My Inspirational Mother: by singer, songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo

As part of a continuing series, international music artist and activist, Angelique Kidjo tells us why her mother was such an inspriational educator in her life.

Who was the teacher, or person, who really mattered in your life?

My mother Yvonne taught me everything I needed to know about the stage. She had a theatre troupe when I was a little girl. I would always sneak in during rehearsals, looking at the costumes listening to the song. One day the little actress playing the role of the princess was sick and my mom pushed me on stage. That was a revelation. I was six year old. I never left the stage since!

What did your mother say or do to make them so special?

She told me the following advice: On stage you have to be spiritually naked. You have to give everything, you can’t lie. She also told me: You have to accept the critics and try to always improve. After each of my concerts, the whole family would gather and start telling me what went wrong: that was a hard lesson but very useful.

What was the moment you realised your mother had such a huge influence on you?

A few years ago CBC was filming a documentary about my career and the journalist interviewed my mother in Benin. At once she told the journalist: “I taught Angelique everything she needed to know about singing”. At first I smiled but then I realized she was right!

Would you have been successful without your mother’s encouragement?

Of course not. Being a professional singer is so hard specially if you are an African girl. There is such a prejudice against singers. They were all considered like prostitutes. My father was very supportive also. He had let my mother run her theatre troupe.

How often do you stay in touch with her?

Every time I go to Benin, she is the first one I visit. She is still going strong, She just sung on my last album! She sung with me an old song from her childhood in Congo.

Who else in the world today would you describe as inspirational?

My feel like my mentor is the amazing Desmond Tutu. He is so outspoken. He is not afraid of anything. A lot of his positions (on gay rights for instance) are very courageous. And… he is very funny!

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