South African opera star Pretty Yende took to social media to talk about her shock at being held by customs at Charles de Gaulle Airport. On June 21, as she described it, Yende was passing through French Customs on her way back to Paris for her fourth performance in La Sonnambula at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.
She described the incident, where she says she was strip searched and briefly detained, as racial discrimination. Yende details what happened, and how it left her, in a Facebook post.
“Police brutality is real for someone who look like me,” she began. “I am one of the very very luck ones to be alive to see the day today even with il-treatment (sic) and outrageous racial discrimination and psychological torture and very offensive racial comments in a country that I’ve given so much of my heart and virtue to and still determined to do so as a legal International citizen on the global stage community.”
Yende said she was left shaken by the encounter.
“I’m still shaken thinking that I am one in a million who managed to come out of that situation alive because of one phone call I thought of at the time as I was in shock and traumatized and couldn’t believe what was happening to me,” she said. “They took all my belongings including my cellphone and told me to write down phone numbers of my close family and friends to call with a landline phone they had on the retention cell.”
According to Yende, she was told she was a prisoner, and would be transferred to a detention facility. She was strip searched and locked into a cell in Charles de Gaulle customs area.
Mon amour Paris, merci bien. You really know how to make this girl blush. A demain soir @theatre_champs_elysees 🤗 #ovations #standingovations #lasonnambula #paris #prettyjourney 📸 @elenaanacher pic.twitter.com/1nYjFzI4zd
— Pretty Yende (@PrettyYende) June 21, 2021
Before the incident, she’d Tweeted about her positive experiences performing in Paris.
Later, on Instagram, she shared her relief at being freed after a phone call verified her identity. The post garnered widespread support from Angel Blue, Daniel Isengart, Jamie Barton, and many others within the opera community.
“The battles that I go through each and every second of my #prettyjourney would shock you. I bet you can’t spend a second walking in my shoes and the sacrifices made in order to show up anyways. I’m grateful nonetheless and I am most determined to share my Gift wholeheartedly to as many souls as possible and for as long as I live. I’m glad that I’ve been let free and I can sing my 4th performance tomorrow @theatre_champs_elysees. Big thanks to the #prettyarmy that fought me out of that ‘prison’ 🦅YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE🦅”
In another social post created on June 22, she urged her supporters to reject hatred in their responses to what happened to her.
“I hardly/almost never share the outrageous and inhumane experiences I go through every second of my #prettyjourney but this time I couldn’t keep silence. Let’s be thankful I am alive to tell my story, and I wasn’t ‘brutally interrogated’ & physically tortured like many to even this day, families are still wondering what happened and with no answers. I love this country and together we have shared many beautiful experiences and it was unfortunate that this happened yesterday and I am very happy that I was assisted in this regard and the matter is being handled well #prettyarmy”
After Paris, Yende is set to make her Palermo debut in Verdi’s La Traviata on July 4.
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