My hands are shaking as I curl my hair. I can’t believe I am running late.
My stomach butterflies are telling me it’s going to be a special night.
In the Uber, I feel like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland “I’m late! I’m late!” My hair is done, my clothes are new, my necklace sparkling.
My friends and I walk out into a glorious sunlight that makes their dress lace shine gossamer and their skin radiant. We are giddy with anticipation. Teenagers without a care.
We arrive at the gala and walk past the Teslas, Mercedes, and BMWs. They notice the cars, I start checking faces. I am hoping She will be there.
I have seen her twice before. Once coming out of a shoe store on Sherbrooke street, and once coming out of the Ritz Carlton hotel during Grand Prix weekend surrounded by a burst of flash bulbs.
We walk past boys dressed in scottish garb with absurdly tall feathered hats, and a row of pretty girls in Oscar de la Renta style fuchsia pink dresses taking everyone’s tickets. There is a rush in the air, an urgency to grab the first glass, to see who is here.
I am wearing very high heels. I silently pray I don’t trip.
We enter the ballroom. The gigantic chandelier makes us all say “wow” as we take our first sip of champagne. We meet some nice people, we make some silly jokes.
We pull back the silver curtain, and like Alice I feel a sense of marvel. We are surrounded by hundreds of ghost chairs, beautifully decorated tables sprinkled with Ogilvy gift bags, and a stage far in the distance.
Then I see Her walk by our table and I react. My friend’s boyfriend, who at this point she recognizes because he helped her earlier, sees my excitement and he jumps up to speak to her. They invite me over. My insides vibrate.
I am struck by her porcelain skin, her shimmering floor-length gown, and dazzling necklace. I say Hi and right away she turns the conversation around and asks about me. I tell her my story and we hit it off. I ask her a question and she is honest when she answers. She is all shine, all practiced grace, and elegance. She is beautiful.
That smile. A beguiling Cheshire cat.
When I talk, she peers deep into my eyes. Because she has given me her full attention, and is in no rush, it is easy to talk. There are no distractions, only a sense of heightened importance. She listens with intensity and focus. I ask her if we can do an interview later, she says “Yes, of course”. I start to type her contact information into my phone, but my fingers won’t work. She takes my phone and enters her contact information for me. She is happy to take a photo with me. She gives me a warm hug and we part ways.
She has left me with a sense of possibility, an excitement I want to hold on to. Maybe its the setting, maybe it’s the champagne, but I don’t think that’s it. It feels like something more, like my life has opened up to new possibilities. It hits me. I have Her phone number and she wants me to call.
Businessperson and entertainer, feminist and spokesperson, mother and partner, Mitsou Gélinas is a force whose smile has been lighting up billboards, television screens and magazine covers in Quebec since her hit “Bye Bye, Mon Cowboy” made her a star.
Her list of accomplishments is long. She was the ambassador for Lise Watier Cosmetics and has been the spokesperson for Breast Cancer awareness for over 10 years. She hosts radio and television shows, and was director at Clin d’œil magazine. She has co-founded multiple media companies including Dazmo (with husband Iohann Martin) and writes her blog Mitsou.com. Her step-daughter just left the house at 25, and she has two daughters.
Mitsou began blogging 10 years ago, after leaving Clin d’œil magazine to become ambassador for Lise Watier cosmetics. No longer able to use her monthly letter in the magazine to communicate with her readers, she missed their connection. People would stop her on the street to tell her they related to her life. “Back then, I called it Cybermitsou.com because Cyber was such a big word back then.” This elicits laughter from both of us. “Now I’ve simplified it. We are in the midst of translating the majority of the site to English.”
One of her most popular blog posts is about her surprise wedding to husband Iohann. “I wanted to get married before I was 40, while I was still felt fresh, and he would always tease me that a wedding was a bad investment. Finally after 15 years, I said ok. We are happy like this. Then, a few days before my 40th birthday he surprised me. He arranged a fake photo shoot. I was ambassador of Lise Watier at the time, and they arranged for me to be wearing a black and white dress. They were getting me ready for my wedding! We went to a church, which I thought was just another location, and he proposed. When I said yes, he shouted out “She said yes!” and all our guests came out from hiding. I was flipping out! It was the best day of my life, because I got to experience every second, every moment, as it was happening. A lot of women say to him “I would have hated my boyfriend for doing that to me! I would want to plan everything”. But I loved it. It meant no discussions with anyone, not having to plan and think about it, he took care of everything!”
Of that megawatt smile she says “It is one of my specialties. I have been entertaining people for over 30 years, since I was 5 years old. I love to make people laugh! My grandfather Gratien Gélinas wrote plays at a dark time after the war because he needed to cheer people up. He wrote comedies with a Quebec flavor that no one was doing at the time. I guess I get some of it from him. I have been putting a smile on people’s face at lunchtime for 4 years (and 11 years in the morning previously). But I am a serious person and very organized in my mind. I like when energy circulates, when chemistry happens.”
Mitsou is the eldest of three daughters and as a child was a creative loner. “I was often by myself writing song lyrics. I would record them on my little tape recorder and perform them for my mom. I would create my own radio shows too.”
When I asked her what it felt like when her singing career took off, she said “So many different feelings. In a way I am glad that I started my career so young but on the other hand, not. I was fearless, and it made me original. Those are excellent qualities for a pop star. Do you remember how you were at seventeen? As a teenager you want to make your generation better than the last, and you want to change the world! But I quit CEGEP. When I enrolled at Dawson College (in the theater program), I had my first record deal but they said I couldn’t be in school and work. I had to choose. I asked my mother what I should do. She suggested I put off school for one year and see what happens. I never went back. 10 years later, by the time my singing career had died down I was twenty-five thousand dollars in debt and going to my mother’s house to eat. Iohann and I started Dazmo and that was when I discovered that I was a good businessperson. Being in business allowed me to relax and feel stable. Then CKMF selected a big Quebec personality to host their show but it didn’t work out. In 2000, around Christmas time, they thought of me and the team, and it went well. ” The ratings sky rocketed. Now she co-hosts Mitsou & Sébastien on Rythme FM 105.7 Monday through Friday.
Much of hosting a radio show came naturally for Mitsou, like making people laugh, but it took time for her body to adjust to the early morning hours. “On radio, you have to be direct in the beginning, middle, and the end of your story. You have to learn your craft, and I did. I learned a lot from Kelly Ripa who is so open about her personal life. When I started doing radio, nobody was talking about their private lives. But I still had to host everyday for three hours so I decided to take material from my life. People prefer that anyway. I thought: Kelly’s not ashamed of talking about her life, it’s nice to have mothers who talk about their experiences. She helped me to be less guarded about my stories. As I was learning to be a mother, other women were doing the same, and we really connected. Its about sharing your values too. It makes you more grounded.”
I asked her for advice on how to align your personal, intimate and professional life. “The world can make you feel so alone now, but at the same time, we’ve never been so connected. There’s so much transformation that you can do without going back to school. In webinars, on-line classes. Do you know Marie Forleo’s Business School? She is amazing. What about Gabrielle Bernstein, the Carrie Bradshaw of spirituality? She has the same hair, she is so energetic and funny. You can find so many guides on the web. Their classes have helped me tremendously. I would say to get connected with your most intimate interests, and then you will be able to share them with the world.”
“I love to share my stories when I talk to people and write my blog, I find that the more honest I am and the more I give of myself, the better. You have to write from your heart, the way you talk. The longevity of my career helps because readers grew up with me. I have this advantage. But I still think you can connect with people, whether they have known you forever, or not. Sometimes it takes one article that changes everything. When I talked about eating disorders in the post “la revanche des moches” people connected with me at such a different level. From then on, it started a new conversation between people and I.”
On Moi & Cie she hosted the series Dis-Moi. “I meet influential women in Quebec and I have discussions with them. I don’t just ask of them, I give myself as well.”
You can watch her interview with Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau on mitsou.com
Mitsou sites her mother Yuki as one of her biggest influencers. “She was always very supportive of her three daughter’s dreams. My sister Noémie trained with Cirque de Soleil and is now a writer (http://www.mitsou.com/votre-ventre-renferme-des-richesses-decouvrez-les/). My youngest sister Abeille trained at the best acting schools in New York and is now a successful DJ. (https://www.facebook.com/AbeilleGelinas/)”
“My favorite thing about being a mother is what we say in French, complicité. The humor we can have together, the things no one else knows about us. I like that.”
If she could play anyone in history, she selects Beyoncé. “Who wouldn’t want to have that talent? Not that I am anything like her”. The idea gets her laughing again.
Of the dreams she has yet to accomplish, after thinking a moment, she says “If I can continue to host the radio show for many years that would be great. I would like to have my house in the townships. I would like to have the time to write my first book. I would love to be a media mogul and start tons of websites for me and for others. I would love to act again if someone would give me the chance.”
All photos via mitsou.com with permission from Mitsou.
Perhaps this all sounds naive, but the more I think about that night, the more I see a magic in it. The magic that comes from a sense that my life has come full circle. As I look back on the series of steps I have taken throughout my life, I feel that they were all leading up to that amazing night. As a new writer living in Quebec, it would be hard to top this opportunity.
I would love this story to inspire other people to ask themselves what they want. To believe in the magic that comes from asking for help when the opportunity presents itself. To trust that if you surround yourself with good people, and put yourself out there as often as possible, and practice asking for your heart’s desire, that one day, everything will align for you. All the steps you thought were missteps will make sense, and you will be so well practiced, you won’t even hesitate. It will flow out of you and the opportunity you have been dreaming of, will be yours for the taking.
Thank you Mitsou for your tremendous generosity and for sharing your magic.