Elisa Sednaoui-Dellal is a face many of you will recognise from prestigious advertising campaigns and have likely admired gracing the covers or social pages of the world’s most fashionable glossy magazines.

She has been a creative oracle and style muse to several great masters of fashion and adornment: Giorgio Armani, Andrea Buccellati, Roberto Cavalli, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Louboutin and Diane von Furstenberg to name a few.

Elisa whose maiden surname is pronounced “Sed-now-wee”, has also appeared in over six feature films, making a strong impact alongside stars of international cinema including Alain Chabat, Vincent Gallo and Edgar Ramirez.

She also co-directed the 2015 documentary film Bukra Insh’Allah (Tomorrow, God Willing).

Modelling and Film are only two dimensions of her character, which is brilliant, multifaceted, intellectual and exceptional in all that she aims to achieve.

Elisa Sednaoui-Dellal is a name that is increasingly recognised not for glamour but as being one of the most visionary and impactful young philanthropists of our time.

Her charitable foundation Funtasia Education is unique in its function as both a curriculum developer and community-based implementer that uses a multidisciplinary educational approach curated through global collective sources. 

Funtasia Education is successfully strengthening life skills amongst children and youths and building capacity among educators and facilitators in Egypt, Italy and Mexico.

 It has supported 7268 children and youth and trained 960 adults in Egypt and Italy.

Funtasia programmes deliver relevant, vibrant content that is effective in promoting self-directed learning and empathy. They sharpen analytical and innovative thinking, develop communication skills and support academic education by improving school attendance and engagement.

Last week in London, Winnie of AFRICA: Seen & Heard (ASH) interviewed Elisa Sednaoui-Dellal via Google Meeting as she is currently based in Los Angeles.

The depth of what Elisa shared transcends any real or perceived distance with Interviewer and Readers.

Elisa shares her vocation, achievements and dreams wholeheartedly in an expansive and inspiring TWO PART INTERVIEW.

In 2021, ASH hope that you can support the established work of Funtasia Education and assist development and activation of Funtasia programmes in Nigeria.

Funtasia Bodo is endorsed and welcomed by Mr Lazarus Tamana, President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) which was founded by humanitarian icon Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1990.

WITNESS: The Great Work of Funtasia Education formerly the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation – in Luxor, Egypt.


Egypt has had a supreme impact on global culture and civilisation from the Ancient World to the present time.


Well, I love this question because I really, really think that having spent my first five years living in Egypt full-time, then the experiences throughout my life in the countryside of Egypt were greatly influential.  

I grew up watching my father work as an architect on building sites and had the experience of playing in the fields with other children to meeting people from different sectors, even in the government.

It has allowed me I think to gain a very specific perspective on development, on social development and what I see as potentially really transformative programmes that can be more progressive about social development.

Specifically, the exposure from a young age to a developing country and also to people that were working in very different sectors in these countries: from Diplomacy, to Architecture, to Urbanism; my father’s best friend David Sims, is the most important Urbanist in Egypt, and works extensively worldwide.

Being exposed to this allowed me to build the basis of what was going to be my approach with Social Development.

My father, Olivier Sednaoui, built a house in the countryside of Egypt, a mud-brick house he designed and built.

He was a student at the London School of Architecture with Zaha Hadid. He decided to build this house in the middle of the countryside of Egypt where at the time there was no water nor electricity.

He did not only build a house, he built a relationship.

Our family is originally Syrian, the ancestors moved to Egypt but we don’t have Egyptian blood.

We are not Egyptian from Luxor. We were Egyptians living in Cairo, so when my father arrived to Luxor, he was essentially a tourist. However the relationship he built with the locals, I’m talking about country men, the real countryside of Upper Egypt, is brotherly.

We are brothers.

The magic of growing up and going on holidays to a place where I would find myself visiting a temple. This sort of magic atemporal dimension, has been crucial in the development of my personal creativity, in my personal development, certainly professionally being exposed to a country with the specific characteristics of Egypt.

Living in a developing country and being exposed to a developing country at such a deep level at a young age, whilst I was living across different worlds and countries, made me a product of globalization.

People usually ask me, especially in America: “Yeah, but there must be one that you feel more.” I say:

“I am the three nationalities together.”

And I would not be the same person, if one piece was missing.

The Egyptian, the Middle Eastern, the Levantine; we are Egyptian nationals today but our blood is technically Syrian. Let’s call it “Levantine blood”: it’s a big part of my identity.

And so are the French culture and the Italian.

I have lived in each and have family that live in the three countries.


As a teenager, you envisioned becoming a Diplomat.

As an adult, you founded and direct Funtasia Education.

Through your foundation, you sensitively address delicate social issues – Identity, Cultural Exchange, Citizenship and Equality using tactful activities.

You speak six languages and are very hands-on in researching, developing and delivering Funtasia Education‘s global programmes which centre on creative learning for infants, youth and adults.


I think I always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me, which I believe is part of what helped me in my career as a model and in entertainment.

It’s a sort of public perception that those careers happen kind of by luck or somehow effortlessly. However I think the people achieving success in Entertainment, have a fundamentally strong entrepreneurial spirit as well, because the job requires selling yourself and having to keep on going, always get back up and keep on going.

The way I balance it, is about celebrating and capitalizing – I prefer capitalizing rather than using – so capitalizing on everything that the entertainment and the fashion business can make available and put it to a further use.

The way I do it, is a balance I constantly have to work on.

I feel fortunate that for the Modelling, I don’t go to castings or feel obliged to go to social parties.

When potential opportunities come this way, we analyze and decide.

Christian Louboutin last year created a new staple bag in my name, the “Elisa”.

This was a baffling gift, an unexpected surprise.

APPRAISE: The perfect balance of Style and Substance – Luxury begets Charity.

I try to look for harmony. I am trying to capitalize on everything I have done in the entertainment business, on the relevance of social media as an asset. It’s a sales asset, right, whatever selling power one has in the fashion business, to be able to capitalize it for a greater good, for a greater impact and a wider impact than one’s personal and family income only.

Because the different sectors I work in are tied, connected somehow, one helps to empower the other. It’s about activating those resources.

I found myself seven years ago, with this strong sense from a young age that I was looking for more purpose. That’s why I was organizing exhibitions – making kids in the countryside of Luxor, all draw around a theme and then expose the pictures in my house and then invite all the adults that I knew, also from the foreign community to come and buy these drawings. I was 11.

It’s funny how I had this innate vocation.

Last year I was opening boxes in my mother’s house when she was moving and I saw my very first fundraising campaign – it was a joke, a game, – and I had forgotten and so had she, but when I was 9 years old, I was playing at inventing fundraising campaigns and how we had to save trees.

The Sednaouis – as in the family- had a very strong history that can be found online of Corporate Social Responsibility.

In Egypt they opened schools, orphanages, hospitals. My mother and father however were not specifically into Philanthropy per se. They’re artists, more focused on other things.

I remember having this conversation with my mother where she told me: “I do not understand from where this came to you.

Maybe it’s a Sednaoui DNA that I inherited from my ancestors, without even realizing.

Winnie:It does sort of become like our DNA.” Winnie discussed  her own ancestral transmission and the threads of Fine Art, Patronage and Philanthropy she has inherited from her maternal great-grandfather Dr John Randle.

Her grandfather Alfred Adeshina Randle (1890-1976) was Dr Randle‘s first born child from his first marriage to Brazilian returnee Maria José Domingo.

Education bequests in Dr John Randle‘s 1922 Will established the John Randle Prizes for two exceptional teachers at LagosCMS Grammar School, the John Randle Scholarships encouraging medical or surgical research amongst West Africans on the medical register of the British Empire and two professorial chairs The John Randle Professorships at the Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone.

Dr John Randle hoped his benefactions would give West Africans an education of practical utility to enable them to earn a livelihood and the more fully to meet the battle of life.”

Winnie has continued this heritage in many ways including the commission of fine art for charitable missions, developing young BAME entrepreneurs, serving as a Trustee of the Weekend Arts College and directing AFRICA: Seen & Heard‘s support of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) pro bono since 2008; ASH was appointed CBAAC‘s Cultural Partner in 2018.

Winnie: “It is actually a Randle family thing, though nobody else was doing it to the same degree across two continents in my generation. It’s affirmative when you uncover the political activism and find all these extraordinary facts you never knew before that align with your intention and purpose.

But it still baffles me that at 9 years old I was… photographing a tree, put white paint on it to show that it was sick, saying we’re going to raise money for it by selling this other thing. At 9 years old! I opened up these boxes and I was shocked!

Everything was already there, I knew exactly where I was going to go without being aware.

Winnie: “I think some of us human beings, if we are very spiritual we came here with a purpose and its not always unveiled to us until later in life or through circumstance.

When I see you, I definitely see you as someone – when I ask this question – that it is definitely your vocation.

When you’re created, God gives you this vehicle and for you it is a very beautiful body, it is very bewitching, it’s a lovely visage and that vehicle gives you the journey: the prominence, the place to take advantage…

And also you know the challenge Winnie is the degree of pre-assumption we all have on each other based on looks.

To go back to just finishing that question, I found myself seven years ago realizing that the modelling was never an end goal for me.

Acting I liked, but I never found real passion for it.

I liked it but never enough to make the sacrifice that the job entails.

So many people are so obsessed with the celebrity of actors, but the life of an actor, if it’s not your passion – if it isn’t the only thing you can do when you wake up in the morning and the only thing you can think of  – is very, very hard.

So I found myself seven years ago with all this potential in my hand and a network of people around me who were also increasingly interesting in become more active in the social development space.  Fashion, Entertainment, Art, Finance, have power – and I thought okay, “What can I do with this?”

There’s a reason why God made me the way I am, put me in specific diverse environments, made me live the most contrasting experiences between being in the countryside of Egypt with women sitting in silence drinking tea or cooking lunch with them or the same in the mountains of Sinai with Bedouin shepherdesses in the middle of nowhere or being invited at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris from the Minister of I don’t know what.

Using what you have been given, growing and expanding with it.


Throughout the Lockdown period, AFRICA: Seen & Heard facilitated alignments within Nigeria to enable State and grassroots delivery of Creative Education and Wellbeing Opportunities.

We focused on programming Agriculture, Nutrition and Culinary activities that could uplift and transform the lives of Internally Displaces Persons (IDPs) and build capacity within Niger Delta communities tackling environmental devastation and at risk of contemporary enslavement when pollution and poverty forces their migration.

As much as meeting immediate need we agree that it is important to encourage Social Entrepreneurship and stimulate long term economic growth and industrialisation in beneficiary communities.

Since 2015, you have served as an Official Supporter of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


I started working with UNHCR in 2015. I met them at the Venice Film Festival.

That year I was presenting the Venice Film Festival.

I was appointed as the Godmother of the Venice Film Festival and I presented the opening and the closing ceremonies.

I did my first mission with them in Lebanon a few months later.

We have done beautiful work because I was able not only to meet displaced people and families during my missions, but also to follow for example a specific family who was resettled in Italy.

Believe it or not, life really is amazing, I met in Beirut this Syrian family of seven, living in a 3 by 3 metre room on the roof-top of a shoe factory. This family got approved to legally be relocated to Italy and imagine this, they moved 20 minutes from my house.

Out of all places in Italy that could have made it very hard for me to go and see them again, they ended up being 20 minutes away. Some people thought I was involved with the location which I thought was funny as I absolutely had nothing to do with it. It was luck, coincidence or God and it allowed me to really understand the big hardship of resettlement.

When you look at youth, the ability of youth to adapt and learn and really learn the language, adapt to the culture, make friends and create a new life, is quite mesmerizing.

A few weeks after their arrival these kids were talking Italian and enthusiastically making new friends.

The challenge is real for the generation of people that was already an analphabet like this family’s father back in Syria for example, or without skills, who then move to Italy and have to find a job.

For example in Italy if you cannot speak Italian it’s very hard to get a driving license. I think there are some languages [officially recognized] but Arabic is not included, and in some more remote locations if you don’t have a motor transportation, it’s very difficult.

I love my work with UNHCR. The most recent mission I did was in Mexico.

When I went to Mexico for Funtasia programming, I also visited the UNHCR facility. I love the work we do with UNHCR because of the sort of continuity, like we were saying earlier it’s not just a one-off visit to a location, shake hands (prior to Covid of course), take pictures and leave. It’s a work and process that is carried out over time.

For me it has been an incredible experience in terms of understanding how the big organisations work, how the operations are managed and structured and we are very happy because we are working with UNHCR now to bring Funtasia to their centres in various locations, we started in Italy and in Mexico.

Because they recognise the value of the work that we do on social skills and life skills.

Winnie spoke of refugees within Nigeria within the Bakassi Peninsula and the increasing incidence of environmental refugees within the Niger Delta due to crude oil pollution, particularly the Bodo Community in Ogoni land.

What I would love to do is have the opportunity to learn from local expertise – if we can use the example of Lazarus [Lazarus Tamana, President of the Movement Of the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP which was founded by executed human rights and environmental campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1990] in particular his work in renewable energy, sustainable energy, what would be interesting would be to develop a programme for adults and for youth around renewable energies in partnership with Lazarus or another topic with another expert.

For us, development is building the capacity, spreading the knowledge because we believe that the knowledge is the power.

So, I think this is what would be interesting: working on strong programmes of capacity building as we said earlier, focusing on specific education, agriculture, [how we] can celebrate the local production and facilitate exporting if that is of interest as well and any other fields that are of local expertise, that can be focused and enhanced.

The idea of our programmes is to instill knowledge, also to create, to co-create celebrating the local knowledge and the local culture – because that’s how Funtasia works – with the community for the community and instilling life-long capacity building and working also on the desire and the curiosity of life-long learning.


2020 has been a year which no organisation could have envisioned or predicted when drafting a PEST Analysis for the new decade!

We have all had to pivot operations, so you were very provident to have been developing Funtasia Digital, an online creative learning strategy that explores new ways to build socio-emotional well-being and positive relationships.


We work with groups and in schools. The magic of the Funtasia approach really takes life in the work in person, “shoulder to shoulder”.

So of course, in March we found ourselves in a situation where all the programmes in Mexico, Italy, Egypt and the new locations that were supposed to launch went on a hold.

It was quite interesting because this prompted Funtasia to fast-forward something that was always on the cards, as, to think of doing Education in 2020 and not find a way to systematize or scale using the tool of the internet, I think is not enough.

We always knew we were going to digitise the programmes but we had so many things to do already, that we didn’t have the time to properly think about this and develop.

Having now digitised our adult training creates an incredible opportunity to bring this capacity building to educators, schools or organizations worldwide, without even having to travel.

Also, with very personal enthusiasm, Funtasia Digital is allowing the realization of what is the real deep mission of Funtasia, which is to bring together through the quality of the programmes that are being imparted, people and individuals coming from different social and economic backgrounds.

It is great to do programmes for the underserved, and we need to continue doing them, but I believe that if we continue to separate the so-called “privileged” and the so-called “disadvantaged”, we’re not creating opportunities for these individuals to get to know each other, to build relationships and the consequent responsibility.

Funtasia, through the high standards and quality of the programmes that it implements and also the creatives and the artists who participate to the workshops, has the power to bring in the same room and in this case, the same Zoom call or the same live-stream session children living not only in different countries but in very different contexts.

Kids connect to the English online livestream programme from over ten countries, we had people who connected from Nigeria as well, one young girl, another from the United States, Canada,  Egypt, Switzerland, the UK.

Suddenly it is made possible for children to connect on the live-stream, learn, speak and make friends with kids from other countries from the comfort of their homes and under the supervision of trained adults.  

We have embedded in these classes a sponsorship system which means there are 15 participants in classes, 12 of these kids pay, so 3 kids who could not afford the access get sponsored. This means the class is effectively composed by different social and economic backgrounds [interacting]. Diversity is fundamental.

These classes are for kids who pay, but we don’t want this to be an exclusive place, so we’re embedding diversity and access.

This program is how we have tried to pro-actively respond to the extreme challenge that Covid and the pandemic represent. We believe Funtasia’s programs can help with mental health and emotional wellbeing. Moreover Funtasia Digital has enabled the growth of Funtasia in the social enterprise that it is today. Funtasia is a social enterprise which develops content and through its non-profit arm it continues to deliver these programs to underserved communities.

We’re now reaching the structure which I dreamed. I had to take steps to get there.

I’ve been learning on the way. Seven years, eight years ago I did not know what I know today, not lived many of the experiences and mistakes yet. I really feel at peace and grateful where we are. And open to challenge myself, learn from others and achieve always better results.


SEE, HEAR & SUPPORT: Education Makes the World Go Round with Elisa Sednaoui-Dellal. Website: http://elisasednaoui.org/ and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/funtasiaeducation/?hl=en
OPEN: Elie Saab‘s Love Letter To Vogue Arabia. A Film by Elisa Sednaoui | Vogue Arabia
MAKE TIME: To think outside the box and support FUNTASIA EDUCATION, a great charitable cause backed by socially responsible global brands. Perhaps make a donation in lieu of usual festive presents? Creativity and education are the ultimate gifts: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=JL3R6W72DJEZC
SEE & HEAR: CAIRO through ELISA‘S eyes and ears. Discover Nass Makan, an Egyptian open project that brings together the greatest musicians of Egypt and Sudan in a culturally affirmative new sound.

© W. O. Adeyemi/ AFRICA: Seen & Heard Ltd and africaseenheard.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to W. O. AdeyemiAFRICA: Seen & Heard and africaseenheard.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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