The eighth episode of the audio series, THE AYA TALKS, has made one thing absolutely clear. Women are magical. I am not saying that to flatter or sound trendy. Women are endowed with powers that defy logic and reason. I recall how Prisca Munkeni Monnier, the sultry and enormously gifted photographer put it in our conversation. She said that there really cannot be any talks on equality because in actual fact, “men and women are not equal”. Obviously. We are capable of carrying and giving life. What can they do?
Now… my feminism and the feminism of the women I spoke to is rooted in acceptance and true partnership with the masculine. We are not bashing men. At least… not as much as they think we are!
Violette Tannenbaum, wedding stylist and photographer has been married for twenty-two years plus and the love that she and her husband share can be felt in everything she discusses -with much swag and simplicity: from the way they’ve had to navigate rearing their children in a place that has yet to reckon with its multiculturalism (dear France), to the decision she made to leap into her passion for style and embrace both her Black womanhood and feminism in the process to her traveling with her family as well as solo, leaving the warmth of the cocoon to discover others and perhaps most importantly, to discover herself.
Self-proclaimed feminists were few in the Afropean sphere twenty years ago, they’ve emerged en masse more recently but that does not necessarily mean that many did not believe in affirming equality and equity in and outside the home before the social media craze. Tenderly yet firmly, Violette has made certain that her two children were raised according to their exceptionality rather than based on their gender and if that meant rearranging her hubby’s learned beliefs, then she would gladly do so. And to the question, would you consider your son a feminist? She answers that he sees her move through the world and can therefore discern what womanhood entails and deserves. And just like that… we are given hope.
Creatives like Violette are by nature curious and extremely savvy but they also battle with their very own brand of insecurities and self-doubts. Despite international recognition and praise in bridal fashion coupled with an ever-growing following on Instagram, a successful podcast branded The Black Lemonade Podcast (cool conversations with inspiring Black Parisiennes), exquisitely curated events in Paris and London, introverted and discreet Violette has to tell herself more than twice how prolific she’s been and how much she’s accomplished. It is one thing to be easy-going and relatable, it is another to question your legitimacy. Funnily enough, some of her sources of inspiration – writer, Alex Elle, artist, Solange Knowles or the charismatic Walkers (Paper Monday’s founders, Rog and Bee Walker)- have also admitted having battled with impostor syndrome and self-generated inadequacies.
“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lies all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.”
– James Baldwin
Violette has been in the game for some time now and knows the ins and outs and that’s why she decided to disrupt the industry, to rethink her life around the colours that made more sense: a beautiful blend of chocolate and pink because why not, to photograph women that she found wholesome and magnificent in bridal dress or in sneakers and jeans… Her creative world has the coherence and coolness of those who have come to their own. Just like the novelist, painter, and puppeteer, Jacqueline Labbé – whom she quoted in our convo- who became one of the pioneers of the natural hair movement in the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Violette is leading the charge in creating a Black aesthetics that is just as Parisian as it is global. Lead on with your magic, Queen, we see you.
“Remember the vision. Even when others don’t see it, even when others don’t get it, and even when you feel like you’re not supported. Stay true to bringing your dreams and desires to fruition. Nothing is out of your reach, but you do need to keep a space that is free of judgement, negativity and draining energy. It’s easy for us to lose ourselves in the opinions of others. Be mindful that you deserve to flourish in a life of happiness, joy and abundance. Remain grounded, keep moving forward, and journey freely. “