Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
Black Paris Profiles™ Follow-up - Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen
Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen was the first person that Discover Paris! interviewed for our 2012 Black Paris Profiles™ publication. Fulbright scholar and Discover Paris! intern Sonita Moss catches up with Pris in this exclusive interview.
Black Paris Profiles™ Follow-up - Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen
By Sonita Moss
SM: You discussed balancing work and family in the first Black Paris Profile, and stated that it can be a challenge. How do you manage it now?
PLJ: The kids are older now and busy with school and activities. When I was interviewed the first time they were babies. Now I have one almost finishing high school. My husband and I continue to share the duties though. It seems to work.
SM: Do you believe that women, especially working mothers, can “have it all”?
PLJ: Yes, I do. It takes a lot more effort and a lot more help (grandmothers, aunts, cousins, nannies, teachers, partners and spouses). But yes, we can have it all--if we have backup.
SM: Do you still maintain Sundays as the family day?
PLJ: We do. It’s the best day of the week!
SM: Can you talk about Prissy Mag? What was your intention when you got started? How is the magazine now, and how has it evolved over the years?
PLJ: Prissy Mag was fantastic for me. I started it from scratch and had a ball with it. I do miss doing it, but I shut it down in December 2014 because at the time I was battling advanced breast cancer. It was a wonderful blog and I enjoyed doing it so much.
SM: Has Paris influenced you to pursue other creative pursuits?
PLJ: Other than writing? No, not really. But my passions for writing, reading, and traveling, which were always in my blood, were intensified by living in Paris.
SM: You wrote a novel called Stockdale. Can you talk about some of your literary influences growing up? Who were some of your favorite books as a child and as an adult?
PLJ: As I child, my favorite book was The Boxcar Children, but I remember our teacher reading it to us and then me reading it ten times afterwards. It was a heck of an adventure for a kid. Other than that, I pretty much read every book I could get my hands on. My uncle would give us a dollar for every book we read during summers and I thought I was the luckiest person alive to be getting an entire dollar for doing something I loved. As an adult, I have a ton of favorites… probably too many to list here. A few of them are The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, L’Assommoir by Zola, Le Rouge et Le Noir by Stendal.
SM: Do you maintain a writing schedule? Are there any habits that you use to keep writing, even when it’s difficult or inconvenient?
PLJ: No, I don’t. But as for habits, it’s very important for me to just “get it out”. I worry about the editing and all of that later. The words have to find the page. I have to make that start and keep going.
SM: Are you working on any new novels right now?
PLJ: Yes, I am working on a book about my breast cancer journey. Someday I hope to write a follow-up to Stockdale. That would be fun. I enjoyed those characters.
SM: What do you do when you are not working?
PLJ: I mostly spend time with the family. We try to visit museums and other interesting places.
SM: It’s Women’s History Month. What advice do you have for young women who would like to live abroad and pursue their creative dreams?
PLJ: Go for it. If you really want to do it, try to find a way and do it.
SM: Are there any women that you look up to that you know personally, or public figures?
PLJ: Tons of them! Let’s start with Monique Wells for one. I have enjoyed her work for years and am so proud of the invaluable contribution she’s making. I also look up to Michelle Obama (who doesn’t?), all my American girlfriends living in France and living the Franco/American life. We get each other, and they continue to inspire and encourage me.
SM: What are some words that you live by?
PLJ: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
I saw that somewhere and it really resonated with me. It’s 100% true. We never know what the person next to us is enduring. A simple smile and a kind word goes a long, long way.
SM: Since you’ve lived in Paris for so long, are there new things you are looking forward to seeing or doing?
PLJ: Well since I have been out of the country for a bit I am looking forward to trying some of the newer restaurants. But my true joys are just my usual places
SM: What, in your opinion, is the best restaurant in Paris? The best museum? The best boutique?
PLJ: Chez Karl et Erik restaurant in the 17th--it’s a best kept secret perhaps.
Museum: The Louvre, for me. I could spend years in there.
Boutique: Personally, I never get tired of Les Printemps. If you can’t find it there, you’re not looking.
Louvre pyramids viewed from passage
Image by Discover Paris!
SM: How is your French? If you are fluent, how long did you take to master it?
Fluent. It took me a couple of years. I was lucky to have a personal French teacher in Paris who had previously taught French in California.
SM: What tips do you have for people who want to improve their French?
PLJ: Immerse yourself in the language. Practice every day. When you speak French to French speakers, continue to practice your French EVEN IF they start speaking to you in English. Don’t be intimidated. It might seem like it’ll never happen, but if you stick with it, you’ll be dreaming in French before you know it.
SM: What is it like raising children with a multi-racial background?
PLJ: It’s different depending on where we are. Being in America is different from being in France and being in Denmark is different than being in either. We have a lot of conversations about race and how they look and why they look like they do. We talk about the different countries they belong to (America, France, Denmark). We’re striving to help them to become well-rounded individuals
SM: How often do you go back to the United States?
PLJ: I am in the U.S. now. I’ve had a ton of breast cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins, one of the best hospitals in the world. My French doctor suggested that I continue treatment here versus France.
SM: You seem like a confident person – how can one build confidence and pursue their own dreams, despite fears?
PLJ: Just believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. Even if no one else does, continue to fight for what you want out of life! You have to make take care of you and make yourself happy. It’s okay to be afraid. A lot of times we should be afraid. But don’t ever that fear hold you back.
Reminds me of Moscow. About 20 years ago I wanted to visit Russia. I’d read all the big writers and I just wanted to go. I’d met a Russian friend in NYC and was invited to Moscow. Everyone told me I was nuts to go, but it was my dream. I went, and I had an amazing time. It’s still one of the highlights of my life. Life can be tricky. People can be tricky, even those we hold most dear. But at the end of the day, we have to be at peace with ourselves and our own lives. Don’t take anything for granted. Tomorrow is not promised. Find out what you want and do it.
SM: Last, where can readers find you online? Please list all social media websites, handles, profiles with the full URL. Thank you!
PLJ: Instagram: prissymag
Facebook: Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen
Author site: www.pljbooks.com