And if you are a poor, blind African immigrant, that passing glance that even a native-born French designer would appreciate can instantly narrow to a suspicious side-eye.
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Mason Ewing (pictured in Los Angeles) says he has experienced many of those side-eyes since he stepped foot on French soil some 10 years ago with runway dreams of designing the hottest dresses, blouses and designer jeans for the world’s premiere models.
But he has recently uprooted his Parisian runway dreams and replanted them in American soil. Hollywood to be exact. The U.S. has traditionally been viewed as the “Land Of Opportunity.” But Ewing, through his interpreter, Renato Salvatori, told NewsOne that America has proven to be more like the “Land Of Equality” for him.
“I have been in the media quite often in France, but that has not opened any doors for me,” Ewing said during a phone interview. “When I asked for sponsorships and partnerships, they tell me, “Oh, we don’t have money. But I find that in the United States, it doesn’t matter if you Black, White Chinese. In France, if you are Black, it is more difficult than if you are a (White) Frenchman or woman.”
During his time in southern California, Ewing has been working on a television series that is an extension of his fashion goals. Here is a rundown of the show, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
Since then (2006), Ewing has produced a collection of T-shirts that feature Baby Madison, a multi-ethnic cartoon figure, in different settings. The infant has dark skin, blue eyes and a tuft of blond hair that “represents tolerance and love for everyone,” he said. The shirts’ raised Braille lettering tells him the garment’s color and what Madison image is printed on it.
Ewing used the cartoon character to branch out into video animation with “The Adventures of Madison.” He hopes to parlay that into two TV series that feature live actors.
Test scenes for the teen drama “Eryna Bella” have been shot in South Los Angeles’ Vermont Square neighborhood, where Ewing rents a small house. “It’s about high school beauty queens competing for the attention of the campus alpha male,” he said.
His proposed teen comedy series is called “Mickey Boom.”
Though a network has not offered to run either of his series, Ewing is grateful that he is being given a shot to give it a try. Ewing told NewsOne that when he wasn’t enduring racism in France, he was facing down in-your-face discrimination.
“When I went to a bank to ask for a business loan, one of the representatives told me that they cannot lend me money because I am blind,” he said. “A lot of banks closed their doors on me.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, Ewing endured a harsh childhood in his native Cameroon. He told the L.A. Times that he was sent to live near Paris with relatives at the age of six. Ewing says that they beat him regularly for seven years. The height of the abuse came when he says he was beaten so badly that he was hospitalized for three weeks. At age fifteen, he left the hospital permanently blind.
“I don’t know why they did this to me,” Ewing told the L.A. Times. “It was just wickedness.”
French authorities eventually interviewed and placed him a several foster homes. But those brutal experiences did not stop him from becoming pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer.
He makes his clothing by instructing trained designers on how he wants a particular garment to look. His colleagues are amazed in his ability to to tell the difference between silk, fur and other materials.
Look at a video exclusive on Ewing below to see him in action.
Though Ewing feels he is on the right track with his fashion business goals, he admits that his English, which is non-existent, needs work. He goes to language classes when he has time, but says his robust filming schedule keeps him too busy to study.Ewing is still struggling to secure investors in his television and fashion projects.
(Though Agefiph Territorial, a French organization that helps people with disabilities, did finance his first fashion show in Paris)
He goes to France from time to time for interviews to keep his name floating around the capital. But, for this Cameroon-born fashion entrepreneur, he feels his new challenge of making it big in the U.S. is well worth it.
“It was a very difficult experience in France,” Ewing says. “But since I have been in America, a lot of people want to help me. It is easier for me here. People here are more human. They understand that I am handicapped. It is better here.”