Growing up in Benac, a small village in the South of France, my parents instilled the importance of natural and healthy living in me from a young age. My father is a white French man and my mother is an African American, so as the only mixed family in the village, I always felt... different.
I was an average, tall, skinny, curly-haired girl, who watched the Miss France competition every year, dreaming of the gorgeous gowns, the pretty girls and the luxurious destiny that awaited them.
Fast forward to 2008— after a bet with my college friends and with my mother's disapproval in tow— I entered the Miss France competition. The competition was tough, but I proudly finished as the 79th Miss France.
I was the first dual French/American citizen and the fifth mixed girl to win this pageant. The experience turned into the greatest education and adventure, giving me the courage and strength to pursue my dreams.
Damn, what a journey my American Dream has been!
After a year of traveling to different countries, attending fashion shows and lavish parties, it all stopped.
A new queen was crowned, and as fast as it came it went away to another girl. I tried to enter the modeling business in Paris, but it was 2010 and opportunities for mixed-race models were limited. To complicate matters further, the "beauty pageant girl" stigma really took its toll. It was like I was below everyone else in the industry.
Finally, in 2011, I felt that my best option was to travel to the U.S and explore my American roots — nervous that I'd just left everything I'd worked so hard for back in France, but yearning to explore my mother's country and achieve the American Dream. I quickly signed with Elite Model Management, modeled and learned so much about the beauty industry all from in front of the camera.
In 2013, I welcomed my son, Matis, and my real entrepreneurial journey began. As a new mother, I was so careful about what I put on his body. I was dissatisfied with the available options in the U.S, and, so every year when I traveled home to France, I would stock up on French personal care products for the both of us to last us until my next trip home.
And, that's when the idea hit me. Not only was I dissatisfied with the personal care options for my son, but my U.S. family and friends were frustrated too. They would always ask me about my French beauty secrets, and the famous "je ne sais quoi" of Parisian women. The mission was simple: combine French beauty savoir-faire and natural ingredients, but make it accessible for all. And, thus, Mademoiselle Provence was born.
There were plenty of times that I could have given up, but I persevered.
With the help of my co-founder, and now friend, Helene Marceau, we turned this dream into a reality. Helene and I dedicated ourselves to perfecting the formulas of our ten products, from the scent and textures to packaging and, of course, the ingredients. We wanted to produce something that we were proud of and that was safe for everyday use. Two years (and hundreds of samples) later, we were ready to launch.
What no one tells you is that, while launching a business is thrilling, it is also extremely challenging— emotionally and physically. Even in the best conditions, it takes a lot of perseverance, hope, and motivation to create something from the ground up.
With the lack of a college degree or any formal training in the beauty industry, I constantly felt different and out of place, just like when I was a little mixed-race girl in France dreaming of beauty pageants. My insecurity of being stereotyped as "just a pretty pageant girl" presented itself at every turn, but I used other people's doubts as my motivation. I trusted my instincts. I had everything to learn: how to create a business plan, how to formulate products, how to manage people, and, finally, how to sell.
There were plenty of times that I could have given up, but I persevered. I decided to dedicate myself and my next two years to Mademoiselle Provence— my success would also be my son's success.
Sleepless nights, endless wondering about every tomorrow, and stressful ten-minute buyer meetings took their toll on us. But, Helene and I both knew Mademoiselle Provence was worth fighting for. We trusted each other to push our vision forward no matter the cost. I could only go so far alone, but, together, I knew we could bring this brand global. The days she was down and unsure, I was there to lift her up. And when I felt like it was over, she encouraged me to keep hoping. We persisted and remained true to our brand mission of offering quality products at affordable prices that deliver a pleasurable experience. Every product launch, customer review, retail store, and company employee has brought us one step closer to the Mademoiselle Provence dream, and it was important to recognize and to celebrate each milestone along the way.
Today, Mademoiselle Provence is an international company, available in France, Italy, Croatia, South Korea, Canada, and the USA with new retailer plans on the horizon and two new products launching in Fall 2020. And we have no plans on slowing down any time soon! Mademoiselle Provence is also working to raise funding, working to finalize a round of $1M this year.
We haven't reached our final destination yet, but looking back at where I was ten years ago, I can only think…
Damn, what a journey my American Dream has been!
WRITTEN BYChloe Mortaud