4 Min ReadSelf 02 March 2020
Growing up in Benac, a small village in the South of France, my parents instilled the importance of natural and healthy living in me from a young age. My father is a white French man and my mother is an African-American, so as the only mixed family in the village, I always felt... different.
I was an average, tall, skinny, curly-haired girl, who watched the Miss France competition every year, dreaming of the gorgeous gowns, the pretty girls and the luxurious destiny that awaited them.
Fast forward to 2008— after a bet with my college friends and with my mother's disapproval in tow— I entered the Miss France competition. The competition was tough, but I proudly finished as the 79th Miss France.
I was the first dual French/American citizen and the fifth mixed girl to win this pageant. The experience turned into the greatest education and adventure, giving me the courage and strength to pursue my dreams.
After a year of traveling to different countries, attending fashion shows and lavish parties, it all stopped.
A new queen was crowned, and as fast as it came it went away to another girl. I tried to enter the modeling business in Paris, but it was 2010 and opportunities for mixed-race models were limited. To complicate matters further, the "beauty pageant girl" stigma really took its toll. It was like I was below everyone else in the industry.
Finally, in 2011, I felt that my best option was to travel to the U.S and explore my American roots— nervous that I'd just left everything I'd worked so hard for back in France, but yearning to explore my mother's country and achieve the American Dream. I quickly signed with Elite Model Management, modeled and learned so much about the beauty industry all from in front of the camera.
In 2013, I welcomed my son, Matis, and my real entrepreneurial journey began. As a new mother, I was so careful about what I put on his body. I was dissatisfied with the available options in the U.S, and, so every year when I traveled home to France, I would stock up on French personal care products for the both of us to last us until my next trip home.
And, that's when the idea hit me. Not only was I dissatisfied with the personal care options for my son, but my U.S. family and friends were frustrated too. They would always ask me about my French beauty secrets, and the famous "je ne sais quoi" of Parisian women. The mission was simple: combine French beauty savoir-faire and natural ingredients, but make it accessible for all. And, thus, Mademoiselle Provence was born.
With the help of my co-founder, and now friend, Helene Marceau, we turned this dream into a reality. Helene and I dedicated ourselves to perfecting the formulas of our ten products, from the scent and textures to packaging and, of course, the ingredients. We wanted to produce something that we were proud of and that was safe for everyday use. Two years (and hundreds of samples) later, we were ready to launch.
What no one tells you is that, while launching a business is thrilling, it is also extremely challenging— emotionally and physically. Even in the best conditions, it takes a lot of perseverance, hope, and motivation to create something from the ground up.
With the lack of a college degree or any formal training in the beauty industry, I constantly felt different and out of place, just like when I was a little mixed-race girl in France dreaming of beauty pageants. My insecurity of being stereotyped as "just a pretty pageant girl" presented itself at every turn, but I used other people's doubts as my motivation. I trusted my instincts. I had everything to learn: how to create a business plan, how to formulate products, how to manage people, and, finally, how to sell.
There were plenty of times that I could have given up, but I persevered. I decided to dedicate myself and my next two years to Mademoiselle Provence— my success would also be my son's success.
Sleepless nights, endless wondering about every tomorrow, and stressful ten-minute buyer meetings took their toll on us. But, Helene and I both knew Mademoiselle Provence was worth fighting for. We trusted each other to push our vision forward no matter the cost. I could only go so far alone, but, together, I knew we could bring this brand global. The days she was down and unsure, I was there to lift her up. And when I felt like it was over, she encouraged me to keep hoping. We persisted and remained true to our brand mission of offering quality products at affordable prices that deliver a pleasurable experience. Every product launch, customer review, retail store, and company employee has brought us one step closer to the Mademoiselle Provence dream, and it was important to recognize and to celebrate each milestone along the way.
Today, Mademoiselle Provence is an international company, available in France, Italy, Croatia, South Korea, Canada, and the USA with new retailer plans on the horizon and two new products launching in Fall 2020. And we have no plans on slowing down any time soon! Mademoiselle Provence is also working to raise funding, working to finalize a round of $1M this year.
We haven't reached our final destination yet, but looking back at where I was ten years ago, I can only think…
Damn, what a journey my American Dream has been!
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The Armchair Psychologist has all the answers you need!
Help! I Might Get Fired!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
What's the best way to be prepared for a layoff? Because of the crisis, I am worried that my company is going to let me go soon, what can I do to be prepared? Is now a good time to send resumes? Should I save money? Redesign my website? Be proactive at work? Make myself non-disposable?
- Restless & Jobless
Dear Restless & Jobless,
I'm sorry that you're feeling anxious about your employment status. There are many people like yourself in this pandemic who are navigating an uncertain future, many have already lost their jobs. In my experience as a former professional recruiter for almost a decade, I always told my candidates the importance of periodically being passively on the market. This way, you'd know your worth, and you'd be able to track the market rates that may have changed over time, and sometimes even your job title which might have evolved unbeknownst to you.
This is a great time to reach out to your network, update your online professional presence (LinkedIn etc.), and send resumes. Though I'm not a fan of sending a resume blindly into a large database. Rather, talk to friends or email acquaintances and have them directly introduce you to someone who knows someone at a list of companies and people you have already researched. It's called "working closest to the dollar."
Here's a useful article with some great COVID-times employment tips; it suggests to "post ideas, articles, and other content that will attract and engage your target audience—specifically recruiters." If you're able to, try to steer away from focusing too much on the possibility of getting fired, instead spend your energy being the best you can be at work, and also actively being on the job market. Schedule as many video calls as you can, there's nothing like good ol' face-to-face meetings to get yourself on someone's radar. If your worries get the best of you, I recommend you schedule time with a qualified therapist. When you're ready, lean into that video chat and werk!
- The Armchair Psychologist
HELP! AM I A FRAUD?
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I'm an independent consultant in NYC. I just filed for unemployment, but I feel a little guilty collecting because a) I'm not looking for a job (there are none anyway) and b) the company that will pay just happens to be the one that had me file a W2 last year; I've done other 1099 work since then.
I'm sorry that you're wracked with guilt. It's admirable that your conscience is making you re-evaluate whether you are entitled to "burden the system" so to speak as a state's unemployment funds can run low. Shame researchers, like Dr. Brené Brown, believe that the difference between shame and guilt is that shame is often rooted in the self/self-worth and is often destructive whereas guilt is based on one's behavior and compels us to do better. "I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it's holding something we've done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort."
Your guilt sounds like a healthy problem. Many people feel guilty about collecting unemployment benefits because of how they were raised and the assumption that it's akin to "seeking charity." You're entitled to your unemployment benefits, and it was paid into a fund for you by your employer with your own blood, sweat, and tears. Also, you aren't committing an illegal act. The benefits are there to relieve you in times when circumstances prevent you from having a job. Each state may vary, but the NY State Department of Labor requires that you are actively job searching. The Cares Act which was passed in March 2020 also may provide some relief. I recommend that you collect the relief you need but to be sure that you meet the criteria by actively searching for a job just in case anyone will hire you.
- The Armchair Psychologist