Professional model, and fashion lover, Hanaa Ben Abdesslem tells Zen how she feels about being recognized as 1 of the top African models in the world. Hanaa is a 23-year-old model from Tunisia who has worked with some of the best fashion brands in the business. For starters, she has worked with Vogue in 6 different countries and has been featured in editorials for Dazed & Confused magazines. She has walked the runways for Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Anna Sui, Oscar de la Renta, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel and Narciso Rodriguez to name a few designers and is also, the 1st ever Muslim model to be the face of Lancome cosmetics. Hanaa is pretty excited with the future ahead and why shouldn’t she be. Check out our exclusive interview with Hanaa, and look out for her in our Top 10 African Women of the Year feature. ❤

Hanaa Ben AbdesslemHanaa Ben Abdesslem is the face and ambassadress of French
luxury cosmetics house Lancôme 

Zen: How did you get into modelling?
Hanaa: In 2009, I participated in a reality TV show for models in Lebanon. Through the show, I met my manager, Sophie GalaI, and in 2010, she presented me to  an international agency, IMG Models in Paris who in turn presented me to Carine Roitfeld (Editor in Chief of French Vogue at the time). Through her introduction to Ricardo Tisci, I was chosen for Givenchy exclusivity fashion show that same season and that was how my journey into modelling began.

Zen: What are some of your favourite moments as a model?
Hanaa: I have so many special moments! My first French Vogue Editorial was a very special moment in my life and has a special place in my heart. Since then, I have been featured in Vogue France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, and Thailand. Another special moment was the Pirelli Calendar 2013 with photographer Steve MacCurry because I was the first Arab model to feature in the Pirelli Calendar, which has been existing for well over 40 years

Zen: Who are some of your favourite models and designers?
My favorite designers would have to be Ezzedine Aliai, Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy while my favourite models  in the world are Nadege and Linda Evangelista

Hanaa Ben AbdesslemThe Tunisian model has walked the runway for Vivienne
Westwood, Givenchy and Ralph Lauren

 Zen: Which fashion magazines, websites, blogs, and catalogs do you visit most often?
Hanaa: I absolutely love most fashion magazines and regularly visit the websites and Middle East fashion (MEF)

Zen: How would you describe your fashion style?
Hanaa: Minimalistic chic

Zen: What advice do you have for other aspiring models?
Hanaa: My advice would be to keep persevering, remember to be professional, always work hard, keep a healthy lifestyle and try to work with a very good agency. It is also important to have a good manager to plan your career. You need to be passionate about fashion and stay grounded.

Zen: Are there any NGO’s you presently support? 
Hanaa: I am the Spokeswoman for the NGO, Esmaani.

Zen: Why do you support them? 
Hanaa: Esmaani is a non profit organization & its’ main focus is to contribute in the development of social needs. Esmaani trains teams of volunteers who regularly visit health facilities & hospitals, offering support, warmth, friendship and laughter to the ill & needy. By identifying the needs, they offer financial support in areas of neglect, improving conditions. As spoke woman for Esmaani, I am very involved in Esmaani’s commitments & goals. Whenever I am in Tunis, I visit the hospitals, spend time with the sick & play with the children who are suffering from cancer. I donate toys, entertainment equipment and I always participate in refurbishing playing areas in the hospitals. I am also involved in another NGO called The Youth Empowerment development association (YEDA). Their common interest is the youth of Tunisia whose ages are in the range of (12-28). YEDA was launched in 2011 and my contribution is to help the youth of the association by being a role model, bringing inspiration and providing real life facts from my own experience to motivate them. We organize training programs and socio-cultural activities that nurture the innovative and creative spirit in the Tunisian youth. They are 2 NGO’s I love with all my heart!

Hanaa Ben AbdesslemWhenever I am back home in Tunis, I visit the hospitals to
spend time with the sick & play with the kids
who are suffering from Cancer” says Hanaa

 Zen: When are you back in Africa?
Hanaa: Any chance I get to visit my family, even if its for one night.

Zen: Your best holiday moments
With my family back home in Tunisia.

Zen: Which tourist country would you love to visit next and why? (In Africa)
The Seychelles is somewhere I am longing to visit! Sophie showed me an illustrated book given to her by a friend from the Seychelles and ever since, I have wanted to visit that beautiful country.

Zen: What’s next for Hanaa?
I honestly don’t know what’s next so all I will say now is watch me and you’ll find out!

To learn more about the amazing this Hanaa Ben Abdesslem is doing across the world or if you are an aspiring model looking for some inspiration and guidance, hit her up at

 Image Credit goes to: Lancome by Alex Lubomirski