It’s not difficult, in fact it’s quite affordable, to find references to Malika Louback on the Internet. In an overwhelming percentage of cases, searches lead to content in which the appears wearing, carrying or carrying products from some of the best fashion, cosmetics or jewellery companies in the world. His name is also linked to modelling agencies in New York, Milan, London, Barcelona and Paris.
“I’m not Ethiopian, I’m Djiboutian.” This was one of the many nuances she had to make when she started working as a model. And by insisting on it, she managed to place her country – one of the most strategically sought-after on the continent – in the minds of her fellows. In fact, her nationality is almost like her surname. Asked what she does for a living, she says without hesitation that she is an Englishwoman and a Djiboutian model. Now established as one of the stars of the catwalk, she smiles as she recalls the moments when everyone wondered who this girl was.
Despite the fame she has acquired in just a few years, her arrival in the world of catwalks and fashion was late by the usual standards, where models are almost adolescents. However, she arrived at the age of 27, having obtained three university degrees: a technological diploma in industrial engineering, a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Saint-Etienne and a degree in materials and superphysics engineering from the University of Lyon, a city where she lived with her sisters Sonia and Marie-Aswan. She later moved to Paris.
Through her work and her words, Louback tries to bring together the two levels on which she moves: technology and fashion. In fact, as she herself said in an interview, “Would you not say that they complement each other? Six years of study have taught me to develop the ability to analyse and observe, to study the process of things down to the smallest detail.”
Although it would be easier to continue in the catwalk world, Louback values her academic facet, in which she notices the direct influence of her parents. Her father, a hydraulic engineer, gave her an interest in science – she always dreamed of being ‘As smart as Dad,’ who is mentioned in a profile of Louback published in Jeune Afrique, while the figure of her mother has much more to do with the commitment of the supermodel to improve the situation in her homeland. An ambassador for her country, Moumina Houmed Hassan, Malika’s mother, worked as the Minister for Women in Djibouti between 2016 and 2022 and, previously, in UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
A resident of the French capital since she began her career as a model, she cites The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho as one of his favourite books, El Ruiseñor as one of her favourite films and, before the pandemic, Cape Verde as a desirable tourist destination. She was interviewed by the magazine 5 Eleven during the pandemic, and acknowledged that “We must cultivate happiness from within and be content with what we have, rather than focusing on what our neighbours have or have done.”
Javier Fariñas Martín – Illustration: Tina Ramos Ekongo