Meet Zahia Dehar, the freshest face at January’s Paris Couture Fashion Week. Despite the fact that Miss Dehar was a fashion unknown until late last year, her lingerie collection closed the week, and none other than Karl Lagerfeld shot her first lookbook.
How did Zahia rise from complete obscurity to her lofty position in the fashion world? Did she work her fingers to the bone in a couture house atelier, showing great skill and promise; does she come from a blue chip fashion background; did she win Project Runway France? No, no, and no. Zahia has likely never sketched an original fashion design or cut a pattern; I doubt she’s ever even threaded a needle. Her claim to fame, her only claim to fame up until now, has been her notoriety.
Zahia was a prostitute, and titillated France in 2010 when it was revealed that the then 18-year-old had slept with at least three professional football players (soccer players here in the colonies). Footballer Franck Ribéry reportedly paid the underage Zehar £2,000 for sex, two other players faced charges as well. Prostitution is legal in France but one must be eighteen or older to legally work in the business. As for Dehar, she reportedly told the press, “I loved them all.”
So Zahia, what price love? Miss Dehar’s story really began in March 2008, when she began working as a prostitute; she was 16, and before long had a range of clients that included professional footballers. She rose to notoriety in April 2010 when it was revealed that a number of French soccer players were being questioned in connection with a police investigation of Abu Kamel and a prostitution ring working out of the upscale Café Zaman, a club (reputed to be a brothel) located along Paris’ upscale Champs-Élysées.
Eighteen girls were also interviewed by police but Zehar insists she was not one of them despite claims to the contrary made in the European press, and that she was not involved in any form of organized prostitution. Instead she said she was questioned by police at her home; admitting she had prostituted herself, charging 2,000 euros for “a night of love.” She later said she was not a prostitute, “I’m not part of a network, I have no pimp, I give my money to anyone. I do what I want, I have sex for pay or not. Nobody forces me. I have always been older than my age and when I realized that I pleased men, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Today I consider myself an escort, but not as a prostitute.” However, Zahia does admit to, “giving gifts when they put me in connection with ‘very good’ customers but between them and me there is nothing organized, priced nothing, and it is not a question of percentages.” The police said Miss Dehar cooperated fully with their investigation and she was never charged.
Zahia initially went dark when the soccer scandal story broke but she just couldn’t remain silent for long. When it became clear that the footballers faced child prostitution charges (with penalties which potentially include jail time and/or heavy fines) she came forward and spoke to the police in their defence, saying that she had lied about her age and that her clients had treated her with utter respect and should be left alone. “They spoiled me, and looked after me. They were my men,” she said. At the same time (on or about 22nd April 2010) a series of splashy photos hit the French press and footage of her dirty dancing in a bikini appeared on a French game show. Then early in May Zahia did an interview with Paris Match, during which she insisted the footballers did not know she was underage when they were sleeping with her. Considering the timing of events which transpired during the latter half of April and the beginning of May 2010, I cannot help but wonder if Zahia, or someone connected to her, saw an opportunity that could be taken advantage of. Where are stories of the other girls involved in the Café Zaman investigation? Why weren’t they strutting their stuff for the tabloid press? Were the football players played for suckers?
When Paris Match asked Zahia what her plans for the future were she said, “Frankly, I do not know…I am a bit lost. I think I’ll stop everything.” In fact Miss Dehar was just getting warmed up.
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Research: Angelina Pieros
Sources: the Daily Mail, the Daily Star, International Business Times, Paris Match, the Telegraph, the Toronto Star, Women’s Wear Daily