Michelle Dybele is a French actress, film producer, and entrepreneur of Central African heritage.
Josefina Bonsundy Nvumba, Founder of Rootencial, spoke to Michelle about her various creative ventures, from her short film featured at Cannes to the scarves inspired by her grandmother and African history.
Hi Michelle! How would you describe yourself?
I’ve lived my life as if it was a theatre production, in which I’ve given myself the roles that make me happy. First and foremost, I am an actress. I used to be a model but today I am an actress, film producer and entrepreneur. I know that may be confusing; it’s a lot of different things!
Tell us about your journey as an actress. How did it all begin?
I’ve always been passionate about acting, theatre, and cinema. I’ve been involved in theatre since I was really young. It all started there.
I went on to produce a short film called Makeda, about a young Ivorian woman born in France but who had never been to Côte d’Ivoire until her father died. She arrived in the country for the first time for his funeral and encountered a culture shock.
The film tells the story of how her father’s best friend - a white Frenchman who had lived in the country for many years - taught her about local customs, how to speak and how to behave. Makeda was featured in the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Festival in 2017.
You're also a scarves designer. What inspired you to leap into fashion?
When I was younger, I had an accident that left a large scar on my neck. I was always trying to cover it up.
One day, my grandmother from the Central African Republic came to visit us. I was working to save the money to have the scar removed, but my grandmother convinced me to keep it. "This scar is your story; it's your life," she said. "It's something important. You shouldn't get it removed." I listened and kept it.
My grandmother left me some African fabric, which is the only thing of hers that I have now. And an idea came to me: I wanted to create something new in the fashion world, and it was clear to me that it should be scarves. I didn't know how to make them at first, but I wanted to mix cotton with wax from African fabrics.
Seeking to build a brand, I started to research historical African kings, queens, and warriors – and decided to name my scarves after them.
The scarves have been worn by celebrities such as jewellery designer Kara Ross, fashion-week concept founder Fern Mallis and international footballer Edinson Cavani.
My roots influence the work I do today. My short film was produced in Africa, too. It's a duty for me, and many Africans, to pay tribute to our heritage.
The scarves aren't a business for me. They're a tribute to my grandmother, a tribute to our kings, queens, and warriors.
Which challenges have you had to overcome on your journey?
I’m very impatient. I’m still learning how to be more patient and disciplined.
"Discipline is how all of us become better."
They say that Thomas Edison had to try and fail thousands of times before he made a breakthrough with the lightbulb.
It’s about giving yourself a routine, doing the same things over and over again until you achieve perfection.
Complete the following sentences.
My life motto is…
Live by inspiration.
The biggest role models in my life are…
Africa’s queens and women warriors, such as Cleopatra, Anna Nkinza, and Seh Dong Deh.
The best piece of advice I’ve been given is…
Choose a voice and go all the way to the end.
Someday I want to…
WorldRemit has strong links to Africa, and so we're delighted to share Michelle's story. She's making a real difference by telling a narrative about her heritage through fashion and film.
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