Jean-Paul Guerlain has been found guilty of making racist remarks on French television during an interview in 2010. A French court fined the 75-year-old perfumer $8,000, as well as an additional $5,370 each to Movement Against Racism and for Friendship, SOS Racism Association, and French Representative Council of Black Associations, the three anti-racism groups that acted as civil plaintiffs in the case.
Guerlain was describing how hard he worked to create his classic perfume Samsara when he dropped the French equivalent of the N-word twice.
“One day I told her — and I still called her Madame — ‘What would seduce you if one was to make a perfume for you?’ and she told me, ‘I love jasmine, rose and sandalwood,’” Mr. Guerlain recalled.
“And for once I started working like a [racial epithet]. I don’t know if [racial epithet] ever worked that hard,” he said.
Guerlain apologized immediately, but the damage was already done. LVMH, which licenses Guerlain’s fragrances, also issued an apology at the time, but stressed that the perfumer retired in 2002 and was no longer associated with the company. The perfumer’s remark also caught the attention of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who went to France to demand another apology.
According to a transcript from the trial, Guerlain said that the slur was used often when he was younger.
“These remarks were common in my day, and thankfully they no longer are. I am anything but racist.”