Using French for the title is just a little provocation to those who used to bully me, mocking my facial features: "big eyes, big lips, big nose" well haters I can now tell you to go F--- yourself. Having a "gueule" in French is not always a negative comment, it can indeed mean that you have a big mouth but it can also mean that your face shows character and that is how I am using it here. I am not interested in beauty as society, and the fashion industry impose it on us, I love people that radiate character.
Growing up in France was really tough, I encountered racism as soon as I started school and I guess that ingrained the feeling of distrust I had towards adults and authorities. I felt let down by adults as soon as I was old enough, so very early, to understand that the word itself was too often used to abuse power at every level of my short existence. I never felt French and still cannot explain what it means to be French as I simply never felt accepted. It is not a provocation, I just never felt welcome enough to feel that I wanted to be part of this tribe. I tried, I failed or maybe they failed me. The lack of black representation at every level in France while growing up didn't help the feeling of loneliness that accompanied me throughout my childhood. I just didn't belong, in my family, in society, anywhere. I felt awkward, out of place, completely lost. That face was mine but I couldn't relate to anyone and that was really painful. I wasn't African enough nor French. I finally found myself when I was 18, and I decided that I would do with what I had, that is that face, that body and my style, I would only wear, what I could afford and what made me feel good; it was a good starting point.
I wasn't aware of the power of my body for a long time, it was just a body; until I understood the impact it had on people, mainly men. Because I always had to adapt, I have always been a great chameleon, I had this saying, "You are not the one who made me so you won't be the one to finish me" and like this, I started to build my confidence and stand up to bullies, all kind, at every level. I even have the skill to make people like me when they don't at first glance, they become a challenge and I make my mission to change their false perception of "people like me". At some point in my life I decided that I will become a leader and not a follower so I fought malicious authorities, always in a subtle way. I am not for "the an eye for an eye" option but I do not let bullies win, ever.
I was a tomboy for a long time. I became a "woman" in my thirties. I was a tomboy because I was always with my brothers throughout my childhood. I did not relate to my mother or my older sister, I rejected everything feminine aspects of myself because I did not want to have anything in common with them. They rejected me at birth, it was my way of fighting back. Very ironic as I physically look like both of them. I even remember thinking that it would have been easier for me to be a boy, maybe I wouldn't have been abused so much, now I know it is not true but I used to think that men were stronger, not true either. So, like a lot of young girls I used to wear very loose clothes that would cover all my curves, better for skateboarding anyway. I was always with my brother José back in those days and I related to him only, so it was normal to dress like him. We used to swap clothes, we had the same tastes and the same dream brands: Levi's, Vans, Converse, Bomber jacket, JM Weston, nothing very feminine but I loved it and felt great and protected. We didn't have much but we had taste and that stayed with me, I don't spend that much on clothes but when I buy something I know how to make it count and last.
If I tell you that I started using make up when I was 38, would you believe me? Well, true, never used make up before, all I did was moisturise for the day with my body cream on top of it! I had the most spotless face ever and never really thought about it twice. My twin sisters tried to get me into it but I just wasn't interested. I believe that was part of my natural rejection of my mother and anything that would make me female. I just didn't want to look like her so I used her as a counter-example, same for my older sister. I should have related to one or the other or both in an ideal world but we never connected.
So, here I am at 19, a natural tomboy. I started to get a glimpse of femininity, I remember my brother Guy, telling me that it was time to try on a dress and actually buying me one, that I liked. I started to mix pieces and introduce some sexiness in my wardrobe but still, I liked to be at ease so anything tight wasn't for me, still isn't.
Today, I use make up only for work, otherwise I go make up free. My skin is not as spotless anymore but I don't care. I want to be able to touch my face without putting foundation everywhere and I always have the feeling that I am suffocating my skin when I apply make up. I am not saying that make up is not great, on the contrary, sometimes when I look at my tired face and it looks all refreshed after a good make up, I always say that it's magic but still I feel better going make up free. With years, whereas I didn't know what was what when I started, I have learnt to do my own make up quite well, not at an MUA level (I respect MUAs too much, they are true artists) but I have finally understood the different brushes, colours etc.; mainly thanks to my own daughters. When I think of my relationship to make up and the rejection I had of it, I think it comes with the idea that when made up one is wearing a mask and is not herself/himself; I was invisible for so long, I want people to see me as I am. That is my own interpretation but I think it is genuine.
When it comes to my face, there has been an evolution in choosing my day cream. My skin has changed and is trickier now, so I usually go for a cold cream in winter, often a French brand and something lighter during summer. I have taken the good habit of protecting my skin against the sun with a SPF 30, (yes, I used to think black people didn't need to protect themselves from the sun until I got sunburnt in Corsica) and use aloe vera in case of too much sun. I love using pure aloe vera gel, for my face and hair. I have had the chance to go on a shoot and been offered some products from a brand I didn't know but now love, Suqqu. I actually swapped my winter cold cream for their Light Solution Fluid https://www.suqqu.com/uk/products/skincare/light_solution_fluid/ and yes it is quite pricey but I will stick to it as long as it works and the bottle lasts long so it is an investment on my skin. I just love it, one pump (yes I am trying to make it last!) and my skin is moisturised for the day, no need for anything else and no greasy feeling that cold creams can give me sometimes. Amazing! I love the brand, it is Japanese and I am a fan of Japan, it is smooth, scent free and efficient. Otherwise in my bathroom, it is a mix of Suqqu body and face products (offered) and make up. I like Yves Rocher a French brand and Maybelline for their foundation and mascara. I tend to stick to what I know as I already had a very bad reaction with another famous brand that I will not name but it was a catastrophe.
My hair, I have had my locks since 2006, I actually started growing them while I was pregnant with my second daughter, the best decision I made for my hair. I went through, like a lot of black girls and women, the chemical relaxing awful episodes that leave you with scalps burns and an egg foul odour to end up getting frizzy as soon as it rains. My natural hair was super frizzy and very dense, I had so much I could have made donations. Getting a comb in my afro was hell on Earth. That was a real pain so I started shaving my head in my twenties and going crazy with patterns and colours, not that colours is better in terms of chemicals but at least I wasn't burning my scalp anymore, it was more me. I did braids as well, long, short, you name it, I did it all, but the long seating hours, stiff neck and facial lifting that go with it put me off it as well. I actually loved myself more when I used to shave my head but going to the barber every month can be a pain and I don't like the itchy regrowth feeling. So locks are just perfect, I have the roots taken care of every 6 months and that's it. I take great care of my locks and am very proud of them. I started going grey in my late thirties and am now nearly all grey, I cannot actually wait to totally be grey, I just like it. It took time and of course I tried to cover it with colour at the beginning but it was damaging my hair so I stopped very quickly, no way was I going to take the risk of going bald using chemicals in my hair. Today, I am very at ease and proud of my grey locks, they are beautiful and serve me well. I shave the back and have my barber make some patterns for fun and I just love the look of it all. There are so many hairstyles you can do with locks, I just love it.
Now, I trust 2 professionals to take care of my hair, in Paris, I go to Capilocks Centre http://www.capilockscenter.fr/shop/fr/ , I actually started my locks with them and they are more than my hairdressers, they are friends. When I go to their salon, it reminds me of Desmond's that I used to watch when I was living in London at 19. All the girls in my family have locks and we all go there. In London, I go to my hairdresser and now friend Dom @locsmith_ and only her. One of my best friend introduced her to me and we became friends and now collaborate on projects as soon as we need a locks and black hair expert. She is great with my locks care and I call her when I need a different hairstyle on a project. She makes her own natural products and gives me advice on how to deal with ageing and taking care of my hair, good to have Dom in my corner for sure.
Let's talk about clothes, let's talk about fashion. I think I can talk for most of my family and of course myself when I say we love fashion as a way to tell stories but we are not trend followers. I come from a family of "sapeurs"everybody in my family has style and style doesn't mean money but the capacity at assembling pieces that reflect your personality and make you feel great. Fashion, clothes, tell a lot about who you are, where you come from, it actually carries life messages that are not always written. I think my first memories of fashion are seeing my dad and my mum dressing up for events, shining like a king and a queen to dance all night long. My mum was always very elegant and still is, you would never have caught her without make up when out and she has a natural swag without having much to do. The truth is, and I had to think about it, my sense of style comes from my brothers, that will explain the tomboy style, the sport chic as I say. I need to be able to run, tackle an asshole if need be and still be elegant; that is my style. I love trainers (I have quite a few), not heels, I love pants rather than dresses; even if some make me dream, but it is all a matter of being at ease, being able to breathe and move, all my limbs. Us being poor meant doing with what we had and still rocking it with style. I would swap clothes with my brother José so I wouldn't be caught wearing the same thing twice. We were dreaming on brands like Marithe Francois Girbaud, Yohji Yamamoto (have no idea where my love for Japanese brands comes from but I just like the elegant but still relaxed style), Blanc Bleu (I so wanted one of their sweatshirts, everybody had one), Compagnie de Californie, Chevignon, Creeks, Lacoste, Schott. I certainly forgot some but I was a teenage girl and I wanted it all, just to blend in and not feel so out of place. I say dreaming on brands because we just couldn't afford them. Growing up we would wear what my mum would sew for us or could buy so no brands for us. When I started to work at 16, I bought my own clothes and got a couple of pieces I really wanted. Never really went crazy though as getting a hot meal was always our priority and it was sometimes tough but I still managed to get a few pieces I worked hard to get. I think this childhood experience of having to choose between a good meal and looking good keeps me in check when it comes to buying clothes. I was never in the "I want to impress people" mode so clothes have never been an obsession. if I am honest I was always confused by fashion until I understood quite recently, working on this blog that it is a big part of my journey. I mean I was born in the 70s so just for that clothes are important. I do not always understand and/or like what is shown on catwalks but there are some designers that are part of my life, my childhood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaia, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and if you have been hanging out with sapeurs of course Armani and Versace. Fashion, yes of course, but I want clothes in which I feel first at ease and then good and of course that I can afford; so I don't follow trends. I have never really cared how people saw me because I was invisible for so long and when I finally became visible, my brother told me that some people would find me beautiful and some wouldn't so I had to love myself first and that stays with me. I just don't care about other people's judgment, especially when I have no emotional connection with them, so haters would waste their time with me. Only people I love can hurt me.
I find very ironic that I, who was branded ugly, useless and hopeless, am now doing a job synonymous with beauty when in fact beauty has nothing to do with modelling. Of course, we all know the famous top models and the image that goes with them. Here, I am talking about the normal people modelling what I call the real people marketers, we need to be human and down to earth, accessible and relatable.This has nothing to do with being beautiful. Often, clients and agencies are looking for people with personalities, style and above all relatable, so that's me and you. I love this job because from one job to the other you get to be someone else and that's exciting. Sometimes, you're a CEO, a mum, a sexy MILF, a hand showing a product (sometimes they just want a small part of your body), there are countless possibilities. It puts me in a perpetual new opportunities mode, some I drop as soon as I am out of set, some I keep and adapt to myself. Maybe, modelling is for me the best way to let go of my childhood trauma and feel like, I too belong. The ugly duckling is no longer swimming on its own. Beauty has nothing to do with someone's worth, only love counts and love shapes you in so many important ways, that is where real beauty lies; once again my own interpretation but if you can show this kindness on set, you will be a winner.
So, whoever you are, wherever you are, it's going to be ok, just come as you are.