She arrived with make-up and her hair bouffant. After meeting us in a Parisian café, a stone’s throw from the Place de l’Étoile, you will go to shooting A photoshoot for a major magazine. Cindy Bruna, 27, model. Nature rarely shows itself to be of unlimited generosity. She gave him the beauty of the novel.
But sometimes the brilliance of his face is veiled in the shadows. As a child, she saw her mother suffer from domestic violence of all kinds. You tell it in a book. To expel the memories and support everyone who does not dare to complain.
What you’re talking about is intimate. What prompted you to write this book?
During confinement I found myself with my mother and sister. It’s been a long time since we’ve been reunited. We talked. I suggested to my mother that she write the book herself. She was very excited. But after six months, I found her very upset about it. I felt guilty. And I understood that writing this book was to free myself, because I had never allowed myself to speak. She gave me the green light to do so.
Is your mother okay today?
I don’t want to go into the details of her current life, because I want to protect her. But I can tell you she’s happy today.
You’ve come a long way… When you read this type of testimonial, you always wonder how a woman can hold out for so long?
I didn’t want to ask her this question, because I find her so guilty of being a victim. We don’t ask the perpetrators enough why he’s been violent for so long… Since 2017, I’ve been involved with Solidarité Women’s Association. This allowed me to better understand the mechanisms of this pest.
The violence began gradually.
It’s complicated and in your case, it spreads over time, right?
naturally. My mother, of Congolese descent, quickly divorced when she arrived in France. This is when I met my stepfather. He looked cute, he provided a safe living environment for her, her two daughters, my older sister and me. After that, the violence began gradually and is largely related to alcoholism.
You describe scenes of violent anger with gestures, words, joyful family moments…
That’s the whole trap… We had some wonderful holidays, moments of peace and then hate building up. I think my mother wanted to believe she could cure him of all these demons. Then alcohol took over and we dreaded the evenings when he came home late and where everything could change for my mother. Physical, verbal and sexual abuse…
There is no anger on your part in this book.
I didn’t write it against him. I wrote it for myself, my mother, my sister, and all the women and their children who suffer from this kind of violence without daring to leave or complain.
For you, how long did they last?
My first memories go back to the age of six and up to high school. when we left. For a long time, the topic was a taboo. We managed to get out of it, so we didn’t want to talk about it.
‘I never recovered from it’
Was your job an editor?
Yes, she became a free, strong and independent young woman, who traveled the world. And then one day, I ran into him again and the 6-year-old became scared again. Then I understood that I had to free myself from this story. I did not recover from it at all.
How did you become a fashion model?
I was spotted in the summer of my 16-year-old. I went to Paris during my school holidays to make my first castings. I saw it as a summer job, not a real job available to me.
I wanted to become a chartered accountant and then did castings. When I was 18, I moved to Paris and then moved to New York. I hardly speak English.
Do you have a deteriorating image of men after such childhood?
I don’t want to generalize. I was lucky to have my real father. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved it so much (Matt). My sister is very happy with her husband. No, I have not lost my faith in men. I have a love life, everything is fine. (Laughs.)
When you climb the steps of the Cannes Film Festival in a delicate pink dress, everyone stares at you, what do you think?
First, I focus on this moment. It’s part of my job. Then, I can’t help but think of a little 6-year-old girl. It makes me want to go back in time and go see her and say, “You know, you’re going to grow up and do a lot of great things.” (Her voice trembles slightly.)
There is some form of liberation in you, right?
Today, I allow myself to dream. So great. What I didn’t know how to do before. I don’t restrict myself at all. This job allowed me to believe in myself, not to limit myself to my fears.
You were the first black woman to parade an exclusive Calvin Klein parade?
Yes, you let me introduce myself. Then I did a show for six years in a row for Victoria’s Secret and I’m also an inspiration to L’Oreal.
It’s a tough job for women, isn’t it?
It is a difficult job for a human being, man or woman, because we judge him severely. It’s hard to be in constant competition. You can have a date and be chosen, or not, with just a look and without a word. When I started, ten years ago, I was often rejected because of the color of my skin…it’s violent. Today, “fame” also allows me to choose the person I am now.
All paths are different.
Your experience in this book is a wonderful example of resilience and hope.
I hope so… I really wrote it so that women who experience this kind of violence can believe that another life is possible. Each in his own way. All ways are different. But they have the right to be happy. They are not wrong. Above all, they call 3919 as soon as they sense danger. I also listened to testimonies from children of victims of this violence who told me that the book helped them understand and forgive.
The statistics of violence and cases of femicide, unfortunately, are still enormous.
There is still a lot to do about emergency reception of women and their children, and getting priority housing. And then also on prevention and education in respect from an early age…
Will you continue modeling?
Of course, it’s still the only job where a woman gets paid better than a man… (bursts of laughter).
The day you stopped being afraid, Cindy Bruna, HarperCollins, 240 pages, €17.90