FEELING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF. In the midst of a hectic week for him, we had the opportunity to chat with Issaka Bance, a Parisian with multiple talents.
Issaka is what English speakers call a 'multi-hyphenate'. In other words, someone with multiple skills. Or a "Swiss Army knife", as he calls himself, juggling several professional activities. What does he do? He is a visual merchandiser for Adidas, creative director, stylist and choreographer. He's one of those people who never stops, motivated and energized by a passion for the creative realms that drive him. When we caught up with him a few weeks before the end of 2020, he was taking a short break between rehearsals and staging the performance of singer Wejdene, a young music sensation, for the NRJ Music Awards. Here is a young man who has learned to accept himself as he is, regardless of what others may think.
It's a huge job to organise a performance for the NRJ Music Awards, especially during the health crisis. How do you manage stress and pressure?
I do two things. First of all, I communicate a great deal with those close to me, and tell them how I'm feeling, which helps. And more recently, I have begun to meditate. I started a few weeks ago and it helps me to relax. I discovered it thanks to some influencers on Instagram who spoke about the benefits. In the evening before going to bed, I sit in the dark, play relaxing music and clear my head. I don't think about anything for half an hour, and try to fully disconnect. It helps me release the pressure of the day and I definitely sleep better.
How important is it for you to take care of yourself?
It's extremely important. First for my well-being as well as for my appearance. The fields I work in, dance and fashion, can sometimes be ruthless. Your image is essential, and you are often judged on your appearance, before being judged on your talent. Fortunately, I've always enjoyed taking care of myself. My mother has worked at Sephora since I was a child, so I've been immersed in the personal care realm for a long time.
What does taking care of yourself involve?
I have a morning skincare routine. I begin by washing my face with Purifying Face Cleanser. Then, I spray on Tonic Lotion and finish with Mattifying Face Moisturiser. My skin is rather oily, so I'm careful to keep it shine-free as much as possible during the day. Once a week, I exfoliate my skin with Face Scrub and apply Purifying Face Mask, alternating with Revolution Skincare's peeling solution [jP1] every other week. I also exercise. Twice a week, I do regular sit-ups and push-ups, as well as some cardio in the park next to my home. Moreover, I try to pay attention to my diet and eat a lot more vegetables.
Do you have a skincare secret?
Yes, I do! Pure shea butter, something my family has been using for ages. It's perfect for moisturising my skin at night.
And would you say that you feel good about yourself today?
Yes, very much so. Like everyone else, I've felt complexed and insecure. I've had hard times, but I've still managed to stay true to the image I have of myself and the one I convey. For example, if you look at my Instagram page, you might think I'm superficial (I've already heard this before). I have learned not to pay attention to comments like these, and recommend that people get to know me first before forming a definitive opinion. The important thing is to find ways to feel good about yourself before worrying about what others think.
As a man, you speak quite openly about skincare and beauty, unlike many others. Why do you think that is?
There's clearly social pressure, which is where it starts. Generally, on television when it comes to skincare or beauty, the messages are primarily directed at women. As if men couldn't take care of themselves. It’s true that things have changed over the past few years. Nonetheless, we still need to speak about it so that it becomes completely ingrained in our society. Taking care of oneself has nothing to do with gender or sexual orientation.
How did you start dancing?
It all began in my childhood. My Year 4 teacher called my mother in and said "Your son is too introverted and withdrawn. Something needs to be done." My mother decided to enrol me in football, but that didn't work out. Afterwards, we tried judo, but that didn't work either. So, we chose a dance class. This was when I finally found something I liked, which sparked my interest in everything creative.
What made you such a shy little boy?
I didn't like interacting with other people. I was far too timid and afraid to express myself. I clearly felt different. Being an 'effeminate' black boy in France at that age was quite complicated. Kids can be so cruel on the playground. Little boys are expected to socialise with other little boys and play football. But I never felt comfortable with that. And when I spent time with girls, it was more of an in-between situation, with people pointing the finger at me for being too 'effeminate'. So, I kept to myself to avoid all comments.
Being a boy who danced probably didn't help at all.
But for me, it was the first time I felt like I belonged to a group. A group that accepted me. Of course, I was teased a lot. When you are a nine-year old boy who dances, people generally don't understand, as they expect you to play football. I started with ballet in order to learn the basics. This type of dance is often associated with women. At the time, of course, I was unaware of these preconceived notions, which are rooted in toxic masculinity.
Boys are expected to be strong and do 'boy things', rather than being sensitive and delicate. When in fact you have the right to be and do whatever you want, as long as you don't hurt anyone.
How did you deal with the teasing?
I ignored it. Unlike others, I was fortunate to have a family that supported me. My mother understood me and loved me unconditionally. So, I told myself, as long as my family has my back, the rest doesn't matter.
When did you become interested in fashion?
During the early years of social media and blogs, and the beginning of Facebook. By following websites and certain profiles, I discovered a world that I had no idea existed: the behind-the-scenes world of fashion. Fashion photo series and the stylists who put them together. I was immediately captivated and wanted to get involved. Thanks to my connections, I started doing creative projects and assisting on photoshoots. It was like when I started out in choreography, I met the right people along the way. Later on, I realised that fashion and dance go well together. Today, in my work, I strive to create different atmospheres and creative realms. These are activities that I'm extremely passionate about. They fill me with energy... a vibe. Thankfully, I don’t have a dull routine, which would be unbearable.
It all sounds very time-consuming though.
Yes, but for now, it gives me balance. It requires a great deal of organisation and certain sacrifices to juggle all my activities. I sacrifice my personal, family, and social lives because of work. It's not always easy, especially when people around me criticize me for it and think that I'm only interested in the financial aspect. When I love something, I try to do it well, and that inevitably involves a lot of work.
Issaka bance’s routine