Algerian model and boxer Younes Bendjima talks about his early days in Algeria to walking his first show with Givenchy and the importance of hard work and equality.
How important is your heritage to you?
I’m really attached to my culture and my religion as they have helped to make me who I am today. My roots will continue to shape me forever
When you were younger you used to help your father in his restaurant. What are some of your favorite memories from that time?
My dad was very strict, so working there wasn’t easy at all. Things had to be done with military precision and most of the time I was working for free as punishment as I had badly behaved at school. It was hard for me to understand at the time but reflecting on it now, that was the beginning of me as a man.
At what age did you start boxing and what got you started?
I started boxing at the age of 11 with my uncle who is still my trainer today. I started because I had so much energy I needed a place to work on it without spending money, which I didn’t have.
How has that shaped who you are as a person?
It definitely shaped my personality and taught me about values and respect which in turn made me gain a lot of confidence.
Did you ever think you would be involved in the fashion industry?
Not at all, especially not coming from where I did.
How were you first scouted?
I went to New York in 2013 with some money that I saved to visit my cousin and my agent who is still my agent today.
When and with which brand was your first modeling experience?
It was a Givenchy show in Paris. I have to thank Riccardo Tisci for always pushing guys with a more muscular frame since the industry seems to prefer skinny men!
Has being an Arabic model specifically affected your career in any way?
I mean, to be honest I respect my self and my origins so much that it’s not something I think about. I don’t want to ever have that type of vision. For me everyone is at the same level, it doesn’t matter who you are and what you have we are all equal.
What are some of the core values you carry with you from your upbringing?
Religion, determination, honesty, respect and self -respect and loyalty.
Which fashion brands do you find interesting now?
I’m definitely not a fashion addict, and like to keep it simple and kind of old school. I like to mix it all, so let me mention a few. I love Acne, Margiela, New Balance, Helmut Lang and vintage Prada
Do you think being trilingual has helped play a role in your career?
I didn’t speak one word of English the first time I went to New York and it was so frustrating it motivated me so to learn quickly and I did everything possible to learn as fast as I could. In a way not speaking English helped me to hustle in a way I wouldn’t have done of it had been easier.
How often do you go back to Algeria and what do you miss the most about life there?
I haven’t been in Algeria in a while. I would love to go back soon as I miss the authenticity and the simple life there. It’s just all love when I go there and I really feel at home.
Knowing that you spend your time between New York, LA and Paris what do enjoy/not enjoy about each city and why?
New York is definitely my number one city as I’ve learned so much there and met so many amazing people from the beginning. Paris is, of course, an amazing city with some of the best architecture in the world. I love to take long walks through the streets late at night listening to Jazz music, but I don’t feel such a connection with the people as I do in New York. Los Angeles is such a cool city and I like the mix between mountains and ocean, hipsters and surfers, but of course, sometimes it gets a little too Hollywood for me so that’s when I book a ticket and go to Europe.
What other Arabs do you admire and why?
I respect everyone that works hard and that shares love without expecting anything in return.
Fashion Director: Katie Trotter
Style: Celia-Jane Ukwenya
Grooming: Toni Malt
Hair: AnneSofie Begtrup