_Ophely Mezino, a beauty with a purpose
Apart from her gorgeous looks (when she pins back her Afro mane, she has a slight look of Beyoncé), Ophély Mézino is a far cry from the usual image of beauty queens.She is no bland airhead, and you won’t catch her playing the prima donna. She is a serious person. She was born on Reunion Island but moved to Guadeloupe as a child. Her parents are deaf, and from a very early age, she helped them in their everyday struggles - but that did not stop her getting on with her own life. Before competing in the Miss France contest, she was studying biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences. She came second in the contest, and went on to be runner-up in Miss World 2019, winning the coveted title of Miss World Europe. Away from the whirl of photo shoots and international pageants, Ophély took the time to share her unvarnished opinions on feminism, beauty contests and the quest for perfection with us.
photo by Johann Sauty / © Blush Editions
You were on course for a brilliant career in chemical engineering: why did you abandon science to compete for the title of Miss France?
There is no reason why taking part in beauty contests should hinder our long-term ambitions and career plans. Quite the reverse. Representing my country was my dream when I was a little girl, and it turned into a goal when I became a young woman. The most brilliant career is the one we dream of and that makes us happy. I’ve decided to do this right now, but I haven’t forgotten my career goals, which are to launch a cosmetics brand, to go on working in fashion and to set up a structure to help the deaf and hard of hearing in a few years’ time.
Now that you have been crowned Miss World Europe, what is your dream?
I often ask myself that question, because I’ve just fulfilled my ultimate dream of taking part in an international election. I have professional goals, but I’d be lying to you if I said I had a clear idea of my dream right now. I know one day I’ll find something that motivates me as much as winning those titles. For the moment, I just want to be happy, and discovering the world is enough! (Laughs.)
What does this title mean to you?
It’s the reward for a lot of hard work. Winning the title meant not much sleep and and a lot of willpower. I was often told not to dream, but this sash is proof that you should follow your dreams as far as you can go. Wearing the French colours internationally is a source of huge pride for me, especially as a representative of the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.
At a time of ultra-feminism, what is your take on beauty contests? Aren’t they a bit clichéd? Do they deser ve their image of objectifying women?
To me, as a woman and a feminist, the thing that’s most important is to know that a young woman taking part in a beauty contest is doing so of her own choice. Entering a beauty contest takes a lot of courage, commitment and determination. It helps the contestants grow, irrespective of whether they win a title. They gain in self-confidence and become more aware of their abilities. People talk a lot about the fashion and beauty sides, but those women use their voices to help people in need and that is the most beautiful thing of all.
When you’re not making a pub- lic appearance, what are your hobbies ?
Sport and especially athletics used to be a big part of my life until, sadly, I injured myself. Nowadays I’m increasingly interested in music, and I’ve al- ways loved documentaries and autobiographical films.
You’re currently travelling all over the world. What are your favourite destinations?
I still have a lot of countries to discover, but I fell in love with the island of Dominica, which lies between Guadeloupe and Martinique. People often confuse it with the Dominican Republic. I really enjoyed finding out about its history and cul- ture and exploring its stunning landscapes.
What are your favourite places to go in Paris and Guadeloupe?
If you’re staying in Guadeloupe, I strongly recommend discovering our island by doing some of the walking itineraries, especially the one that takes in La Soufrière. A place I really love is the Grand Anse beach at Deshaies. I haven’t been living in Paris for long. I’m still exploring our splendid capital city. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at our magnificent historical monuments.
What are your plans?
In a few years, when things have stopped being quite so hectic, I’ll go back into higher education, with the aim of creating my own brand of cosmetics. I’d also like to get back into modelling, which I love, and continue doing voluntary work, especially with the deaf and hard of hearing. But I’m open to trying new things and maybe even moving into totally different, unexpected fields.
What is your mantra?
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” (Nelson Mandela)
What did you gain from taking part in beauty contests?
I’ve always been independent, but you have to put a lot of effort into preparing for an international contest like Miss World. It made me even more self-reliant. Through the beauty contests I took part in, I met some great people - other contestants, my team members, who were with me every day, and professionals in differing fields. I’ve become much more mature and self-confident. Now I know I can push myself beyond my limits.
Who are your beauty icons?
I still admire Flora Coquerel, our Miss France 2014, as much as ever. She is a fine person as well as physically beautiful.
In the era of social networks, what is your relationship with images?
Nowadays, I realize that social networks and the images we share don’t reflect our lives, only what we are willing to show. It is understandable to always want to look your best, but the quest to be perfect all the time is unhealthy. Images can have the power to transform reality, so I’ve decided to share fewer moments from my private life on social networks. Not everyone likes beauty queens. That’s to be expected, but we have to disregard the negative comments we might receive, sometimes daily, and learn to detach ourselves from social networks, even if they are a tool for work.