Culture

A Hard-Hitting French-American Podcast

What can the United States learn from France – and vice versa? This is the question asked to guests on A Propos, a podcast produced by the French consulate in New York, in partnership with France-Amérique. A transatlantic dialogue about subjects as varied as racism, climate change, beauty, and rap!
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China Moses.

Who better than singer and television presenter China Moses to kick off this new podcast? The daughter of U.S. jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater has just returned to the United States after spending more than 30 years in France. Interviewed by the podcast’s host Garance Choko, the singer who describes herself as “a French woman with an American passport” talks about arriving in Paris in the 1980s, her first steps in television (often as the only woman of color), and her role in the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog, in which she voiced the first Black princess in the studio’s history.

“I have always represented the colors of France and the colors of the United States,” she says in the first episode of A Propos. “That’s what my mother taught me. It’s thanks to her that I ended up in France. She moved to France in 1984 and passed her love for and obsession with Paris and French culture down to me. It was natural for me to represent France, as France gave me opportunities that I would probably never have had if I had grown up in the United States.”

This debut episode sets the tone. Every two months, the consulate general of France in New York will examine “today’s struggles” by interviewing French and American guests. “We will be choosing relevant, social, contemporary themes,” says Garance Choko. “We will ask our guests – all of whom are stars in their respective fields, often a French-American duo – to explain their work, their impact on society, what they have learned from each other, and the similarities and differences between their approaches.”

This bilateral model is apparent from the opening music. We first hear the voice of J.F.K. When he disembarked at Orly airport for his first official visit to Europe on March 31, 1961, the U.S. president paraphrased Thomas Jefferson, declaring: “Every man has two countries, France and his own.” And then, like an echo, the dulcet tones of Josephine Baker: “I have two loves, my country and Paris.”

According to French consul Jérémie Robert, this podcast is an opportunity to discuss the major challenges shared by both France and the United States, including diversity, gender parity and equality, the mobilization of younger generations, and the fight against climate change. The second episode will bring together Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 22-year-old American activist and hip hop artist of Aztec heritage who appeared in Flore Vasseur’s 2021 documentary Bigger Than Us, and French climate expert and Columbia professor Pierre Gentine.

The third episode will address the theme of inclusivity in the fashion industry, “a major sector in both France and New York,” says Jérémie Robert. In this installment, A Propos will be welcoming African-American makeup artist Raisa Flowers, whose career jumped from at-home tutorials posted on YouTube to Rihanna’s runway shows and Vogue covers, and French executive Nathalie Gerschtein who became the first female president of the consumer products division for L’Oréal North America in May.

Future episodes include a focus on rap, its influence in Europe, and the new French rap scene unashamedly mixing American and African sounds, with French artist MC Solaar and American rapper Jadakiss. There might even be an episode on sports, as basketball player Evan Fournier has already voiced his interest! Originally from the Val-de-Marne département, he has played in the NBA since 2012 and was signed to the New York Knicks last year. “His career illustrates the importance of sports as a way to integrate and create social cohesion,” says the consul. “Values which are particularly essential in France in the run-up to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

The consulate is also hoping to take advantage of the presence of major French figures in New York City to drive its podcast. And regardless of the guest list, the objective will always remain the same: “Offering a modern perspective of our societies and the challenges they face, highlighting the commitments shared by France and the United States, and debunking misconceptions!”

You can also see China Moses performing live in Central Park on Bastille Day, July 14, at a concert organized by the French consulate in New York. Other top-billing artists include violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft, the “one-woman orchestra” DeLaurentis, and DJ Joachim Garraud.

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