Balmain Designer Traces His Roots To Find Out He’s African & Not Mixed With White
By Stephanie Ogbogu
34-year-old French designer and Balmain creative director, Olivier Rousteing, has worked with the best of the best in fashion and entertainment. Most recently, he earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the costumes for Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming‘ but deep down inside, despite all of his success, there was still a void missing.
At the age of 1, Rousteing was adopted by a French couple in Bordeaux. He grew up believing he was of mixed race, specifically black and white, because of his skin color.
For over 30 years he’s lived with many unanswered questions, especially why he was given up. After some convincing, Olivier is finally getting the answer to those questions.
In a new documentary, “Wonder Boy,” directed and produced by Anissa Bonnefont and set to premiere in Paris on Saturday, the day after the Balmain show, Olivier finally sets out to find his birth mother.
The documentary began filming in 2017 and filmed over the course of a year-and-a-half. Olivier traveled back to Bordeaux, met with his adoptive grandparents and had conversations with social workers. Eventually, he makes a discovery about his mother and the basic facts surrounding his birth.
In his research, Olivier finds out that his mother was just a kid when he was born and that she barely knew his father.
“She was a kid,” he says, in anguish.
He also finds out that he is not of mixed race as he grew up thinking his entire life, nor was it the fairytale he wanted it to be.
He had always hoped his birth parents were “two young people who were very in love with each other but couldn’t stay together.”
“She was Somalian and he was Ethiopian, which means I am African-African,” he said. “I’m black.” It’s discombobulating discovering, in your 30s, that the myths you told yourself your entire life, even if you knew you had made them up, were all wrong. I don’t want anyone to have pity for me. I want people to see this as a movie about a fighter who faced the world. There is a real crisis of identity today, it’s hard to be yourself. But maybe the people who see it will understand me more.”
The social worker was able to learn that Olivier’s mother was still in France, though they could not legally reveal her name. However, they did offer him the chance to write her a letter that they could pass on to her if he was interested in meeting with her. Olivier has not decided what he plans to do at this time.
For now, Olivier does plan to speak at a conference being organized by the French government in the Fall in hopes of revising the national adoption laws to give children more rights to trace their roots.