Mireille Liong A Kong interviewing Yannick Noah

Writen by Mireille Liong A Kong (picture below). (New York).
This article is published on surinamsports.com with the authorisation of the writer.

About his locs

How, when and why did started dreadlocks?
YANNICK NOAH: You know, I had this mini-afro before starting my locs. I went to this cousin of mine in Paris and ask her for braids when we were going to my sister's wedding. Mainly as a joke for me and she does these fake dreads for me. Fake braids, you know, plastic.


So, we went to the wedding but then I didn’t realize that it takes such a long time to remove braids. The next day I had to play the semi-final of the Davis Cup. So, I thought okay, we’ll see when I get there. When I got there I had to practice. So there was no time to take out the braids.
The next thing you know, two days later, people wrote, “Oh, Yannick is like trying to get back to his African roots.”
They had a whole super deep explanation about my braids, while it just started like more of a joke for me.
So, I’m like, that’s cool. You know, all of the sudden, this whole thing about my hair. I found that quite interesting.
So, I went to a shop to get a Rasta head band and a Bob Marley wrist band, you know
because I thought it was funny. Of course, I was listening to Bob Marley.
When we won the game people said, “Yeah, yeah, Yannick is into his roots, his African roots”. It wasn’t really true, but I went with it. I thought, now I need to grow the real thing.
MIREILLE: So, that’s how it started?
Yeah, I removed the braids, and underneath I just started to let it grow. This is what happened. And actually when I won the French Open, it was not real hair. I had braids.
New York or Paris?
How long have you been in New York?

 On and off, about 12 years. You know, I spent 2 years here, then went back for 1 year.
Do you like New York better than Paris?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, my life is so different here, you know. It’s like anonymous. Walking around freely, going to a bar. I can go to a bar by myself. When I’m in Paris, everybody knows me, so it’s totally different. It’s a whole different life. Everybody knows me. Everybody. 

Of course, you are a hero. The last French man to win Roland Garros, the French Open after 37 years and winning the Davis Cup. That's incredible Many people were named after you, too, you know.

YANNICK NOAH: Yeah. So, I like to go there to Paris and work. For every day life, I like New York. It's anonymous.

About his Music

Yannick Noah's CDWhat inspired this new cd? You have cd's that were inspired on Nepal, Africa and South America. Was it Chile or Bolivia?
YANNICK NOAH: It was Chile. The Charrango a Bolivian instrument? It is everywhere in Chile. But what we wanted to do was to take the same road that Che Guevara took right after he got his diploma.

He took his motorcycle with his friend to check out life. He, Che Guevara was from a wealthy family in Santiago, goes to school, in a wealthy neighborhood to become a doctor.
Before he starts working he says, “Listen, I want to see the world for one year.”

So, he takes off with his best friend. This is a true story. He goes with his best friend on this old motorcycle. They just go and get out of Santiago.

They end up, like, in this place up north in Chili where all of a sudden, he finds himself thorn between following the path that was laid out for him or actually breaking that and going to help poor people. More like laborers. People warn him that it’s dangerous. So, what do you do? 


Yannick Noah in Concert

So, anyway, something happened during that trip, where he realized that basically, he doesn't want to follow that path that was laid out for him. I like that. Sure that is an inspiration for me.

There’s a movie made based on his trip "the Motorcycle diaries. It's a beautiful movie. They show all the places that Che went to and we actually went to.

His story is so inspirational to me because he was

trying to help, you know. Trying to help the poor people. That is inspiring. That is great.

Yannick Noah's CDWhat was your experience like there up north in Chili?
YANNICK NOAH: Fantastic! You have these places where you know all of the sudden you feel so ... when nature is just so overwhelming that it's a spiritual experience. You feel small. And you just look. And you just breathe.

There’s a connection there that is so natural. It just happens right there right ten. If you want to be spiritual here in the city, it is an effort. You have work on something within. You have to work for it. …but, when you you see nature like Atacama Dessert, that's where it was, spirituality just happens to you. That is what the place is like.

There are volcanoes. So it can be like minus 15 Celsius, and then all of the sudden after the sun rises within 10 minutes, its 20 degrees.

So, if I have the opportunity to take people on some kind of trip with my music, I like there to be an experience within the music within the story. A deeper connection. An experience that I can relate to, for real.

The connection, out of Love
Actually, that is how I started to begin with. As the son of a white mother and a black father it was natural for me to tell the story of my connection with white and black and my African roots. That was so natural. That is my history from the day I was born. That is obviously the story I shared first. I come from a place of love you know. So I wanted to share it because the story is a beautiful story and because I think gives a lot of hope. Then, once I did that I was off to the next step.

I had to find myself when it came to religion. I was raised Catholic but my mom the most generous person I know, wasn't a believer.

So I had to create my own thing, and my own thing was pretty much inspired by Buddhism, which basically mixes everything. You know, you can do your own thing. It’s very tolerant.

Yannick Noah in Yoga


More spiritual than a religion?
YANNICK NOAH: Yeah, you can have quotes from anywhere. So, I liked that and started to read books. I started to meet other Buddhist people, go to meetings and really got into it. I did yoga every day. I met with the Dalai Lama.

You met the Dalai Lama?

How was that?
YANNICK NOAH: Oh, that was amazing. That was amazing! He is like beyond. That was so great. I was following this master Sogyal Rinpoche who wrote several books to make Buddhism known in the Western World.

Yannick NoahAnyway, so I used to go to lectures and so on and so forth. Then, I wanted to go to there. I wanted to see Tibet. I wanted to go to Nepal. I wanted…I went there a few times walking with my backpack, and felt it. So, the my 2nd CD was based on this whole experience.

What did you feel?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, I mean, same thing. Like this city in the Himalaya, you see poor people. And there is just this ...thing you know. How come they are the one giving you the smile? Where’s it coming from? How come these people give you this smile? How come they are like so together? How come? What is it about them? What is it that they have that I look for? What is it? You know, they are very spiritual people. Spiritual people. And again, the place, the place itself is just so beautiful. That was Pokama. There were monks everywhere.

President Barack Obama 
And your new CD, what was your inspiration for this one?
YANNICK NOAH: It’s New York! Yeah, it’s New York.
It’s more of a reality, this raw reality. And you know, I have fans. They know I’m in New York. And, I mean, hey – it’s fantastic year to be in America.

Such a fantastic time to be in America. It was such a fantastic… experience to follow this unfolding of history, and be here, hear it, live it.

You mean the 2008 election? Did you believe that the candidate Obama could win from the start?
YANNICK NOAH: No, I didn’t believe at all. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to – you know what I’m saying. It’s like, I wanted it too much, you know. I wanted so much.

He seemed like a perfect candidate, everything about him was so natural, so real. It seemed like it was meant to be. So the disappointment would have been too much that I just didn't want to believe it. I didn’t even want to discuss it.

So when did you start believing he could win?
YANNICK NOAH: I believed it when he was elected. You know, I believed it when he was elected. You remember it was that day people started to talk about this Bradley effect thing.

You mean when voters tend to tell pollsters that they are likely to vote for a black candidate, and yet, on election day, they vote for the white opponent?YANNICK NOAH: Yeah.

So what did the election of President Barack Obama meant to you? It mattered a lot to you if you couldn’t talk about it.
YANNICK NOAH: It means a lot. It obviously means so much. There is like such, so many things, some things are needless to say.
I was here with my friends when he got elected, you know. And we didn’t say much. We just screamed and cried. What is it that you can say?

And cried?
YANNICK NOAH: You know, words were not enough…you know. I mean, we are in this world and like so messed up in so many ways. Just not many reasons to hope really if you look at it on a big scale.

Then this news, that Barack Obama wins. So as human beings we can hope. And that’s what it was.
You know, this is why it was celebrated in a way beyond America. Because people did the right thing. Because finally it seemed that we here in America, actually voted for the good person, the intelligent person. The intelligent, right person won. It is not always the cheater. It is not always the guy with too much money, or more money that wins.

It is not the guy who bribed. It’s the best one, and the world could see it because he was like so…For me, it was not even a race, you know. For me, I was even insulted that they were actually like thinking about it, because it was like so obvious. It was like a big champion against someone who was just there.

How do you think the President is doing? Do you think he deserved the Nobel peace prize in November? 
YANNICK NOAH: He sure deserved it. Because of what he did, you know. What he did is like beyond being elected. I don’t know what to say. Obviously, I’m a big fan, you know. But, I mean, people don’t realize, that there are things that you cannot put into numbers.

There are things that you cannot even explain to a certain degree. Like you know, when you give pride, he gave pride to people outside of this country just because of who he is. People that he will never meet in his life.

People that on that very day that he was elected walked with a different swag. This is huge. This is just huge. I trust the guy. I know I trust him. And I’m not someone who trusts very easily. But I trust him.

YANNICK NOAH: Because he’s trying, he’s trying. And, he’s trying for me. I know he’s trying for me. And I’m glad that there is someone out there trying for me, and for us, and for little people. Because I consider myself a little person, and I know that there is someone out there who is trying for us. That is enough.

And he’s not going to succeed in everything, but I mean look at his healthcare. This is the first thing he did for the little people. And it doesn’t happen like that. It is easier to say, “Well, let's do that tomorrow we got the war. Let’s go kill people.” That you can do in 2 minutes. But like to organize health care is a long process, and people were very patient with him because the degree of hope was so high.

So, Obama really a big inspiration for you?
YANNICK NOAH: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
I mean. I mean, god, like the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Yes, he’s an inspiration. You know, like nowadays, people in power, they want to separate people.

You mean divide and conquer?
YANNICK NOAH: Yeah and I always felt in the middle because I was always between the fight of the black and the whites. I’m always in the middle.

Did you read his biography? Did you connect with him when you read that?
YANNICK NOAH: Of course. I mean, you know there was going to be a connection. The connection is right there from the very beginning.

I went to school in Calhoun, Cameroun. I’m, like, called café au latte, coffee with milk. So, I’m not part of it. I’m part of them, but not really. I’m not really black enough. I go to France, and oh I’m too black.

MIREILLE: You’re not black enough. I hated that phrase.
YANNICK NOAH: I’m too black. I’m not white enough. And there you sit in the middle. And all of the sudden, there is Barack saying yeah, you know, it’s not that bad. It’s cool. He makes us proud.

And then you go, oh you know what, people say he is not that black and people say he’s not that white. So, you know, he tried to tell them, “Listen, maybe it doesn’t really matter.” So, I’m not going to talk about it, but I’m going to just act like…with my head up, and show you that this is me.

And, now, in France, I became like some symbol. I never like really pushed the black and white issue because it doesn’t really matter. I think my actions should Yannick Noahspeak for me.

Interesting, but still, what’s interesting to me is that you are obviously both, and why do you have to choose? I feel nobody should have to choose between his mother’s or his father’s race. But, obviously, when you’re in 2 worlds, you do feel a connection with the black players, even when they’re not from Africa, you know. There always seems to be this connection. 
YANNICK NOAH: Yeah, because there’s a status. You know, it’s about how people look at you at the end. You know, you feel, and you can be so strong, but there is also the environment at work. And, yes, I tell you the truth, when I was in school, like I went to boarding school in France and tennis school. It was 800 kids living in this school, and I was the only person of color. So, obviously, they send me the vibration of the “you are different.” And, “you are black.” But it’s natural, right?
And there’s some positives and there’s some negatives. But when I was in Cameroon in high school growing up, we were actually in Yaoundé the first mixed family.

Oh, really, yeah?
YANNICK NOAH: The first, 1960. This is the capital of Cameroun, yet we were was the first generation. So, people look at you different. So, the vibe was, different than here, good and bad, you know.

I was used to this soccer world which is all black people, wherever it is. Then, when I awas going to go to tennis world and I am the only black player. One, only one player. And actually, the reason I was there was because some other black guy, Arthur Ashe, who happened to come to Cameroon and helped me to live my dream. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today.

So, there are all of these connections. Yeah, definitely. And sometimes, instead of choosing, people choose for you, that’s my answer really.

Yes, that’s true. They try to at least.
YANNICK NOAH: Sometimes it could be natural and sometimes it’s not. But, you know, in the end you need to think about it because sometimes, you are just different. If you walk into a room of twenty white person, of course, you are going to look different.

And you are probably going to get some kind of attention. Same thing when I travel. And I travel a lot, obviously. Whether it's Asia, Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Johannesburg in 1975 – there's always the way people look at you while you are still the same person.

You are still the same person, but like the world around you changes. And the way the people look at you, and the experience, you have, changes.

Have you ever been kicked out or discriminated against?
YANNICK NOAH: Of course, I was in Johannesburg many times before the end of the apartheid.
MIREILLE: Oh, you have?
YANNICK NOAH: Yeah, used to play there. I played there, and you know, play. I had special authorization to stay with the French team. But the only way I could stay in the same hotel was if the police guy would sleep in front of my door at the hotel.

Twenty-four hours a day being with me all the time. Make sure I’m not creating problems. I played in a stadium where it was like almost empty because white people wouldn’t come and see my games.

In a stadium of I don't know say 6000 there would be like a little fenced corner for maybe 100 people. And that little fenced corner were like maybe 300 black people rooting for me. Like in a corner of the whole stadium.

And the rest was empty?
YANNICK NOAH: And the rest was mostly empty like 3 or 4 people.

Wow. How did it affect you?
YANNICK NOAH: It makes you sensitive. It makes you sensitive. You know. And then you go back to your values. You go to, you know, your basic right to be here.
Certain lessons that I learned from my parents, you know, to whatever happens you come from love first of all, so don’t let anybody question that. This is you. And you’re beautiful. And you’re good, and you can be the best and just go for it. And just keep your head high whatever. My grandfather used to say that: "just always keep your head high."

MIREILLE: Did you realize that you were breaking barriers when you were doing that?
YANNICK NOAH: Of course. But I realized it as an 18-year-old with my 18-year-old mind, but it was okay. I did good. And I still remember.
Oh, no, that’s not something you easily forget.

Arthur Ashe
How was your relationship with Arthur Ashe? Isn't he’s the one who discovered your talent and offered you to go to France. Did you talk to him? What was your relationship like? 

YANNICK NOAH: I was very shy but he was my god, you know.

Did you admire him as a mentor, or did you also like his playing? 
YANNICK NOAH: I liked everything about him. First of all, he looked like my uncle. So, he could be my family, you know. I loved tennis, I knew him from the magazines and obviously, I looked up to him.

Yannick Noah Playing Tennis

So, I came to the club one day, there he is you know. Wow, there this black American guy. So clean, you know, it was amazing, he was so clean. With a white, nice white shirt. Our white shirts were like so washed out that they were not even white any more. His shirt was really, really white.

He had a beautiful racket. He had this aura about him. Geez, I had never seen a guy like this guy. Like out of the magazines. At that time Cameroon was independent for only 10 years. So, there was always still had colonial feeling about things, you know. We were like kind-of owned by the French People.

And this black guy comes visiting all the way from America. As a colonized kid from Africa, you looked up to a black guy coming from America. They way he walked. He swags. And, you're like, wow man. He started hitting the ball. So, nice, so perfect. I had never seen anything like that.

Then all of the sudden the guy started to play with us, the kids, and he goes, “You come, hit some.” And I went and hit it. I tried to kick his ass, you know. You know, I was like, I’m going to show you.

Because I felt, even back then I felt, I knew it was a moment. I knew it was my moment. You know, life usually goes on. Minute after minute. But for some reason sometimes you realize that these minutes count that these minutes make a difference because something happens. I knew something was happening, you know.

I took it very serious. I even have footage of this. There were a lot of kids from school there that day and I was really into the game. So, when I started to hit the ball, the kids started to cheer. Then all of the sudden I realized, hey I can play. Every time I hit the ball kids cheered. The atmosphere was crazy, and I was getting into it even more.

Arthur loved it, and he made me play a bit more. So, instead of playing 2 minutes, I played like 6 minutes. And then at the end, he gave me a racket. The racket was like, you know, it was like, what my parents earned together in a month.

>That’s what that Arthur did for me. Then, he sent me a poster saying, “To Yannick. I hope I’ll see you at Wimbledon.” That poster was on the wall near my bed.

I went to France and practiced because of his help. Then, like when I was 17 I received…my coach received a call from Wimbledon because Arthur asked. He followed me obviously and asked for an official invitation for us to play doubles together.

So, we actually did play doubles like six years after we had met in Cameroon. We actually played together. My first Wimbledon I played with Arthur on center court. And we won! And the picture is here.

So, yeah, Arthur was huge. Yeah, he even became spiritual to me. You get – I get inspired. I dreamt about playing. He is the guy who gave me my first real racquet then my first Wimbledon title. How strong can the dream be that like six years after we met in Cameroon, we actually end up winning.

Then the first ever tournament I’ve won, my first biggest tournament, in 1982, was in Richmond, Virginia. That is where he was born. How can you explain this?

Because there was this energy that made me feel stronger. I felt protected. It was meant to be. It was right, it felt right. The people felt it too.

People respected Arthur. They really respected Arthur, and I was like his protégé, so when I was walking on the court, the vibration around me, surrounding me, was so good. So, I just played loose and just did my thing, you know, free.

Was he there?
YANNICK NOAH: When you start a tournament there are like 32 players in the dressing room. You know, players loose and then the second day there are 16. Then Friday 8; Saturday 2. But there was an -- an older man who was in the locker room handing towels and soaps to the players. And he was always kind to me saying, “You can do it son. You can do it. You can win the whole thing.”

And I was not supposed to win. I was not like one of the top seeds. But the next thing I know, I’m in the semi-finals and I realize that this gentleman was actually Arthur’s dad. So, he tells me, “Son, if you win the semi-final, Arthur is coming tomorrow.” So, I’m, like, I win again, and Arthur came. Arthur came. And Arthur actually handed me the cup.

YANNICK NOAH: That was Richmond. Too bad he passed away. Yeah, I went to his funeral.
MIREILLE: He was infected, right? Because of a blood transfusion.
YANNICK NOAH: Yes. He had a heart problem. And he had a blood transfusion. He was one of the first guys who got one.
Yeah, was crazy. It’s crazy, so, you know, Arthur was huge. That’s a beautiful story.

MIREILLE: I also read that you had a song dedicated to your grandfather, too. He was also one of your inspirations. and he came to you in a dream in 1985, and it changed your life. How did it change your life? What were you dreaming about? What did he mean to you?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, he changed my life, but it’s not like instantly. We all have, this. It starts with a question, you know, it’s the universal question of what’s happening after we're gone.

Every religion has its own point of view of after life. Some people think, you know, we are coming back in different ways. Some say, it's the end. Some people say, you burn if you are bad. Others say, you are going to become a rat if you’ve been bad. You are going to be a rainbow if you are doing good. Some people say your spirit is always there.

Yannick Noah
From yannicknoah.com
Yannick Live in Sedan September 2010

My experience of life, and my road led me to believe, especially since I was hearing this since I was a young child in Cameroon, that the spirits are here. And, actually, dead people actually come back. That’s what I heard when I was a kid.

Then, when I lived in France, my view changed because people, believe different things. Some people don’t believe at all. So, of course, I started to have doubts. I thought that maybe I had misunderstood. But, I didn’t really misunderstand, because I remember hearing, like, my dad and my uncle talking about dreams of people who had passed.

And they were just talking about it at breakfast in such a natural way. "Yes, she came to tell me this, so therefore I have to go do that." These were natural conversations. There was nothing intense about it.

So, when the dream happened it was like a little sign, you know. That moment where you say, “I believe.” When you go to the other level where you know. I don’t believe any more; I know.

So, basically, this song just tells my story, the way I experienced it. You can take whatever you like from it but but this was my experience…

And I received a lot, a lot of mail, from people, who were very touched and happy that somebody like me who is well known actually had enough courage to come forward in France, and talk about this. Because 99% of the time, when you start talking about these subject the way I talk about it, people think of that you are, you know like cuckoo. You smoked too much ganja.

>And it’s really crazy because it was like my first, my second biggest hit. And the chorus is like the name of my grandfather, mMy descendents, my tradition.

I’m the first boy of my generation. Therefore, the tradition in our village it means that I am actually him. My second name is Simon just like him. I am him. When he goes, I am him. So, when he goes, I become my grandmother’s husband. This is the way it has been for generations and he used to tell me this all the time.

"When I go, I don’t go. I’m with you all the time." "You listen to me, son." I was like 5, 6, 7, just a little kid. Scared because he was very intense about it. You know, he wanted to catch my attention. "I won’t go." "I will always be with you." "I will always be with you, what is your name? What is your name?"

I would say, “Simon, papa.” He would say again "What’s your name?" And then he would make a little joke, shake my hand and we would laugh about it.

My grandfather was the chief of the tribe and it goes to the first grandson. So the next one is going to be my first grandson. And this is something that I have to do. I have to take care of all the land that we have. I’m responsible for that. And I’m also responsible to pass that to my first grandson.


Yannick Noah and Joakim Noah
Yannick Noah father of Chicago Bulls center-forward Joakim Noah
Photo Credit Salute To Sports Fathers

MIREILLE: I see…tell me if there’s something here. Your father was a famous soccer player. You became a famous tennis player. Your son is now making his way in basketball. Is that like a pattern here? Where all of the Noah’s find their own famous sports, not necessarily following the father’s footsteps. But finding their own way to fame, or trying to do their own thing, or is there a pattern? 
YANNICK NOAH: There is…there is something there. There is something, yeah. My dad used to play football a lot, obviously. He was a professional player. And then, even though he loved it, he kind-of pushed me and made me enjoy the fact that I was into a sport that was individual.

He’d say, “You know what, it’s in your hands. If you lose, you have no excuses. And that’s a blessing.
You have your destiny in your own hands, and that’s the most beautiful thing that you could ever have. You don’t depend on no-one, so if you work hard. If you, play well, you going to win, and that’s it.” And he always pushed that in me, since I was really young.

So it was not that I wanted to do something else. I liked playing football, but you know, we were going to the tennis club as well. So, my dad his words were encouraging to me and showing me an angle that I always remember. Which is, what else – what a beautiful life I have. I have my own destiny in my own hands, you know.

So, that was my dad’s advice, and me. And then, I took my son to tennis, and he didn’t like it because even if I wasn’t there personally, there was like all this pressure. Everybody knows me in France. He was not even on the court and people were always asking him if he wants to be a champion.

He was just a kid who wanted to have a good time. So, it wasn’t a good time for him at all. We were living in this nice neighborhood but, he felt better to go to the inner city where they had basketball, because he felt free. And he expressed that when he was 6-years-old, and that felt…it was so right. I felt it was so right that this kid was sensitive enough to express that.

"I don’t want to go to this beautiful country club because they are just assholes. " He was even angry at me because they were telling him “You never be like your father.”

YANNICK NOAH: Yeah, so I think the connection is that sport was always important in our house. Like, you know, on TV, we would all watch. My mom was into sports. If we had a good grade in sports my dad would say, “Yeah, congratulations.”

How was your first performance here in Central Park, Summer Stage? How was it for you?
YANNICK NOAH: It was all right.

Was it a little bit disappointing?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, I mean it was rainy. It rained most of the day, so it was not like the atmosphere that I dreamt of, which is like spring in New York. Sunny and people just relaxing, people couldn’t go down because it was too wet, so…But, it was ok. It’s like again like the power of dreams.

Sometimes you dream so hard and it's so powerful. Like I used to play tennis here, and we used to stay at the Essex house when we are playing the US Open. It’s only funny that I just happen that now I live like a block away.

I remember seeing one of my heroes, one day while we were staying at Essex House, It was Bob Marley, walking past the lobby going to play a concert.
And it was even beyond a dream, because then I liked to go to concerts but I never thought then that I would be a performer, you know. But, when I was seeing these guys playing in Central Park, I was like-Jesus, it is so cool to play here. It would be so cool to play here.

Yannick Noah
From yannicknoah.com

And then when I’d started my career as a singer, I thought wow, it would be nice to play in Central Park one day. It would be so cool to be with the band here at my place. Have a drink and then walk to the concert. That would be so cool just like that. With no bodyguard whatsoever. And this is what we did.

>We walked and as a matter of fact they didn't want to let us in. Then I said, I am singing, this is my band, this is my family. And a woman came and said, let them in, let them in. They apologized but I said it's ok. That's why I like New York, You know, its so real.

Do you write your own music?
>No, the minute I stopped writing we became successful. But you wrote saga Africa which was very successful.

MIREILLE: What was your greatest moment in tennis?
French Open. Davis Cup. 30 year old captain. Being the captain of the French team with dreadlocks. We played the US, Pete Sampras and Agassi, the strongest team and we beat them. And when we won, it was the 1st win after 40 years, so the whole nation was watching and they asked me to sing Saga Africa. The place was going crazy and everybody was singing. I felt I won, it was way beyond winning. The best moment.

MIREILLE: I was going to ask you what was your biggest moment in music but this is actually bringing the two together.

>NOAH: If people ask me I have to say that it was this moment.

MIREILLE: What does your hair mean to you?
>My Hair? It's my freedom. There is something that comes with it. In the beginning I didn't really think about it. It started as a joke. It was like a statement of my freedom. A man with long hair. I was in a Halloween state of mind. Wanted to disguise myself, with glasses and a suite.

>Then the vibration came with it. And I loved it. I just loved it. Also with the performances, the air, you don't move the same when you have the hair. You don't dance the same way. You don't dress the same way.

>You know first I had kept the fake hair for a year. When I removed it to start the real dreads the beginning my hair was short. Then I realized how different short hair was. You don't dress the same, you don't move the same. it's like a different dynamic.

Did you ever consider cutting your hair?
Sometimes there are these moments when I want to be totally anonymous. It never last long but I feel like it brings me a lot of attention. People recognize my hair before they recognize me and sometimes I just don't want the attention.

What do you think of the stereotyping of locs? Have you ever thought about that? 
Yes, You talk about it, you hear stuff but it's ignorance. Negative stereotyping. I look at it as a way that people can still own you. Still control you with clichés but I don't fall for it. I don't even talk about it. Your actions should speak for you. Dreads gave me the energy to be myself.

The reason I am asking these hair questions is because I feel that because of all the stereotyping of our hair, black women are the only ones who are suffering from hair issues as much as we do 73%. its because locs are stereotyped and we know so little about our hair.
I feel hair as an energy and I know it was my energy. A positive energy. No, not just energy but I am going out in the world with this energy and the way that I look and the way that I am and be myself and I know I have influenced a lot of kids out there. So, I didn't even have to talk about it but I said it.

Sometimes it was tempting to let the hair go for a contract you know because of a good offer. Yeah, you know in Japan, I couldn't sell shampoo with this hair. So sometimes it wasn't even for a bad reason.

>But a lot of people fall for it. Especially women because seduction is so important for women you know. They try like to seduce and seduce. And you see like these ladies, they all have their hair straight. Non of them keep their own tresses. Why don't they keep an afro? I don't want to name any names. They try to look like white women and it's ok, I don't mind. It's just a trick. Maybe that's just a way to be successful. So I don't judge but I like to see someone who is like, this is me, this is who I am and I'm going to win this way. That is stronger for me but it's a hard road, you know.

Yannick NoahYannick Noah


I think you did a great job. You come from a place of love. People can relate to it.
Yeah they did a survey like the best sport moments in the last 30 years and my win was nr. 1. It was because when I won the match point my father jumped from the stand and ran onto court and we hugged. And we started jumping up and down. Millions of people watching and people cried because it was all out of love.

>People related to it. it was privilege to me because he meant so much. We never said I love you in our family other but in that moment everything came together. We were separated for so long. I left when I was 11 years old. As a parent you never know if it's a good decision. To let your 11 year old go to live his dream. Or was it the most stupid thing to let my first son go to play tennis in France. What if it doesn't work? My mother asked herself this question a 1000 times, crying, you know.

Yannick Noah
From yannicknoah.com

>I have kids and if they tell me at 11 years old, I am going to the other side of the world and I can afford to fly but it would destroy me because I have to say yes of course. My parents couldn't even afford a ticket, not even a phone call. So at the moment it was like this is what we all sacrificed for. 12 years of my life and their lives. So my dad just jumped on court and said I love you!

This article is published with the authorisation of the writer (Mireille Liong A Kong).

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