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Article published the Saturday 16 October 2010 - Latest update : Friday 22 October 2010

Guerlain heir in racism storm

SOS-Racisme's logo


French perfume-maker Jean-Paul Guerlain faces prosecution by anti-racist groups after telling a television interviewer that he “worked like a nigger” to produce one of his most successful scents.

Guerlain, who is a descendant of the parfumier’s founder Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, apologised for the remarks on Saturday.

But anti-racist campaigns, SOS Racisme and Le Cran, say they will press ahead with a court case, saying that they believe a trial will have great educational value. And they called on LVMH, the company which now owns Guerlain, to dissociate itself from the outburst.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde on Saturday dubbed Guerlain’s remarks “pathetic”.

“I just hope that this is senile and crude and that the apology is really sincere and gracious,” she said on Saturday.

Guerlain’s used the N word – nègre in French -  during a midday news bulletin on Thursday, when he described the creation of the Samsara perfume - blend of sandalwood and jasmin inspired by his first wife.

“For once, I worked like a nigger,” he told the interviewer. “I don’t know if niggers really worked that much.”

Guerlain’s apology, in the form of an email, expressed regret that his words might damage the company’s image and pointed out that he is no longer a shareholder or employee of the company.

He is, however, a consultant to the company’s chief olfactory technician, or “nose”, Thierry Wasser.

tags: Christine Lagarde - Cosmetics - Guerlain - Perfume - Racism
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the term "nègrier" as well as slave-trader means owner of a sweat shop as well as slave-driver. Food for thought especially as this debate is largely about the mouth that said this word (nègre). There are also instances of this word not being offensive in french as well such as petit nègre which is used to denote the language Pidgin (French). We also have a word in english, which I like very much niggard, which I think has fallen out of use, partly thru people's associating it with that awful word "nigger", which I definately do not like seeing being used in a derogatory sense. Niggard is etymologycally separate from that other worth(I am loath to write it more than once)and comes from middle english (first recorded in 1384)from nig stingy.
What is important folks, whether we be black, white, brown, yellow, pink, gay, however we identify ourselves is that no matter that colour, we are all the same colour inside. WE ALL BLEED RED. The sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can all come together and start fixing the mess that we have been making of this planet, of which we are only tenants and making the wrongs done into rights. peace...

Next time you happen to be in

Next time you happen to be in Paris. Catch the subway before will be shocked to see that most of the people on that train are black. Catch it after 8 and most people will be white...

This is an observation after many months working in France...

As a gay man you should know better

Well, I have witness several times some gay people using very offensive gay slurs while referring to each others, I am dead serious, does it make it less offensive? No. NOT ALL BLACK PEOPLE USE THE N WORD, and even if they did, why could not they? You do not have to be a Nobel Prize of Physics to understand that if one use a word that is demeaning towards oneself's, the word would have a different sense in one's mouth than it would have in the mouths of those who use that word to oppress for centuries.


BTW, your attitude is the reason why so few blacks want to side with gay people. When blacks were out there dying (and still are) for their rights, gays were safely closeted, now suddenly they think that Blacks owe them sh.t.



I'm african american

I'm not here to defend slaves or my forefathers. The comment was just plain wrong. I'm sorry a lot of people have gotten offended to the point of writing obscenities to each other but at the end of the day Guerlain apologized because he felt the need to. Last time I checked grown men don't apologize for things they did not do. HE, realized his error and apologized...end of story. It is now up to individuals to either accept it or not. Either way this argument has become pointless and redundant. May you all find peace in a time of anger and misunderstanding. I love you even if you don't like the color of my beautiful skin. That is all.

racisim in the world

"Other" Jewel, I know what ur tying to say, but the fact is he never apolgized until it became an issue, meaning until someone cried foul. Why couldn't he have said he worked like an asian, an Indian, a dutch person, an Iranian, a Mexican, or any other ethnic group. Why did he try to invoke the image of a black person working like a slave. True the N-word really refers to an ignorant person, so I guess he really did work like a N-word. Because there were a lot of comparisons he could have made in that instance, but he chose what he chose, showing his true nature and now there's a stink about it. Yes, he really is sorry now. I used to buy a lot of the perfume made by that company and I've loved it for so long, but not anymore. I'm sure I'm not the only person who will take that stance. In most of the world we are looked down on because of our skin color. It would be nice to live in a fantasy world where Africans & African Americans are accepted just for being brown people, but as long as people don't see our beauty & intellect they will remain narrow minded and treat us the way they do. I'm just sayin....


Several persons said that the word "negre" means negro and not nigger.

As a french speaking person i can tell you that this is totally wrong.
This word is the closest translation of the n-word existing in french.
Yes it cna be ambiguous sometimes.But,believe me, it is rare nowadays.

Actually the use of racist words in france is a less serious matter than it can be elsewhere.Especially against blacks.It will remain so as long as french blacks accept this situation.


It's difficult to understand Humain's comment, since the article uses the n-word exclusively in quoting Guerlain. It is not our intention to gratuitously offend anyone or to give any credence to racism but itt makes no sense to report that certain remarks haave proved controversial and not translate them in their totality. It is not our policy to delete parts of words which might be deemed offensive, since presumably readers know what words are being referred to. We have explained our choice of translation in an earlier comment. Numerous dictionaries define the word "nègre" as offensive and, in our experience, it is always used pejoratively in France. The association with slavery is clear if one remembers that the word "nègrier" means slave trader.

In your opinion

Thank you for your reply. I do hope you will understand. If not I do realize that you still mean well. The main problem is your stance that your translation is correct. Had it been so, I would agree with your reply and in fact not had any complaint from the beginning. However, since it is not a correct translation, this is not a question of hiding words and your reply is irrelevant. I had seen your previous comment on the translation which frankly also is irrelevant. Please look up the correct word in a dictionary and you will see that it is also offensive. Actually even that word is so offensive that I will not write it, but I do think you should write it to show what Mr Guerlain said. What he said was very wrong and frankly it is difficult to understand why you need to twist his statement. Do you not see how bad it is anyway? Right now your stubborness only serves to cloud his error. Please understand that you are keeping an overly insulting word for no other reason than a stubborn defence of an incorrect translation when you could easily change it to a correct and less insulting wording without any effect to your article. I hope you can understand and respect this. Anyway, thanks for listening.

Racist article

The repeated use of the n-word in the article above and in some comments is highly racist and should be edited away. Not to mention that it takes away the focus from the racist comments of Mr Guerlain, extra much so as it is in fact an incorrect translation.

Institutional Racism at Guerlain?

On the back of his comment, I would propose that if we were made aware of the number of Black people employed by Guerlain, this would open our eyes to inherent institutional racism, whereby the comment of one ignorant man serves as an insight to a bigger issue.