Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Interview with Tara Wels

Monika: Today I would like to present to you an inspirational woman. Tara Wels is an Algerian-born restaurant owner and transgender activist. Her restaurant "Oh! Quai Latin" is a lovely place in Paris, which is friendly to the LGBTQ + community. Hello Tara!
Tara: Hello Monika! I am Tara Wels, a transgender woman in Paris in France. I try to transmit kindness to the LGBTQ + community by facilitating the diversity of genders in my restaurant called Oh! Quai Latin.
Monika: How are you doing in these crazy pandemic times?
Tara: This period is very difficult to live for everyone but I try to stay positive and to create new ideas for the future.
Monika: You were born in Algeria. Did you have a happy childhood?
Tara: Yes, I was born in Algiers in a caring, loving family, surrounded by love. I was the only boy with 3 sisters.

"I was the only boy with 3 sisters."

I did not experience any mistreatment. I was surrounded by love except in adolescence when the incomprehension of my entourage towards my femininity pushed me to leave the family circle and come to France to live what I had to live through at 17 years old.
Monika: Were your parents surprised by your transition? Did they accept it?
Tara: My parents (my family) were not really surprised. I have always been androgynous, so no more than that, just a period of mourning for their son or the brother they lost. After a few years, they felt my happiness and our bond was reestablished.
Monika: And your sisters?
Tara: It's all going very well today.
Monika: How did you spend your first years in France? Was it a difficult time?
Tara: Not at all. It was rather a realization that I existed, that there were people from the same world as me, a breath of fresh air, knowing that I will finally live my life to the fullest. Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Tara: Yes indeed, Monika. It is the fight to win a war. When I started my transition I had an important position at the SNCF (Eurostar train company).
They did not understand my transition and I didn't have the strength to stay at this job and waste my energy to fight and explain to them, so I was forced to leave this position and devote myself to my transition. Once I was well established in my life as a transgender woman, I turned to the professional side and I decided to create my Oh! Quai Latin. A place of love, of understanding for me and the life that I wish to pursue.
Monika: You opened Oh! Quai Latin together with your friend Emma. How did you come up with this idea?
Yes, I did this project with my best friend Emma, who is also a transgender woman. It was basically my project and as soon as I told her about it, she was immediately seduced and wanted to follow me in this adventure.

"It is quite a festive LGBTQ+ Tapas
Bar restaurant, a Latin South
American specialty."

Monika: Let's promote your restaurant a little. What specialties do you offer there?
Tara: Yes, with pleasure. It is quite a festive LGBTQ+ Tapas Bar restaurant, a Latin South American specialty. Its Instagram page is Ohquailatin2020. You can eat a few tapas, have a drink with friends or family and why not sing and dance while meeting other people at the end of the day. I also have a stage open to artists, singers, painters, and photographers to animate a cultural side as well.
Monika: It sounds like a great place! You look fantastic. Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Tara: Yes, as far as I'm concerned, I've been on HRT since 2009, and just that. No surgery. I am completely natural and very happy with what I am today. I want to keep my natural side, which is important as long as HRT works on me, without a need for surgery.

"You have to be in harmony
with yourself."

You are a pretty woman. So probably this question is not for you but I will ask it. We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Tara: I agree with you Monika, you have to be in harmony with yourself and if the surgery helps some people to be in harmony with their bodies then you should not hesitate to do it. We have the right to be selfish and to think that in essence, it is completely legitimate for the fight that we lead. Life is so precious and certainly short in our respective journeys.
Monika: I saw some of your photos with Marie-Pierre Pruvot. She is my idol. I did an interview with her a couple of years ago. Are there any transgender role models that you follow or you followed?
Tara: Yes Monika! Marie Pierre Pruvot known as Bambi is a great lady who has always fascinated me, She is also Algerian by origin and our careers are a little similar; she arrived in France at the same age and fought to be herself.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Tara: Yes, I recall it very well. It was in a nightclub. At that time "the Scaramouche" was a mythical place when I saw this beautiful tall woman who was trans. It filled me with joy and I said I wished to be happy and beautiful as she was.
Monika: What do you think of the current situation of transgender women in France and Algeria?
Tara: Currently the situation of transgender women is better and better in France as the laws have changed accordingly, and transgender women are more visible in the media, so things are progressing very well unlike in Algeria where we are still taboo, living in the closet and regarded as criminals.

"I really like the style of Yves Saint Laurent;
for me, he is the god of fashion."

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Tara: Yes, I think that for many of us, our love for femininity is more accentuated, so fashion plays an important role in our wardrobes. I am more towards the current classic woman trend without extravagance. I really like the style of Yves Saint Laurent; for me, he is the god of fashion.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Tara: I like to put on makeup but within reason. I opt for the nude color I find that it suits my complexion.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Tara: I think it's more of a feminine character to be courted or complimented, it affects all of our egos.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Tara: Yes Monika, I try to convey the simplicity of my life being a woman among all the others. I am part of associations in Paris, Acceptess-T, the LGBT center of Ile de France, and currently the doors of my establishment Oh! Quai Latin are open to cultural debates dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Tara: Nice question, dear Monika. I think that love is very important in all human life; to love and to be loved is an inexplicable force, especially for a transgender woman it gives you wings to fly.
Monika: Many transgender women write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Tara: I never thought about it, currently with my project I am more on the screens in shows dedicated to being transgender, but why not, it will keep my retirement busy.

"I did this project with my best friend Emma."

Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women who are afraid of transitioning?
Tara: Fear is legitimate and natural. The desire to be yourself may provoke a war around us, which causes fear but over time self-assurance takes over.
Monika: Tara, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thank you so much!
Tara: Thank you Monika for allowing me to express myself on your blog. I am really delighted. I hope that it will help the youngest to make their transitions more serene. I would be very happy to receive you in my establishment Oh! Quai Latin if you are in Paris I would be honored.

All the photos: courtesy of Tara Wels.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

Oh! Quai Latin
45 Quai des Grands Augustins
75006 Paris

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