Mitsou Gélinas – A Woman of Wonder by Bonnie Wurst
Mitsou Gélinas is a multi-talented woman of wonder. She is a singer/songwriter/musician, actress, TV & radio host, business woman, philanthropist and humanist. Known and loved throughout Québec and Canada for many years she continues to forge ahead reinventing and refining herself. Her voice is unique and she slips effortlessly back and forth between both official languages.
Entertainment Tonight once called her the ‘Madonna of Canada’. It is true that she is no stranger to controversy, but the only traits I would agree she shares with her are those of being a strong woman, a talented and well-respected artist – and a business woman with her own vision.
She is a dedicated wife, a mother, step-mother and friend. I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with her about her life and career. Our conversation and list of all of her accomplishments could easily have taken up an entire book – the one thing she hasn’t yet done. Here are some of the most important things you should know, if you don’t already, and highlights of the interview:
Mitsou was born on September 1st 1970 in Loretteville, Québec. Daughter of Alain Gélinas and Yuki Rioux. Her father Alain is an acclaimed actor and her grandfather was the great Gratien Gélinas, considered one of the founders of modern Canadian theatre and film – his influence is everywhere. At only 5 she made her television debut in a TV Commercial and by the time she was 9 she joined her father in the popular TV series ‘Terre Humaine’.
“You began this journey at such a young age, did you decide to go down this road on your own or were you somehow made to feel like you had to?“
“Actually, I wanted to be exactly like my father. He was my idol. He would play violin and then I would want to learn to play violin… he would go to auditions and played in a few different TV shows… I wanted to be exactly like him and at one point I asked him if I could go do auditions too? Can I go to? And he said ‘sure’ and then he brought me to something for Direct Film and I got the part. And so it started like that.”
At 17 her interests turned to music when she electrified the Québec music industry with the song and video release of Bye Bye Mon Cow Boy, the first single of her 1988 album El Mundo. Since then she has released a total of 7 albums and 17 videos, successful in Quebec and across English Canada. She won two Félix Awards for Discovery of the Year and Best First Album. Some of her albums went Platinum and Gold.
Parallel to this her acting career flourished. In the early 90’s, she starred in two films, ‘Prince Lazure’ and ‘Coyote’ and then went on to bring the role of Little Red Riding Hood to life in Denise Filiatrault’s ‘L’Odyssée d’Alice Tremblay’. In the mid-90’s, Mitsou’s acting career focused mainly on television, hosting shows like Studio Libre, C’est Chaud, Les Amuses-Gueules and Mannequin d’un Jour. In 2003 she returned to the big screen in Denys Arcand’s Oscar winning film ‘Les Invasions Barbares’ – a few of her many other accomplishments.
In 2005 she renewed her ties with English Canada by taking the helm of the talk show ‘Au Courant’, on CBC Newsworld. The show was nominated for a Gemini Award. In 2009 she hosted the cultural magazine ‘La Liste’ on ART TV and Radio-Canada’s ‘Kampaï! À votre santé’ and was nominated for the Best Female Host of a Service Show at the Artis gala.
During this time Mitsou was also beginning to focus on her business acumen with the creation of her own music production company Dazmo Musique (soundtrack specialists in cinema, television and advertising) in 1997, along with her husband Iohann Martin, a very talented gentleman in his own right. Six months later came the creation of Vidéo Assist, (providing rental equipment for filming movies). Then in 2000 Vidéo M.T.L. was established, a camera rental company pioneering the HD industry in Québec.
Under these companies, she worked on such Hollywood films as ‘The Bone Collector’, for which she also wrote and recorded a song, ‘Le Toucher’. In Québec, Dazmo is a major player in music production with notable achievements including the television series ‘Fortier’, of which they were nominated for a Prix Gémeaux, the film ‘La Loi du Cochon’ and more recently, coverage of the 2008 Olympics on Radio-Canada.
And then there is her work in radio. In 2000, Mitsou joined the animation team ‘C’t’encore drôle‘ at NRJ 94.3 (CKMF at the time) for almost 12 years. Since autumn 2012, she has been hosting ‘Mitsou et Sébastien’ with Sébastien Benoît on radio station Rythme FM 105.7. The chemistry between them is great and so is the music.
“I’ve listened to the show and it sounds like you have so much fun together.“
“Yes, but it’s also a lot of work… one (or two) minutes of radio is harder to do than five minutes sometimes. You have to be so precise on what you want to give to people… it’s not talk radio, it’s music radio with topics at lunch time and you have to be really well prepared to do those short bits that are important, that have to captivate your audience. Sometimes it could get sloppy and long… and we like it when it’s super tight. And my partner is a radio maniac. Sébastien is an athlete of radio hosting and my strength is doing the content, researching my stuff.”
It’s on Monday to Friday at 11:30 am and very well worth tuning in to.
And there is more. In the autumn of 2001 Mitsou took on the position of Director for Québec’s number one women’s fashion magazine Clin D’oeil for seven years. Then from 2009 to 2011 she was the ‘new face’ and beauty ambassador for Lise Watier cosmetics.
She is also the Fashion Ambassador for Minitrade.ca, a Canadian online boutique and trading service founded in 2012 that was chosen as a finalist in the 2013 Canada Post E-Commerce Innovation Awards, in two distinct categories, and the prize of Emerging Business Model 2013 in Quebec’s Prix Boomerang competition.
Since 2005, she has done charitable work as the official spokesperson for the Breast Cancer Foundation of Québec. She has also taken on the role of spokesperson of the Gratien-Gélinas Prize for new voices in playwriting. Created in 1994 and bearing the name of her grandfather, it is the most important award for emerging francophone playwrights across Canada.
Flash forward to the present, Mitsou is now the host of a TV series running on MOI & cie Télé called ‘Dis-Moi’. Each week, she welcomes one of the most intriguing, inspirational and powerful women in Quebec. Guests include women like Nathalie Petrowski, Sophie Lorain and Melanie Joly. After following them for a day in some of their regular activities, she sits down with them over a meal and in an intimate and honest way, discusses aspects of life that are close to their heart. It is produced by Sophie Lambert, someone Mitsou always wanted to work with and airs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays.
“What did you learn from the experience of working with all these strong women, was there a common denominator?“
“I learned something different from all of them, some of them are very powerful ladies that won’t take no for an answer and use their creativity (to create change and have an effect) … I found that when you get truthful you realize we’re all the same… you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s not. I opened myself up a lot with them in that show, to make them trust me and the show… and they decided to trust me with their truth. I thought that I would toughen up you know, getting older, but I realized that I softened up a lot… I became more sensitive. I take off layers and filters and I realize people in my personal and my professional life open up to me so much more. I learned sharing is the beauty of living. My personal life, my intimate life and my professional life are not going to be in three different boxes… I’m going to become whole.”
Mitsou comes from a family where talent seems to flow through her blood like a fine wine, not only from her father and grand-father, but also her mother Yuki Rioux. In an article for Clin D’oeil in March 2011 she wrote (translated): “My mother, Yuki Rioux, whose birthday is March 8th (International Women’s Day). She is the biggest female influence in my life, and she had that impact on the lives of many people. She is a loving wife, really very human and very healthy even before it was fashionable to be! She was the founder of the first school of shiatsu, the author of several books on the subject, has trained and still trains hundreds of massage therapists. She was a sexologist in the 70’s at the time of the sexual liberation of women, and raised her three girls like the free women she wanted us to be, in accordance with its ideals. She gave me wings.”
It might all seem dizzying but Mitsou is able to maintain a healthy balance between her work, life and family.
“What is a typical work day for you?“
“I wake up at 6:10 am… wake up with my kids, have breakfast with my kids, I’ll send them to school, work out with my friend Sonia in Old Montreal, take my shower at 10:00 and then head to Laval for the radio show – my preparation will have been done the day before. When I get there, we prepare everything and then do the show. Then I do my ‘service à la clientèle’, as I call it – answering people’s emails after the show. Then I come back downtown for a meeting, it can be here (Dazmo) or TVA or Radio Canada… and we have quite a lot of events at night. But if not, I’m home doing the homework, which takes forever! I have a 2nd grader and a 5th grader… and I also have a 24 year old step-daughter who still lives with us, she’s in Concordia in Psychology. I’m just trying to make sure everyone is okay.”
Mitsou has always remained in touch with her fans and the public. She is known to take the time to stop and talk with people who meet her on the street and makes everyone feel comfortable and listened to. She posts regularly on Twitter and Facebook (over 100,000 followers!) about all kinds of things and is accessible to those who reach out to her. In her bio on her website it starts off with the words ‘A Woman With Heart and Soul’ – and it couldn’t be any truer. She is a role model and advocate for people of all ages, especially women.
Not long ago Mitsou shared a very touching and honest story on her website about her obsession with beauty and thinness that she struggled with throughout her career, and how she finally came to peace with it. She wanted to add her voice to the obsession our society has with it, especially young women.
“What more can be done to raise awareness about this problem and bring the message to young women that they are beautiful in all shapes and sizes?“
“So much, so much. It’s not only women, it’s a societal problem. The eBooks that sell the most are ‘How to Lose Weight’ and it’s always the same program; eat less, exercise more to spend more calories. People want to be ‘whipped’ – and it’s not the way to go. When you create an ‘interdit’, (to prohibit, a ban) you create a need… in the 80’s it was all about avoiding fat, but it became something the whole society bought and then it was ‘carbs’ with the Atkins diet and recently it was ‘gluten’ and now it’s the ‘war on sugar’ and we’re all getting into that war without realizing the problem is not sugar, the problem is our attitude towards it. That’s a part that has to be done… like stopping to fight the wrong battles, fighting the wrong things and then it will be about voicing that problem… and adding my voice to it helped others, helped me. It’s only a beginning.” Then she adds later on, “It’s about setting examples. You hear so much about young girls who have anorexia and bulimia, but we don’t talk about the 40 and 50 year old women, who have been living like that… who have been on diets for thirty, fourty years. I’m happy to maybe help.”
“Do you have a message for our readers?“
” ‘Partagé’, it’s my buzz word for the moment… but sharing, taking the time to look people in the eyes and sharing stories, emotions… I think we’ve been raised with the message (the women of my generation), that ‘you could do it all’. I think we can, but let’s not forget about humanity, about sensitivity, about being humans. And I think we’ve been put on earth to share, not only to fill up lists of ‘To Do’ things.”
Mitsou Gélinas embodies her very own philosophy and she does it with finesse.
My final question was to the stars above, ‘What mountain is Mitsou going to conquer next?’. They replied with a twinkle and a smile.
To discover more about Mitsou:
Rythme FM 105.7: www.rythmefm.com/montreal
Ruban Rose: www.rubanrose.org