Myriem Boukadida – Tunisia’s Finest

The making of an icon.

Myriem Boukadida – Tunisia’s Finest
Menna Shanab

“It’s cool to find yourself in unexpected places,” reflects Tunisian model and actress Myriem Boukadida (Instagram) on the time she was scouted by one of the biggest modelling agencies in New York at just 15. She was initially visiting the Big Apple with her mum to look into acting schools when destiny redirected her path. “In one moment, a whole different life path unfolded in front of me,” she says.

It’s a good thing it did. Or maybe those Ford Models scouters had a keen eye for talent, because the Tunisian-born model would go on to take the global fashion world by storm. This twist of fate propelled her into a flourishing career, gracing runways and starring in campaigns for some of the biggest names in the game. A decade later, now 24, Boukadida, has built an impressive portfolio. She journeyed from her debut show with Agnès b to dominating the runway for Dolce & Gabbana and becoming a muse for brands like Guess and L’Oréal USA. Over the last decade, she has cultivated an audience that looks up to her not just for her aesthetic appeal, but for the authenticity and grace she brings to her work.

Although the head-start has its advantages, juggling the demands of a burgeoning career with her education was no small feat for a 15-year-old Boukadida. “I grew up faster,” she admits, reflecting on the maturity and organisational skills she had to develop early on, “Normally, I should be studying and not thinking about anything else. Eventually it got easier with time.”

Yet, amidst the glamour and the hustle, she holds dear her simple, joyful childhood in Sousse, Tunisia, which remains a touchstone and grounding force in her fast-paced life, “Growing up in Sousse meant spending endless days with my group of friends by the beach. It was a really pleasant coastal life. I have a lot of memories with my friends there and until this day, they’re my closest friends. They’re the ones I can always count on for everything.”

Her globe-trotting, jet-setting life has whisked her away from the sandy shores of her childhood but Boukadida always finds her way back, no matter how far she roams. Her connection to her roots is deep and meaningful, yet she chooses to honour it in a subtle, personal way—wearing the ‘Hand of Fatima’ necklace as a symbol of protection and a nod to her heritage. For Boukadida, staying connected to her origins isn’t about specific rituals, “it’s a state of mind, a feeling of attachment, the pride of belonging or, just a desire to represent my heritage everywhere I go,” she explains. “That’s how I stay connected to my roots.” Her work is another avenue through which she celebrates her background. “I let my work do the talking,” she notes. “That’s the best way to do it – to let your work speak for itself.’

In the swirl of haute couture and glossy magazine covers, Boukadida finds a way to shine, channelling a unique magnetism that established her as a genuine icon in a realm of transient trends and fleeting fashions. From opening the Georges Hobeika Haute Couture Spring 2024 show to her visually-striking presence on Vogue Arabia’s September 2023 cover and myriad editorials and campaigns, Boukadida narrates a story of a woman effortlessly celebrating her North African beauty with the world. Through these projects, she continues to let her work speak on its own, subtly placing Tunisia in the limelight of the international fashion industry.

Then came a moment that lingered, a jewellery shoot with Vogue Arabia that would ripple across the fashion world and beyond. She reminisces about the unexpected impact: “During that time, I never imagined the engagement and interest that would generate globally. I was so impressed and proud to see how widely it was shared everywhere. And what people loved was the authentic representation of the Arab features, my Arab nose. And honestly, that has made me love my nose even more. And has made me see it more as a strength.”

Her vision extends beyond personal triumphs. She wants to be a catalyst for change. “I want to break down barriers by proving that there’s beauty and strength in diversity,” she shares. “I want to inspire confidence and self-belief in all the young women out there and encourage them to pursue their passions and dreams, no matter how big their dream is. If you work hard enough and embrace your unique identity, I think you’re capable of achieving anything you set your mind to, regardless of any challenges you may face.”

She’s heartened by the strides made toward inclusivity in fashion but remains candid about the gaps that remain, “From my perspective, there has definitely been a shift towards greater inclusivity in the fashion industry, with many brands including models or talents from diverse backgrounds in their campaigns and fashion shows,” she notes. “But honestly, there’s still progress to be made there. Especially the North African and Middle Eastern models, we’re still very underrepresented in global campaigns. What I would like to see here is a more consistent and genuine commitment to all kinds of diversity.”

In her narrative, she passionately points out the progress made in the local sphere, but she dreams bigger, envisioning a ripple effect that spans the globe. “It needs to be not only on a local level, but on a global level,” she states. “On a local level, we’re actually doing incredible work. It’s amazing what we’re doing,” she acknowledges, “but it just needs to reach more people.” Her words paint a picture of a future where our local wins are more than just that. They’re the spark for worldwide change.

While Boukadida’s modelling career soared from the start, it was her interest in acting that was the real driving force behind her initial visit to New York. In the city that never sleeps she walked down a path straddling two worlds— gracing the catwalks and refining her acting skills. Enveloped in the artistic fervour that courses through New York, Boukadida found a second home at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. But she didn’t just limit her talents to the American stage, she also made a handful of appearances back home on Tunisian television.

“I love doing both,” she shares. “They’re very similar. It’s in the artistic expression. When you’re in front of the camera, it’s a way for you to discover yourself and express yourself in different ways, especially since you’re bringing a creative vision to life.” Her passion for the two disciplines is rooted in the art of expression. This is what drives her at the core. Blurring the lines between the model and the actress, each role she takes on is a new canvas for her creativity.

Diving deeper into acting, Boukadida, an explorer at heart and equipped with a voracious creative appetite, embraces every character with open arms. “I view each role as an opportunity for growth and exploration. My goal for the future is to really play and embody as many different roles as possible,” she says. She’s not one to shy away from any genre, always on the lookout for a role that challenges her and adds a new layer to her evolving artistic persona.

“I’m really open to everything, as long as there’s a good story line,” she says. But among the roles she dreams of, stories of revenge and action hold a special allure. It’s those gritty tales of revenge and high-octane action flicks that get her heart racing, tapping into the intensity she loves to explore on screen. Currently, Boukadida’s artistic curiosity is piqued by an upcoming project that hits home with her personal history. “At the moment, a story that I feel drawn to is that of Antoine Fuqua’s new movie about the Carthaginian general Hannibal. The reason I’m drawn to this is I just feel that the story, it’s kind of part of my heritage and part of where I’m from. It feels almost natural to be drawn to it.”

Off the screen and away from the cameras, Boukadida presents a contrast to the characters she portrays. In her daily life she’s known for her infectious smile and quick wit, a stark difference from the serious, focused professional the audience sees on screen. “I would describe the two versions of myself, on camera and off-screen, as distinct. I’m fun but when it’s time to focus, I’m laser-focused on my work. That’s where the difference is.”

At her core, Myriem Boukadida is a proud Tunisian, deeply connected to her heritage and eager to represent her roots through her work. “I’m Myriem. I’m from Tunisia. I’m a human being that loves life—that is always motivated to do better,” she states. She’s also a Tunisian powerhouse. Her commitment to her roots is not just a facet of her identity but a driving force in her career. “I love representing where I’m from, my heritage,” she says.

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