Beauty and Fashion Secrets for Women of Colour
Paris-born and London-based Christelle Kedi, who has written 4 books and appeared in 2 academic anthologies, shared her research and tips on how women of colour can stay elegant, independent, and use their natural beauty in the best way possible!
Interview is courtesy of jetsetbabe.com
Hi Christelle, could you please introduce yourself to our Jetsetbabes, and tell us more about your background and achievements?
My name is Christelle Kedi, and I’m a Paris born and London based beauty and fashion Writer with a strong interest in African history of aesthetics. I have written 4 books and appeared in 2 academic anthologies. I studied makeup and beauty salon management, and obtained a master degree in fashion imaging and promotion.
I mostly worked with and for the African and diaspora markets in TV, movie, creative consultancy, beauty business consultancy, fashion and beauty editorials as a freelancer before transitioning into writing since 2013. Currently, I am a part-time beauty history lecturer in a beauty school in Paris and beauty and fashion Writer the rest of the time.
When I first saw you one of the first things I noticed about you is your healthy, natural and voluminous curly hair. Black women who live in Europe & US often wearing their hair straight; otherwise, they don’t come across as elegant looking. What do you think about this and do you have any advice? Should Black women opt for wigs & weaves or can they do without?
My essays are actually about deconstructing this overwhelming American propaganda of a unique type of beauty. The African American experience of having to follow Hollywood’s beauty standards does not reflect the reality of the 95% of blacks who are neither Americans nor living in America.
Therefore the over-publicised view of African American experience and canon of beauty shouldn’t be taken as the absolute rule for the majority of Black women. In fact, as for the other minorities living there, they should make better use of the Internet to find out about original forms of aesthetics still used by African and Caribbean women worldwide.
Angelique Kidjo, Yaya Dacosta, Freddie Harrel, Baroness Amos, Christiane Taubira, Victoria Santa Cruz, Dame Sirleaf Johnson, Winnie Mandela, Shinghai, Jocelyne Berouard… are all African or Caribbean celebrities who had successful careers with or without a Western spouse but keeping their hair natural.
I believe it is a question of interest in finding out other role models than the overexposed African American ones who may choose to blend in with their hair often due to lack of curiosity and/or desire to step out of Hollywood’s supremacy.
What is the secret to healthy and beautiful hair?
The best secret is the one applied by Rastafarians: little to no animal food, plenty of water, no processed food or sugar and 90% of meals made out of food full of nutrients (green vegetables and all types of fruits). As for the teeth, hair only beautifully grows if food consumption is healthy.
What advice can you give to black women how to style their natural hair in an elegant & classy way?
Style depends on context and self-awareness: what one may call elegant may not be for someone else. Healthy hair is easy to manage, but they require discipline in food consumption first before considering any beauty treatments. Once again are Rastafarians experiencing hair growth issues?
You have written a study about the beauty industry. What is the most striking thing that you have learned? What was your main conclusion?
I learned that what we call beauty nowadays is a limited view of what it used to be before the creation of TV. 150 years ago, beauty was diverse in every single part of the world! Nowadays, everybody wants to look alike, and it limits my creativity as a makeup artist, and it is destroying a multicultural view of humanity. Even mother Nature keeps its originality in plants, flowers, and animals so we can appreciate a different type of beauties…
What skincare products do you think are the best for black skin? Any particular brands or products?
90% of skin care brands are made by about 10 giant laboratories worldwide. The skin tone is just a question of foundations… in organic chemistry and in dermatology, apart from the level of melanin, there is no difference in beauty treatments or products.
The people who are complaining about lack of choice in skincare often do not drink enough water, drink alcohol and then rely on ‘miraculous beauty creams’ to correct their lack of discipline! Your skin is your largest organ so please feed it from within first before criticizing marketers for exaggerating benefits and features.
What about more invasive procedures (peelings, injections, surgery, etc.)?
People should ideally start using them once their collagen levels start dropping. For most women, it starts with the perimenopause (around 35 years old and onwards). Anyone starting before is either ginger hair (very fragile skin) or someone who wasn’t drinking enough water during all these years, not sleeping enough, drinking alcohol, smoking, avoiding essential nutrients from consumed green vegetables.
These treatments were created for maturing skins not to be used during childbearing years…unless specified by a medical professional.
What is your beauty routine?
Drinking plenty of water, no alcohol, no meat, good sleep, exercise. My daily makeup application stands better as it is a consequence of discipline.
You are a makeup artist, can you give us any make up hacks or tips for black women on how to do their make up in a classy way? What colors, products, and techniques work best?
One of the first lessons taught in beauty school is that advice can only be given individually (due to allergy testing) and face to face (for insurance reason). Therefore it is difficult to provide anything else than general guidance:
- washing your face with soft products (I personally use clay, I wouldn’t advise soaps!);
- cleaning it twice a day using products adapted to skin types (lemon juice for oily skins for example;
- olive oil or rose water for dry/ mature skins);
- applying moisturizers according to skin needs.
I cannot name or mention brands here as most are created in the same laboratories. I personally prefer using vegan beauty brands or create my own skincare products.
What African beauty secrets are useful for women from all backgrounds?
African beauty secrets are still in use in our society and can benefit all women: clay for skin cleaning, sugar for hair removal, coconut for teeth whitening!
Any overall secrets/tips on how to elevate your look?
I would suggest to master both one’s body type and colour range. Copying someone else is not elevating but rather showing a lack of style.
Secondly, I would suggest to respect the rules set in European classic theatre since most of people perceive look elevation as ultimately Western. The rules are time (age), location and circumstances.
What is your definition of class and elegance?
Having lived in Paris New York and London, what differences and similarities have you noticed?
NYC is indeed the most European city in America however the overall understanding of Couture, the difference between style and fashion are challenged by the use of megastars to introduce classic European brands to the locals. It creates a crowd of followers/copiers rather than truly stylish people.
London is very experimental in terms of colors and cuts in fashion, but red nails and lips are still perceived as audacious in the corporate environment for example. In Paris, people never left the Coco Chanel’s legacy of wearing black. People keep wearing beige, black, brown, blue and grey while colour is more used in makeup and accessories than on clothes. Just look at the people attending the Paris Fashion Week!
I read that you organize a conference about black women sensuality once a year. How did you come up with this?
The idea came up as I met many black models who turned lingerie models then turned into porn actresses in an attempt to rise to a sex symbol status before finishing their career. They were all portraying Western sexuality and often misinterpreting the difference between sensuality, erotism, and pornography. I figured out that the average black folk thought the same way. I decided to launch this yearly event to educate people so upcoming erotic actresses would be inspired by alternative forms of sensualities.
So what is your definition of sensuality? What can a woman do to be more sensual and be connected to her femininity?
African sensuality is linked initially to marriage and childbearing. Traditionally a married woman willing to conceive would use mass seduction messages to let her husband know about her intentions. Her feminity would then be enhanced by the use of accessories, makeup, perfumes…to elevate her sexual appeal.
The first year the conference was about black women and pornography could you tell us more about it?
The first event was about sharing some statistics about the alarming rise of black women worldwide getting into pornography without fully acknowledging the consequences of this type of career once they have started. The aim of the conference was to give clues about the socio-psychological implications of such choices. We had a psychologist and an image consultant who discussed about this topic.
How do you think black women are presented in the media? And how does it influence them in their daily lives?
My opinion will seem harsh however my next essay is about skin bleaching.
Black Women in the media are mostly Americans, and it does influence those who are living in the South hemisphere not to improve themselves but to consume more relaxers and bleaching creams…creating debt and skin cancers on the way.
The second year the conference was about Polygamy. What was the outcome?
This year we discussed about people judging polygamy (polygyny for men and polyandry for women) while they adopt serial monogamy ( several relationships in a lifetime with one person each time). Polyandry did exist in North and East Africa until the birth of the Ottoman empire. Fraternity through the same mother is less challenging than the one from the same father as the identity of the mother is always very clear.
Are monogamy and marriage failed concepts?
Marriage is a consequence of property management of female bodies in patriarchal societies. To ensure a patrimony or legacy, men organized themselves to exploit female bodies and labour. What do women gain from marriage except some comfort (only if the husband is wealthy)? I believe women are not made to be monogamous since they can physically have unlimited orgasms meaning several partners in a day! Now the only way men found to control this female libido was to possess their vagina, womb, name, and youth through marriage.
A lot of people are trying to shame women for trying to improve their lifestyle and choosing a partner who will provide for them. What do you think of hypergamy?
Hypergamy is everywhere among mammals in the animal world. Only alpha lions or wolfs can reproduce! Why would humankind behave differently? I believe married women should be able to choose whether to work or not especially after childbearing. Remember that once children are grown up, your life doesn’t stop but at the same time what would be the point of giving birth to let strangers taking care of your offsprings?
What was your second essay about? How has your work and what you discovered in your essays impacted your lifestyle and choices?
My second essay is about the dissemination of fashion trends among 22 black European online influencers across 9 countries. I learned a lot about self-gratification and the unmet needs of black Europeans in terms of local role models. Beyonce is great, but she lives in the USA!
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