It’s not important to understand a language to feel a deep emotional connection to music. The French singer Yseult has proven that with her songs that talk about empowerment, her skin, body positivity, family and vulnerabilities we all have in ourselves.
Raised in the Bercy neighbourhood of Paris by 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. Eventually, she broke her contract and realised her passion for independent music 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.
Here, in her first English-speaking interview, Yseult opens up to Outlook’s Eshita Bhargava about music, discrimination, how it feels to be a global ambassador for L’Oréal Paris, and her plans to expand her music internationally.
How did you find your way in music? How do you stay motivated?
I love myself and that’s what my music is all about. I want to share the message of peace, love, inclusivity, and self-acceptance with my audience. I create my label and I am an independent artiste – There’s a lot of work but I like it that way. I create what I believe in. I sing for my generation and the generations to follow. By becoming an independent artist and using the power of songwriting to overcome barriers, I lead a path for other women with the message – Be exactly who you are.
You’ve already released an album in 2015, but it took you nearly four years to release another bigger project. Why did you take your time to release new music?
I am an independent artiste and for me, it’s important to take time and work on myself, my music. When a big label signs an artiste, they don’t take much time to kick them out of the label once the work is done. That takes a toll on the mental health of an artiste – It’s traumatic and I have had this experience six years ago. And that was the time when I promised myself that I don’t want that energy anymore and decided to create my label, manage myself independently. I am going to take time to develop myself, my projects and to work on collaborations with international talents from all across the globe. Music for me is life. I don’t want to give my audiences anything that I don’t believe in. This time helped me to do something strong and impactful.
You tell a lot of personal stories in your songs. Do you only write about things you experienced yourself?
My lyrics talk about the connection I had with my family, especially with my father. Initially, my father didn’t want me to get into music. He is very proud of me now. I also talk about my skin, body and vulnerability. It’s a lot of sacrifices that I had to make to reach where I am. It’s been a year that I’ve not seen my parents. This industry is complicated, frustrating and there are many ups and downs. It empowers me to talk about all of it in my songs.
Have you ever heard any Bollywood or Hindi songs? Would you be interested in working in one?
Of course, I can sing “Bole Chudiya, Bole Kangana…” from ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’. I would love to collaborate with Indian singers and Bollywood. I am a huge fan.
Tell us something about your association with L’Oréal Paris and the Stand Up Against Street harassment campaign.
Five years ago, I was sexually assaulted while walking down the subway. I could relate to the campaign and its aim. It was important for me to help women and tell them how important it is to voice such things.
You are an independent Black woman. Have you ever faced discrimination in any way?
Oh yes, I am a proud independent Black woman who has faced discrimination in life, but that has never stopped me from doing things. Look at me today, I am the spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris. It means that my voice matters, that the voices of all women matter, and especially that the voices of women like me are heard. It’s a huge moment for me as a Black artiste, as a plus-size artiste, and of course, as a woman. I am proud to represent all the beauty around the world. I just have to prove things to myself and not to others. I have just started; I have a long way to go. Saying that, I must admit that there are days when I am very sad about racism, sexism, but I try to represent it to the people through my music.
What is empowerment for you?
Empowerment means strength, audacity, and WOMEN.
A message for your followers.
I want to come to India and meet all my fans.