Kayane: Born to Win

Words: Alex Nassar / Photos: Olivier Metzger

“They don’t call me the pit bull for nothing.”

The thing that strikes you most when you meet Kayane for the first time is how gentle and kind she is. Who would have thought that this pretty young lady of 23 with her chubby little face would be a merciless killer with thousands of onscreen victims under her belt?

This international star of video games, whose real name is Marie-Laure, now commands fame and a reputation that go well beyond France’s borders.

“It’s still weird arriving in Las Vegas to compete in a tournament and having to sign autographs,” she says. “The Internet means I have a very large audience.”

“Everyone in the room went quiet and looked at me as if I was some kind of weird animal. ‘Who’s this little girl daring to challenge us?’”

It’s now a long time since a young girl from Argenteuil, a western suburb of Paris, first took an interest in fighting games such as Street Fighter, Soulcalibur and Dead or Alive. She was only 8 when her two brothers, 7 and 11 years older than her, noticed that she had a gift for the joystick and virtual combat. They soon signed her up for a tournament.

“The organizers didn’t want me to take part,” Kayane says. “They thought I was the little sister of a girlfriend that was with me that day. And when my name was called for my first fight, everyone in the room went quiet and looked at me as if I was some kind of weird animal. Who’s this little girl daring to challenge us? The first guy I was up against was three times my age. He was killing himself laughing when he saw me … I knocked him out without the loss of a single round.” Then 9, Kayane made it all the way to the final, meaning she was the French No. 2 in Dead or Alive 2.

As in all sports, there’s nothing mysterious when it comes to video game competitions. Talent alone isn’t enough. Future victories are forged in practice.

“I practice for at least one to two hours a day,” she says. “And if there’s a tournament coming up, I study my potential opponents’ fighting techniques. I try to get into their heads to anticipate their next move. It’s a bit like poker sometimes. There’s a lot of bluffing in video game tournaments.”

“I study my potential opponents’ fighting techniques. I try to get into their heads to anticipate their next move.”

Kayane is now increasing her areas of interest. In addition to her competitions, she boxes, hosts a weekly TV program on the channel Game One and participates in video game events. But her ambition is now pushing her toward other goals.

“It’d be a dream to create my own fighting game,” she says. “I’ve got plenty of ideas, and I think that one day I’ll go through the looking glass.”

“The video game world is very macho, but I know that people fear and respect me now.”

But until that day comes, our tenacious champion still has a few more fights to win and a few more mouths to silence in a world that still isn’t entirely at ease with women, especially if they’re young and talented.

“The video game world is very macho, but I know that people fear and respect me now,” she says. “In my 13-year career, I’ve achieved that at least, and that’s saying something.”

And whatever did happen to that first gamer Kayane beat up on in her first tournament way back in 2001? “I think he changed his name and moved abroad,” she says. “Best decision he ever made.”

Kayane: The Facts

Name: Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr

Born: Paris, June 17, 1991

Activities: The 2010 world champion and Red Bull–sponsored gamer hosts the weekly Game One e-Sports TV program. Piano is her other passion.

Going down in history

Kayane is in the 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of Records as the woman with the most top 3 finishes in fighting game competitions anywhere in the world.

Read more on Kayane at Red Bull Battlegrounds

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08 2014 The Red Bulletin

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