The French singer-songwriter Yseult was named an international spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris in June.
The campaign will be global and “quite big,” she told WWD. “It’s amazing, personally, to me to represent beauty from around the world. It’s good, it’s a huge moment for me,” she said. Joining faces such as Kate Winslet, Elle Fanning and Amber Heard, Yseult recognizes how important it is for her to be included in that list.
“When I grew up, I didn’t feel represented. It was very difficult for me as a Black woman, as a plus-sized woman, because I had a unique body. So when I was younger, it was very, very complex to love myself,” she said. There were no beauty ads or products targeting women of color. “So it was very difficult to love my hair, to love my skin, to embrace all the particularities of my self.
“But right now, I feel I’m not alone anymore, because I see the efforts the brands are doing to add more inclusivity and more diversity in the culture — from cosmetics to cinema. We live in a good time, I guess, because everything is changing for the positive.”
L’Oréal, she added, “didn’t ask me to change myself but to embrace myself.” It goes along with the message of her music, much of which centers around her struggle for self-acceptance. The singer-songwriter has poured her heart out on paper, particularly in her single “Corps” (or “Body” in English) in which she sings about forgiving her physique. The video saw her nearly naked, on her knees, wrapped in plastic while singing the haunting tune in an empty building as a camera circled around her. The song has been interpreted as an “apology” to her body after years of self doubt.
“I wrote a lot about my mental health, about my family, about my skin, about my body. It’s helped me a lot. It’s like a Band-Aid, you know? I’m very, very vulnerable with my music. And it’s not easy because I have a lot of ups and downs, but I embrace it,” she said of the almost love-hate relationship she has with her physique.
“Because I know it’s very difficult to love yourself and to love the people around you when you don’t love yourself, when you don’t embrace yourself. I am on my way to loving myself. Sometimes it’s very difficult to talk about myself, but I do it because, for me, when I’m doing it, I think about people who I can help, you know, so it’s comforting to me to keep going.”
The 26-year-old is also taking on the music industry. While many in the U.S. are reexamining the power dynamic of the way young female artists have historically been treated, in France, the industry faces the same systemic problems. Yseult decided to bypass all of that, move to nearby Brussels and launch her own record label. She said old ideas of strength and power are outdated in 2021, adding: “We give birth to men, you know. They tend to forget that, but at the end of the day, aren’t we the strongest ones?”
The new role sees her producing and managing herself, along with her artistic direction. “I think we need to not be scared anymore,” she said of taking on more entrepreneurial roles and working together with other women. “We can only do big things if we are like a sorority, like soul sisters.”
Yseult embraced this ideal, working with Vivenne Westwood on her first red carpet gown, which saw the singer in a white lace custom corset and full skirt gown. Working with Westwood was important for her. “Because I love her ethic and her values, and I love her character because I see me through her. I love what she defends. I love what she stands for without having to be militant about it,” she said of the legendary designer’s punk philosophy.
At this point, it’s safe to say she’s a fashion darling. Last summer, she featured in Balmain sur Seine, Olivier Rousteing’s socially distanced couture collection, which brought a floating fashion show to Paris. Yseult stole the show. She sang live, dressed in all white, while models posed on mirrored squares. The whole thing was livestreamed on TikTok and praised by Beyoncé afterward.
And Mugler’s Casey Cadwallader created a black nude-illusion bodysuit that put all her curves on display for her star turn at the Victoires de la Musique, the French Grammys. She topped it with a white blazer to pick up her awards during the ceremony.
This, too, has been a journey, since designers often only want to dress someone who is a sample size. It has been difficult to find designers who can even have those conversations, she said. But working with Cadwallader and Rousteing has been freeing. “They never judge me at all. They look at me like a woman, you know, as a strong woman. And they love it,” she said.
She purposefully chose the jumpsuit for such a big stage. Now she’s ready to take on the world, working on a new collaboration in the U.S. “I don’t want to hide my body. You know, I really embrace all the parts of my body,” she said, seemingly at peace with it all. “I love, love to be naked. For me, ‘Naked Is the New Black.’”