"My family is from Congo, Chad, and Gabon. I was born in Paris and I grew up between Africa and Paris mostly, and I went to university in London. Now I’m a singer in Paris. My music is mixed with many things: African music, electro, dance, and a little bit of reggae, as well. But it’s really pop, or “Afro pop” I call it, because it’s a mix. It’s fun, and it’s starting to become more popular in Paris. Right now, I play shows and events in Paris, but my music is just on my website; it’s not on iTunes yet. That’s coming.
Every night, I drink a lot of water and clean up my face with Bioderma Créaline, which is an amazing product because it cleanses my skin well and I don’t get any blemishes or anything like that. And I usually have pure shea butter in my bag—I get it from Burkina Faso [in Africa] —that I always put on my face and my skin and my hair. I use it everywhere, even on my lips. That’s my main product. And I make my own face scrubs with honey, raw brown sugar, and olive oil. That’s it.
Makeup-wise, I use a foundation from a French label called Black Up, in shade #4. It’s made for different ethnicities, and I love their foundation because they have so many different colors. My blush is Black Up, as well—the peach-orange color. For my eyes, I love using either a Chanel pencil or a black one from MAC, but I only do it on the outer corners. I’ve done it that way since high school because it seems like it makes my eyes bigger; I really like having big, deer eyes. Mascara helps, too—my favorite is the YSL Faux Cils Mascara.
For lipstick, I actually go for anything: Black Up, MAC…my favorite one is actually from Shu Uemura: Rouge Unlimited in Lavender Violet Mauve #MV275. It’s purple, but when you put it on your lips, it looks a bit reddish. I also love YSL Rouge Pur in #19 Fuchsia Pink. But the one I’m wearing now is called Vamp by Sleek Makeup.
My aunt is a professional hairdresser, and she told me about the hair brand I'm using now: Shea Moisture. I like the Moisture Retention Shampoo and Deep Treatment Mask, as a conditioner. To moisturize it a little more, sometimes I'll put olive oil and water in my hair at night, and leave it in for ten minutes. My aunt also tells me to do masks with palm oil, so I'll sometimes do that, or I’ll put garlic in—I make all different kinds of mixes. Yes! She told me that garlic is good for the hair—that it moisturizes it—so I do it! I’ve actually only done it once because the smell was too strong. [Laughs] You could also put ginger in it.
I tend to change my hairstyle a lot. I used to have my head shaved, and before that, I had a lot of hair, but a certain point I decided to change. I had alopecia and I started to lose my hair, so I had to find something to do. First, when I was in London, I had a Mohawk, but then I just shaved it off. I’ve done everything to my hair. The hairstyle I have now wasn’t actually supposed to be like this—I was growing dreadlocks and got sick of the maintenance.
With alopecia you just lose all of your hair—people were able to see through to my scalp. What happened was I was relaxing my hair and I went to a hairdresser that didn’t do it well, plus my scalp is really sensitive. I told her that I still had the product in after she rinsed it, and she was like, ‘Oh, it’s fine’. She rinsed my hair three times and I still had the product left, and after a week, I began to lose my hair. I went to the dermatologist and he told me that I had to stop putting chemicals on my hair and gave me treatments, but I couldn’t do anything and I had to hide it with wigs and scarfs. It was terrible, so depressing.
I’ll never go back to relaxing my hair; it was a big wakeup call for me. I actually prefer it natural now, too, because what I realized is that before, I used a lot of relaxers and extensions, and I couldn’t see myself in my real hair. As soon as I shaved it off, I couldn’t imagine putting anything else on my hair anymore; I felt ugly with fake hair. With this hairstyle, I feel like it’s really me and I prefer myself this way.”
—as told to ITG
Taali M photographed by Emily Weiss in New York City on April 22, 2013.