being parisian with caroline de maigret
Parisian women have perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect clothes, perfect lives and perfect taste in everything. Or so we thought, here to dispel these myths and more is French supermodel and music producer Caroline De Maigret and her three best friends...
What made you decide to write How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are and why now?
Travelling, I am used to being asked tricks on how I dress, how I do my hair or make-up... But not just that: women ask me a lot about relationships with men and life in general. It seems like our balance between femininity and feminism appeals to some women. You'd be surprised to see how much pressure women put on themselves to be the perfect figure as a working girl, a mother or a girlfriend. So we wanted to tell them: the perfect woman does not exist, so stop feeling guilty and start having fun.
How long have you known Anne, Audrey and Sophie for?
We all know each other from our university years. It was important to be numerous enough to be able to talk about all kinds of women. We are very, very different from one another but at the end of the day, we are all very independent women, full of paradoxes, who do whatever we want. Some of us have kids, one is still with the father, one is divorced, one has a reconstituted family, one is newly in love… It was a fun mix, to balance our personalities and our different neuroses!
What was it like writing a book with three of your best friends?
It was so much fun, I love them so much, even more now. I love their intelligence, sense of humour, freedom and talent. I've now fallen in love with their weaknesses and bad temper. Our weekly work reunion always started with a good half hour of what happened to us during the week, tears and laughter!
What does being Parisian mean to you?
Living in Paris means waking up every morning in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and having as a backdrop a place that has celebrated the work of enlightened artists throughout the centuries; a heritage and responsibility we carry with us.
Is there a strong sense of sisterhood and female empowerment amongst Parisian women?
Of course, that is another myth: that we don't get along. That's how we feel stronger and so free.
More importantly what does it mean to be a Parisian woman?
Just as our mothers fought for equality in the 60s — and we're not there yet — we aspire to an image of a woman who is intelligent and independent. We want to be desired for our personality, not our cleavage. It's up to us to be desirable without looking like we tried, because we've got plenty of better things to do (or so we claim!)
What's the biggest myth about Parisian women?
Ha, so many! They don't go to the gym, they are never on a diet, they don't do surgery… All rubbish, that's what we explain in the book, it's all about moderation and keeping it quiet!
What are your views on Parisian men?
French men have for me the right balance between gallantry and macho behaviour.
How has being a successful model shaped the way you are as a woman?
Being successful takes away the fear, you feel strong and confident. I feel ready to achieve new goals and I am not scared of failing anymore. Not everything I touch works out, but at least I have fun and I learn.
How has your relationship with Paris changed as you've grown up?
I have always loved the city for its beauty. When I turned 20, it was about time I got out of there and discovered the world; I needed some fresh air. With the years, I found out that it is the perfect city for me right now. It has the speed I need to work and produce my ideas but it still takes its time and I need that.
Is there anywhere else in the world that you have an affinity with?
I love NYC, but I really don't see myself there as a mother. I don't want to have to go home when I'm there.
What's an ideal day in Paris like?
Riding my scooter by the river, around 7 pm when the sun goes down, is one of my favourite things in life.
How many times have you fallen in love in Paris?
Cliché: Every day, day and night and I assure you it's true. I always wonder how come I don't get over it.
Where do you go to have fun?
I go have drinks at L'Embuscade, which is by my house. It's an African bar that stays open really late, with crazy drinks and really cool music. Hard to come out alive from this place!
Where do you go when you feel sad?
I usually go sit on a bridge, the very strong wind and the drama of it all makes me feel better!
What do you hope to achieve with the book and what kind of reader was it intended for?
The idea was to make people feel good about themselves and about not looking to be the perfect woman we're told to be by the media every day. It is also for anyone who wants to have a laugh really.
Aside from writing, what else have you been up to?
I am putting together a make-up kit with Lancôme for next year. I am leaving to Benin in October with the ONG Care with whom I work, to visit women and see how they can achieve things with better education and the development of micro credit.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Always be ready to meet the person you've most desired to meet in your life, round the corner.
How would your best friends describe you?
They'd probably say I'm a good listener, fun and way too demanding. (Trying to work on that last one)
Text Tish Weinstock
Image courtesy Ebury Books