A leading face of the fashion world, Cindy Bruna is used to being in the spotlight on red carpets and parades. Balmain, Calvin Klein, Jean-Paul Gaultier, L’Oréal… These big brands have dressed this pretty Métis from Saint-Raphaël. However, behind the rhinestones and sequins, the 27-year-old young woman has long hidden a certain suffering in her private life.

For the first time, model Cindy Bruna breaks the silence and recounts her childhood under the hell of marital and domestic violence. Through her autobiography The day I stopped being afraid, which appears this Wednesday, June 1st at HarperCollins editions, she looks back on the difficult times that her mother suffered under the blows of her alcoholic and violent stepfather, as well as the impact of this dramatic episode on her and her big sister, both collateral victims. A liberated, poignant and necessary word to discover in his interview for Planet.

Planet: Your name is known all over the world, but before you got famous… What did young Cindy aspire to? What were his childhood dreams?

Cindy Bruna: As a child, I was rather shy and reserved, I didn’t have enough self-confidence. I had the ambition to study accountancy, something quite simple. I didn’t know that modeling was a job and that you could have a career.

We see you on the catwalks during fashion shows and on social networks. Do you see yourself as a role model for young girls who identify with you?

I will not allow myself to affirm it because I do not find it very humble. In any case, I try to be as close as possible to my values ​​and to convey what I am. I do not try to inspire, but I am as I am, hoping that it can inspire other people.

Born to an Italian father and a Congolese mother, your parents separated during your childhood. How did you experience this ordeal?

I was way too young to realize that. I did not experience the separation from my parents in a conscious way because I was still a baby. I didn’t have the hindsight to understand this kind of ordeal.

Your mother has rebuilt her life with another man who lives with you and your sister. When do you face domestic violence on a daily basis?

The first time I feared for my mom’s life, I must have been 10 years old. I was not yet in college, it was during my years in primary…

Planet: Do you have any vivid memories that have moved you?

Cindy Bruna: All of those moments are in the book. It’s always complicated to come back to it since it took me a long time to write it. But, that moment in the book where my mom is on the other side of the door. I hear her calling for help and I hear she is struggling. There is this moment of helplessness as a child. The door is closed, I don’t know what to do, but I really have this feeling that my mom is going to die. I am already very young, but I lose my carelessness and my childhood at this time. Since that day, fear will not really leave me.

How do you survive this ordeal?

It’s my big sister who helps me to live it finally because we are all three with my mom. We are finally stronger in number, three against him. Even if you don’t realize it directly. But, with hindsight, I know that we were very united and that allowed us to hold on. My sister was older, so she understood more things and she was going to the confrontation. That is to say, she stood up to him, which I did not do. She was the first barrier and I stood behind her.

And then he had this desire not to make waves. Very quickly, I realized that I had to be a perfectionist, a good student at school and that I didn’t cause my mom any problems. That we don’t make too much noise at the table, that I’m not the cause of a problem.

Did you receive support from other family members (your grandparents, for example)? They knew what you were going through?

Not completely, you should know that my mother experienced this uprooting from the Congo when she came to France. She is part of the first generation of immigrants, she was alone and isolated when she met this gentleman. The violence has gradually set in, we do not have this feeling of being victimized. Just identifying it is already a big step. And, there is this silence, this taboo that sets in without even noticing it. We don’t talk about it among ourselves and we don’t talk about it outside. As a co-victim, I had this double feeling: either, we are an isolated case and it happens to almost few people; at a time when there is a lack of information and prevention on the subject, either it is normality and the arguments of adults, that’s how it is. Just because it happens in the private sphere of the home doesn’t make it a private matter. On the contrary, it is a scourge of society that affects everyone and has no borders. We all have a responsibility when we read the book. People could have gotten involved, there were plenty of actors around us. And yet they did not all manifest in the same way.

You kept this past in silence until the “day you stopped being afraid”. What was the trigger ?

This trigger was speaking. It is very much in line with what I am currently doing today. It is as if I freed myself from my story and from him twice. My speech was never taken on a whim because before I had this fear. And my sister did it for me. When she moved out when she was 18, I found myself alone defending my mom, or at least trying to protect her. It was a lot on my shoulders and it’s true that there was a day when without realizing it, I had insulted him (his stepfather, editor’s note). Something I had done in my hidden room with the door closed. On the face of it, I was too well brought up to afford it. So, I didn’t realize it and it came out on its own. I repeated it and repeated it. It freed me and I realized that right after that time, nothing had happened. There were not so many reactions, finally I could also send back my… And, even his hatred in his face. It was time to stop being silent. I can’t find any more excuses for him. No, it’s not the alcohol that makes him violent. No, he does not need to heal, he is not sick, but violent. And, we are not guilty. From there, there is a rebellion that takes place inside, that frees me from silence. Today, I speak because I could not have done it before. This story is that of my mom, I did not allow myself to talk about it without her approval. By committing myself alongside Solidarités Femmes since 2017, I have been able to exchange with women where I recognized their story in my story.

Planet: Your autobiography comes out three days after Mother’s Day. Is this release a symbol, a tribute to your mother and to all women?

Cindy Bruna: It was not premeditated. But, yes, it’s perfect!

You are followed by 1.5 million subscribers on Instagram. Can social media help your book resonate more with your community?

I think social networks help to have an audience. I feel like I have made real connections with the people who follow me. I imagine that the former have followed me for a few years. It is true that on this platform, I show the glamour, my activities, my success, but at the same time, what must also be shown is this truth. It was also important for me to reveal myself. I showed moments that were difficult in my life like the loss of my father. We want to hide from these things, to show that all is well in the best of worlds. The truth is that we are just human and we go through complicated times. Other people can relate and I missed that when I was little. I did not have the prevention, the speeches that resonated with my story. Today, I would like the women concerned to be able to find an echo in it, it would already be a victory. The idea is really that this book will serve others: like me and my family, it has completely liberated us. We were able to have conversations that we never had. For my part, the work was done with commitment.

As sponsor of Solidarités Femmes, do you have other projects to carry out with the association or other collectives?

My heart has always been for the cause of women. I have been the sponsor of Solidarités femmes since I was 23. When I was in the United States, I was also able to get involved with several works. My commitment is daily and takes several forms with several associations. We all have our place and we can all be part of the solution, but we just have to act and be in the action. It is not enough to do big things, even the smallest will have a positive impact.

Before you, several celebrities have taken the floor to testify to their history through books, some of which have been adapted for the screen. Would you like to see your project made to film or television one day?

It’s true that I thought about it while writing this book. I’m not against the idea, but I wanted this project to reach as many people as possible. Afterwards, I did it for my family, for the women. For me, it was important that it go through writing. I couldn’t have done the opposite. Going through writing has been very therapeutic for me.