The Afropunk Festival was held in Paris over the weekend for the second year in a row. Women based throughout Europe and the United States flocked to the 3-day event to enjoy the outdoor market and the indoor concert. We were there to capture street style for our ongoing “Real Beauty Moment” photo series. They spoke candidly about what it means to be Afropunk, racism in their hometowns, and more. Take a look.
Real Beauty Moments: Afropunk Paris
Amanee Vania, Hometown: Chicago, Base: Houston, Texas
What brought you to Paris?
Afropunk! Me and my best friend, we were just like, we’ve got to go this year. She’s going to the one in New York. I wanted to come and see more people more like me and I’m just really happy to be here. There is great energy here. Beautiful free spirits.
I’m a makeup artist. One thing that is crazy to me is that makeup is the only industry that can be racist and it’s okay. Chanel would have 12 white and two shades of black. For me I wanted to work for a line that appreciated me as a black woman.
Growing up in Chicago, it’s so segregated and the only perception of beauty usually is a white woman. It was very important for me to encourage and uplift the black queens and let them know that you are just as beautiful, if not, even more beautiful.
We’re always separated by how dark you are, how light you are, how good your hair is. I’m just proud that I’m living in this generation today where we are encouraged to be bold, to stand out, and just to encourage one another and remind each other of how beautiful we all are.
Siovahn Gabrielle, Hometown: Chicago, Base: Cincinnati, Ohio
Blackness on Fleek
Black is so beautiful, black is so great, black is so awesome. We don’t have to do much of anything. All we have to do is be our best selves. It can be duplicated, it can try to be imitated, but black is so beautiful. I’m so happy to be here at Afropunk. It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I said, I can got to the one in New York, but why not go to the one in Paris. I’m so grateful to be here.
What I do
I’m a singer, I’ve sang for a long time. I think in the music industry they expect you to look a certain way, they want you to sing a certain way. That’s something that I’m going through right now. When I look at so many different talented women, from Jazmin Sullivan, to Danielle Brooks, they are always put down because of their size. Then you have artists such as Adele, I don’t have anything against Adele, but it’s almost if they want one “oversized” person at a time. I have a problem with that because [black people] have so much soul. Sometimes I think that gets a little robbed from us. I genuinely feel it comes from having an identity. That’s why we’re all so different. So when you see another race or other individuals take that from us, then they’re catapulted but we’re still left to try to figure out what else we can do to be more different when really we are the [originators], we have the soul but sometimes it’s just not good enough.
Me as an artist right now, I’m sticking to being as true to myself as I can possibly be. It’s kind of hard because it takes some time. People like Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fritzgerald, and people that came before us experienced terrible racism. The music industry can be very hard on women and I think it’s up to us to encourage little girls and to encourage people around us that we don’t have to do the most. All we have to do is be ourselves.
Noemie Gombe-Kette, Hometown: Paris, Base: London
Afropunk means Diversity. That’s the word that comes to mind. I came to Afropunk in Paris last year as well. I want to go to the one in New York so bad. Maybe next year.
The World Around
I grew up in France. Being a dark skinned woman here was hard because all the guys preferred light skinned women. So it was a bit harsh for us dark skinned women. I went to Washington and New York. It was cool but there was a lot of racism. In London there isn’t much racism but in Paris, definitely. It’s pretty bad in Paris, not only for black women or black people, just immigrants in general.
Basically, it was supposed to be blue. When I went home on the same day, I washed it, [my roots faded]. If I leave my Afro out, it’s green. So I’ve got three colors: blonde, blue, and green. I love it. It was a mistake but it turned out like this.
What I do
I’m doing fashion journalism. After my studies I want to work for several magazines. Then I want to create my own “Vogue” for black beauty and work with Afro American and African people. That’s my goal.
Mahina Ngandu, Hometown: Belgium, Congolese descent
I’m still kind of feeling like a beautiful black woman is associated with something that is not really intelligent or clever. It’s kind of difficult for people to associate beauty with intelligence and especially sexuality and everything. That is still I think a problem in this city and the city where I live and the country that I live in. It’s just the fact that when you’re put in one box it’s kind of difficult for people to put you in other boxes. So they’ll just see that, “she’s beautiful, she has to be a model. Then you have like, “she’s strong, she’s aggressive, she’s not nice.” But you don’t know how vulnerable that person can be besides what she shows to the world.
What I Love About Me
I love that I’m really shy in a way to start talking to people, but when I’m in the flow, I just go with it. I like that about myself.
I’m a student. I study literature in Antwerp and French and English. I really like writing. I like different arts actually. I want to be a writer. I want to write books, but I also want to write poetry. Maybe come out with a poetry book and I also sing. I want to do something like that as well. My goal is to make me my own art.
Ornellie Manzambi, Hometown: Belgium, Angolan descent
Living in a white man’s country has always been difficult. There was racism. I grew up in Belgium. There were not a lot of black people there so among my classmates I was the black girl so that was really difficult. It was hard to love myself the way I was being the only black girl. With time I learned to embrace my identity as a black woman. I’ve learned to embrace everything that I am. I’m in a better place.
I don’t really have a particular style. I just love mixing the African touch with the French touch or the Western touch just to have a hint and always remember that I am proud of being African. So I try to mix the two worlds.
It’s about culture and seeing people coming together to share the love for that same culture, so it’s more about the atmosphere and the spirit of the festival.
Maga Moura, Hometown: Brazil
I came from Brazil for the Afropunk festival. It’s different. Last year I went to New York and I enjoyed it a lot, so I planned to go to all the Afropunks this year, like Paris, New York, and Atlanta. This market is perfect. You can see people, you can take photos, you can talk.
I work to Empower
My job in Brazil is so special because I empower young girls and women in general. It’s good because I’m an icon of authenticity, personality, and strong black women, especially because of my style. I always say I don’t care about what people are going to think about my clothes. I just wear things because it’s what I like and how I’m feeling. How I’m feeling is how I am. In brazil the media now is showing more black girls and they’re giving space for us. We are in a really nice moment because all the black girls want to change their hair to have their real hair back and stop with the chemicals to straighten it. They are inspired by me because they like my braids and I’m always changing my hair.
Check out more Real Beauty Moments from the event in part 2 of our coverage.
Inside Le Trianon where the performances took place, attendees showed off their unique style as they mixed and mingled.