Just like me many of us were introduced to Fabienne Colas when she starred in “Barikad” in 2002 one of her most iconic role in her career. Or for some, it was when she became Miss Haiti in 2000. From Haiti to Canada this lady has made a name for self nationally and internationally. From acting, hosting, being a business woman, directing. Honestly, what hasn’t she done? I think it’s amazing, that she went to Canada, made a name for herself despite any adversity. Fabienne wears so many hats in her life, wife, business woman, actress, philanthropist but somehow managed to do my interview. Doing interviews is a way for “me” to get to know the person better, and also to learn. I must say prepping for the interview was fascinating, I got a better idea of who she is. Fabienne is a class act. Reading her interview taught me that is not about where you are from is about working hard to your dreams and goals.
When was the key moment that you knew acting was your passion?
Although I have always considered myself as an entertainer since I was a kid, I knew I seriously wanted to consider acting in my teenage years. By that time, I was already a model and was doing lots of commercial on TV, radio, magazines and on billboards. It was kind of a natural thing. I’m grateful to Raphael Stines who gave me my first shot in the TV Series Pè-Toma (on Haitian National Television) and later in the movie “Bouki Nan Paradi,” produced by Jonathan Demme.
I consider “Barikad” to be one of the best Haitian movies of all time. What drawn you to this character?
Thanks for the compliment. Barikad is indeed a powerful film. I heard of it in an article (that Richard Sénécal was about to do it). And at the Bouki nan Paradi’s premiere I had told him I wanted to be a part of it. He replied there is no character that I could play at all. “I’m looking for a very introvert actress for the lead role (obviously not you) and all others characters are already taken” – he said. My mission from that moment became to prove him that I could play this highly introvert unlettered maid character “Odénie”. I called him every day until he decided to audition me, and that was it. For me, Odénie is the best character I had the opportunity to play. A young girl full of humanity and so innocent… I’m grateful for that opportunity to tell someone else’s story and give a voice to the voiceless. That character transformed me and made me a better human being.
Did you and the casts expect the movie to be a huge success? Even years later people are still talking about it.
I cannot talk for the whole cast. But I sure did not expect that. I knew it was the most powerful story ever told in Haitian Cinema. But did not know how the audience would welcome it since it was a very taboo subject. I remember Ticket Magazine / Le Nouvelliste came on set and did such a long article about it… at least 4 full pages with me on the cover… That day, I felt it would be a great success, but never anticipated such a huge one. It became a film that belongs to the people; it’s part of the Haitian Heritage now. I’m honored to have been part of it and play alongside all those great actors, especially my father who played Monsieur Palmier.
Coming from the Haitian industry, to have made a remarkable impact on the Canadian scene as well. How was the journey?
Very difficult and excited at the same time. Difficult because I had to fight my way up every step of the way. And excited because I had to prove the world that regardless of where you come from and the color of your skin if you work hard enough and have big dreams, you can make it big. My mission was to have a positive impact on others and bring people together. When I was a kid I was not the most popular in my school. I was not invited to the coolest parties. Growing up I secretly dreamed of throwing big and cool parties so everyone could be invited and feel they belong. I was obsessed by the idea of created strong platforms for other artists who, otherwise, would have been invisible. And here we are today with 7 festivals (and counting) in Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, New York City, Port-au-Prince, all through the Fabienne Colas Foundation. A real blessing.
Would You say that RACISM was one of the biggest things you had to overcome when moved to Canada?
Generally speaking, Canadian people are not considered to be racist. I felt welcomed everywhere I went. But the TV and Cinema industry in Canada is so closed to newcomers and to people of color; especially if you are a Black Immigrant Women with an Accent (Good luck with thatJ). That was my situation. The festivals circuit was the same too. When I saw that, I decided to open up doors for other artists who, like me, did not have a voice.
A lot of people think negative of interracial couples. Were you one bit worried about how people would react?
My husband and I couldn’t care less about what others would think or say on either side. That’s about them, not about us. (That never even crossed our minds). No one should ever care because it’s a personal decision. We do not marry someone to please others. People who think negatively of interracial couples are simply racist! Sadly, that is their problem, not mine. That being said, I do believe we are all the same race: the “Human” race! We come with various “shades” in terms of skin color and have a different culture or stories or experiences, but we are more similar than you could imagine. We crave the same things: love, respect, validation… My husband and I are so color blind. We don’t see each other as being black and white, but as being human beings. My parents were both black and couldn’t live together… they were constantly arguing and got divorced. I strongly believe that true love has little to do with all the above. I often tell my husband jokingly “I think you are black… inside” J. He likes the Caribbean, enjoys Jazz music and loves Haitian food; he decided to throw a “defile Rara” (Haitian tradition parade) in Montreal at the Haiti en Folie Festival (for 4 years now); although very busy with his own ventures he is the programming director at the Montreal and Toronto Black Film Festivals… Love is about connection, passion, respect, generosity, attraction, dreams, happiness… love!
Not too long ago you met President Obama, how can you describe the experience?
I could not believe my eyes. I have campaigned for President Obama twice and was dreaming of meeting him one day to tell him how much he has changed the world, and gave us hope that we could do, become and achieve all we dreamed of if only we work hard enough and give it a try. That proves me that sky is the limit. I felt so proud as a Haitian-Canadian to have met and talked to him. I want to make my people proud each step of the way, and I never expected that so many Haitians would be so proud of that moment. #Priceless.
You’ve met a lot of people in your career like Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, the prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau etc… Who had impacted you the most?
Each one has had an impact on me in different ways. Those are people whose mission is to make a difference in other people’s lives in their own way. They inspire me to wake up every day and change the world.
What’s next for you in your career? Is there anything else (besides acting) you would like to do?
Besides playing the lead role, I was privileged to be directing MINUIT written by Sophia Désir. I believe I have enough on my plate for now as an artist, filmmaker, entrepreneur, speaker, philanthropist, and activist. I’m doing all I ever dreamed of and having a positive impact on others is my greatest reward. I was proud to receive the Harry Jerome Arts Award for my contribution to Arts and Culture. What an honor to also have received a Medal of Honor from the Quebec National Assembly recognizing my contribution to Quebec Society. We try to keep everyone updated on what we do through www.fabiennecolas.com and www.fondationfabiennecolas.org .
I think you are one of the actresses less talked about but somehow is doing the most. How have you managed to keep working while staying away from the media?
If you’re referring to Haitian Media in Haiti, you may be right. But in Canada, the media covers all we do and I enjoy being on major mainstream media networks to talk about what we do to bring positive social change and showcase more artists. Back when I was living in Haiti, I was in the news almost every week/month. But since I’m now in North America, it’s important that artists living in Haiti get that same coverage. But I do enjoy being interviewed in Haitian media in Haiti because they make me feel home each time.
In this world, we are living in people always assume that they know someone. What is the biggest misconception they have about you?
Some people tend to believe I am not accessible and are afraid to approach me… I sure have changed; I am more mature and am more experienced in many ways. However, I believe I have stayed the same in regards to how I love to be and talk with smart people; do fun and crazy stuff. Another misconception about me is that I am a tough negotiator. This I take as a compliment because I believe I am, only because when I negotiate I do it for the benefit of both parties. I love win-win deals. I have learned (and still am learning) from the very best. I came to understand that the best deals are when both parties leave the table happier than when they came. This is how I came to have long-term relationships with several partners who support what we do.
You could have said no to doing an interview with me, why did you agree?
Maybe because I am more accessible than you may have thought. That was a pleasure to answer your questions. I tend to encourage my Haitian folks that do cool work. Keep going!
Here’s the way to keep up with the amazing, beautiful, talented Fabienne Colas:
I want to say thank you to Fabienne for allowing me to feature her on the Blog. It was an absolute pleasure. I was so excited when I got the email from her team. I took a chance not knowing what to expect. Reading her answers were enlightening. Good luck on whatever you decided to do next.
Lady Sergine 🌹💋
All pictures are from her Facebook!