Originally published on American Airlines' BlackAtlas.com on November 5, 2012
On November 8, 2010, I was in Paris watching the evening news only to find myself staring at an announcement about France’s Maureen Nisima taking the Gold and winning the Fencing World Championships Women's épée final. Just so you know, Maureen is Black. And she’s a fencing superstar. You can read my short post here.
Fast forward to current times—almost exactly two years later to the date—and I find myself in Paris yet again for my regular Fall/Winter visit. But this time, instead of watching the evening news, I find myself staring into the lovely face of Teaneck, New Jersey’s Maya Lawrence, a Bronze Medalist in the Summer 2012 Olympic Games. Just so you know, she’s Black too. And she’s also a fencing superstar. How about them apples?
But Maya isn’t just an African-American athlete in a sport that admittedly doesn’t boast much color (although ranked 19th in the world!); she’s an expatriate too. She’s been living in Paris for seven years now (training) and plans to be here for at least another nine months, although she is indecisive about whether or not she’ll participate in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. And while she didn’t speak a lick of French when she arrived in the City of Light, Maya speaks French with the best of them now, although she admitted to me off camera that it wasn’t easy.
Just so you know, Maya and I connected online back in May of 2012 when I reached out to her about the Black Women Expatriates series and then again recently when I couldn’t find my notes and/or her expat interview (don’t ask). I thought it would be far more interesting to chat with Maya face-to-face for my first video interview ever. And it was. Not only did she share some insights about the sport of fencing and what it’s like to be an expat, but she humored silly-ole-me by allowing me to live out my personal fencing fantasies by giving me a few pointers (see photo slide show below). *En garde!
I caught the Paris Métro to the Charles de Gaulle – Étoile stop at the end of The Champs where Maya and I met at Starbucks on avenue de Wagram in the 17th arrondissement. I asked my chanteuse-girlfriend Angelique (who also tours and sings lead for The Mary Jane Girls, BTW) to come along to film our short interview. And so there the three of us Brown Girls sat, in Paris, chatting away in our native tongue while taking a little break from speaking French. But since Starbucks was too noisy, the kind folks at Emeraude Hôtel Plaza Etoile next door allowed us to use their lobby for the interview (how cool is that?!) and the result is what you see above. I hope you enjoy it because it was definitely a blast. A blast indeed.
Feel free to connect with Maya on Facebook.
Part I: Jo Gan in China, Lola in Sweden, Dori in England, Nicole in South Korea – 5/1/12
Part II: Carolyn in Switzerland, Davette in Barbados, Tatiana in Germany and Lily the serial expat – 5/14/12
Part III: Maureen in France, Sheryll in South Korea, Adrienne in Sweden, Arielle in Brazil – 5/21/12
Part IV: April in Jamaica, Nicole in Germany, Monique in The Netherlands, Oneika in London – 5/28/12
Part V: Natasha in Abu Dhabi, Margaret in Peru, Diana in Indonesia – 6/4/12
Part VI: Heather in Chile, Monique in Paris, Rachelle in Japan – 6/11/12
Part VII: Joia in Barbados, Shirley in Bordeaux, Adria in Colombia – 6/25/12
Part VIII: Carolyn in The Netherlands, Terra in Brussels, Robin in Denmark – 7/16/12
Part IX: Tricia in the US, Nicole in Botswana, Arlene in Rome, Joy in South Korea - 10/1/12