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The Real-Life Cady Heron Who Grew Up In Africa Was The Coolest Kid Alive

Growing up in the African bush, Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degré napped with lions, rode elephants, and was generally all-around awesome.

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Meet Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degré. She's the daughter of French wildlife photographers and filmmakers Sylvie Robert and Alain Degré.

Tippi is basically a younger version of Cady from Mean Girls, as she spent her earliest years growing up in Africa.


Cady-née-Tippi was born in Namibia in 1990, and traveled with her parents through countries like Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, frequently listening to her favorite band, Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

"She was so at ease with animals. She would talk to them with her eyes and her heart," said Tippi's mom, Sylvie, who said her precocious daughter was known as "The Girl Who Talked to Animals."


Sylvie said she was always very careful with Tippi around the wild animals, most of which were orphaned or raised by farmers.

She said there were only two incidents -- once when a meerkat bit her nose, and a second time when a baboon pulled on the little girl's hair. It was good preparation for Regina George.


Tippi was named after Tippi Hedren, the actress who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.


Due to her unconventional life, Tippi became a worldwide celebrity, and a version of a fan site for her from more than a decade ago is still available.

"People who ask me " Tippi ? Like an indian teepee ? ", should open their dictionary : mine is spelt with a double P," the front page says.


These photos, which were taken in the 1990s, are among the shots included in the book Tippi: My Book of Africa, which was released last year.

Sylvie said the little girl considered animals like Abu the elephant her family, and would whisper in his ear that butter was a carb. "She believed the animals were her size and her friends," Sylvie said.


Sylvie had no problem leaving her daughter alone with the tribes: "When we filmed the San Bushmen of northern Namibia we would let Tippi spend the day with the group without us until she would fall asleep among the kids."

Tippi was at ease among the African children, but never quite felt the same at home in Europe.


When she returned to Paris at age 10, Tippi had a hard time adjusting to city life. "She missed the animals so much," Sylvie said. The move was so hard that after two years Tippi began to be homeschooled.

As a teen, Tippi returned to southern Africa to make six nature documentaries with the Discovery Channel. The now-23-year-old studied cinema at college in Paris, and was last known to be supervising tigers at Fort Boyard, the site of a popular game show.

There's also a documentary on Tippi's young life in Africa, but unfortunately it's only in French with no subtitles.

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