A multi-hyphenate woman on a mission, Elisa Sednaoui is providing a vital voice of support to young people and emerging talent alike, bridging creativity with curriculum all with a signature charm and power of persuasion. The MOD meets her in L.A. where she lives now with her husband, art dealer Alex Dellal, and their two young boys – a location that suits her spirit entirely, poised to champion the positive changes in the world she wants to see.
Looking like the effortless Parisian woman we all want to be, and from the kind of melting-pot heritage that is modern Bohemia personified, Elisa Sednaoui could not, in fact, be further removed from any sort of Instagram cliché. But if you want a label for it, we’ll say: Cool French insouciance meets a very specific brand of sensual Middle Eastern femininity. Born in Italy and raised between Egypt, Italy, and France, with Italian heritage on her mother’s side, Syrian-Egyptian on her father’s, to call the 30-year-old ‘well cultured’ seems a touch feeble (not to mention her being fluent in five, soon to be six, languages we witness when she road tests a newly acquired Portuguese for our cameras, her small and behaved pet dog Nina sitting alongside – so chic). Once best known for her modelling career and being the face of brands such as Chanel and Armani, plus various acting and film direction projects, Elisa’s life has since changed track when she decided to concentrate her attention elsewhere, with purpose. Ending up in L.A. certainly suits her, she goes on to explain.
In the entertainment business everything was too self-celebratory, too self-obsessed
“Everything is so light here. The West and the Middle East, we are proud of our history and our culture and they are a big part of our identity, and when you come here suddenly there is a lightness of freedom, of who you are today and what do you want to do.” In a place where old-school Hollywood has made way for important tech players and self-starting entrepreneurship, and conversations are shifting from entertainment and show business to equality, Elisa is perfectly positioned to use her voice and be heard, driving the change she so passionately believes in and has been working for over the last few years. “I do things that motivate me, and that’s why I ended up dedicating myself to development when I had a career starting in cinema, and other things. In the entertainment business everything was too self-celebratory, too self-obsessed, and this whole idea of people revolving around you and wanting to be with you just because of how famous you are and that expectation of ‘what’s your next movie?’ it’s just never felt right. I wasn’t happy.”
Elisa credits the strength of her upbringing for being able to establish herself and stay true to her beliefs, despite the aforementioned push back, and other issues she faced as a young woman in Hollywood and the fashion industry. She talks openly about how the #MeToo movement has changed the world for good, but the concept isn’t anything new for her. It’s as if everyone is finally catching up with the mentality she’s always had. “I was brought up by parents that never made me feel inferior – my father as a man never made me feel inferior because I am a woman, I had empowered women in my family.” Acknowledging the privilege she was surrounded by, her sense of self-worth and confidence in what she is meant to do was once called upon during a meeting with Harvey Weinstein.
“I went to one of those meetings. Of course, he tried, he tried to take me home with him, but I said no. I was laughing, I wasn’t impolite, but I said no. thank you but no. And it was a categoric no. For me there is nothing, there is no profession that I would want enough to do something that didn’t feel right.” It was a pivotal time in her young life and one which she is comfortable and compelled to share with honesty.
For me there is nothing, there is no profession that I would want enough to do something that didn’t feel right.