Author of Maitresse d’un homme marie: KALISTA

This week, we spoke with a strong and courageous woman who birthed the idea of a show loved by many around the world, Maîtresse d’un homme marié. KALISTA SY is the author behind this series and she shared with us a little bit about her journey to getting the show on the big screens, as well as who is she! Let’s take a read below!

AIDA: Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and background?

KALISTA: I was a journalist. I think we remain that for life (haha). I went to school for it and took a very classic route to getting there. I recently became an author but it was some time coming. I’ve always been passionate about writing, since I was little; we can say it was my destiny. I wrote the série “Maîtresse d’un homme marié.”

I am a product of Sénégal, 100%. I was born and raised in Sénégal. Studied in Sénégal. Work in Sénégal. And love Sénégal. There is pride in me saying that. Because it’s important that people can make their dreams come true in Sénégal.

AIDA: How did you get the inspiration for the scenario?

KALISTA: I was involved with a group of woman, kind of like a support group. We talked about stories your typical Senegalese woman might encounter – real issues like polygamy, infidelity, etc. I shared the stories I wrote with a friend of mine who pushed me to make it into something more; that’s where the idea for the serie came about.

A friend, Khadijah Déme, from the série Adja introduced me to Mass from Marodi TV. It was 3 years in the making before the série launched! A lot of thought went into it. I wanted to touch on more than just one topic (i.e. infidelity) so the stories evolved over time and new characters came about to build it into a cohesive story line with interconnected characters. This helped to create the authenticity of the show.

I wanted it to be relate-able and not just isolated stories. One example of this is how many of the characters visit the therapist in the show. This tackles two issues in our society: the idea of getting help for mental issues and the notion that we all just want someone to talk to. So in the show, many of the characters are seeing this therapist without anyone knowing, and without themselves knowing that someone close to them is also seeking help for issues they are battling with. They are all interconnected.

AIDA: The show touches on a lot of topics that we generally don’t speak of in our households growing up in Senegal. It’s quite impressive to see how these topics are being teased out one by one. What inspired you to tackle what some might call “taboo” topics?

KALISTA: In life, when you work on something that is going to be consumed by others, you obviously want the work to be good; you want them to like it! I think the stories are realistic and everyone watching can see themselves in one character or another. The issues we touch on are real, whether we talk about them or not.

There has been feedback about some of the concepts and topics we cover, such as Marieme’s sexuality or some of the intimate scenes between married couples. Our intention is not to be vulgar – it’s to show what is happening in real life and from multiple angles. Not everyone views it the same way and we respect different points of views but I am proud of my work and I stand by it.

AIDA: Would you or have you changed anything about the scenarios based on feedback?

KALISTA: No, I believe in my work and the messages I am trying to articulate and share with viewers. In the end, myself and the staff working on the show get the final say. I have always maintained my independence, including with my ideas and beliefs. Doxuma si lu niak fayda and that’s that.

We’ve had sponsors walk away because of the fear of backlash but that never stopped us. We continued working and today, we say Alxamdulillaa.

AIDA: Have you had thoughts of other scenarios/stories that you’d like to work on?

KALISTA: I think there is a tendency to want to do more, especially if the first time, you have success. But I don’t believe in advancing just for the same of advancing. I believe in moving with a purpose. We have to think about the impact that this show has had, not just in Senegal but all over the world. We have to continue working hard on it and finish it in peace. We can’t afford to make mistakes so we keep our heads down, finish strong, and then take a moment to reflect. Truly reflect on the impact of this show before working on another. It’s too soon to think about another show right now. After the series, there will be time to sit back and reflect.

AIDA: Did you approach other production houses before Marodi or … how did you go about it?

KALISTA: I talked with a few other companies and had a lot of declines. The declines and feedback associated helped a lot, I would say. It helped me further perfect my story and allowed me to get better and better each time.

When I finally met Mass from Marodi, within five minutes, they signed up for the project. I haven’t regretted that one bit. I work with people who appreciate the efforts and hard work needed to make it a success. I love working with Mass and the whole Marodi team. They love the project as much, if not more, than me.

AIDA: When we think about Kalista, help us understand how you became the woman you are today. I ask this because in Senegalese society, it’s not every day you meet someone who is as bold to have these ideas and ambitions and go through with them all the way. I think it’s getting better but it’s definitely a journey so what/who made you like this?

KALISTA: My mom and my journey to today. My mom was divorced with four kids. Growing up, I watched her work tirelessly and she instilled great values in all of us. Dignity. Determination. Perseverance. We can translate this to the Wolof terms Nguor-Foula-Fayda-Diom. That made me believe in myself and love any woman that crosses my path with the save fervor.

I think we should all believe in ourselves and our potential in this world. The woman that’s selling tomato paste in the market today can live to start her own tomato production and packaging company tomorrow. The makeup artist looking at YouTube videos to better her technique today can start her own makeup line tomorrow.

In this life, we all have problems. Money problems. Family problems. Relationship problems. Health problems. We are all battling something. But you have to believe in yourself and keep pushing forward. I had some rough days but I pulled through and today, Alxamdulillaa. It’s okay to fall down; you just have to keep getting up each time.

AIDA: Who is your role model?

KALISTA: My mom and you already heard a little about why (LOL). But I just want to point out that a role model doesn’t have to be someone far away (i.e. celebrity). People close to us are doing great things and leading by example – we can look to them for inspiration too.

AIDA: What is your life motto?

KALISTA: Yallah moy takk, moy tekki. Lepp lou ame, yallah la. (God is the doer of all things, everything that happens is because of his will.)

I don’t know about you guys but I am inspired once again. An amazing soul is this brilliant woman and we’d like to thank her for time! I think we can all learn something from her bravery and vision, not just for the Senegalese community but all over the world! Thanks again KALISTA! ❤

GlamourStyleFa: FA <3

Name: Fa Niang
Instagram: glamourstylefa (website: GlamourStyleFa.as.me)

So this week, we talked to one of the finest makeup artists around! She opened up to us about her background, her journey in pursuing her passions, and future aspirations. We couldn’t let her go without getting her thoughts on female empowerment though! Let’s see what she had to say!

Aissatou: Hey girl! Thanks for agreeing to speak with us, it means a lot! I’ve been so excited for this interview!

Fa: Girl, me too! I’m so excited for this whole thing, I really think it could go places! Thank you for having me.

Aissatou: I love it! So to get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upbringing?

Fa: Sure. So I was born and raised in NYC! My mom came to the US in ’92 and has been here ever since! My dad was here before her so much longer but yeah, we grew up in the Bronx. My dad opened a restaurant on 116th in Harlem. My parents ended up separating and at first, it was hard for me to understand but as I got older, I understood it! My mom and I moved to Baltimore the day after 9/11. All of our stuff was packed up the day of and it was crazy – we woke up and the whole place was silent. There was nobody walking on the streets, nothing. My mom and I went to a nearby restaurant and they told us about the news. It was crazy and we ended up leaving the next day to Baltimore. My mom raised me as a single mom (and she did a great job haha). My older sister was living in Baltimore at the time but she got married and moved to Michigan and my mom and I followed shortly after. Now, I’m back in NYC doing my thing – I went to Cosmetology school and got my license. I have my own brand called GlamourStyleFa and I also work with another brand.

That’s pretty much it! ❤

Aissatou: That’s amazing. That last point you touched on is what I wanna get into. What is it that you do for a living and how did you get into it?

Fa: So I am a licensed cosmetologist and MUA (makeup artist). I went to school for it because you see, a lot of people in the industry are successful without a license. But I wanted to be more legit. I didn’t finish college and that’s something I chose! So I knew I couldn’t just go blindfolded in the industry – it’s my passion and I wanted to be certified.

You can be self-made but I’m thinking about the opportunities and possibilities of working with some big names. Having a license authorizes me to be on set, which a lot of people don’t know you have to be licensed to do! Without it, I’d be doing all this work with nothing to back me up.

When I decided to go to cosmetology school, I didn’t expect it to be as involved as it was. A lot of people think it’s playing with dolls (and I may have had some similar thoughts in my head). But it’s so much more than that! It’s chemistry and math! You have to know your measurements, how things will react when mixed with other chemicals, how to cut hair the right way, and so much more. You have to know about nail diseases, skin diseases, and all types of conditions. I had tests all the time! I’m talking every week to make sure I was understanding what was being taught and in the end, I had to take two state tests to become licensed.

Another reason I really got into it – my dad said I was always into fashion! He wasn’t surprised when I told them what I wanted to do. I was always telling my mom this had to match with that and all kinds of things! I went through a tom-boy phase but that didn’t last long! My 16th birthday, my mom wanted me to wear make-up and I said hell no hahaha! Later on, I started playing around with makeup and my mom actually opened up a salon for me! It was there that I really started to master my skills in doing other people’s makeup. I actually do people’s makeup better than my own now haha.

Aissatou: Let me just tell you girl, I have a much bigger appreciation for you and all licensed cosmetologists now! I was definitely one of those people who thought it was playing with dolls – I didn’t realize you had to learn all of that!

Fa: Yes girl, you have to be ready to handle all kinds of conditions and situations. You never know who may sit in your chair!

Aissatou: That’s a good point! Thank you for sharing that! My next question is kind of related: what advice do you have for young people out there with a vision or a dream?

Fa: Just go for it! I work at a salon right now that’s owned by a celebrity. I work on my own time too and I’m at the point where I want to establish my own thing! I get signs and think “maybe this is the push I need!”

Ragal yapp Yallah la! (Being scared is disrespect towards God!) In life, you have to take risks. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a mommy’s girl. I have talked to my mom on the phone 3 times already today and it’s not even 1PM, that’s how close we are. But when I made the decision to come to NYC to pursue my passion, I just had to close my eyes and go for it. I’m away from my mom but we have to get that fear of the unknown out of our heads and just go for it!

Aissatou: That’s so true! It’s one of those things that you won’t know unless you try and 9 times out of 10, we’re the ones holding ourselves back.

Fa: Yep, my advice is just do it. Take the first step.

Aissatou: Okay, now, you know I have to ask you about women. What’s your take on our position in society, especially in Senegalese culture?

Fa: Jigéénou Sénégal sonneu na. All the things that are imposed on us – in our society, we’re constrained to the household. If you are lucky and meet a man with compassion, you lucked out. But most don’t get that lucky!

Listen, I’m all for the traditional marriage norms – I love marriage and think it’s a beautiful thing. But we’re in a new age. Women have to plan and prioritize their futures, for themselves and their children. We have to have something for ourselves at the end of the day.

Aissatou: I couldn’t agree more. People think being pro-woman is the same as against-marriage! It doesn’t always have to be the case.

Fa: Like I said, I’m not against marriage! But you’ll never fully know someone until you live with them! So my thought is be yourself – become we women don’t show someone we’re talking to 100% of who we are; we try to present the best versions of ourselves so we can’t expect them to do that too. But be yourself and be genuine. People think I wear makeup every day! That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The real Fa has her hair in a ponytail and no makeup on most of the time!

Aissatou: I actually did think you were always with a full face beat haha but seriously, I love what you said about just being yourself and women prioritizing themselves too. It’s so important.

Now, let’s switch it up a bit and get back to the makeup. What’s your favorite brand? And have you had thoughts about starting your own makeup line?

Fa: Yes, I have a lot actually. In sha Allah one day!

As far as makeup brands go, I don’t have a favorite really! It changes a lot – I’ll like this for this company and that from that company and it is always changing!

Aissatou: Ah okay, well I look forward to your makeup brand one day in sha Allah!.

Who do you look up to, Fa?

Fa: It’s going to sound cliche but I look up to my mom. And really, I look up to any woman doing positive things!

I look up to my dad too because you know what, he has such good spirits! He recently was in the hospital and the hospital staff loved him! He was so popular because of his spirit – just so positive and funny. Even my friends couldn’t stop laughing when they came to visit him!. Those are traits I aspire to have.

People think I’m this bold girl. I’m actually very calm and I forgive easily. I don’t hold grudges because aduna amoul solo (life isn’t that serious).

Aissatou: I love what you said about not holding grudges. This short life is just not worth it.

Fa: Yep, it really isn’t.

Aissatou: Alright Fa, last question: what’s your life motto?

Fa: Just be positive – positive vibes. Energies transfer so we just have to live life as best as we can!

That last point Fa touched on is what I want to harp on: ENERGIES TRANSFER. It’s almost like she was reading my mind – her sweet and positive energy was definitely felt throughout this interview. Fa is an ambitious, confident, and beautiful Senegalese girl and I can tell you, her positive vibe inspired me. I’m humbled she joined us for this interview series and can’t wait to see all the amazing things she will do in the future.

Thank you for joining us Fa! ❤

BOSS LADY: AISSA VALDY

We had a fun chat with AISSA VALDY, the young Senegalese entrepreneur taking the world by storm through her multi-dimensional initiatives. She’s a college student, hairdresser, model, and business owner! See what she had to say during the interview and don’t forget to follow her on her social media pages!

Name: Aissatou
Instagram: aissavaldy (business IG pages: @royaltyhairextensions_ & @beautybyaissa)

Aida: Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and background?

Aissatou: I grew up in the US as a first-generation Senegalese-American. I was born and raised in Cincinnati with two hard-working parents who showed me nothing but love and support. I’ve been to Senegal – the last time was in the summer of 2017 and I want to go back soon.

I am currently pending graduation with an International Affairs degree, minoring in Political Science. On the side, I’ve started my own hair extension line, work at a salon doing hair, ran for Miss Ohio and want to do an all black pageant next!

Right now, I’m applying for jobs before graduating and hoping to become a Business Development Volunteer for Peace Corps. I really want to be involved in the development of women and youth.

Aida: How did you get into modeling?

Aissatou: Modeling is definitely a passion of mine. At 10 years old, I started Googling different modeling agencies and giving them my information. They’d always be calling my mom (LOL) and she was like “You must really want to do this.” and I told her yes! So at the age of 12, I went to my first modeling agency and took some classes. But I would say all the gigs that people see me involved in right now, with the exception of the work I did with Randy Fenoli from “Say Yes To The Dress,” have been on my own; I am a freelance model.

Aida: Where do you envision yourself in 5-10 years?

Aissatou: My main goal is to be successful and to me, that really means happiness. I want to reach all of my goals. Hopefully married (LOL). My mindset is all about do everything now and be successful later. I also want to be able to give back – that’s really important for me.

Aida: Who is your role model?

Aissatou: This might sound cliche but it’s really my mom. She moved to the states before my dad even and she took care of her family while juggling work. She never gave up and she never complained. She’s definitely my role model.

Aida: What is your stance on women’s role in society?

Aissatou: I think the woman’s role in society is everything that’s not assigned. There are so many criteria that women have to meet by society’s rules and that shouldn’t be the case. When I think about the situation in Africa, for example, women don’t always have a lot of opportunities to be educated and exposed to the same opportunities as their male counterpart. Equal education and opportunities should be the norm for everyone, not just limited to men. Women weren’t just put on this Earth to reproduce.

I just think about if women didn’t exist – in a world where there was only one gender – who would do all the things they pin on us now, you know?

Aida: Why do you think women have had such a long journey to gaining equal treatment?

Aissatou: I think it goes back to the gender roles. And the thing is a lot of women believe in the gender roles. They think they have to abide by the rules. We have also given men a gender role and expect them to play by it. So overall, I think we just need to create a world/society where we’re not 100% prescribing gender-based behaviors.

Aida: If you could change one thing about society today, what would it be?

Aissatou: I would create equal opportunity. When I think about the life of an immigrant in the US, it’s not all the time that you can turn to your parents! They were consumed with trying to provide the basic necessities for their families so the luxury of having a paid education isn’t there. That eventually impacts the kind of opportunities you’re exposed to. So I really think this new generation of educated, first-generation members of society have a role to play, primarily with mentorship. To reach back and pass that wisdom and knowledge along to help the future generations so we can get to a place where those opportunities are more equal than more – to keep improving.

Aida: What is your life motto?

Aissatou: My life motto is “FINISH EVERYTHING YOU START!” I believe in resisting the urge to give up, no matter how hard it is. Even if you don’t finish in the exact way you envisioned, at least you accomplished it and you did you best. That’s what matters.

This was such a fun interview and we’re humbled to have had Aissatou share a little bit about herself and her viewpoints with us! I personally was smiling the whole time she was talking – she’s a bright force to be reckoned with!

If you want to keep up with Aissatou, follow her on Instagram (@aissavaldy). Thank you again for spending some time with us ❤