This post contains affiliate links. Please find a link to my entire disclaimer here.
Expat Lifestyle , Black Motherhood Abroad, Financing Your Life Abroad
Jackie O: What’s up guys? This is Jackie O, the OG, original Black Digital Nomad and Globe Tribe Mama. And I am so excited today because I am doing one of my first podcast/blog interviews where I sit down with one of my sister girlfriends who is doing the most and chat with her and hope we inspire and educate you so that you can move abroad and travel full time. I’m super pumped and excited about today’s guests because I have known her for over 20 years and I am still in awe of her. She is just a shero of mine. When you first see her coming up, first thing you’ll say is: “Gosh, she’s gorgeous”, and she is but she’s not only that she is a fantastic artists, musician. She is dynamic. She’s an amazing mother. She’s super kind and generous. And I’m just so super pumped for this interview today. So I hope you guys enjoy it. She is doing the most in Paris, France, which I know especially for a lot of black females has this kind of nostalgia associated with it. Thinking about like Josephine Baker, which is a first question I asked her, just because when most people think of Black American female artists in Paris Josephine Baker comes to mind. In her Chateau like her 15 Rainbow tribe from all over the world, dancing her world famous banana dance. And there are so many and I love Josephine. She’s definitely an inspiration for me. And she was doing the most when black women weren’t given that opportunity. So kudos to her. But I also am enamored with Crystal as well because she is doing the most and she’s doing her own way. She’s doing it as a mom, as an artist, she’s doing it as a black American woman. And I know you guys will be just as impressed with her and just as amazed with her as I am. So stay tuned and let’s get to it. And I’ve no idea why I’m in grass today, but I just was like, “Let’s walk in the grass. Maybe that’s valuable”. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. And if you’re listening, don’t forget to like and subscribe because I’m doing this both as a podcast, and as a blog as well. And of course, don’t forget to visit my website www.thejackieolife.com let’s get to it. I can’t sing or I was saying some sort of intro and even if I could, I wouldn’t sing when I’m getting ready to introduce a professional singer. This is Jackie O and welcome to Black Women Doin’ The Most, the Travel Edition. I am so super pumped. I could not sleep last night because I am interviewing a Wonder Woman today. I have been stalking this girl since Spelman when she was on a reality TV show. You thought I forgot. And then she did the ultimate this is like you know what us deuces I’m gonna do the most in France so not mad at her. She’s living the life like what I was telling people. I was going to interview her. I was getting comments all over the place. She is an amazing musician, artist living in Paris France talk about living the dream like how many people have said they want to do that. But how many of us actually know somebody doing it, making it happen, and she’s been doing it for what 20 plus years now. I am like dayumn, it’s not as bad for her like she’s got it going on. She’s following in the footsteps of lots of like, Black American artists you think of all the artists out of the Harlem Renaissance and that whole tradition who are black American artists going to France and find themselves and finding their voices. So welcome Crystal.
Crystal: Thank you for having me.
Jackie O: Like I’m so super pumped to have you. I know that like for so many people, living in France is like a dream. Especially like black people because they have heard they have heard stories of the 1920s and 1930s of all the artists who went there in the ‘40s. So I want to start it off with our first question. Like I told you before, do you live in a Chateau?
Crystal: I do not live in a Chateau. Chateau Crystal may come later. That’s not where I live. I don’t know.
Jackie O: You don’t have 15 kids that you fly them around the world who dance bananas every night?
Crystal: Sounds familiar but that’s not me. No, unfortunately…
Jackie O: Unfortunately.
Crystal: No, I got two.
Jackie O: But you have made a life for yourself as a musician.
Jackie O: Just tell me one thing. How did you end up in France? And I know a lot of questions I got from people when I was coming to interview you because I told them you speak French. But you didn’t move to France speaking French so people were like: “Oh the world is was easy for her because she speaks French”. But I was like: “She didn’t start off that way”.
Crystal: Well, I studied abroad. I minored in French in Spelman. But I wasn’t the best French student. You know, I think I was very sweet to Madame Edwards and she was very sweet and forgiving to me. I had a lot of help from my roomies, Robin Stokes and all of them. They tolerated me because they came in they’re talking about I was like, ah, do you know I don’t even know how I tested into that particular class. But I had studied in Martinique for summer. I didn’t learn anything. You know, people thought I was from there. They’re speaking to me real and I was like, “Look, Yo, I gotta do better”. So I studied at the business school in 98 for a semester. And that’s where I met my really good friend who ultimately ended up being my husband years later that will come and I auditioned to be in his band so I could be in the mix with French people and kind of stay away from the Americans. And I learned some good phrases and stuff like that. And most of my classes were in English. And he spoke to me in English. I was like, “Gosh, I’m trying to learn this French and everybody’s speaking me in English”. But I just continued, and I was a stickler for just writing down phrases. And it was very musical to me. Just like any language, you know. And so I was imitating people and it just came little by little. Then I went back to school graduated, and I could have gone several different ways. You know, I was interning on Wall Street. I had gotten into Harvard to study law, and I was like, nope, and then I got a Fulbright to teach English. And so I was like, “Let me buy me some time”. Before that, I auditioned for a little show called Pop Stars. So not at all. And I don’t even see it because they filmed it in advance. And I was here when it aired. And this was pre Facebook and all this I was getting all these phone calls. You know, people were paying because back then it’s all it cost a lot of money to call a foreign country people were paying to tell me they saw me on TV and stuff, and I got emails. And so I literally saw that show like 15 years later. And that’s all I did. I don’t know, I refused to watch it. I loved the friends that I made from there. I’m still friends with a lot of those people, but it’s like, I kind of turned a page, you know, and I just started a new chapter. And so I came here and I had a six month contract and during that time, I was knocking out music, nothing at all to do with my econ major. You know, I was like, I want to do music here. And I want to learn French, like learn French. And so, Fred, he had his band, we you know, join forces only had to work 12 hours a week for the Fulbright. And during the rest of my time. We made music and so we were singing in little bars. You know, getting paid like $50 here, £50 here, a couple beers there, you know, and I kind of like hit the ground running. And so then I extended my contract by another year. And yeah. And then in that time I had learned French really well, because I was practicing. I was only speaking French I was no longer scared to make mistakes because that’s a biggie. People want to be perfectionist, or they’re scared of people making fun of them and I just let all that go. By then my French was really good. I was even writing in French and…
Jackie O: Oh okay, grammar is not that easy.
Crystal: Yeah, exactly. And so then I just started making connections here and there. And we went to Thailand and Vietnam and performed for the French embassies and stuff like that. And just little by little that six month time period turned to a year, turned to five years. 10 years, 20 years, you know, and my mom stopped asking when I was coming back.
Jackie O: Would you say that was like your personality? Because just a lot of people are like, “Well, how do I even start”? You say you learned French and messed with a band but like, what advice would you give somebody else who’s like, “I want to do what she’s doing”?
Crystal: Well, things have changed in 20 years because this is a specific industry that has just completely changed in front of our eyes. It’s no longer you have to go and make a CD and have a, you know, record exec listen to it. And you’re like, “Oh, my God, did he listen”? Now a lot of this is done on the internet. You know, you produce your own album, you make your own connections, and it’s like direct one to one with your audience. But back then, you know, it was all about the connections that you made. And this was definitely one instance where I was more of a rare commodity because I was Black American. And they loved all things jazz, soul, R&B, and here I am all of a sudden, and I’m authentic. So I remember everywhere I went, I pretty much got jobs because first of all, I laid on the American accent really thick and then they’re like, “Oh my god, you’re American. Like for real American”. To this day my friend Asha, she gets on me. She is from the Alvin Ailey troupe, she was a dancer with them and she’s a real dancer. She gets on me because I needed a job to supplement that and so I went up to this dance school and told him I was a hip hop dance teacher. They believed me because I was Black American. I got up in there that first day I was like, “And 1, 2, 3, 4”. I didn’t know what I was doing and I worked there for a year and a half. But I was always saying that I could do all this stuff all the time. Half the time I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. You know, songwriting for some things. I was like, “Oh my god, this is out of my range but I’m gonna do it”. Its personality. It’s perseverance. It’s not giving up and also if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, find out how to do it or find somebody who does know what they’re doing, to teach you or to work with you. And so I think it was a combination of all that. And then it gave me more and more confidence. The bigger the jobs that I got, the more my confidence built up. Because, there were times where I was like, “Oh my god, you know, I graduated from Spelman. I was accepted to this school, I was accepted to these particular companies on Wall Street, I had an offer. What did I do”? So I had those like, “What in the hell moments”, you know what I mean? And of course, throughout all that, I miss my family. I miss my girlfriends. I saw how some of our Spelman sisters were going on vacation together. They did all these things together and I was like, “in my baguette”. I don’t eat baguette so much anymore, but back then that’s pretty much what I could afford. But at the same time, I also liked being able to go to a cafe to spend 60 cents at the time, and sit there all day and write songs. Freedom that I didn’t really have in the States because that waitress had been like, “Can you get out of my section”? You know, and here in France, they’d be like, “Don’t worry, you can stay there all day. You know, it is okay”. So I ended up writing like two albums like that. That was like the cheapest budget ever, you know, I didn’t even have to pay to rent a space. I just went to a cafe. And so there were little moments like that, or just walking along the Sand River, you know, and just seeing how beautiful it was. And of course, it wasn’t all peachy and rosy but I must say it was a lot easier for me here than it was there because I tried it out for a second in Atlanta, and it was hardcore. It was a lot of competition. And I don’t know that I was made for that. In that particular place, you know what I mean? But here like I’m saying, I got here, and I like to talk to people anyways, so I was just knocking down doors. You know, hip hop dance teacher that’s me, you know, English coach. That’s me rapper. So I was just, I don’t know what the hell I was like when I look back. I’m like, “what was I doing”? But I did it, you know?
Jackie O: Did you ever stress money because that’s probably the biggest thing I get asked by black women who want to move abroad like, “How am I gonna make money? How am I going to afford to live there”? And especially when you’re talking about like, Europe. I live in a country where I can live in under thousand dollars a month, right? That ain’t Paris, France.
Crystal: No. Did I stress about money? There were definitely times. Now I did come over here. You know, I was an Econ major and I worked on Wall Street and I came from a family that was very much like specially my dad, he’s like, “You gotta save money” and all this other stuff. And when I went to Spelman, I got a full ride to Spelman. And so I didn’t have those loans. So I started off pretty okay, you know, even if I’d started at zero, I would have been better off than some people who had loans and stuff like that. So the little money that I did save, I kind of really made it work for me. I got a really cheap apartment here, I didn’t spend much. I ate rice and just the basics. Yeah, there were a lot of free things that I could go to here and there still are. A lot of free meetups, a lot of exchanges, I did things that way. And there’s also a thing that’s specific to France. It’s specific to working artists. And I was able to obtain a certain status which allowed me to get a stipend every month as long as I made my hours and that is a very specific and very special status that’s getting harder and harder to get because France you know, socialist country, they want to give to everybody and give everybody everything you know, give to you and you get a car you get this, you know what I mean? I’m exaggerating, but that means that they are also in debt. And so they’re trying to reduce that debt and they’re cutting off the fat from certain programs. But once you do get those hours, you get a certain stability. And also, this is a country where if you were dirt broke, if you walked down the town hall and pledge your case, you could walk out with like a $1,000 check at the time. Now it’s changed a little bit, but you still, you can get money and also like when you have a child here, you get money. I remember when my twins were born, I was like this, and that was regardless of your income. You could have been making seven figures. Just like you could have been extremely poor and you would have gotten money. You know what I mean?
Jackie O: Were you scared to have it because I get a question that a lot. Were you scared to have a kid in a foreign country?
Crystal: Hell no. I would have been scared to have it there. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No
Jackie O: It’s just hard for black mothers to raise kids in America.
Crystal: This is what I’m saying. Because a lot of my friends had their kids before me and I heard horror stories. And it didn’t matter their class. These are all black women, and one of my other best friends who’s Indian, just terrifying stories. And I was just like, wow, and had a couple of them not insisted and said, “I know my body, you have to check me out”. Then things could have gone sour. And it was the opposite here. When I gave birth, first of all I owed $50 at the end of an eight day hospital stay in a room by myself.
Jackie O: With twins?
Crystal: With twins. C- Section. I owed $50. Why? Because I requested a TV that I never even looked at it. And I thought I would need a television in my room. I never even watched the TV and that was my bill. It was $50 and I had my own private room overlooking a garden and I had 24 hour care. They were the ones that came in there by day 5 and they were like, “Would you like to stay a couple extra days, you know? Just to get into the swing of things”. They had a breastfeeding specialist that came and worked with me every day because I had opted to breastfeed the twins. Yeah. And then she accompanied me as well. And then a different lady for a month at my house if I needed help.
Jackie O: I have a question for you about breastfeeding, because I did read Bringing Up Bebe. No, doubt that is an American woman. That’s about raising her kids the French way. But is breastfeeding accepted in France? It is not clear in that book.
Crystal: Because what?
Jackie O: It’s not clear from my book. It seems like she was kind of going against what the French norm was.
Crystal: It’s so very odd. Okay, so the short answer to that question is it depends on your circle.
Jackie O: Okay.
Crystal: And in my circle, it was highly accepted. My circle of American friends, French, very open women. You know, I mean, artists. Now once you got into the more like I can only speak to well actually even in the south of France, my sister in law’s from there, they kind of like we’re like, “I can’t be bothered with that”, you know what I mean? “I don’t have time or why would you want to do that, you know, you can just give him a bottle and then we can go and have a coffee”, you know, things like that. On the flip side, they offered you so many breastfeeding classes and courses. So it’s kind of like, nobody’s going to shun you if you go to the cafe The difference is like, you can be outside and you’ll see women breastfeeding their kids and then you would be like: “Oh, my God”. But then again, this is France where you know, to sell a car you got like a naked woman. So they’re not it’s not an issue, you know, seeing a naked body. It’s more of a like, well,” We don’t have to do that today”. You know, for those that choose not to, like, that’s how my sister in law was, and you know, she’s like, “Look at you, you look so tired”. I was like, “Oh, God”. But yeah, I mean, again, nobody’s gonna shun you for it, but you will encounter quite a few women that don’t really opt to breastfeed. And those in my circle that did happen to be Americans or again, French women that thought a little bit differently out of the box, or, you know, French women who were I don’t know, artist. Something about those artists.
Jackie O: Those artists always shaking things up.
Jackie O: So then, that’s a little bit like daycare, because something else she talks about, like, did your kids go like, what was that experience like?
Crystal: Yes, they did.
Jackie O: Tell us about all that stuff.
Crystal: So, when I found out that I was expecting twins, I was on tour with a very, very big, older, like, I don’t know, Frank Sinatra type, French guy, who is to date, one of the last huge French tours that has taken place. And so I had been on tour with him for about two years, three years and so I found out I was pregnant. I told him and they had to readjust everything I was wearing because at the time they had us in like these tight fitted boost-ey a thing. So I was like, “Look, man that ain’t going to work”, and the lady that was fitting us at the Gucci place. She was like, “I know that you went to Italy two weeks ago, but did you eat too much pasta”? And I did not dare tell her I was expecting twins because it’s true that at that particular time, in my brain, I was like, “Oh my god, I’m an artist, but I’m gonna have a baby. But what do I do you know, but I’m on tour”. And so my contract was signed, and then I just came out and told them and they were like, “Oh my gosh, this is great”. So I got to wear a dress that they adjusted and altered every single week, up until I was five months pregnant and on the road, and I loved it.
Jackie O: Wait, you were on the road when you were 5 months pregnant?
Crystal: I was on stage with the stiletto heel heels. People were like, “Oh, it’s any day now” and I’m like, “I’m five months pregnant with twins”, you know? Damn it. And then, I came off of that tour in January. From the time I came off to the time I gave birth, I was covered by French maternity leave. They had all these programs that I could join. They had all these people call and they’re like, “Okay, do you have any questions”? I joined multiples group as well to get answers to my questions. I was freaking out because I didn’t have any family here and my husband had a very small family. So I could have stayed on maternity leave for an extra six months after they were born.
Jackie O: I’m actually mind-blown.
Crystal: All this is paid maternity leave and of course that check came did I talked about earlier. When you gave birth by your third or fourth kid here, you got to kind of stop. But yeah, I just got a check for the kids and then I got a couple packs of diapers and I’ve got, this welcome kit and then I had a cleaning service.
Jackie O: Was that paid by the government?
Crystal: Yeah. I got a cleaning service for a month. Now I got more because I was expecting twins. Now it’s a little less when you have a single child. But still, you know what I mean, not only did I have near zero bill, I had an extended stay that came from them.
Jackie O: This is…
Crystal: Crazy, right? You know, obviously, I didn’t have to take those eight days. I’ve had three American friends have kids recently and they were good. They opted to go home by day three.
Jackie O: If you were in the hospital out here by day two, the staff will be like, “Bye, get out of here”.
Jackie O: Like you are cool, bye.
Crystal: Exactly. So from what I’ve heard, you know, and so the answer your question, girl, no! There was no way that I was scared at all. You know, I visited the different hospitals. Now, there is the American Hospital in Paris where you could pay full American prices. Why would I do that? Just so I can have some elevator music and some American staff waiting on, no! I went to the same place that my husband actually was born, his brother was born, and his mother was born. And it’s right in my neighborhood. And it’s a beautiful clinic. And it actually was for women giving birth to single children and not necessarily multiples because that’s considered high risk. But they had an ambulance waiting outside for me because right down the street was the hospital children’s home.
Jackie O: They had an ambulance waiting for you?
Jackie O: Did you pay the $50 because you just wanted the TV?
Crystal: Because I wanted the TV girl but I never watched. I didn’t get the nerve to be mad that I spent $50. Yeah, $50.
Jackie O: 40 to 40 something year old button like.
Crystal: You can say that. I’ve got so many friends. They’re like, “How can I be down let me let me come on over to Paris, Ciao have me a baby”. I mean it’s just phenomenal. When I looked at my cousin’s bills for her three kids after her insurance kicked in, I was like, “Excuse me come again”. I’ve been living here too long, you know and it’s far from perfect, but on that end, I can never complain. I think I’ve seen every doctor from my head to my toe possible and just paid little to nothing. In the states I think twice even when I go home and I have to buy a special insurance for non-resident US citizens, I look at what it covers I’m like, “Oh god, I would have to pay like 10,000 and then they would pay you know”. My brain can’t even wrap itself around that idea. So no.
Jackie O: I hope it’s the same for your kids so you can take them to all their regular checkups and you don’t have any issues, right?
Jackie O: You are not stressing the $500 bill because that’s not happening.
Crystal: Oh no. Yeah, you can choose your doctor. You know, you can choose your pediatrician, you can choose your family doctor after a certain age, and as far as the daycare. My children went to daycare. I put them in there when they were four and a half months. Because I knew that I needed to get back out there. And in the music business, I knew that it was a shady business, you know what I mean? And no matter how much they loved you things were changing so fast. And you can be replaced for certain things. You know what I mean? And also I’m just be honest, I love them so much and they know I love them. But I also loved being with artists.
Jackie O: Thank you for saying that. People don’t understand. I love my daughter, but I also love my work.
Crystal: I loved that and so, I just could not. This is just me, I couldn’t conceive of just staying home with my twins, you know, and basking in their twin this like, Oh, that is great for some moms, dads, whatever but that was not me. And so I knew that it might be hard in our particular neighborhood to get to spots because it’s a very weird system. You can either go public, which is what we did. And it’s based on your income. So some people might pay a euro a day, you know, and some people might pay…
Jackie O: For the daycare?
Crystal: Yes. And some people might pay…
Jackie O: Good childcare?
Crystal: Yeah. I remember I was signing my contract and my eyes kind of rolled over to my neighbors I said, “She is paying [inaudible 0:28:06]”. I couldn’t complain though. I mean even if we were paying on the higher end, it still was nothing like what my cousin was telling me, you know, for her three kids at the time and I was like, “That’s ridiculous”. So we put together a dossier. We put everything in there. I went to find a social worker and I was like, “Look, you write how we need these two spots in this day care…”
Jackie O: Is it an application process, though?
Crystal: Yes. When you’re like seven months pregnant, you go and you meet with the director of that daycare, and you sit and you talk with her or him. And you basically tell him or her why you need that spot. And my husband is a business owner and I’m an artist, so we’re too independent, you know, like that we needed that to work and. And so we wrote an accompanying letter. You don’t have to do all that you can just literally fill out that application. But we needed some weight behind that. And so then we got those two spots. And then on top of that, I had a nanny that would help me out three times a week and pick up the boys when I couldn’t.
Jackie O: And how did you find the nanny? Because that’s always a question I also get.
Crystal: Right. Well, I had looked and looked because I was so scared to leave my you know, I’m a mom first so I was like, “I don’t know these people”. So I had a girl who was wonderful and she was actually English speaking Canadian. So for me, that was perfect, but she was a student and didn’t stay. And so then I went through a service, an agency, and I interviewed like three or four girls and I fell in love with their nanny at the time named Solon that they still remember and love. And she lives in our neighborhood as well. And at the time, up until your child is six, anything that’s you know, daycare related or nanny really, you can write off 50% on your taxes. This is after paying the rate for this according to your salary. So I was like, “Why not”? And a couple of times, she accompanied me on studio sets and stuff, because by then I was doing TV and film and stuff like that, and I needed to be there. But you know, so that’s, how I found Solon. Some of my other girlfriends have found reliable nannies through word of mouth. And in each particular neighborhood, a lot of times it’s some of the same nannies. So if you know that this child is going to turn three. Then you can start saying stuff like, “Well, listen, we love our nanny, but you know, our child has to go to school” because that’s the thing. In France, daycare stops at three.
Jackie O: Oh!
Crystal: You can’t send your child after three. I think they recently changed it may be last year, but at least up until last year, you could either send your child to school so from three, they go to school. Three and a half, four, five, all the way up, or they would have to start at five. But now I think they’ve changed the law that they have to start at four. And so I put my children in school it’s just like an extended daycare to be honest. At three years old and you visit…
Jackie O: Is that another application process Crystal like do you have to go through the dossier?
Crystal: Well, you can either go public, and that depends on where you live, but some people are like, “I don’t like that’s school…That school as a bad reputation”, so you can go private and that’s what we did, because I didn’t necessarily care for the school that we were attached to. And the private school wasn’t that expensive. It was not like some prices in the States and they had an English speaking program. And so that’s why we went there. We were the first because we got the dates online, and we literally set up a rendezvous. We set up an appointment to be the first parents and so we got first two spots and loved it and they stay there for the first three years of their of their school.
Jackie O: I was like I get this so much and I’ve talked to you about this. Your kids have a Black American mother, and they’re bilingual, right? So they speak French…
Crystal: Yes and they speak Newnanese.
Jackie O: people usually ask: “Ruth even if it’s two yet, how do I keep her connected to black America culture”.
Crystal: Okay, it starts with me. First of all, as with everywhere in this house, they can’t help but see all the pieces of black art that I have all around the house. They are mostly done by my good girlfriend, Kim Brothenlaw who designed the book cover and all the pages for the official Obama book when he was elected, I got that one too. So there’s that there. I’d say a good chunk of my girlfriends and guy friends are black, either black American, black Caribbean, you know, or just from various countries, mostly Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana. They can’t help but be exposed. What do we listen to the most? My kids’ favorite movie is the Last Dragon. My kids thinks he is Bruce Leroy, and he wants his brother to be Shon’uff girl. So he walks around talking about, “Who’s the master”? So I think we’ve got it covered. Not to mention that, you know, I just grew the biggest batch of Georgia Collard Greens on my Parisian balcony. You know what I mean? And my kids are good. When they come home, when we go to Newnan, Georgia, everybody just descends upon my mama’s house and I’ve got a big old family. My kids are just thrown right in there, right there up in the barbecue, you know, eating and having a good time and dancing. So if anything, I’d be worried about kids that aren’t exposed to different things out in the world. My kids are able to adapt, you know what I mean? They are able to ask a lot of questions. They’re curious, I don’t know, they are little warriors. They are little black warriors. I have approached the subject and what’s been going on in the States. You know, it is so sad, but I tried to use, you know, appropriate, kid friendly language to approach the different topics because it’s happening here. You know, there was a similar case and then there’s Black Lives Matter protests and they see their aunties and uncles that we’ve adopted, protesting here as well. So, you know, I like to answer those questions and be open and honest with them and a large part of their books on their bookshelves are black Americans. Black Americans in history. So I make sure that that part is covered. That is never ever an issue.
Jackie O: I also think is interesting because they’re also French citizens. Their dad is French and France has a very interesting history of black people like as well, right? Oh, yeah. It always amazes me, especially when I’m in America, that people are shocked that there are French speaking black people. I’m like, “Go to the African continent, you don’t even have to go to France”. There’s no time that I’ve ever been to France where black people and white people haven’t come up to me trying to speak French and then shocked when I respond in English. They get horrified and it’s usually black people that are horrified.
Crystal: Well, I mean, this is a little side note, there was a time period where there were some French Afro Caribbean folks posing as Americans. I am not even kidding and I didn’t believe it till I saw it from my own eyes and then I started speaking English and they were like, “Oh, actually I’m from like…” Okay I’m not saying it because of that, but that’s the thing you know it’s very mixed here. So in their eyes, why wouldn’t you be a French speaker? You know what I mean? Yeah, yeah.
Jackie O: In Paris, since that’s where you live, do you feel isolated? How connected are you to other black people? I know you’ve mentioned it before but I just really want to stress the fact. Are there black people in Paris?
Crystal: I am very connected girl. I looked at just the progression of the past I’d say 22 years because even though I’ve been here officially 20 years I was here while I was in Dijon in ‘98. And I still have a lot of those friends you know, that are my husband’s friends. Well, and I just noticed how slowly you know a lot of those friends. The majority of my friends have become black American artists here, you know, or, you know, French artists of all horizons but they’re artists and it’s a special type of French. Just French-French or just Parisian-Parisian is very rare. So here, I don’t have any issue like feeling left out at all. I don’t feel like I don’t belong because a good part of my tribe is black, you know, being black American. Just black from the Diaspora.
Jackie O: That’s such a beautiful thing. People don’t get like how expansive like the black diaspora is. And it’s amazing when you see how we overlap and then how we’re different.
Crystal: Yeah, and even when we moved to this neighborhood, because we bought the apartment here. It’s not so much far from our old place so they could have taken the push scooters, being very Parisian and you know, gone up the hill for about 15 minutes there old school, the private school or I could have taken them where I decided to take them, which is a one minute walk from our house. And I decided to put them there because the thing about the private school which was it was nice, you know, there was the English program with teachers from Australia and a couple from London, but it’s very white. It was very white, Catholic with a few folks of color sprinkled in here and there. And I felt like my kids weren’t getting an accurate image of what life really is and what life here in particular is. And so when I went there, and I was like, they’re all colors up in this school, all types of accents. You know what I mean? I loved it like now they’re best friends’ names are not very French. They’re from like, you know, there’s that Gaia, Ibrahim. They’re from Morocco, Algeria. Senegal, you know, Mauritius, Israel. I just think that’s amazing. You know what I mean? And that’s what I want them to be exposed to. I think that is amazing. And a couple of them have come over here. And I was working on computer, and then one of them walked out and there he was like, “Madam, this is Dion from the Ivory Coast”. He had just moved here and he was like, “Do I knew Gabriel”? That’s my boy. “He says you are a singer. Are you really a singer”? And I was like, “Yeah”, and all of a sudden, I’m like, the coolest mom of the whole school. You know, I mean, and so kids come over and they dance and they sing and we make up songs and stuff, but I just love that. I don’t know, you know, so. I mean, yeah, I love that my kids are seeing the diversity. I love that my kids are seeing, you know, reflections of themselves as well. And I love that my kids are understanding that life doesn’t resemble their old school, which was mostly kids from richer families going to the Maldives for their spring break. They were like, “What do you guys do”? And I was like, “Well, I’m taking my kids to choir practice for, you know…” “Oh, we are going here or we are going to wherever”. And I’m like, “Okay, have fun, you know”, and I don’t want my kids to think that that’s what life really was about. Not that I won’t enjoy a good Island here and there, but I need them to be you know, I don’t know.
Jackie O: Yeah, man. Like they get to see it all like, especially when you think about Paris. You’ve got everybody there. You got rich people, poor people and everyone in between. And, I mean, it’s a city that I love as you know. I love that. I love my God.
Crystal That was hilarious. Why not? You know, I was thinking about you when I saw the parades like, after that I said okay.
Jackie O: I was like, “Okay, here when I was in Paris I was like, Chris I gotta get into a parade, and I want to walk out”. She’s just like, “Jackie I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a parade”
Crystal: But you know what? Shortly after that, I saw them in this tourist shop and I was like, “Gosh, he could have gotten four and gotten the fifth one for free child”. Oh my gosh. Yeah.
Jackie O: Crystal thank you so much for taking this time if there’s any like lasting advice that you could give somebody because you’ve done it. We see you’ve done it. You’ve formed an amazing life following what you love. You have a beautiful family, like you’re doing the most and I’m so proud of you, you inspire me.
Jackie O: Please do give my audience just some lasting advice if this is something they want to see for themselves or version of this, like, what suggestions would you give to them?
Crystal: First of all, break out of the mold. Do you know I mean? There is no set of instructions. There is no you go to the school and you get this job that’s done with. I don’t even think that ever really worked to be honest but whatever. Don’t be afraid to take a chance, set it up. Anything you like, whatever you’re really good at and you know you want to wake up and do, you know, work on that one thing and work on figuring out how the heck it can take you to where you want to go. And even once you get to that place, you might want to go someplace else. There is nothing stopping you. Besides the Coronavirus right now, you know, when that’s done these Monday. It is going to be done soon I am claiming that shoot, set it up, get rid of the excuses. There are no more excuses. And you know some people like, “You know, I’m 40 and 45…” There is no such thing as job stability anymore. There’s no such thing as job stability. So take away all those old ways of thinking, make it happen. Get rid of excuses. Stop buying Starbucks, you know, if you want to take some money for Starbucks or wherever else, just take that same money and put it in a little pot, you know, set you up something online, get your visa, you know, get whatever you need like your passport and just go. Honestly, that’s all I can say. And whatever happens, just keep it moving. Just keep adapting. I was just talking to you about this yesterday, we’ve had so many things where we’ve been in instances, like huge venues and stuff has stopped working. We made it work like we played an acoustic set. Just keep the ball going. Don’t ever let that stuff stop you. You know what I mean? Because at the end of the day, that little detail is not gonna matter. People aren’t gonna remember that. And you’re gonna be so proud of yourself for actually taking the leap. So just do it. Don’t let that other stuff stop you.
Jackie O: Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!! I so appreciate those words. And I’m so blessed that I’ve known you for over 20 years. You’ve been doing an amazing show. I’m glad my audience is getting to meet you and tell us your social handles if you don’t mind so that if people want to check you out, they can.
Crystal: Yes. So for my performing arts program for children, it’s chezcrystal. That’s for everything. And if not, you can just find me at crystalpetit.com.
Jackie O: Yay. Thank you so much Crystal. I so appreciate you being on my show today.
Crystal: I appreciate coming. You know I’d like to talk to you. Oh, thank you so much for thinking of little ole me.
This post contains affiliate links. Please find a link to my entire disclaimer here.
I’m Jackie O., editor of the international travel and lifestyle blog, The Jackie O. Life, serial entrepreneur, globetrotting Mama, Black digital nomad and overall badass.
I’m a former attorney, technology executive and model turned digital content provider and travel and lifestyle consultant. I help Black women live magical lives all over the globe.
I’ve been featured in media outlets such as Travel Noire, American Express Essentials, Gorgeous Globe, Flourish in the Foreign, Sorella, BizBash and more. Originally from the United States, I currently travel the world full-time with my toddler daughter, Ruth