Newly Crowned Miss France Focus of Photo-Altering Controversy

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Miss Guyane (French Guiana), Alicia Ayliès, during the official presentation of Miss France contestants on Dec. 3, 2016, ahead of the Miss France 2017 beauty pageant. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)

Alicia Ayliès, the newly crowned Miss France 2017, was handed the title last weekend by the reigning pageant queen, Iris Mittenaere, in the city of Montpellier in the south of France. The 18-year-old native of French Guiana often sports her naturally curly hair, in a nod to her Afro-Caribbean roots, but a new photo is turning heads, because it appears that her hair and skin were retouched to conform with European beauty standards.

Ayliès, who is an active user of social media, wore her tresses in their natural state when she was crowned on Dec. 17. But her fans believe that in a photo shoot for Paris Match with the photographer Benjamin Decoin, her skin was lightened and her hair smoothed out to make her look more like a Frenchwoman.

In a recent Huffington Post article, Decoin spoke with the publication and denied that he had altered the photo. The picture in question features Ayliès standing on a snowy beachfront in a stunning red dress, adorned with her Miss France ribbon. In comparison with other photos of her, her hair does appear straighter and less curly, and the tone of her skin is noticeably different.

In an interview with the newspaper France-Guyane ahead of the Miss France election night on Dec. 17, Ayliès addressed the chatter around her hair.

“I am very happy to keep my hair natural! When I arrived (in France for the competition), I was asked how I wanted to style it. I was never offered an easy solution to smooth it out. I prefer to keep my identity,” Ayliès explained.

As HuffPost notes, the focus on Ayliès’s hair resembles the discussion surrounding the Afro hairstyle of the 2015 winner of the Miss Martinique pageant, Morgane Edvige, who was also in the running to become Miss France.