all part of my story. I was born to an Egyptian father and an Italian mother, at 14 I started working as a model. I found myself in a life that was only partly mine. Then four years ago something happened. I was seven months pregnant. I was in Egypt and, by a series of coincidences, I saw my country with different eyes for the first time. I met people who fought for a more just world, people for whom life made sense. In an instant I said to myself: "Is there something I have to and can I do to help out?". I realized that with very little I could help a lot. Just in those days my agent was negotiating an important collaboration. I worked in a world, that of fashion, in which I could say yes or no to huge amounts. With that same amount I could have transformed lives. I asked myself: "Wait a minute: what really matters?" ».

How long did it take you to give yourself an answer?"Very little. I jumped in, without having millions aside. I started working on my project: to create educational programs and centers, managed entirely by us or in partnership, to foster creativity, especially that of children, who are the future, the only hope we have to change things. I wanted to work on educational poverty ».

The right to creativity. Hers is an intuition that may seem optional in a world where there are those who are hungry."I know it. But accessing your resources, understanding what you can do or can become, means building opportunities. For you and for the others ».


And your creativity, Elisa, where do you exercise it?“Probably in favoring that of others. In the construction of the structure of this association and the project itself, the Funtasia interdisciplinary educational programs that we carry out, combining art and gardening, holistic medicine, nutrition and information technology. My parents told me that even as a child I organized exhibitions in the villages of the Egyptian countryside: I collected the drawings of other children. And I invited everyone to see them. I believe that this project of mine, the foundation, is also born from here. It is not something studied, it is an urgency, an instinct, the dream of working in the social sector that I have always cultivated ".

What does this have to do with your personal story? "I know what social exclusion is. I arrived in Italy from Cairo at the age of 5 and I was different from everyone. I found myself in Milan, at school with the Ursuline nuns and, although I loved them, I had great difficulty in integrating myself. I wanted to be like everyone, anybody. Indeed, no: I wanted to disappear ».

Survival strategies?"I had to learn to turn down the volume, to keep my personality under control, which somewhat affected the ability to take" creative risks ". All I wanted was to go unnoticed. It took me years to authorize myself to be who I really am ».


A girl who wants to disappear and who instead decides to be a model: there is something wrong, Elisa.«In fact, the accounts never add up and will never add up. I have not been able to understand this very well, even with psychotherapy. As I said before, it also has to do with my personal need to be financially independent. I only know that I could have enrolled in university and supported myself. But instead I found myself modeling in New York, who knows where I found the courage. I lived through years of conflict, until I managed to reconcile my two souls. Putting one at the service of the other. I'm not a rich girl who does charity. I want to work in the field, understand what is needed, see if and how the projects work. I think it is important to give a reason for one's existence, also because I believe in God or what he is ».

What do you mean by "or what is"? "I'm not an integralist, everyone is free to believe what they like. I think there is something greater than us and I call it God, even if for me it has no gender, feminine or masculine. I was raised as a Catholic: catechism, communion in Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, all as expected. Then, many years later, I reread the Gospel and Jesus' message was a blow. Now I know that I am a Christian, but I also know that I have a Sufi heart, because that Arab spirituality aims not to judge and to accept others and reality for what they are ».

Its foundation also works on the integration of migrants. An urgency today.“If we continue to segregate the disadvantaged, the problems will increase. And misunderstandings, conflicts, will be more and more radical. Integration is a huge issue. Like everyone else, with my foundation I try to do my little piece, what I can"

Photo Credits: Getty Images

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