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.
From our research we gather that having been born in the ‘liberal’ surroundings of LA’s San Fernando Valley and being raised in California’s Silicon Valley have determined your journey. Your parents and formal education on both public and private schools being very instrumental in your early development. Is this an accurate assessment on our part? Could you elaborate on it?
Yes, I do believe that growing up in California, first under Governor Brown, then sadly Ronald Reagan. Several things changed in that era, Proposition 13 [officially named the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation (1978)] and it’s follow up, farmland to Silicon Valley and the venture capitalists that descended on an area that — dating back to Lockheed and HP — was a highly organized version of creativity. Probably my education was the perfect formula for that.
Indeed. Now, revisiting my high school alma mater, Archbishop Mitty [High School], their credo is a “peace school”. So again, this nurtured the base that has helped me see the largest dream possible and succeed. The fact that hypotheses were tested over multiple choice. As if hypotheses are 3-D and the other flat.
I believe we have a true path with open chakras. The drugging of our children can alter their social communicative skills, development and worse.
It’s been a very, very long process in multiple stages. Yes, I was drugged as a child. I believe however that we have a true path with open chakras. The drugging of our children can alter their social communicative skills, their development and worse. Perhaps, propelling a life of drugs was an answer to a need for balance.
Later in life however, being a better mom, exporting my creativity as an actress and my own son’s learning process led me to a better understanding, to isolate ideas, sound, which helped both him and I.
The final stage of this process — much later — in 1998 — was to balance my mind and open up chakras to be grounded in any situation. Albeit the past few years have been beyond traumatic.
At any rate, as one very close to me and keen bodybuilder and actor, Sven Ole-Thorsen told me over and over “discipline is your friend” so I have kept a regular exercise regime, healthy diet and a little tool box of mind relief. No matter what stage of development you are it’s good to balance with professionals. After all, that’s what they are there for.
Well, I think like many moms and certainly young single moms your larger dream and purpose in life is buried under chores, care of others and support of. So yes, I tended to change careers in the long pursuit that has delivered me here but I was also forced out due to competition. Rather than fight, I switched to other media.
It wasn’t really until now, did I realize how all the pieces really did play into each other.
Well, the funny thing about being a redhead on [photo]shoots is you are an asset; so it meant a lot of time sitting on locations. I learned so much about the politics from the people that surrounded me at that time.
For instance, I would meet the drivers family for lunch then return to the set in Malta. I would sit in the rain with Turkish kids selling popcorn and soda at the Berlin Wall — in a then divided city. I watched a gypsy girl being sick in the streets of Paris, at the Champs Elysees, as tourists marched by. The Algerian grocer who would give my son a California strawberry on the way to school every morning, because he was that “California boy”…
Living in different cities gave me this linguistic challenge as my tongue was formed in the visual menagerie my eyes delighted in…
There is. I studied acting for eight years. I was always the one to watch or bring other actors up, as they say. However, it became more and more apparent that competition just overtook the ability to continue working in whatever genre I participated in. This has only been compounded due to the internet, which has propelled me towards activism for the last twenty years in terms of rights on intellectual property, displaced societies, mental health and addictions.
First of all, sadly the #MeToo movement, just as #TimesUp, were both born as a PR response to my persistent activism. It was not until addressing the issues of [Harvey] Weinstein that the media went deeper than the casting couch.
It is the issue that I for twenty years was not only was facing a blacklisting, my work was relentlessly being recreated for Weinstein’s shows, talents, posters, sets and red carpet promotion. This was compounded by a photo taken in front of a #zerotolerance poster at the United Nations after addressing the United Nations Security Issue on exactly this point, namely that intellectual property is a human right which is now being diverted by fake social media algorithms and fake news.
The control of a few has limited real talent and diversity. In reaction, up sprang the #MeToo movement. I am now blown away, at how universal — even if unwittingly — the issue of abuse in the workplace had really been. I always felt my vulnerability here in Hollywood as was a single mom. The nepotism and the same pattern that I had witnessed firsthanded as a “supermodel” in Milan and Paris plagued me here [in the US].
I grew up to “I am woman, here me roar” Charlie commercials balanced with old school “behind every great man is a greater woman”. However, upon my return from Europe all bets were off. The wonderful luxury that I had enjoyed as a single mom changed. ‘Mean was keen’ and it’s been that way ever since.
Dan Quayle [former US vice-president] was spouting single mothers as the ills of society and divorce had created a generation of men that just didn’t understand to put their children first.
Throw in a little blow and America could not care less about female circumcision in the world. [Despite it being referenced as far back as 1954 in an Alfred Hitchcock film featuring Grace Kelly. It should be noted that Mr. Hitchcock’s wife controlled dialogue and set direction, and so caught the eye blink at the end of ‘Pyscho’ and had it re-edited].
This has all been a long brewing situation. When venture capitalists invaded startups in the early 70–80’s it destroyed the long term work dynamic. If a man is being replaced or changes job every 3–5 years, then so is his family; and the infrastructure at work breaks down. It’s a whole new crop to hit on, as men move about and ‘divorce being the norm’ took hold.
Add to that egotism, vanity and superficiality. Hair, clothes, nails, skin, bodies are demanded to look like the latest Vogue cover and this has invaded every aspect of our lives, through all mediums. Then add to that the internet with free sexual gratification and it’s been a toxic cocktail of declining women’s values.
Thanks to soft porn we think nothing of the constant pouring from Instagram and Snapchat by the likes of the Kardashians and their runner ups. For me, the only counterbalance to this travesty and caviat was to utilize the visibility I had via that same internet to launch a music career and utilize the voice it gave me [in terms of activism] worldwide.
I think men have been pitted against women and womein against each other for decades and this has created a no love, #stalkarazzi valued, no respect society. We are all cut up into metadata for analysis and terms of profit. When we get caught up, pops a #. I know, it’s what I’ve been doing for decades. The hashtag narrative has been incredibly successful in linking people, which is why the mainstream media has gripped and controlled it so hard. It’s turned into just another way to control and divide to sell for magazines, brands, red carpets and media.
Well, #stalkarazzi is not a compliment. It refers to a predatory practice. The term comprises of ‘stalking’ and ‘paparazzi’. Those two terms fused together most regrettably with the tragic death of Princess Di. I have been stalked and had to deal with paparazzi myself. #stalkarazzi stands for the relentless bullying in terms of a social media that is being dominated by celebs, brands, media companies that feed of the intellectual property created by others; original, creative and indepedent people and artists like me.
We seem to have lost the love in lieu of faking everything.
Being a mother yourself wouldn’t you agree that a lot of this has to do with the way we raise our children? If we fail to raise them and see them grow into responsible adults what then is there to be expected from society at large?
America has lived in a bubble, staring at themselves in their yoga pants and undies and all for so long that they forgot to do anything. I mean, how could I do selfies? I was a single mom. Didn’t use a phone to chat till my son was in bed. Had one of those stupid beepers which had LED readouts for emergencies and my agent.
My son was my whole life. As were my kid, god kids, men and friends. We seem to have lost the love in lieu of fake everything. And now we have a President which is the accumulation of all that media manipulation and men’s hatred to women and women fighting with women. A perfect storm of hate we are exporting just to sell product! Everything is a ‘snark’ and no one takes responsibility for being wrong.
I am so impressed by your research and understanding of the Saharwian plight. My entire journey was a dream lived via effective altruism that took decades to see come to fruition with the success of “Santa Baby”.
My path of self determination, to visibility and independence, echoed the sentiments that paralleled with the rights of many. This had caught the attention of Mr. Carlos Wilson of the US-WSF, United States Western Sahara Fund. They extended an invitation to me to visit the camps along with Suzanne Scholte (later garnering Seoul Peace Prize), Senator Ted Kennedy’s staff select, the Swedish dignitaries and many other NGO’s.
Once I was allowed to see why my struggles had aligned to another’s there has been no turning back on my path of activism, which propelled me to visit the Saharwian refugee camps and later, adressing the UN several times after garnering a shared Nobel monimation with other Peace Women across the globe in 2005.
There were of course the immediate successes. Raising aid, meeting and welcoming refugees, their families and their stories. Collaborating with other like minded NGOs. Performing for, photographing and later raising awareness for was so liberating.
It was both so very, very frustrating and heartbreaking as the events of 9–11 loomed overhead shortly after our visit to the camps. The despair that despite learning of issues like Al-Queda and informing our government and all, war came to America. America has continued on that path since.
The Saharwian struggle is UNIVERSAL! “Displaced societies are of value. Their issues are our issues”. This is from my 2005 speech before the United Nations Security Council (one of many to come). This applies to real estate, environmental, societal and of course, political displacement. In other words, one way or another we will probably all face being refugees.
How do you encourage a world to utilize self determination and peaceful solutions when we’ve been on a trajectory chart of the reverse?
LOL. Yeah. Those came out of being sung to and recorded starting in 1997; with that came the same fears and tears any person might have. If one person sees this expression and growth as “A Star Is Born” and the other sees it as an expression of love and CAA, ABC, CondeNast, NBC and all the #stalkarazzi can get in between for a profit, the only compass of truth is love. Period. So yep. Self financed except for “Tea for Two” which was a wonderful opportunity to work with a brilliant Japanese producer whose songs resonated my vintage sound with his Zen Zootsuit Band and later, “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”. I cherish so very much, Doc’s faith and Doris Day’s life inspiration and vocal prowess to bring those songs to life.
The success of “Santa Baby” was a 28 year dream realized, built on hope, faith and love. So the freedom that it bore was so liberating, all I could want from that moment for was to see others have the same. What did hit hard was the advent of the stalkarazzi and Silicon Valley’s tech industry to capitalize on the intellectual property. That I was not expecting. Just ripped the profit from my children’s mouths. Haven’t seen prezzies under the Christmas tree since. What started with illegal file sharing is now the complete overtake of my every visual, sound, move, style, thought and expression.
The success of “Santa Baby” being complete and possibly overwhelming, don’t you feel however that “Santa Baby” — being a Christmas song — is limiting you somewhat in terms of recognition as an accomplished Jazz singer?
Perhaps, more because it’s attributed to Marilyn Monroe, who is no longer here and a very largely promoted brand. So between surviving aforementioned issue it’s been a bit draining to only repeat, “Hi, I sing “Santa Baby”” Blank face response… to which I add, “The one everyone thinks is Marilyn Monroe”, their response, “OMG I LOVE THAT SONG! That’s YOU?!!!!! OMG OMG OMG!”
It’s always a message. Always…
Oddly, none of that applies. To anyone around me, I am what they see they need. Where do I derive my energy from? Nature. Kindness between people. Silly love songs. And a lot of exercise. Preparing good food. Write a lot. And everywhere I go like to do three good deeds a day, reuse items at least twice and give an idea for profit to small business owners and minorities (single moms, immigrants, inner city, etc). Unfortunately, the 1% are hijacking that value of America’s core values.
Publishing first in a series of written works. “How To Be Civil In An Uncivil World” What can people expect from me in the near future? Well, am hoping the seven year struggle of my recently concluded divorce turns to a very fruitful depth in new music. When you are deprived of something as natural and as necessary as breathing, which is what singing and speaking are to me amazing how much more appreciate when you get it back.
We are all in this together. As Gandhi said, “Be the change.” Slow and steady wins the race. And no one succeeds when the least do not.
If you focus on a positive place in life, no matter the strife, it works as a compass. Your inner peace. That is something hopefully, will always rest within. To peace within our only true power.
I am honored and appreciative for your outlet both musically and spiritually. Mahalo, UbuntuFM for contributing to “humanitarian and artistic endeavors” worldwide. Namaste.