Prêt-À-Poundo: A Mixed-Raced Miss France 2014, So What?

The mixed-raced winner of Miss France 2014 Florence Coquerel has brought up continuing issues of race and national identity in modern France.

Late last year, Flora Coquerel, a beautiful half-French, half-Beninese 19-year-old, was crowned Miss France 2014 in Dijon. An international business student, Coquerel conquered French people's hearts with her words — she stated a desire to represent a cosmopolite, modern France claiming that "today's France is a mixed France, where there is every culture, and I think a lot of people will see themselves in me".

Coquerel's statement came at an important time, after the country's latest racist incidents targeting French Minister of Justice Christine Taubira. Recent moves against Taubira include a far right politician comparing her to a monkey because of her skin tone. The events forced the United Nations to take action with Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stating "This utterly unacceptable abuse of a prominent politician, on the basis of her color, is a stark manifestation of the rising racism, xenophobia and intolerance aimed at members of ethnic and religious minorities – as well as migrants – in many European countries." (France 24)

Last year Louis-Georges Tin, the president of CRAN (Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires de France) noted the lack of black beauty contestants in the run for Miss France stating "The failure to represent the contemporary French population in an event such as this is obviously serious. It amounts to denying the very existence of French people of African origin." Many people expressed displeasure against the lack of Muslim contestants, as there as more than 6 million Muslims currently living in France.

Meanwhile, other crowds refused to see the new Miss France as a French citizen entirely due to her race. But if French citizens voted for her, it's because Coquerel is an accurate reflection of a mixed nation. Unfortunately, many social media users spread vile comments about her election. Some of the comments are truly offensive and leave us wondering where the boundaries lie in what can be published on social media. Despite free speech, should we allow hateful behavior on these channels? Here are some of the tweets, several of which draw from the same bigoted reasoning behind the attacks on Christiane Taubira:

"I am sure that Miss France is celebrating her victory at the zoo with all her family" @MikeAssouline

"The mixed race is the cancer of the white race" @tdechampagn

"Why do we always have to have a Black Miss France? Aren't there enough in France's soccer team and enough similar to Taubira?" @John_Doe_1001

"Miss France should thank Taubira. They elected a "Miss Black" to improve the image of France following the controversy" @Vaskk

We can't tell you how to act or think but we can denounce a grave mentality that disrupts the national environment and damages a country's society. As a new year dawns, it's time for a change — boycott the haters on social media or otherwise and highlight the lovers who are spreading a positive message. Just saying. If you want to talk about it, tweet @okayafrica with #missfrance2014.


Photo courtesy of Mariama Diallo

Interview: Sincerely Ria Is Giving Guinean Fashion It's Flowers

And designer Mariama Diallo's NYFW debut celebrates the vibrancy and uniqueness of Guinea and its Fulani culture.

Guinea-born supermodel, actress, and activist Mariama Diallo is a face you've likely seen all over social media.

With modelling campaigns with the likes of Savage x Fenty by Rihanna, Kim Kardashian's KKW Beauty, and features in Vogue, Marie Claire, NYLON magazines, the model is commanding her space in the industry and making her way centerstage. And, Mariama's strong online presence and following has certainly made her a popular member of the global village too.

With the aforementioned achievements under her belt, the 28-year-old supermodel presented herself as an eager and excited talent within the fashion industry. Now, Mariama's talents and ambitions have attracted her to a role behind the scenes. And showing the power of intention, the role has already taken her to places she only dreamed of prior.

Debuting as the fashion designer of self-financed fashion line Sincerely Ria at this year's New York Fashion Week is but a peek into what the model has to show of herself and share with the world.

The new collection, The Oshun, celebrates not only female beauty and the many ways that it manifests itself but also the magic of womanhood. Named after Oshun, the African goddess of femininity, fertility, beauty, and love, the collection is wrapped within the warmth and divinity of its namesake. The brand follows an ethos of inclusivity, community, and the power behind being beautiful because you have decided to be. Challenging the notion that beauty is always to be accompanied by pain, Mariama and Sincerely Ria are celebrating the rejection of beauty and body standards and expectations.

The Oshun line is a nod to the opulence of Mariama's African heritage and Guinea's Fulani culture, with special attention to the use of brilliant colors, exciting designs, and stunning silhouettes. Motivated to be seen and to captivate, the emphasis on Black beauty within the clothing is certainly translated beautifully, however, stylistically available to all. Uniqueness is welcomed and encouraged. And like Mariama says herself, "You deserve to celebrate yourself unapologetically."

The line debuted at New York Fashion Week, very appropriately, on Valentine's Day of this year and love certainly was the theme. Already boasting a following of over 8,000, the brand's instagram account has shown nothing short of praise and excitement for what we've seen from Mariama, and for what's to come.

We spoke with the Guinean supermodel about the journey to Fashion Week and her love for and emphasis on community and shared experiences.

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