Amelle Chahbi is an actress and director, and we met her!
So, tell me Amelle, who are you?
My name is Amelle. I am an actress, comedian, director. I am curious about everything and I don’t restrain myself, I try to do different things. I love the theater. I created "Amour sur place et à emporter" firstly for the theater, and then I adapted it for the cinema: it’s about the racism that can exist between two communities, Black and Arab. When we think about racism in France, we think about white racism to the others, but we don’t know that there is a racism between what we call " the communities" ...
That's what I like to do: do things that make you laugh, to make you think... but without not giving lessons!
Where were you born?
I was born in Paris, in the center of Paris, in a modest environment... and when you’re born in Paris, you quickly become a chameleon: in class, I was with the upper class... Very young, I understood that there was differences, and humor in this context is an exceptional weapon... It has nothing to do with the hair subject but still... At first I was always making a lot of blow-drys in order to look like my girlfriends, and then I got tired... One day, someone told me that I was very pretty with my curls, and I had a click - I stopped it!
But then we need to learn to control our hair: we have to take care of it, know how to brush it, control the curl, understand how to have healthy hair, how to have shiny hair... and for that why we need good products (;))! Otherwise, it's just a mess!
When I'm in Morocco, people don’t understand me, they call me "the shepherdess" or "mishkina"... because the trend there is to have a beautiful blow-dry! And then one day I said "I don’t care" to my mother and to all the people around me!
Because they didn’t understand?
Many people in my family, my mother and my aunts, wear the veil, and under their veil they have a blow-dry, or the hair tied with a black elastic - or you know, THE blue clip... The hair is very rarely assumed, free! It may be due to education, related to the fact that they don’t want to be noticed, something about modesty... It's true that if you arrive in a coffee shop with loose hair, eyes are in you only!! In Paris, at the beginning I was embarrassed: we take so much space with our hair! Like when I go to a movie, I always tie my hair: I'm afraid to bother people with my hair, to be noticed, or that someone would say something to me!
And your little ‘click’, when did it happen?
It’s related to a lover who told me ‘I prefer you with curly hair’! So I started mixing. In my private life, I had them natural, and for interviews or important meetings, I made a blow-dry to look "neat", to be taken seriously… you always had to look ‘perfect’!
But when I think about it now, I find this ridiculous: curly hair means ‘not neat’?! Where does that come from?! Now I make blow-dry only from time to time, to change my look, to have fun! And I also know now that the what other people think of me doesn’t matter to me anymore!
Did this come with the notoriety?
Yes maybe... you should read Rokhaya Dialo's book (“Afro!”) Where she interviews people, either arab or black, about their hair...
Yes I read it, there’s also Leila Slimani in it...
Oh yes, Leila Slimani: I was so proud! So proud to see her with her curls on the cover of Elle Magazine. You see, we are frequently reduced to physical stereotypes: like the curly brunette who is a physical fantasy but definitely not l an intellectual! And then she won the Goncourt award and she goes with her curly hair fully assumed!
So I'm going to ask you our usual questions:
- Do you have a hair flop? One day I was invited to a weekend in La Baule: so of course I was in "blow-dry mode”! The guy who invited me, he thought I was the girl with long, straight black hair! And then he proposes to do jetski, I refuse, he insists - and of course what this happened: I fell into the water, and so, back to the curly mode! It was a bit like a "lie on the product"! It was a mix of fun, and a good lesson learnt: best not to lie about who we are! I played the ‘bella’, and I ended up looking like a wet dog, with the haircut of Maradona!
- And a hair top? When the man who is the father of my son told me "I love you as you are"! It's true, when someone really loves you, he loves you as you are!
- A Hair Tips? A little recipe of grandmother: I put a red onion (with garlic as an option) in a mixer, then I put it in a tights and scrub my scalp with it, and I let it pose all night long... Well, better not to have meeting during the 2-3 following days (the smell..!), but it makes the hair so much denser! I do this twice a year! Because our hair is like this: it seems there’s a lot of it because it’s thick, but often it’s actually ‘empty’ inside! We’re just all looking for more density!
And also, second tip: the famous Afro comb, which allows you to have more volume... it creates a great optical effect!
Last question that has nothing to do with hair: how did you become an actress?
I was born in the heart of Paris, not in the suburbs. Very young, I saw Cyrano de Bergerac at the Comédie Française: and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I studied in a theater school, and I was sure that I would make a living out of it! I knew what I wanted, I was determined and I went until the end... I was working on Wednesdays to make money, and also I was never going out at night! That's how I started creating my circle of friends, my network!
And your parents accepted it? I mean, usually in the immigration community, social ascension goes generally thru more traditional jobs such as doctor etc?
I went to school and high school in Montorgueil, and my mother, who is traditional and has always worn the veil, was close to the upper class of the neighbourhood, the moms of my friends! That actually opened her mind… for sure, if we would have been in the suburbs, it would have been different, there would have been other influences and we would not have accessed to the same things... at the end, all this is a matter of localization!