February 29, 2008
PARIS (Feb. 29) - The body of Katoucha Niane, one of the first African women to attain international stardom as a model and a vocal opponent of female genital mutilation, was found in the Seine River, police said Friday. Known simply as Katoucha, the former top model for Yves Saint Laurent and other top designers was found Thursday near the Garigliano bridge in Paris, judicial police in Paris said.
An autopsy showed no signs of foul play, pointing to the possibility that the 47-year-old may have fallen accidentally into the river, they said.
She had been missing since January and was last seen returning home from a party. She lived in a houseboat near Paris' Alexandre III bridge, and her handbag was later found on the boat.
The Guinean-born model told The Associated Press in 1994 that she ran away to Europe at 17 aiming to be a model. Her big break came when Jules-Francois Crahay, then the designer at Lanvin, spotted her in a line-up. The label hired her as a fitting model. Her first catwalk modeling was for Thierry Mugler at the start of the 1980s.
After quitting the runway, she turned to speaking out actively against female circumcision, describing her own experience at age 9 in a book, "Katoucha, In My Flesh," which was published last year. Continue reading