What is life in Paris really like? I often get asked and while I try to document the best things to do and places to eat and drink here. Paris is so much more than what we see on instagram or a series of dining and gastronomical experiences. It’s a rich cacophony of people and cultures too – made up of unique Parisians, French and visiter that are now Faux-Parisians that call the the city home.
It’s been a while since our last interview series of last year and your emails have been reminding me (thank you!) to get back to the behind the scene stuff, the lives of Parisians, or rather people like you who have made the move from a place where you are today to be living their Parisian lives. Sometimes a bit cliche but always 100% unfiltered.
Recently we sat down with a talented young digital artist and masters student to just chit chat and vibe over coffee and this Q&A was the result. Her name is Shawné Michaelain Holloway, and her colorful world first caught my eye on instagram, and as they say the rest is history!
Photography by Yanique K. Francis
1. Background – tell us a little bit about yourself; what you do and how you ended up in Paris (if new to the city)?
I’m a new media artist from Chicago, IL. I found myself moving to Paris to study Design and Technology with my mentor Benjamin Gaulon, an extremely prolific digital artist and director of the MFA program I am about to graduate from. To be honest,I didn’t ever think I’d get the opportunity to go overseas in my lifetime, let alone live in France. I’ve been here for two years and, while my time is up, I’ll remember Paris for it’s strange, slow, and overwhelming beauty. Nothing is ordinary here.
2. Things you’re passionate about in Paris?
I’m passionate about the cultural diversity that I found here because it has helped me to better understand the ways in which I am socially and economically positioned in an increasingly globalized society. Last year, in an artist profile on Rhizome.org, I told Mexico City-based curator Gaby Cepeda:
“In Paris, I became forced to zoom out and interact with a public. I was totally fresh off the boat and I found quickly that my American-ness was the last thing helping me navigate, but my blackness did. I began looking for myself in others and all of a sudden I realized I belonged in this society in a different way than I did at home. I wasn’t the only black person in the room or on the train; I wasn’t even the only mixed person.”
Around that time, I learned of a beautiful documentary series called flâner, part of a larger series by filmmaker Cecile Emeke, that details what some of the young people of color have to say about how they see the social dynamics within their French communities. The conviction and honesty with which these Parisians speak has encouraged me to think harder about myself and my connection to my own homeland. For this, I am so grateful.
3. What is your favorite area of Paris and why?
PIGALLE : I have nostalgic connections to Pigalle/9th– I spent a lot of time there. It all started because my best friend got a job at the Dirty Dick. We fell in love with all the cute bars in the neighborhood; a drink at the swanky cocktail joint called Lulu White would end up turning into a trip down the street to a club called Le Carmen to dance to hip hop with all the cuties in from the suburbs for the weekend.
I experienced so many things in that neighborhood: I fell in love with someone I met in there, I drank the best cocktails in it’s bars, and my girlfriends and I started nights on Rue Frochot that lasted from 9pm until 5am the next day– sometimes later! Pigalle a dirty little alcove that used to be the red light district; while it’s almost all strollers, brooklyn inspired coffee shops, and mom jeans now, after 9PM, the neighborhood reverts back to the old fast paced, slightly seedy (but safe), little get away for rowdy 20 and 30 somethings.
4. Do you have any tips for newcomers on living like a Parisian? To do, or not to do?
DO : Find yourself a regular spot.
Any spot! Somewhere where you feel comfortable. Parisians really seem to love repeat customers and while the first encounter may not feel personable, everyone quickly learns your name. These comfort spots can serve as a safe haven for moments when you’re missing the comforts of home.
DO : Become obsessed with a thing.
Paris is full of specialty shops; pick a thing! Any thing! From crystal perfume bottles, to cheese, and american style-cookies. There’s guaranteed to be a store that sells exclusively the thing you’re interested in, owned by someone who has devoted their livelihood to it.
DON’T : Come here expecting everyone will know English.
Learn a few basic phrases to keep you afloat!
DON’T : Stay in the city!
Go explore. Flixbus is my favorite bus company. They provide easy transport for very little. Go hangout in the Loire Valley and drink some wine or, if you’re an academic like me, take a trip to visit the IMEC Archives at Abbey Ardenne as a Visiting Researcher.
5. Where do you go for a really good meal/coffee/drink?
I know I can always get a caffiene fix at Halle St. Pierre, this little gymnasium turned art gallery in Montmartre. Instead of the omg-our-cup-of-coffee-is-better-than-yours places where you can hardly find somewhere to sit and enjoy yourself, this place has tons of tables and a diverse customer base. Young couples on dates, children with their parents, and hunchy laptop operators all live in perfect harmony here sipping their coffee and eating the best muffins ever. To top it off, it’s super affordable.
6. Best summer spots?
7. Best winter spots?
Les Fabricants, near Metro Parmienter serves Escalope de Veau montagnarde. It’s hard to find a better winter meal than that, really. Try the basque cake afterwards– it’s a sweet, light, and well balanced relief after all of that saucy, potato-y heaviness.
8. Where to experience the best DJ set/ live music?
My favorite party in the city is Club Sandwich at Yoyo in the Palais de Tokyo!
9.Do you have a favorite market, cinema, theatre or florist?
My favorite theatre is the Luxor at Barbes. They have a fair amount of special programming; sometimes there are family films, other times they show art films, and occasionally even older and more culturally significant pieces like La Bataille D’Alger play in their main theatre. It’s also gorgeous.
10. What do you do on Sundays?