“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” famous French icon Coco Chanel once said and Fatou N’diaye is a living breathing example of that.
The French beauty/fashion blogger is using a growing online presence to highlight Black beauty and get people to realize just how much African fashion and Urban street fashion influence the fashion world as a whole. Her BlackBeautyBag blog has become the online destination for beauty/fashion insiders, beauty lovers, and fashion buffs and N’diaye was actually inspired to start a blog showing the beauty of Black women after seeing such Black American magazines as Essence.
BlackBeautyBag covers everything from makeup for all shades of Black women to hairstyles (including N’diaye’s own innovative natural hair styles) to fashion. There’s also a forum for followers to exchange tips, advice and posts on wellness and as well as the environment.
N’diaye, who is 38 and has a 14-year-old son, not only runs the blog, but also organizes events, like beauty conferences, in France and abroad. Check out our chat with this French wonder.
MadameNoire (MN): What made you decide to start blogging?
Fatou N’diaye (FN): I have always been passionate about beauty and I thought we did not address the issue of Black beauty in general French media. I started attending the first beauty forums in 2003 as The Beauty of Afrik.
We basically shared beauty tips and spoke to the Black women. In parallel, I bought a lot of magazines like Ebony and Essence–magazines I found in London and the United States when I was 20–that specialized in Black beauty but also the lives of Black women. This was what we did not see in magazines in France, where Black women are still sidelined.
Gradually, I started a workbook where I identified these issues about beauty. It is then that I created my blog, in 2007. It was my space where I could share my beauty tips, talk about self-esteem and well-being. This was the place where I gave consultation to Black women like me in search of beauty tips and tricks. But I also wanted to show with my blog that Black women are like other women and show a positive image.
MN: What do you love about fashion?
FN: What I love about fashion is that it allows each of us to express our personality through clothing. The garment is somehow an extension of each of us. And what is often not said is that fashion is born on the street. Those are people like you and me who create and major retailers and fashion names repeat the codes created in the streets.
MN: I understand you are French-raised, half-Nigerian, quarter-Malian, and quarter-Senegalese. Is this description correct?
FN: Yes, it is just that! And it’s funny because often when I say my background people look surprised as if Africans did not mix within. Africa is a great continent where there are over 40 countries. Don’t people fall in love with someone who does not come from their country or culture?
MN: Do you think that your diverse ethnic diversity gives you a different outlook on the world of fashion?
FN: I think the two cultures of my parents bring me great wealth. You know we do not often say it, but many people are inspired by Africa for fashion. This beautiful continent is rich in textiles, colors, and materials. Indeed when looking at designers such as Burberry, Ralph Lauren, and others, they use dress styles created by the Congolese. They are called “the fire.” The color block was invented by the Congolese. Solange even used one of her videos (“Losing You”) shot in South Africa. Fashion is something that lives in Africa, and it is present in every detail.
But what I mostly learned growing up was that I had to be proud of my African roots and this beautiful continent of Africa that never gets to show its wealth and beauty only misery.
MadameNoire.com: How do you make money off of BlackBeautyBag.com?
Fatou N’diaye: I earn money with the traffic and visits to my blog and the articles that are sponsored. Advertising banners are billed; I will not put free advertising on my blog. Also, I earn money with the competition/events I do with beauty brands. They pay me for events with my readers or guests. When I make beauty or community management conferences for events I also paid. Also, when I travel for events I am paid.
I earned money with my Instagram account, some of my post are sponsored by brands and a lot of my travels that I share on Instagram are to promote destinations by the travel agency. They pay me for posting pictures on my Instagram account and offer me the travel, all inclusive.
MN: It has been said that you are changing the face of French fashion, how would you describe your influence on the world of fashion?
FN: Yes, it was a nice surprise to read Vogue talking about me like that. I find this important and noble to say. I loved that title and the fact that there is no term “Black.” This means that before our skin color, we are French. And I found it really relevant and bold, especially to think that I represent a new form of Parisian beauty is great because all the French are not white or blond or thin. They do not come all the beautiful rich neighborhoods. They are Black, Chinese, Indian, Arab. I hope this will allow the media to show the diversity of French women that is never shown on TV or in magazines.
MN: Fashion has been accused of not being very diverse. Would you agree?
FN: That is true. I see no diversity. It there’s always one or two Black models among 20 white models. I am pleased to see women like Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Alek Wek and others talking about racism in the fashion world.
MN: Do you think things are getting better?
FN: Gradually things are changing but Anglophone countries are more advanced than in Europe, it is because people of color in Europe have remained silent too long and are now daring to assert themselves and raise their voices. Continue the fight it is our duty, and to exist in a society we must be visible.
MN: The French fashion world seems to be cracking down on models who are too skinny. Your thoughts?
FN: This is great because young girls see this and want to be very thin, anorexic and it is dangerous. Many girls take these mannequins models and want to be like them or think that to be a beautiful woman must be like the models .
MN: Do you think fashion is now embracing the “real women”?
FN: Fashion is a bit hypocritical; they sell products to women who do not have the physique of women they showcase. I would see them show different women in their advertisements to put forth that there is more than one type of beauty or physique.
MN: Are there many bloggers of color in the fashion world?
FN: There are a lot of Black bloggers in many fields (fashion, food, literature, cinema, DIY, arts, etc.) but the problem is that few can emerge and it is always the same concern.
When you’re Black and have schooling or equal capabilities with white, you will always have more difficulties because of your skin color. Being Black in the French media environment is very difficult. Indeed a few months ago in France the French BET channel was launched without Black TV host; many people have called for a boycott of BET France. The network has heard our anger and apologized and promised to rectify the situation. It is often like that in France, the world of fashion and media is very closed and very white. That is why I thank the Internet for it has allowed Black talent (comedians, actors, YouTubers, Viners, bloggers) to express themselves and provide an alternative to what we do not see on TV. The change will be done if we continue. I trust that the future generation will benefit from our struggles.
MN: What has been your biggest business lesson?
FN: What I have learned is that people respect you if they see that you have some convictions and you are defending the body and soul. Never stop fighting for what one believes right. And as a woman I learned that in this environment run by men, one must have a strong temperament. And as a blogger, I also learned I need a contract when I work with companies or people and not be afraid to talk money. In France this money talk is taboo; I’m not ashamed. These companies want to win and make money with bloggers, why I would work for free for people?
MN: What are your goals for your blog?
FN: Continue what I have done from the beginning with my blog, that is to say promote Black beauty and self-esteem. I would later like to have a high position in a beauty company where my role is to develop communication and marketing products for Black women everywhere.
MN: What do you love the most about blogging?
FN: My freedom to write and think. In my writings I bring the story and testimony of what thousands of Black women live every day without anyone talking about it. And if that can change minds, it is a victory! Blogging has shown beautiful things other than what the big media shows or conceals.