Sliding Drawers with Danna Elhassadi - Par Femme

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by Par Femme

Danna Elhassadi is a Libyan-Australian naturopathy student and model who lives at home in Sydney’s south with her parents and brother, or in her words, "the best place on Earth". Hailing from a family of doctors, it seemed fitting she enter the world of medicine; recently transitioning from the science skew to more natural ground, currently completing her Masters of Naturopathic Medicine.

But it was a car accident two years ago that changed Danna’s world: both in her outlook on life — throwing herself at everything with a newfound fervour — and in a physical sense, the scars on her face and body, something the modelling industry sought to exploit and capitalise on.

Her ethnicity has also seen her subject to another kind of tokenism; a newly constructed beauty ideal the industry so shamelessly touts in order to tick boxes. Of North African heritage, Danna fits the “ambiguous person of colour” mould, something she has suffered first-hand. This prompted her to become a voice of change in an industry that needed this noise: she is relentless in her pursuit of raising awareness about performative activism and tokenism and isn't afraid to refuse jobs that subscribe to this.

A keen skincare enthusiast, Danna also works part-time in a dermal practise while she studies, maintaining her love of skin and all things beauty (her luminous skin evident of this). Refreshingly undone with black coils that spring from a tight pony, Par Femme slides into her Versace-decked drawers to discover what Danna keeps by her bedside and most importantly, discuss her activism.

What’s in your bedside drawer? Talk us through your products and why they’re your bedside essentials…
It’s all skincare and haircare!

For my hair, I’m focused on treatment and protection. K18 is my absolutely favourite modality of treatment; wash your hair clean and leave it in. I do it on nearly every wash and it’s improved my hair health, elasticity, moisture and repaired a lot of the previous damage I had! The second is the Oribe Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray. I’ve tried a lot of blow out milks, creams, serums and thermal protectors in an attempt to save my hair from heat while getting the most seamless blowout I can. This product is by far ‘the one’ - my hair is like silk when I incorporate it into my blowout routine.

And of course, can a curly girl really go out with a curling wand? While most curls comply, a lot of them go rogue and more often than not they tend to be right at the crown of your head. The ghd Curve Thin Wand is my go-to for replicating the look of my tight curls seamlessly and fast. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to find a high-quality wand in this size!

For skincare, my focus is deep repair and regeneration. My holy grail skin products are the Mesoestetic Proteoglycan Ampoules and the Bioeffect Growth Factor 30 Day Treatment. Both products are intensive treatments that I usually use alongside and in between dermapen sessions for some intense results. They increase cell turnover, improve elasticity, are anti-aging, hydrate, regenerate - they pack power!

As a model, you’ve spoken about tokenism and performative activism within the industry. Can you tell us a little bit about this and why it’s so important to you to raise awareness about this? (Include any challenges you may have faced, and how you’ve overcome them / are trying to overcome them?)
My experiences has been two-fold with tokenism, so I’ve developed a kind of sixth sense to know when it’s happening and walk the other way.

The first is with being North African; in the modeling world, this translates to an ambiguous person of colour and can be easily exploited. Being typecast was a big part of my early modeling experience. When there are other white models on the job, I’m always the one in urbanwear or exotic prints and the curls are always out. The curls being at the forefront of every job I did was a way for brands to demonstrate how progressive and inclusive they were. I was also a great addition to campaigns underlined with performative activism; dark enough to tick the model-of-colour box, but ambiguous enough to be palatable and inoffensive to the Australian market.

The second is with my facial scars. After my accident, I re-entered into the modelling industry as a freelancer and was immediately up for exploitation. For example, I did a shoot for a brand who expressed their love for my scars, and without informing me, labeled me as ‘The Survivor’ on the campaign. I literally felt disgusted when I discovered this; you cannot sink lower than utilising someone’s physical and emotional trauma for commercial gain. The next was being invited to shoot a campaign in NZ. I was initially ecstatic! That was, of course, until I realised it was for a subsidiary brand of a larger company that was centered around inclusivity of people with physical ailments and deformities. Again, commercial capitalisation on the backs of people’s suffering and dressed up as a modelling job. There is no transparency, instead, you’re fed lines like ‘we love your confidence’, ‘we are so excited to work with someone like you, you’re so unique’ and ‘you really inspire so many’, just to butter you up enough to perform for them and line their pockets with cold, hard cash.

My commitment to myself is that I won’t be tokenised or fetishised for who I am, how I appear or my experiences. I would go happily skipping out of the industry before I let that happen! I decide how and when my experiences or image is put out into the world, and while this may seem extreme, it’s necessary to avoid being exploited in such a toxic and money-hungry industry. Being represented by an agency who exclusively work with models of colour and have specialised their management to avoid our exploitation, plus their tremendous understanding of my personal situation, has been a huge blessing!

Do you believe the industry is changing?
I feel like it is. Personally, I’m seeing less and less tokenism. My curls are often slicked down in shoots now which is always a good sign!

Talk to us about your hair. What does your hair care routine look like?
I have dry 3A curls. They’re temperamental and often difficult to manage! To get my hair in a good state, it’s all about hydration - whether I’m letting it air dry or blowing it out. K18 is my go to for deep repair in between my hydration treatments, and the Oribe heat styling spray anytime I’m using heat doubles as a protector while adding shine and life to my hair!

Do you use any tools? And do you have any tips when it comes to styling your hair?
Rogue curls are a bit of a nightmare for us curly girls. You go through your whole routine, only to find that there are chunks that didn’t curl or went immediately into a state of frizz. The GHD styling wand is amazing for fixing up those bits, and the wand size of perfect for replicating my natural curls. Curling wand are often large and not great if you have tight curls, so this tool is definitely a rare find and my go-to!

Can you share a bedtime secret?
Practice unwinding 2 hours before you actually sleep. Lights off, in your PJs (or your birthday suit), under the covers, no conversations, a good film or book. If you have time, a warm/hot bath a couple of hours before bed is a great method for stimulating melatonin. That way, you’re priming yourself for sleep by engaging your parasympathetic nervous system, as opposed to your sympathetic nervous system which has likely been switched on all day.

Do you read in bed, if so what?
I only read in bed! I rotate between books on natural medicine and good fiction. I’m currently cycling between “The Hormone Repair Manual” by Lara Briden and “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

What’s the last thing you do before bed / sleep? (Has this changed regarding use of technology, etc?)
As much as I hate to say it, I’m on the phone right before I sleep. Maybe it’s a bad habit, but I’m always engrossed in a film, documentary or TV show before bed. On the plus side, I’m completely off anything that’s overstimulating (like tiktok or Instagram) and opt for more relaxed, long-running content that I can get lost in.

Pick one…
PJs or naked? PJs, always.
Lights on or off? Warm, ambient lighting!
Late night snack or nothing? Late night snack (always cereal).
Shower before bed or no? Can’t go without!


ghd Curve Thin Wand. Shop Here

mesoestetic Proteoglycans Ampoules. Shop Here

BIOEFFECT 30 Day Treatment. Shop Here

Oribe Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray. Shop Here

K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Mask. Shop Here

Par Femme Ruched Slip Dress. Shop Here

Words and photography: Chrisanthi Kaliviotis

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