For the full article, pick up the December issue of GQ.
Her uncle is the world's most wanted man and a byword for zealotry. Which makes these poses by Osama Bin Laden's niece either very brave or extremely foolish. Wafah Dufour, 26, is seen sprawled on a bed in lingerie, a feather boa and high heels. She stretches out her long limbs and throws back her hair in an attitude seemingly calculated to outrage Islamic traditionalists.
On a hot August afternoon, aspiring pop star Wafah Dufour walks into the media lunch hub Michael’s, in Midtown Manhattan. Accompanied by her publicist, Richard Valvo, the slender, exotic young woman with long dark hair in a high ponytail à la I Dream of Jeannie is dressed in a white tank top, green love beads, lacy miniskirt, and backless pumps. Conversations continue as heads look up to check her out.
Ms. Dufour passes by Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, who is lunching with designer Isaac Mizrahi, then stops at the next table to meet former Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola and NBC head Jeff Zucker.
“You know Wafah bin Ladin?” Valvo asks the men loudly.
“Wafah Dufour,” she snaps, shooting him a look that’s more pleading than hostile.
The niece of the man who orchestrated the destruction of the World Trade Center seventy-eight blocks to the south has a point. After September 11, the name bin Laden (which is how it’s spelled when referring to Osama) turned radioactive, borderline satanic-by-association. It made her feel cursed, presumed guilty—made her wonder if it might keep her from ever getting a record deal. So she took her mother’s maiden name, Dufour, which makes for a better ﬁrst impression, even though the bin Laden taint is always there.
Ms. Dufour, who’s vague about her age but almost certainly younger than 30, sits down at a good corner table and thanks me for helping her tell her story. “It’s really important for me,” she says with a French accent. “I was born in the States, and I want people to know I’m American, and I want people here to understand that I’m like anyone in New York. For me, it’s home.
“It’s really tough that I have to always explain myself,” she continues in a soft, husky voice. “It’s like every time I meet someone, I have to move a huge mountain that’s in front of me, and sometimes I get tired.”
The face is alluring (big dark eyes, long lashes, plump lips, caramel skin), but she looks wounded. And there’s something else. At ﬁrst I can’t quite ﬁgure it out, but then it hits me: She looks a little like her uncle, albeit a waify ninety-eight-pound tiny-footed version. Sexy Osama! I hold that thought while I listen to her explain that she’s his half niece and one of hundreds of bin Ladens, most of whom are in Saudi Arabia, where she hasn’t been since she was 10. She has no contact with most of her relatives, including her father, doesn’t speak Arabic, has an American passport… The list goes on. “At the end of the day, I believe that the American people understand things and they have compassion and they see what’s fair,” she says. “They’re very fair, and that’s why I love America, and that’s why my mom loves America.”