Here’s a gathering we like: Erica Firpo, a contributing editor in Rome, spoke with Lindsey Tramuta about her fantastic new book The New Parisienne: The Women and Ideas Shaping Paris.
There was a moment in my life when I couldn’t figure out why my damp hair didn’t dry with that beautiful je ne sais quoi, just gotten out of bed look, or why I couldn’t throw a silk scarf over my shoulders and redefine casual elegance like a Parisienne. Apart from having fumble fingers and hair that required a boar-bristle roll brush, I couldn’t understand how an entire country of ladies just a TGV ride away from Italy could be effortlessly cool, imperfectly perfect, and joyfully homogeneous.
Lindsey Tramuta’s new book, The New Parisienne: The Women and Ideas Shaping Paris, lays all the myths and lore surrounding Parisienne women to rest not by dismantling them, but by showing the genuine lineup of twenty-first-century superstars. Lindsey interviewed 40 women working behind the scenes and on the front lines to improve Paris in coffee shops and living rooms. Activists, athletes, legislators, physicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, native-born, Paris-adoptees, and even Mayor Anne Hidalgo the gathering is a fascinating, diverse, and enlightening look at women from various racial, gender, and economic backgrounds.
In other words, it’s an authentic portrayal of Parisian ladies.
I’ve long been a Tramuta fan, as have all of us at Fathom. Her writing is consistently excellent, and her book introductions and thoughtful Q&As were exactly what I needed to satisfy my craving. By exposing us to NextGen Paris through each woman’s distinct and profoundly inspiring tale, Lindsey delves deep into the Parisienne mythology, questions it, turns it over, and brings it up for fresh air. Every interview includes a list of everyone’s favorite spots in Paris, including cocktail bars, green oases, cheerful places, and, of course, women-owned businesses, for a dose of travel fun. I felt like I was sitting in the room with each of them as I read. I was excited by what Paris is and will be owing to these ladies when I put it down.
I emailed Lindsey to discover more about the new Parisienne so I could get more than my fill and give her a chance to shine.
Why is the Parisienne stereotype still prevalent? Will it ever change?
Many businesses, organizations, and individuals profit handsomely by utilizing this myth. Consider how much money luxury fashion houses, cosmetics companies, and perfumeries bring in. Consider the film and television industries, which have effectively sold a set of ideas and attitudes to successive generations. Consider the tourism boards that refuse to stray from a narrative that sells. Whitewashing the country’s image is also handy in the sense that it allows the colonial past to be ignored. It will take a lot for those who make a lot of money from these photos to abandon a formula that works.
In an article for Fortune, you wrote “I wanted to recast the archetypal Parisian woman and celebrate the stories, careers, and lives of some of the real women inhabiting and influencing Paris.” What was the motivator? Tired of the clichés?
Frustration was the main driver! My first book, The New Paris, was inspired by the myopic ways in which Paris has been depicted throughout the years, and The New Parisienne was inspired by a similar frustration: a narrow perspective that turns both the city and its people into caricature. Even though I have never associated with the Parisian archetype in my fourteen years in the city, I have grappled with the underlying demand to mold myself as closely as possible to it. This book was important to me for the same reason that The New Paris was: to convey the other side of an incomplete story.
When I put it down, I felt excited about what Paris is and will be thanks to these women.
How did you select the forty incredible ladies that I want to meet and, more importantly, whom I want my daughter to meet?
First and foremost, I tried to recall the women whose work I admired or whose thoughts I had followed on social media and in traditional media. That alone resulted in a formidable list. I also thought about the women in my larger network, and I found a lot of their tales inspiring and their goals interesting. Finally, I sought advice from the ladies I spoke with as well as other journalists. I could have talked to a lot more women, but I had to stop myself!
Were there any stories that had a big influence on you?
Rokhaya Diallo (journalist, filmmaker, and anti-racist activist), Elisa Rojas (lawyer and disability rights activist), Clémence Zamora-Cruz (inter LGBT spokesperson and trans activists), Ajiri Aki (founder of Madame de la Maison), Inna Modja (singer-songwriter), Poonam Chawla (cultural guide, author, and translator), Delphine Horvilleur (rabbi and author), Sarah Zouak ( (social entrepreneur, filmmaker, and co-founder of Lablab). I know that’s a lengthy list, but their stories lingered with me long after I completed them. Each of them taught me so much about the societal inequities that still exist in France, about sisterhood and pure courage.
After finishing the book, I saw a similar thread: each woman is fully committed to shaping both a current and future Paris, in addition to their deep devotion to their job and industry. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
Yes, there is a strong bond between these two women. They continue to work hard no matter how much the city has wronged them or how many obstacles are thrown in their way because they know that if they give up on Paris and its people, nothing will change. They find optimism and the determination to keep fighting for better living conditions here, whatever that means in their world. That is extremely encouraging to me.
How do these women overcome the disappointments that hold the majority of people back?
It’s partially about looking back in history and seeing that so many of the social advantages and protections that exist today are the result of opposing the state and top down ideologies. They are well aware of their ability to shape public opinion and campaign for legislative change. Change and effect are elusive in some places, no matter how vociferous you are. It may take some time, but public opinion matters. I also believe that these ladies try to surround themselves with supportive friends and family as much as possible to build true solidarity. The belief that raising others will lift you was strong among these ladies.