Sibel Kekilli: The Bad Girl Gone Mainstream

February 18, 2014
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Above: Sibel Kekilli attends the Michalsky Style Nite 2012 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin Spring/Summer 2013 at Tempodrom on July 6, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Image by vipflash /

I first saw Sibel Kekilli in what became one of my all-time favorite movies. Head-On (Gegen Die Wand) is a German film directed by Fatih Akin, released in 2004. It was Kekilli’s acting debut, and she was spellbinding in it. The publicity surrounding the film, along with her winning a Best Actress award in Germany, resulted in the revelation that she did have previous acting experience – of a sort.

Sibel Kekilli
Sibel Kekilli attends the ‘Les Adieux De La Reine’ Premiere during of the 62nd Berlin Film Festival at the Berlinale Palast on February 9, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Image by cinemafestival /

Kekilli starred in several pornos, using the name Dilara. What followed was a public outcry, shaming the film which had garnered rave reviews, and slut-shaming Kekilli most of all. She became a fixture in the tabloids, and her parents ceased all contact with her. Upon winning a second award for Best Actress, she made a tearful speech condemning the tabloids for their gratuitous and “dirty smear campaign.”

In 2002, Kekilli was discovered by a casting agent in a shopping mall (the stuff dreams are made of) and invited to audition for the female lead in Head-On – a character with the same name, Sibel. She won the part over 350 professional actresses. Kekilli has also won 12 international awards for acting between 2002 and 2010. As an ex-porn star hailed for her acting abilities, she’s made it in the mainstream – an anomaly, a trailblazer. Even Traci Lords couldn’t quite pull it off. She had a face and a name that would be forever associated with movies like What Gets Me Hot! (in which, famously, she was only 16) and Those Young Girls. Though Lords starred in several mainstream movies, including John Waters’ Cry Baby opposite Johnny Depp, and made appearances on myriad TV shows, she has neither Kekili’s natural abilities nor her authentic intrigue. There’s just no comparison.

I don’t watch Game of Thrones (I tried, but after watching 3 episodes I had no idea what the fuck was going on and I was exhausted), but I know that 33-year-old Kekilli has a prominent role on the show as a character named Shae. It’s a role she has played since 2010, and one that has made her an international star. So, I venture to say that, in the end, Kekilli got the final word. Good girl.

Below: Movie trailer for Head-On

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