“I want to share a message of love, inclusivity and diversity,” says French singer Yseult on what she wants to represent. “I’m fighting a lot in the music industry, so it’s important for me to show my strength.” As an artist who not only runs her own label, but also writes, produces and manages all of her music, she is a truly independent tour de force. Plus, with her recent appointment as global ambassador for L’Oréal Paris, Yseult is set to shake up beauty standards across the globe.
Born in Quessy, north of Paris, to Cameroonian parents, the 26-year-old first entered the spotlight in 2013 on French singing competition Nouvelle Star where she was a finalist, ultimately signing with a major label. She eventually pursued a career as an independent artist and in 2019, she explored a more sensuous trap-beat sound, delivering intimate confrontations through her lyrics that truly struck a chord with the world. “I love to write songs about my skin, body, family and vulnerability,” says Yseult. “If I haven’t lived it, I can’t write about it.”
It’s also the singer’s honesty about her struggles with mental health that has resonated with her audience, but she’s learned to find positives in her experiences. “It’s complicated because I am still working on it,” she says. “As a Black and plus-sized woman, it can be very difficult to love myself, but the best thing to do is to embrace that duality.”
Here, in her first English-speaking interview, Yseult opens up to Vogue about fashion, how it feels to be a global ambassador for beauty, and her plans to expand her music internationally.
Hi, Yseult! Where does your love of music come from?
“It came from my parents, actually. My father listened to a lot of African and soul music, and my mother loved French pop songs. My inspirations were [Belgian singer] Jacques Brel, [French singers] Barbara, and Édith Piaf.”
Did you feel represented in fashion, beauty and music when you were growing up?
“Not really because I didn’t see myself represented anywhere. But right now, I don’t feel alone anymore.”
Tell us about your personal style. How do you like to feel in clothes?
“I love to be naked because I’m so comfortable in my skin now. I play with my duality, though—sometimes I like myself and other times I don’t as much, but it’s OK and I’m happy with that. When it comes to clothes, though, I enjoy working with my shape and showing off my curviness. I don’t ever want to hide my body.”
You recently worked with Olivier Rousteing for the Balmain SS21 show and with Casey Cadwallader at Mugler for your performance at the Victoires de la Musique awards show where you looked stunning in custom-made pieces. How were these experiences?
“Fashion can be frustrating for me as a plus-sized girl, but it was such a pleasure to work with Casey [Cadwallader] and Olivier [Rousteing]. Having them stand in front of me saying I’m beautiful and that they’ve made something unique just for me was incredible. They’re opening the borders of fashion and it’s very cool to be part of it.”
How did it feel to win the award for the best newcomer at Victoires de la Musique?
“It was such a moment for me in my career as an independent artist. I worked so hard to be here and I’m so proud. It was amazing for my family to see, too.”
“I play with my duality, though—sometimes I like myself and other times I don’t as much, but it’s OK and I’m happy with that”
What does it mean to be a global ambassador for L’Oréal Paris and how do you think it will impact the beauty industry more broadly?
“As an independent artist and as a Black plus-sized woman, it’s such a great opportunity to represent beauty to the world—it’s 2021 and it’s about time. I am so happy to have this opportunity; I want to scream, laugh and cry at the same time because it’s very special to me.”
You were part of the L’Oréal Lights On Women Award, created to give visibility to women’s work in the film industry. Why is it important to support female talent?
“It’s important to show support, but not just for women in cinema. We need more women shaping culture globally in every sector of all industries, so it’s incredible that L’Oréal created this initiative.”
Tell us about your upcoming projects. What are some exciting things to expect this year?
“I’m on tour in France right now, but I’m also planning to organise a world tour and to collaborate with international artists. I plan to push myself as an artist, globally.”
Work aside, how do you relax in your free time? What’s on your playlist right now?
“When you’re an independent artist you don’t have much free time. But when I do get the chance, I want to be topless on the beach drinking a soft cocktail with my friends. On my playlist at the moment is A$AP Rocky, Rihanna, Burna Boy and Madonna.”
What advice would you give to anyone who’s looking up to you right now and seeing themselves represented?
“Love yourself first before anyone else, always.”