After a one-year hiatus, the world's biggest fashion show, staged by L'Oréal Paris, made its comeback in the French capital on Sunday. The show was staged on the Parvis des Droits de l'Homme, an esplanade overlooking the Eiffel Tower that takes its name from "human rights." The square's French wording translates literally as "the rights of man," leading it to be renamed for the occasion as the "Parvis des Droits de L'Homme et de la Femme." This is a symbolic move for the cosmetics giant, which has been championing women for decades and which advocates for many values, such as inclusion and self-affirmation. Among those taking part in the show was French singer-songwriter Yseult, one of the brand's spokespeople. Before the show she spoke to us about the event and the many values she shares with L'Oréal Paris.
You have been a global spokesperson for L'Oréal Paris for several months now. Why is this role important to you?
This role is very important to me because it shows that beauty is diverse, and, above all, that beauty is personal and unique.
L'Oréal is one of the brands pushing the boundaries on issues of inclusion and assertiveness, but are the worlds of fashion and beauty truly more inclusive in general today?
Generally speaking, no. It's like in my industry, music. I'm an independent artist, I sing variété française, and I'm a black woman, and there aren't many black women who sing variété française, at least I don't think there are. Of course there are still women who have cleared the path, but the truth is that it's important to be able to represent all types of beauty, whether in music, fashion or beauty. And even more so today, because there is a strong demand from the younger generation for society to be reflected in all these areas. I think it's a matter of urgency that younger generations are listened to, and there's a need to get up to speed in order to be able to reach everyone.
We live in an era where certain diktats regarding women's bodies are being done away with, but at the same time there's a lot of talk about the cult of the perfect face through filters on social media or a cosmetic surgery boom. What's behind this paradox?
It's a paradox that is accentuated by social networks, in the quest for 'likes'. We must try to educate our little sisters and brothers, and make sure they understand that we love them as they are, with or without these 'likes'. We have to teach them that 'likes' on Instagram are not going to define who they are, and that they have a family that loves them is most important.
What needs to change today so that teenage girls and young women don't grow up feeling left out?
Before changing anything, I think there should be real discussion with the big beauty groups, and with the music and fashion industries. For example, in music, we should ask ourselves how the industry can be cleaned up, how to make sure that there are significantly more black people in classical music and in variété française, how to make these institutions accessible. It could also be classical dance, how do we make it accessible to everyone? I think it's important to have a frank and deep discussion about representations of diversity and the different ways for the industry to be open to such diversity. Once that discussion takes place, I think things will change -- gradually evolve -- and people will see things differently themselves. It's also about education and communication, so everything starts there.
Doesn't the fact that we're talking about these issues today show that there's still a long way to go?
There will always be some ways to go. That said, we mustn't forget that there were people who paved the way for us. I always move forward in my life aware of the fact that there are women who have gone ahead and paved the way for me, and that that is why I am here today. There will always be work to do, there will always be something to fight for, but I think that this time it would be much easier to fight peacefully and use communication in this fight.
Who are the women you see as having paved the way for you?
Among the women who inspired me are Erykah Badu and [French author, filmmaker and activist] Rokhaya Diallo, but I would also say [chanson française singer] Barbara [1930-1997] in her attitude, I like very much the fact that she dressed in black, that she remained herself, and that she was very elegant and at the same time very audacious. I also love Edith Piaf because she had a certain vulnerability, and at the same time a great strength. All these women have inspired me to this day.
You will be walking the runway with L'Oréal Paris on the Parvis des droits de l'Homme, which has been renamed "Parvis des droits de l'Homme et de la Femme" for the occasion, in order to include women. What does this signify?
It represents a lot of things, especially since this afternoon it will be renamed with the word 'Femme', with a capital 'F', because women represent many things. It makes me happy to be able to walk on this renamed square, and it feels good to be surrounded by strong women, women who are powerful, intelligent, and simply beautiful.
What are you wearing for the show?
I'm wearing an outfit designed by Casey Cadwallader and his team, so from the house of Mugler. It's from his new collection, which has yet to be released. It's an honor to be able to wear an outfit designed by Casey again.
Why did you choose this label?
Because the house of Mugler was there for me for the Victoires de la Musique, and they immediately made me feel welcome. And I particularly like being able to show my body as it is, without hiding it, while being in control, and I must say that they handle this well, especially Casey, they get my energy and what I want to stand for.
With a few hours to go ahead of the show, any apprehensions?
I'm nervous, but I will meditate a little. I'm a bit uncertain, but it's normal. I can't say that I'm calm since I've never walked a runway before, but I'm going to rest, meditate, and concentrate on the walk.
This interview has been translated from French.