Fatou N’diaye is living proof that Parisian beauty embodies more than the traditional Brigitte Bardot and Charlotte Gainsbourg archetypes. Since 2007, the French-raised, half-Nigerian, quarter-Malian, and quarter-Senegalese blogger behind BlackBeautyBag.com has been giving voice to a new definition of French beauty, one that reflects the country’s increasing ethnic diversity.
N’diaye decided to launch the site out of frustration with what she saw as the national media’s narrow view of the feminine ideal. “I grew up in a time when it was difficult to see articles about black women in the press, and after trips to New York and London I was realizing that France was really lacking in those areas,” she says. “I felt invisible. Having an online platform was the best way to do something about it.”
The site explores everything from foundations that come in a range of darker shades to N’diaye’s own ever-evolving hairstyle and the products she uses to maintain it, and provides a forum for followers to exchange tips about products and services for black hair and skin, which can sometimes be hard to find in the capital. It also includes posts on wellness and even the environment: One recent story on the occasion of the COP21 climate conference urges readers to conserve energy by lowering shower water temperatures and putting away hair appliances when not in use. “I was raised with the idea that French beauty is not only white or skinny or blonde,” N’diaye says. “It’s about an elegant woman who cultivates a positive image of herself—a woman who is beautiful because of her mind.”
As for N’diaye’s own routine? “It’s pretty simple,” she says. “The first thing I do when I wake up is drink a glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon; it eliminates toxins and just makes me feel better immediately. I wash my face with a gel cleanser for greasy skin and apply Eau Micellaire from Bioderma, which I use again at night before applying my Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum. I also use Nuhanciam, which is a special oil for face and body.” For makeup, her favorites are Ruby Woo lipstick by MAC Cosmetics with a touch of Miss Manga mascara by L’Oréal Paris, and her go-to hair product is simple coconut oil: “It is natural, organic, and smells great,” she says.
For those seeking products for darker skin and textured hair in Paris, N’diaye recommends shopping at Nayenka, a store that specializes in black beauty products, as well as Printemps for bigger makeup brands. And as for her hairstyle, which she constantly switches from Afros to updos and everything in between? For braids, she favors Daba Fashion in the Eighteenth Arrondissement, and for weekly hair treatments, “I trust Gilles Boldron in the first, who really knows natural hair,” she says.
N’diaye has a long list of beauty icons from which she draws inspiration for her various looks: She cites Diana Ross, Lauryn Hill, Iman, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Janelle Monáe, Solange Knowles, Kerry Washington, Senegalese-French actress Aïssa Maïga, Malian-French singer Inna Modja, and French actress Sonia Rolland as favorites. “No black women look alike; that is what I love about black beauty,” she says. “We can identify with many women and still find something striking in each and every one of them.”