When I was a little girl growing up in France, I had big dreams. I dreamed of travel, far away places, exotic locations and living a life of glamour and success. All little girls have these dreams, but I knew I could make them happen.
I studied diligently, especially English as I knew that would help me more than anything else. I worked hard. I raided the school library for all the English books they had. I would read in the school bus and in my bed at night to help me with my vocabulary. I was the first to ask questions in English class and the last to leave it. I could feel my goals getting closer every day. I was so happy. At weekends, I spoke to my mother about style and glamour. She taught me, as do all French mothers teach their daughters, about the principles of style. I clung to her every word.
My dreams grew within me as I grew from a shy little girl to a confident teenager.
With the end of school at College looming, I had to make a decision about my career. This at the ripe old age of 15. Unlike the other girls I knew what I wanted. The only thing that could help me to the dream I had, the one job that I knew I could get with all my heart, the job that would help me leave my little village in Normandie, travel the world, see exotic places and live abroad. That job, that passion and desire was to be .... an air hostess.
Now in those days being an air hostess was the height of glamour and sophistication. We looked in awe at the pretty women in their smart uniforms serving in First Class for Air France. We envied their exotic lives, always on the go, always going somewhere, always immaculate, always so professional, always attracting admiring glances from handsome men. I wanted that life; and that was what I was going to do.
Towards the end of my last term, I had a careers interview. All the other girls were dithering about what they wanted. Many wanted to become a teacher, or simply wanted to get married and have a family. But, not me.
We all lined up outside the careers office door. One by one, the other girls knocked meekly on the door, waited to be summoned and crept in for their interview. They emerged 15-20 minutes later clutching various pamphlets and at least, looking a little less scared and confused than when they went in. I knew I would be different.
Hardly any of them knew what they wanted.
I was going to walk in, bold, confident and assured just like the air hostesses I saw.
My turn came.
I straightened my best dress, stood up tall and nearly knocked the door off its hinges with my confident rap a tat tat on the hard wood.
I was called in.
I opened the door and walked confidently to the chair in front of the desk. The career’s officer hardly looked up.
I knew what I wanted and I would tell him.
He would help me.
He would see my passion and my dreams.
I sat bolt upright as my mother had taught me, confident and assured.
Eventually, he looked up at me from his notes.
“So, do you have any idea what you want to do?” he sounded bored.
I would take my dream to him, lay it all before him, tell him what I wanted. With all the confidence I could muster, and my dream firmly in my mind, I did just that.
“Yes, I do know what I am going to do. I am going to go to University, study English and then become an air hostess, travel the world and be successful.”
I was one of the best in my year at English so University was no problem.
I was sure he saw my dream and my passion the way I saw it. He would support me. That was what he was there for, after all.
There was a slight pause.
He must be impressed, I thought.
Then he smiled.
I felt for sure that, at last, he had seen a girl who knew what she wanted.
A girl who was confident and assured.
A girl with goals and dreams.
A tall, skinny girl who would go far.
I waited for him to congratulate me.
His smile got wider.
I waited, my eager young heart fluttering for his praise that was sure to follow, and more importantly, his encouragement.
Then, he laughed.
It was not a polite laugh of surprise and “Felicitation!” from someone who saw a dream aflame with passion and desire.
This was a guffaw of derision and scorn.
A cruel laugh that pierced my heart and soul, nailed me to my seat and broke my spine.
I slumped in my chair.
After he had finished laughing, he said,
“Okay. Now seriously, what do you want to do?”
All the fight had gone out of me. All my confidence and dreams had vanished. I mumbled that I didn’t really know and he thrust a set of pamphlets at me.
“Read those and maybe you may just make something of yourself, settle down, marry someone and raise a nice family.”
That was it. I shuffled, head hung low, trembling lip, out of the office.
I didn’t go on to University.
I didn’t apply to be an air hostess.
All my dreams and hopes vanished on that day.
I left school, moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands a little while later and, as the careers advisor had said that day, I got married and raised a nice family. I poured my heart and soul into that, with two incredible sons and was happy until that, too, fell apart. The young me that had hopes and dreams once more lay shattered. It took me a long time to get anything like my self-esteem back. I took up Karate to keep fit and relished the physical exercise and sparring. It gave me a chance to see that I could be equal to a man. I wasn’t some little girl who could be laughed at or made to feel unloved or unwanted. My confidence returned and, just at the time I felt assured that I didn’t need a man to be happy, my second husband came into my life.
For the first time, I had someone who saw my dreams and my passions and took them seriously. Someone who supported me in making decisions about myself and my future.
On my birthday in 2011, knowing how much I liked reading, he bought me a Kindle. It was perfect. I logged on to Amazon and started looking for books to download. There were so many to choose from. Some of the classics caught my eye and I thought about buying those, but I was looking for something else.
I didn’t know.
I searched for bestsellers.
None piqued my interest.
I turned to the non-fiction section.
I enjoy cooking and looked for those, but in those days, Kindle ebooks had no photos. They were not as advanced as they are now. I looked at style and fashion but it was all fashion advice on buy buy buy and trends and not what I was after. It was a far, far cry from the education in style and fashion I had had from my mother. What a shame, I thought and passed over the style section.
Then I saw one category that resonated with me.
Here were books I felt had something I needed. I bought many and devoured them. I saw many other such books that were free and noted that, for the most part, they were self-published. What was self-publishing? I had never heard much about it. Was it something “every day” people could do?
I looked online and researched it.
I found out as much as I could.
An idea was forming within me.
I could write a book.
I looked back through the style books. At that time, there were hardly any titles on French Style and what has now come to be known as French Chic. I thought that I could write a book about what I knew and self-publish it.
I looked for some encouragement.
Was my idea silly?
Could I do this?
My husband, as ever, was supportive.
“Go for it” he said.
So one August day, on my day off, I sat down at our little garden table and wrote. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. It all came pouring out of me. In that one afternoon, I wrote a section of what was to become my first Best Seller “How to Be Chic and Elegant - Tips from a French Woman”.
Over the next few months, I got up early to write before going to work.
I wrote during my lunch break.
I wrote late into the evenings before going to bed.
The next day, it all started again.
I was in a daze. I knew I had to get this book out, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could achieve something I’d set my mind to. Something that I had achieved and that no-one else had achieved for me.
At last, it was ready. All my old self-belief came back in spades. I remembered all that my mother had taught me and what I had learnt in France but which had vanished from me through the scorn and derision I had been subjected to.
One morning in November 2011, just before going to work, I hit the publish button.
I had self-published a book!
I was so proud of myself.
With no more thought than I had achieved my goal, I watched over the next few weeks as the sales went from a trickle to a flood. Me, a nobody from France, was outselling big fashion names and fashionistas. Reviews started coming in. They were so supportive and so grateful.
Within weeks, “How to be Chic & Elegant” had become the number one bestseller in its Amazon categories!
I was amazed.
I felt at last that I had something to say and that women wanted to hear it.
I sat down and wrote two more books.
Then, in 2013, I wrote my fourth book, which became my second best seller “The Tidy Closet”.
That too got to number one in its categories. For many months, I held the top spots in their categories with my books.
I have sold literally tens of thousands of books and amassed a regular following for my blog and newsletters.
Due to the success of my writing, I left work with my husband’s encouragement to write full time. There was no point both of us doing something we didn’t like, when one had the chance to do something they loved. We would tighten our belts, save money and do what we could. I left work to concentrate on helping women upgrade their lives.
Women emailed me for advice and I would gladly email them back. Here I was, answering women’s style questions and I was getting grateful thanks and praise. At long last, I felt complete.
So, why do women, seeking my advice, buy my books?
They like that I gave it to them straight. I know what is and what is not French Chic and how it can transform women’s lives. French Chic is not just about clothes. It is a deep seated confidence in oneself that I had until that fateful day in the Careers Office. I had lost it but it was now back, in abundance.
I started to see more and more titles come out on French Chic. So why, after all these years do my books and advice still resonate with women? It is because I advise on authentic French Chic.
Mind and style together.
It is not just “wear this with that and you will look chic”.
I don’t litter my prose with “Oh la las” and “je ne sais quois” without knowing what I am saying and whether it is “à propos”. French Chic advice from me is authentic French Chic. It is not a pastiche cobbled together, packaged with a few photos of parisiennes and sprinkled with the odd “bon mot”.
It is deep down, solid style advice designed to make the best out of you. Whether it is from the inside out, using mindset tools and techniques to transform your self confidence and inner beauty to let your style flourish; or, working on your outward style and giving your inner-self time to come forth, I can help you. I will do it with love and attention from a deep heart but with some frankness to move you along, when necessary.
I label myself as an Authentic French Chic expert because I am.
I can give you what many others cannot.
That is: advice from a cultural perspective where style is not just about appearance but comes from deep within you.
A place of self-respect, self-confidence and a knowing how to treat yourself and behave amongst others.
Authentic French Chic is total.
It transforms the whole woman.
I don’t give you an outfit a day to keep you coming back for more. I teach you how to style yourself to make you the independent, self-confident woman that you are, deep inside.
So where is all this going?
Well, I want to help more women, in more depth than I can in single books.
On 7 July 2016, my French Chic Academy is launching.
It will be everything I have on Authentic French Chic, for you, for ever.
The French Chic Academy is your chance to look and feel beautiful, inside out and outside in.
Will you join us?
Have a look here at more details about The French Chic Academy.
Please email me if you have any questions.
I'm Marie-Anne. I help women look fabulous via authentic French Chic. Join me in The French Chic Academy
👠 "I am so proud of following your advice because I attended a function recently and a totally unknown lady came up to me and said how elegant I looked!!!! I was so happy, as you can imagine!!!! Thank you so very much for everything."
👠 "Love! Love! Finally a no non-sense approach to being chic, excellent tips, easy to do and understand, anybody can be chic!"
👠 "My closet is organized and I can put my hand on an item of clothing I'm looking for easily, thanks to your book"
👠 "I still need purging but thanks to you I was able to move in one wardrobe box instead of 3."
"Make every day special and beautiful"