Exclusive interview for International Women's Day with Cynthia Basinet, a multi-talented American actress, singer, supermodel, mother and activist for the Western Saharan Sahrawi people, from the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles county.

Thank you, Cynthia for granting us this interview. There are so many things we want to learn about you at once, but in order not to confuse ourselves and our readers let us start at the point where every journey starts: the beginning.Education is key. Education is far more than scoring A grades. We quote you on attending a private Catholic high school “as a school, where within its walls, thought was allowed and individual diversity was respected.” It seems to us that you really enjoyed your early education as it allowed you to explore and further develop your personality?We also quote you on self-managing your Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) far before kids were diagnosed as such and the topic became trending in education circles. It seems to us that you were able to overcome this alleged adversity on your own accord without counselling or drug prescriptions and channel your energy towards propelling your life and career forward?
It seems to us that you never were either a singer, model or actress at any given point in time, but that you were all of them at the same time. Could you point to a single event that made you decide to pursue a career in a particular discipline or was it much more an organic process of seizing opportunities. Carpe diem?Cynthia basinet began her public career as a fashion model in San Francisco. Then on to five more years on the international modelling scene in London, Milan and Paris — where she learned to speak fluent french and studied french cinematography.
You ventured out over the world at a pretty young age. From the US to Europe and beyond. This must have greatly enriched your life and broaden your perspective. We realise this is a pretty broad topic, but what did you learn from the experience?From modelling to appearances in music videos, commercials and acting. It seems to be logical next step. How did this come about? Was it as logical and natural as we presume here? Did you take acting classes, hire an agent and join the movie role tombola as so many aspiring actors and actresses do, or was there a bit more to the story?Acting, the movie industry at large, apart from being an art form as well as a business, has gained notoriety as of late in terms widespread sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. #MeToo has had a huge impact on tinsel town. It seems no news event from Hollywood goes without some reference to #MeToo [and it’s #TimesUp offshoot]. What is your take on it? Will #MeToo change the industry forever? For the better?
The mistreatment and abuse of women on a global scale; Be it in the privacy of our homes. Be it in the working place, in terms of inappropriate behaviour, inequality in terms of payment and career opportunities. Be it in terms of culturally instilled aberrations like female circumcision. Be it in terms of policies or the lack thereof with regard to contraception and the woman’s choice to life. Wouldn’t you say that #MeToo is a both symbol and symptom of a much deeper lying structure of abuse?
From our perspective social activism nowadays seems to be geared towards a single issue. #MeToo, #TimeSup. #ZeroTolerance, #BlackLivesMatter. Each cause has its own hashtag; which is a good thing because without the proper media exposure these causes would probably fail to reach a larger audience.On the other hand in doing so we also might fail to see the bigger picture. #MeToo and #ZeroTolerance date back to 2006, well beyond the current surge in public interest. Black lives mattered well before 2013. We all know what BLM stands for but who remembers Rosa Parks and what she stood for?There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with our interhuman relationships, which not only extends to the man-woman relationship but also that between cultures and societies. A struggle for power, control and greed instead of love, mutuality and respect. What’s your take on this?Of course we are all ‘guilty’ in a sense of using the hashtag meme as well as condeming the superficial nature of it at the same time. We use our #UbuntuFM hashtag in nearly every post. You have basically created your own brand with the #stalkarazzi tag. Please explain.Cynthia basinet is no stranger to social activism. In early 2001, she became the figurehead and spokeswoman for the plight of the Sahrawi people. Sahrawi are a nation of nomadic tribes, ethnically mixed descendants of Berbers, Arabs, and sub-Saharan Africans, who call the Western Sahara their ancestral home. The Sahrawi have always been fiercely independent. From the 17th century onwards the nomads banded together to defend their homeland against exploratory expeditions by the Spanish and Portuguese. At the conference of Berlin in 1884, — the great colonial shakedown at which the African continent was carved up into various zones of influence — Spain obtained a protectorate in the Sahrawian homeland that would eventually become known as the Spanish Sahara. Spanish colonisation did not come easy however and it was not until the 1930s that Spain, with the help of the French, was able to “pacify” the Sahrawi. The Western Sahara is still a disputed territory claimed by both the kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario front. It is listed by the United Nations as a non-decolonized territory and is thus included in the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.The Sahrawi are currently 4–500,000 souls strong, of which a significant number have been living in refugee camps in the Western Sahara for decades. The Sahrawi have been recognised by the un as holders of a legitimate claim to self-determination, a right which is firmly enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.How did you come about the knowledge of the Sahrawi refugees and their plight? What was it, in terms of your humanitarian work, that drew you to this relatively small and lesser known group of “Inhabitants of the Desert”?What was the initial response of the Sahrawi people to your effort in bringing the knowledge of their situation to the world’s notice? And what successes do you count so far?
What can we learn from the Sahrawi struggle, as their plight is not a standalone case but in fact is being faced by many peoples around the world? And what role do Sahrawi women in particular fulfil in this struggle?In 1999, Cynthia’s music career took off via the internet thanks to mp3.Com and her first fan, Fern Reid, the Canadian discoverer of her music. It was the worldwide success of a dream fulfilled and support that came her first release “For You With Love” which contains four Jazz renditions from the great American songbook:It is said that you recorded and released the album as a gift to actor Jack Nicholson with whom you were in a relationship at the time. Quite an amazing feat and expression of love. Most singers record and release their material with a larger audience in mind. How did this come about?For You With Love” contains the hit single “Santa baby”. Cynthia’s rendition of this track is often mis-credited to Marilyn Monroe as other artists like the Pussycat Dolls, Shakira, Pink Martini, Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue, Kellie Pickler, Gwen Stefani, Ashanti and hundreds maybe even thousands more recorded the same sultry version of the song as Cynthia’s version which may be deemed as a statement of her vocal excellence.As the release of “For You With Love” was not intended with commerce in mind, but rather an act of love, the subsequent success and impact of “Santa Baby” must have come as a total surprise to you?
In 2017 Cynthia re-released the tracks from “For You With Love” as well as 7 other previously recorded and released tracks as “The Standard”, an album we have previously reviewed and aired its tracks on our radio. To us, “The Standard” is setting a new standard in re-capturing standards from the great american songbook.Next to Jazz, Cynthia has also released a number of Pop, Country, R&B and Dance tracks over the years.In your music, your voice stands out quite naturally. It has this melodious ring to it which easily fits to different kind of genres from Jazz to Pop and even Dance. Quite amazing. What inspires you to do these different kinds of music? First, that’s very astute to observe and kind to say. I would record so many more, my releases are merely bookmarks for what’s next. Is it the need for self-expression or the desire to communicate a message across to prospective listeners of your music?So far Cynthia we have seen you perform in very different capacities. As a model, actress, singer, mother, wife, girlfriend, activist, a public figure and as a role model. How do you balance all this? Where do you derive your energy from?We should not forget to mention that you are also a business woman as you run your own label Welcome To Dreamsville Records and media consulting firm. ​What projects are you currently working on? What can people expect from you in the near future?In closing, when a younger generation would read this interview and derive inspiration from it, what message would you have for them?Thank you Cynthia. From UbuntuFM we give you love and the best of wishes for your humanitarian and artistic endeavours. Thank you for the moment with you.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not The African Exponent. Please email us with any questions.
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