Supermodel and Activist: the Late Katoucha
Katoucha Niane (30 December 1960 in Conakry, Guinea – 2 February 2008 in Paris, France) was aFrench model. Nicknamed "The Peul Princess" (in reference to her ethnic Fula background), she worked, and later wrote, under the single name "Katoucha". She was the daughter of author,playwright and historian Djibril Tamsir Niane.
As a child, Katoucha's family was forced into exile after her father came into conflict with Guinean President, Sekou Toure. Living with an uncle in Mali, she rejoined her family in Dakar at age twelve. There she lived with the family of her paternal uncle, whose wife was private secretary to the President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor.
After marrying her husband at age seventeen and giving birth to her first child, they emigrated to France. It was there in the 1980s that she began modeling; first for Thierry Mugler, then for Paco Rabanne and Christian Lacroix, and became known as Yves Saint Laurent's "muse." She remained one of the best-known models in France, and an icon in Guinea. Recently, she worked as host of the French language television program France's Next Top Model.
Niane stopped modeling in 1994 to focus on activism. She had been an outspoken activist against female circumcision, a rite performed in some African nations. Following her success as a model, she started the organization KPLCE - Katoucha pour la lutte contre l’excision(English: Katoucha for the battle against female circumcision). Niane herself was circumcised at age 9. In 2007, she published a book about her personal circumcision experience, "Dans ma chair" (Eng: In My Flesh), in France.
Katoucha lived in a houseboat on the Seine, near the Alexander III bridge in Paris. On February 1, 2008, she returned to her houseboat from a party. This was the last time she was reportedly seen alive. On February 4, 2008, police opened a missing persons case for her. Her purse was found untouched outside the door to her boat. Police believed that no foul play was involved, and that she was likely intoxicated and fell into the Seine.
Her body was found in the Seine River on February 28, 2008. The 47-year-old model is believed to have died from an accidental drowning. Fox News Channel reported the family suspected Niane may have been the victim of foul play. (source)