M V Consulting, Inc. presents an interview with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Cynthia Basinet
Others may be aware of the humanitarian work that Ms. Basinet has done for the Saharawi people and Africa. That work includes an appearance before the U.N. in 2008 and a nomination for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize (she was 1 of the 1000 women nominated together that year).
I found Ms. Basinet to be an interesting, compelling, and intelligent woman. She has had a life of many achievements and challenges. She has made strides to improve the world, created a career in music, film, and modeling, and is a mother. In talking with Ms. Basinet I learned many things I would never have guessed about her. And that compelled me to ask her for an interview to share with you. She graciously agreed.
I hope that this interview will entertain you and spark a desire to know more. About Ms. Basinet, Africa and humanitarian aide, and the choices in life that you can make.
“There are no limits beyond those you set for yourself.”
I was told that long ago. I believe it. And Ms. Basinet is proof of it. And so I present my interview with Cynthia Basinet.
Michael Vass: For a bit of background for those not familiar with you, please share with us where you were born, what growing up was like, and your early influences.
Cynthia Basinet: One day, my son then much younger was looking at a photo album of my childhood… and asked if life was like the photos or was that just the film?
You know, life was like that. I was born in the Valley ( Los Angeles ) and raised in Silicon Valley (the Bay Area). My parents drove Peugeots, an orange Volvo and host of other car oddities. My father also rode a motorcycle and had a vintage, “retired” MG TD. He used to smoke a pipe or sneak a cigar outside. Talk to me about the White Owl girl but mostly, he listened to jazz. Every moment of my childhood was filled with music and art. Mom with her classical AM station in the kitchen and jazz on Dad’s. Later, he added country. Mom a BA in the Arts. My earliest influences were three things, all from posters in the house.
First, the serenity prayer. The second, a poster shot in Harlem with all these kids holding instruments. Third, the infamous Indian poster.
MV: You started your career as a model, working mostly in Paris and London . How did that happen?
C: Got on a plane and expatriated for various reasons nearly five years.
MV: Education is a theme I've always felt as being important in life. How has your education affected your life?
C: There are two kinds of education. One you give yourself and the other one [life] gives you. Two of the best things that ever happened to me were the education of music in public schools and private catholic high school. A school that within its walls thought was allowed and diversity respected. I truly thank my parents for both.
MV: Music is something that seems to have always been a part of your life. You are trained as a flautist and play the saxophone (I learned the Alto sax myself). How did you transition from modeling to music?
C: First, kudos on your sax education. Second, music never left me but it was in this safe little box deep inside, ‘till I could finally pursue it. Think a lot of moms can agree… following your dreams kinda comes after you drop the kids off at basketball practice.
MV: What drew you to Jazz?
C: Well, other than being raised on Jazz… and it racing like a language in my veins? Would say the second time around was love.
MV: What first brought the needs of the Saharawi people to your attention?
C: It’s no secret that my music career, like so many others, required self-determination. This concept intrigued me when applied to whole societies. That perhaps my experiences could help others on a larger scale.
MV: In 2001 you visited the Western Sahara and those living in refugee camps there. What compelled you to do this?
C: Wanted to give a voice to their society living under a peaceful resolution, that were also self-determined and under represented.
MV: You have been an outspoken advocate for the Saharawi people and Africa in general for almost a decade now. What drives you in these causes?
C: Believe Oprah said it best when she basically stated if you are a woman born in America, you are among the luckiest. That during my entire life… there was no struggle that didn’t lead me to realize others had it worse and they needed to be heard. They needed access.
MV: In 2005 you were recognized as 1 of 1000 women nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. How was that experience?
C: Being included with such amazing women that literally have done such "nobel" work; many times working in danger to achieve what is necessary for improvements in others lives, was incredible.
MV: What has that recognition allowed you to do?
C: The recognition allowed me to speak on behalf of the Saharwian people and other political activities.
MV: October 2008, you petitioned again to the UN to gain help against the difficulties to life in the Western Sahara including: Diabetes, Tuberculosis, Acute Malnutrition, Landmines, and many others. How was that experience?
C: It’s frustrating. They, the UN, are paid stewards of the Saharwian people amongst others and yet…
MV: You have used your jazz recordings to highlight your humanitarian efforts, especially your acclaimed rendition of the late Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby. Was this always your intention or did it grow out of your compassion?
C: Originally, had always entertained the idea to release a song that all could sing to at the Millennium (inspired by the Coke jingle, “If I Could Teach The World To Sing“). Then as it was “Santa Baby” that gave me the exposure, figured [I] should do something that she would have done. So when the invitation came to help raise awareness for the Saharwian people, did not skip a beat in accepting their plea.
MV: As a woman what challenges have you faced in your life?
C: It’s all in my mind. ;-) But will say, that being a mom, specially a single mom, is so isolating and requires endless pools of unconditional love and care… that that challenge alone needs us all working together. Like a village. That is what my time in France gave me.
MV: You have also had a career in movies; is that something you will pursue more in the future?
C: Sure be nice. ;-)
MV: One of the humanitarian efforts that I find important is the ongoing actions to end the genocide in Darfur. How do you feel about this tragedy?
C: Truly a tragedy. It is so difficult in these modern times where we can see the problem in real time, but we can’t seem to really stop it. I am truly horrified by the continued barbarity perpetuated on the already demeaned, demoralized and displaced citizens of Darfur. If this new century and millennium could be about one thing, it needs to be humanity. The right to live a humane life. And in peace.
MV: How about the Child Soldier Prevention Act?
C: I am so impressed this is one of your featured causes because these are the future fathers of Africa. No amount a pain and suffering inflicted in one area of the World, does not eventually affect us all. Whether it be the prevention of child soldiers in Africa, street children in Brazil or children sold into various forms of slavery [it] has no place. We are all too aware and affluent to do nothing. We can boycott, petition and finance so much change. We can stand as a shining example for other leading nations, like China to follow suit.
MV: In recent years women have taken important positions in business and politics. For my female readers what might you advise them about following their passions?
C: I know… what a trip the past few years have been. Interesting because it’s also a time when so much media and advertising attention is played to the distractions in women’s lives. Weight, beauty… and the unclearness of the opposite sex. Like SO much time is spent, derailed. No product or ideas produced. The key is to be of good mind and form and you can accomplish anything.
MV: What might you suggest for those looking for more information or ways to provide humanitarian aide?
C: Pick a cause or a country, look for non-profits that aid your cause or contact directly the embassy near you for your country of interest. So much can be found by research through the Internet.
MV: Among your many accomplishments you have found the time to have and raise a son. Is their any secret or technique you can pass on to mothers that wish to balance their career and family?
C: Every mom needs time for a good bath. Seriously, believe moms can ask for more help from their children, partners, etc.
MV: And finally what is the next project my readers can look forward to see and/or hear from you?
C: In the studio now… stay tuned. :)
I want to thank Ms. Basinet for taking the time to share her thoughts with me, and you my readers. I hope that this has helped spark an interest in education, humanitarian aide, self-improvement, and at the same time given you some entertainment.
If you would like to know more about Cynthia Basinet please click here.
Click here to learn more about Darfur, and the on-going genocide there.
And here for commentary on the Child Soldier Prevention Act.
You can read the full transcripts of Ms. Basinet speaking at the UN.