issue three : fear thy neighbour

We interview Estelle as part of our "Melanin" beauty series. 

What is your ethnicity?

I'm Black African, originally from Ivory Coast.

What culture do you identify most with?

I grew up in Paris but remained  in touch with my Ivorian roots through how my parents and family, who helped raise me. I've had a steady balance between the two until I moved to the UK and started discovering different European cultures.

Do you still practice any of the traditional practices of your heritage at home? If so, what are they?

I love cooking Ivorian food. Attieke (kasava couscous) is one of the tastiest of all meals I've ever had since a tender age. It brings back memories. I also love watching Ivorian comedy films and series.


Do you know any traditional beauty practices from your culture? Could you share some with us?

When I was a kid, my mum was sending me to the tropical food store to buy some green plantain bananas. She was peeling it and using the inside skin to rub it against my eczema and itchy dry patches I had on my body. I was very surprised to notice that such an easy natural remedy was so efficient. My mum used to always come back from Ivory Coast with pure handmade shea butter to use as a daily body moisturiser. I love the smell of it!

What is the most frustrating thing about being a model and having your makeup done?

It's always been the hesitation to tell a make up artist to do his/her job properly. I've had so many disappointments when some of them couldn't match my skin colour to the right foundation or couldn't draw my full lips the right way. A few years ago I was a bit too shy to point it out, however, nowadays I would ask something to be done on my face or advise a make up artist if I have to. I guess it's all about how you approach the issue and if they haven't been trained on darker skin tones, it's a good learning curve for them.

What are some of the misconceptions other people might have about your culture/heritage? 

We do not always have a rice meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not all of us like spicy food. I was raised in Europe so I feel quite offended when people make those assumptions. Some members of my family do and I was a bit shocked to observe that but that doesn't really reflect the Ivorian lifestyle.

What has been the best part of being part of this beauty project for you?

I really loved the chilled and friendly atmosphere there was in the studio. Everyone seemed to be very pleased and excited about the poses and shapes I was delivering. It helps in some way to boost a model's confidence. Our smiles and laughter were captured by a really funny photographic team and it's quite rare in editorials.
I also like being informed about the products the make up artist was using on my face and the theme and story behind this photoshoot.

If there was one thing you could make others understand about your culture, what would it be?

We make time to enjoy our food and music and we love sharing it in generous amounts.