French Guiana native Alicia Aylies, the winner of the Miss France pageant, is at the center of controversy due to a new magazine cover on which she appears with a noticeably white skin tone and sleeker hair texture.
After Aylies was declared the winner of the annual beauty contest Saturday, Dec. 17, she appeared in a new photo spread for Paris Match without her signature curly locks and darker skin. The image was a stunning contrast since the 18-year-old Afro-Caribbean won the pageant with her voluminous hair confidently on display. Yet in the magazine photo, Aylies is nearly unrecognizable, which caused social media to take notice.
“With @ParisMatch the beautiful, Guyanese #MissFrance @aliciaayliesoff became white!” wrote @Lato_Ska. “Shameful.”
— antiReacpublicain?ت (@Latto_Ska) December 22, 2016
@goodluuckinlove demanded Paris Match “stop ruining” Aylies’ hair.
— am i lost on you ? (@goodluuckinlove) December 22, 2016
“Mind not whitewashing people like that?” @MelinaTheophila asked of the French publication and photographer Benjamin Decoin.
— Méline Sahiri ?? (@MelinaTheophila) December 22, 2016
However, when Decoin spoke to The Huffington Post France Dec. 22 about the magazine photo, he flat-out denied the lightening accusations.
“It would be thousands of kilometers from our concerns on the day of shooting,” he said. “The photo has never been bleached. Alicia Aylies is more enlightened than if you saw her in a dark corridor, so take a picture with an iPhone with and without a flash and you’ll see the difference.”
Regardless of Decoin’s fierce defense of the photo, which doesn’t explain the reason for straightening Aylies’ curly tresses, the pageant winner expressed adoration for her natural locks to France-Guyane ahead of her win.
“I am very happy to keep my hair natural!” she said. “When I arrived [in France for the competition], I was asked how I wanted my hair styled. I was never offered an easy solution to smooth it. I prefer to keep my identity.”