South African opera star Pretty Yende on Tuesday accused French customs agents of treating her with “outrageous racial discrimination” at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, a claim strongly contested by police and airport sources.
“Police brutality is real for someone who looks like me,” the soprano, who is black, wrote on her Instagram account a day after arriving for a string of performances in Paris.
Yende, 36, said she was “traumatized” after being “stripped and searched like a criminal offender” at the airport.
“I am one of the very very lucky ones to be alive to see the day today even with ill-treatment 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,” she wrote.
Yende did not say why she was pulled aside for questioning, but a French police source said the singer had arrived from Milan on a South African passport without a visa.
“At no moment were there any incidents,” the source said, adding that Yende had not been asked to remove her clothes.
She was released an hour and a half later with a visa allowing her to enter French territory, an airport source said, adding that Yende was held for “verification” purposes that had nothing to do with the colour of her skin.
Yende, who was born in the small South African town of Piet Retief, has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past decade, starring in operas from Vienna and Berlin to Barcelona and Los Angeles.