2 French WOC Discuss the Issues With America's Idea of "French Beauty"



Back in 2015, a runway trend crept into the limelight coining the phrase "rich girl hair"—a new way of describing a look that's meant to evoke an "effortless," "undone" feeling. Only those words imply a laissez-faire approach to hair for only a select few. This was also around the time when the internet (ourselves included) began idolizing the idea of "French-girl beauty," a term that's since taken on a less-than-accurate life of its own. Images of Jane Birkin were plastered on social media, websites, and mood boards, her hair straight with a slight bend and fringe ("the elegance of restraint,” hairstylist Jimmy Paul called it in an interview T Magazine).

And then French-girl fatigue set in—a malaise that stems from the idea that French-girl beauty secrets solely promote that same exclusionary hair, using micellar water and expensive oils to treat any and every skin ailment, and the idea that everyone in Paris "had the luxury of being not only rich and rail thin, but also of looking intoxicatingly good without either makeup or bras." Clearly those tentpoles eliminate naturally textured hair; sensitive, breakout-prone, or aging skin; and women who aren't a size two. It's impossible to define a person or a culture by Americanized stereotypes.

And while some of these themes do exist, we can't go on discussing them without recognizing the blaring exclusivity they promote—black women are blatantly left out of the equation. There's an overtly singular perception of "French-girl beauty," notes Maya Allen, Marie Claire's digital beauty editor. "This is the sole reason I've always rolled my eyes at the overhyped obsession Americans have with French beauty—because women of color faded into the background of that narrative, and still are treated like forgotten gems," she says. This exclusion speaks to a larger cyclical and universal issue when it comes to representation. French women of color are not an afterthought, and thanks to Instagram, I've found beauty muses who tell a different story. Below, find a more true-to-life picture of the eponymous French girl.