My New York
Manhattan, Brooklyn, Harlem, the Bronx… Each of these neighborhoods has a beautiful story that links them to New York. The three months I spent in the Big Apple are forever embedded in my heart, and have allowed me to add another chapter to my life. Let me explain.
As far as I can remember, I have been dreaming of New York through Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Taxi Driver and West Side Story, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Aaliyah, Vogue and Alvin Ailey. However, from the first time I visited as an wide-eyed eight year old, I only remember two things : King Kong, and much-too-large cotton candy sticks. Some twenty years later, the opportunity to go back has presented itself again. Hurray ! I’m going to modeling at New York Fashion Week in September 2017.
At almost 30, I can’t wait to rediscover New York with less innocent, more adult eyes. Because, let’s say it, Trump has really spoiled my idea of the American Dream. To be honest, the first two weeks were a blur. The cultural shock was brutal and even though I learned to understand New York through the people I met, the vastness of the city, the neverending noise, the crowds, and the junk food were quite disconcerting.
Brooklyn, however, had a captivating energy : its music venues, cultural melting pot, and the sheer entrepreneurial spirit it conveyed baffled me.
I met inspiring people in New York, who lived through their passions, as true entrepreneurs. People from different countries, with various religious and cultural backgrounds who, fascinatingly enough, were living and thriving together.
To see so many Black people, like me, heading their own company, or trusted with important jobs was very emotional for me. My head was in a whirlwind. I had the comforting feeling of being a part of a community, seeing my peers and identifying with people who like the same clothes as I do, go to the same exhibitions as I do, eat at the same restaurants, read the same books, used the same beauty products, and listened to the same music. It was incredible !
My many conversations and my need to communicate gave way to this community of Americans who built everything for themselves, provide for their own needs, and educate themselves without the help of anybody, let alone the system. A brave new world offered itself. Oh my God!
Cultivate what makes you unique, and work up the social ladder, are American mantras. Everything there pushes you to try something new and get your hands dirty.
" What is your story ? What brings you to NY? What projects are you personally working on ? What are your passions ? What do you really believe in ? What is your next step ? What is your purpose in life ? For which dream would you be prepared to sacrifice everything ? "
Those are the questions you can hear around the dinner table. By the way, Americans are way friendlier than us French. They dare to chat with those they don’t know yet. And that changes everything. New York has really expanded my horizon. Stimulated me. Gave me the strength to believe in my dreams and develop my skills. “Take a chance” seems to have a whole new meaning.
Nonetheless, New York is also a violent city, full of contradiction and discrimination. Racism, ultra-liberal consumerism, social disparity, ignorance, and the exorbitantly high price of life also proved how much I am privileged to be French. I really do love my country.
But how well assimilated is my community in France ? Can we really climb the social ladder when black people are so stigmatized in the minds of those who decide ? What should we do for French people to really take a chance on their own culture ? When will I see Black designers presenting their collection in the official schedule of the Paris Fashion Week ? When will we read Black authors in high school? Why aren’t there any products from the French West Indies in the new luxury french food hall of the Printemps in Paris ? Why can’t we still get into the “cool” nightclubs ? How will I reap the benefits of being who I am ?
New York seems to be a good choice for anybody who dares to try and take action. Living between the Big Apple and Paris has become obvious. In any case, what I remember the most is: “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere”... ;)