Nefertiti (c. 1370 BC – c. 1330 BC) was the chief wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and one of the most famous women in history. Thanks to the beautiful bust of her discovered in 1912, Nefertiti has also become something of an icon of female beauty. The bust is regarded by some as the Mona Lisa of the ancient world.
Nefertiti was more than just a pretty face however. In fact, she seems to have had an unprecedented level of importance as a woman in ancient Egypt, being practically a co-ruler with her husband. On temple walls she was often depicted the same size as the king, signifying her status.
Akhenaten and Nefertiti tried to change Egypt’s traditional polytheistic religion into a more monotheistic religion focused on one god, Aten, the sun disc. To some extent they succeeded, but the new religion died out after Akhenaten’s death. The subsequent fate of Nefertiti is unknown.
Now fast forward three millennia.
In the last twenty years, Nileen ‘Angel’ Namita has spent £200,000 (approx US $320,000) on plastic surgery in an effort to make herself look exactly like Nerfertiti.
The 49-year-old art model and mother of three from Brighton, UK, has had 50+ cosmetic surgery operations so far, including multiple facelifts, nose jobs, lip jobs, eye jobs, chin implants, an eyebrow lift, and so on.
Apparently, Nileen had past-life dreams and visions as she was growing up in Berlin. (Interestingly, Berlin is also where the Nefertiti bust has been kept since 1912.)
These dreams and visions showed Nileen vivid details of life in the court of the Pharoah Akhenatan, the numerous love affairs, disturbing scenes of violence. These visions carried on all through her youth and teenage years, growing ever more vivid and powerful.
As she told the Daily Mail newspaper:
[As an aside: I am confused by the phrase “psychoanalysis with a counsellor”. Psychoanalysis is a specialised long-term treatment that involves at least one session per week with a specially trained psychiatrist. Counselling is a relatively short-term and issue-specific treatment which, back in the early 1980s, could have been given by almost anyone calling themselves a counsellor. I doubt that any psychoanalyst would ever suggest or accept past life memory as an explanation for such visions, or would encourage her to embrace a former identity in this way. I suspect Nileen is naively misrepresenting her counselling sessions.]
Throughout my childhood and teen years I had constant vivid dreams of this ancient queen. They were visions of incredible intensity — I could see where she lived, her servants, her rooms, even the food she ate — and although at first I found the dreams frightening, I began to research what they meant. Aged 23 I underwent psychoanalysis with a counsellor. Slowly I began to realise that I was having these dreams because I am a reincarnation of Nefertiti.
Anyway, it appears that by 1987 Nileen had found some sort of resolution by deciding to transform herself into a “living sculpture” in the likeness of the Nefertiti bust.
I decided to turn myself into a modern version of Nefertiti. I drew a picture of how I wanted to look, and have had numerous cosmetic surgeries to attain that look. I have also transformed my physical shape with disciplined exercising, so that I now have the physique of a woman half my age.
She describes her face as a work in progress and plans further surgery.
Her explanation for all this:
Whilst I was connecting more and more to the person I felt I was when I was Nefertiti, I created the outer appearance of mine in a way how Nefertiti and I felt we were inside. This inner vision I carved into my outer features of today… I realised that this lifetime I must go through the same emotional, mental and spiritual pattern like in the lifetime when I was the ancient Egyptian Queen; this ordeal was necessary in order to gain the knowledge and wisdom I need to overcome the karma I created when I was Nefertiti.
I’m not sure I understand that. Perhaps forcing herself to look like Nefertiti and publicly be Nefertiti is a way of owning up to whatever misdeeds she performed in that life, if indeed she was Nefertiti.
It is perhaps not surprising that Nileen has drawn a lot of criticism and ridicule since her newspaper appearance. The general reactions are that she is deluded and wasting her money, that she is doing her appearance no favours, and that rather than looking like Nefertiti she just looks a bit freaky.
My life as an Art Model and a Human Sculpture enables me to attract attention to all those people who are considered to be “different”…
Her identification with those who are “different” may well be genuine, but I can’t help noticing that she is attracting attention only to herself.
Although I am inclined to sympathise with anyone having past-life recall, if that’s the case here, the plastic surgery look-a-like thing strikes me as peculiar to say the least. I don’t know of anyone else who has physically tried to make themselves look like an alleged past incarnation. Her explanations sound like rationalisations for what is basically an emotional fixation.
In any case, most people who do claim to remember an historically identifiable past life also happen to look remarkably like that person already. No surgery required…
But then again, it transpires that Nileen used to look very much like Nefertiti before she underwent all of this surgery.
This seems rather ironic, if not tragic.
Well, I then came across a TV interview with Nileen in which she does a (slightly) better job of explaining herself. In a nutshell, she says that she is not trying to make herself look like the bust (since when?), but is trying to make a point about Nefertiti.
“No-one would want to be Nefertiti,” she argues, given the queen’s “very difficult karma.” She had a reputation for ethereal beauty which was largely driven by Akhenaten’s obsession with youthfulness and the eternal in his Aten religion.
According to Nileen, Nefertiti had been very striking when first found by Akhenaten in a foreign harem, having blue eyes and light skin. But she was thereafter under a lot of pressure to stay looking young, beautiful and divine.
Nileen acknowledges that when she was a teenager she naturally looked just like Nefertiti. She claims she is now altering her face to show what Nefertiti “really” looked like when older, which was not like the famous bust.
I still don’t get it.
Is Nileen the reincarnation of Nefertiti? Well, quite possibly, given (a) the physical resemblance pre-surgery and (b) the past-life dreams and visions. But if she is Nefertiti reincarnated, then in three thousand years she has gone from being a beautiful and influential figure to being a seemingly confused one, still in the public eye but, shall we say, not in a good way. I can’t help feeling a certain compassion for her. But I am concerned for her psychologically.
Past-life recall or mid-life crisis?
Or perhaps, even, both.
Update (April 2010)
There is a very telling, if one-sided, update on Nileen Namita in the Daily Mail (‘Meet the mother who took her daughter out of top girls’ public school Roedean because she’d spent the fees on plastic surgery’; 01 April 2010). This article focuses on Nileen’s long-suffering 16-year old daughter, Rachel.
In essence, Rachel can’t wait to leave home because of her mother. Nileen is now such a jaw-dropping embarrassment, so wilfully ‘unconventional’ and so unable to see anyone else’s viewpoint, that Rachel’s way of rebelling is to become quite normal and sensible — something which Nileen, apparently, detests.
The final straw for Rachel — which presumably prompted her to spill all to the newspaper — was losing her place at the private girls’ school Roedean due to Nileen’s cash flow problems. It wasn’t simply the fact of losing her place there, but it was also not knowing that she had lost it until it was publicly announced during a school assembly. Nileen had neglected to inform her.
The relationship between the two is, to me, very reminiscent of that between the sensible teenager Saffy and her outrageously self-obsessed mother Eddy in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. Rachel comes across as the more mature of the two. Nileen appears to be stuck in a teenage rebellion of her own, and merely complains about Rachel making her feel uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, I note that Nileen’s agent is busily arranging more interviews.
An Ironic Twist
The visible face of the famous bust of Nefertiti is actually a layer of stucco overlaid onto a limestone carving. Researchers at the Imaging Science Institute in Berlin have recently used modern CT scanning technology to map the exact shape of this inner face. Their analysis showed that the inner face had less prominent cheekbones, a slight bump on the ridge of the nose, creases around the corner of mouth and cheeks, and less depth at the corners of the eyelids. With the stucco layer applied, the sculptor Thutmose appears to have smoothed out the queen’s creases and made a few other slight aesthetic alterations. The researchers suggest that the changes were made to make the queen’s face look younger and more attractive.
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