Thursday, November 14th, 2019
African-American Expat Coiffeur Retires after 40 Years in Paris–Part 2
Cover Image: Sign in window at Mark Clément Salon
Photo by Michael Jespersen
By Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen
Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen was the first person that I interviewed for the Black Paris Profiles™ series that I wrote for this blog and eventually published in an e-book in 2012. She is a two-time author, bibliophile, and the founder and editor of Prissy Mag. She is also a freelance writer for the Washington Post, and most importantly, a breast cancer survivor and advocate. Pris generously offered this important, two-part article to the ETBP blog.
To read Part 1, click HERE.
The attempts to keep Mark out of spaces didn’t work, ultimately, and he enjoyed success as an American expatriate hair stylist for many years—up until last month when he finally retired and sold his salon. After almost 20 years as an owner, and 40 years as a stylist, he felt like it was time to stop and enjoy life a little more—travel and do more reading.
One of the things he is most proud of is having a salon that serviced multi-ethnic hair—all different textures for both men and women:
“At my salon we built something unique here in France. We welcomed everyone, anyone, no matter what your hair texture was. It wasn’t like the typical French salon that only caters to one or the other, white or black, to break it down simply. We did hair for everyone. And not only different textures, but people from all over the globe.”
Sign in window
© Discover Paris!
I was witness to this hundreds of times. I’d go to the salon to get my own hair done and that simple visit would turn into me signing copies of my books, discussing my blog, discussing France, America, and just life in general. According to Mark, people would find the salon, in large part, due to my online article entitled “Combing for a Black Hair Salon in Paris.”
Priscilla Lalisse Jespersen signing a copy of Stockdale
Bruno Sene - Photographer
The experience became so much more than just “getting your hair done.” Of course, this happens at hair salons in the U.S., but visits to Mark Clément’s salon were on another level because we were all bonding in France. The salon became like a second home: a place where you could go, literally let your hair down, talk about the day’s events, rant about lack of customer service in Paris, and just share camaraderie with others.
“I felt like I was doing my part to bring the world together,” Mark said. “It wasn’t much, but having people from all over come together and bond over being in France started dialogues between people who might not have ever spoken if they hadn’t met in my salon. It was my way of giving back, and I am very proud of that.”
When I asked him if he had advice for other American hair entrepreneurs in France, Mark said, “Do you research beforehand--know the market. Force yourself to be fluent in all types of hair textures so that you will be ready for whatever comes your way. And most importantly, you have to stay focused, through the good and bad times. Keep going.”
Mark’s talents will certainly be missed. As one of the very few African-American stylists and salon owners in France, he was always in demand. His legacy will live on though, and we celebrate him and all of his contributions to the American-expat community in Paris.
Bruno Sese - Photographer