Nabilla Benattia, the “French Kim Kardashian”: Power Behind Popularity

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I took a little break from Moroccan politics and focused on a lighter subject matter. Below is an excerpt of my post on Nabilla Benattia, who is often called the “French Kim Kardashian.” Read the entire post over on Bil3afya (complete with gifs):

Despite her Wikipedia page identifying her as a Swiss model, the most popular search terms that come up when looking Nabilla up are inquiries about her origins and religion. In multiple media appearances, she has explained how she essentially has no relationship with her estranged Algerian father, yet it is her “Algerian-ness” that is one of the most commonly brought up topics. During an interview with French paper, Libération, she addresses the relationship with her father and the impact it had on her. She also speculates as to what her life would have been had she been closer with her father. She, like so many others before her, acknowledges the struggle in identity. She explains, “With a Muslim father, a Christian mother, and a Jewish grand-mother, it was complicated. Especially since all three are really into their own thing. On Friday, my father eats couscous, there was no electricity at my grand-mother’s, and my mother goes to mass every Sunday.” Her categorization of the three adheres to dominant French perceptions and roles. The automatic association with a Muslim being of Maghrebi descent, with the mention of eating couscous on Fridays, reflects this perception. She further reinforces perceptions and roles as defined by dominate narratives in France: “If I stayed with my father, I have no idea where I’d be today. Making a tajine or even married?” Her comments, while problematic, fit a set of ideas the multicultural discourse shapes through notions of rigid identity. It would also serve well to question the context in which her comments were made, whether they are simply a media ploy for more attention or whether they are an indication of her detachment from her Algerian identity embodied in a self-orientalization. And while she raises points that have long been a topic of literature and knowledge production in the francophone world, she brings these questions to the realm of pop culture, where dissemination is far more widespread than in academia, making these ideas more pervasive.
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