In episode 52, Dr. Monique Wells shares her journey with us. Her curiosity and passion has led her to multiple businesses, including two non-profits. In this episode, we learn how we can find and pursue opportunities in life. She shares how she’s cultivated ways of thinking to have a flood of ideas and shares ideas with us to help us manage our productivity and to live in alignment with purpose.
Dr. Monique Y. Wells is a visionary, a change-maker, and a steward of legacy. She is a native of Houston, Texas and a 28-year resident of Paris, France. Through her entrepreneurial work as a veterinary pathologist and toxicologist, travel professional, writer, speaker, and mentor, she embraces and harnesses the power of education to change lives.
Monique worked for 13 years in the corporate world before combining her passion for life sciences, literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education, the arts, travel/study abroad, and women’s empowerment under the umbrella of her U.S. non-profit organization, the Wells International Foundation (WIF).
She is also co-owner of Entrée to Black Paris (ETBP, formerly known as Discover Paris!) – a travel business that has provided services tailored for the African-American travel market since 1999. Over the years, she has created Afrocentric itineraries, self-guided and guided walking tours, comprehensive Black Paris bus tour, and Afrocentric and other culinary activities for those wanting an in-depth, unconventional travel experience in the City of Light. Her “Paris: An Afrocentric Perspective” course is the only continuing education training for travel professionals on the African diaspora in Paris.
Because of her activities to promote and expand the legacy of painter Beauford Delaney as president of the French non-profit association, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, Monique included the Arts as a Strategic Focus Area for WIF. Delaney was an African-American expatriate who spent the last 26 years of his life in Paris. Monique’s successes in extending his legacy include the preservation of his gravesite, installation of two commemorative plaques in Montparnasse, the area where Beauford lived during most of his Paris years, and the organization of a major monographic exhibition of his work in Paris.
Through her travel business, Monique has worked with study-abroad groups across the United States since 2001. WIF and Entrée to Black Paris have welcomed women undergraduate and graduate student study-abroad interns to Paris for several years.
Monique is a three-time book author as well as a freelance journalist and editor. She is the author of the award-winning cookbook, Food for the Soul—A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris, co-author of Paris Reflections: Walks through African-American Paris, and author/ publisher of the Amazon-bestselling e-book, Black Paris Profiles. She has written articles for publications including the International Herald Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and France Today.
In 2013, Monique was the first recipient of the Tannie Award for Excellence and Achievements in the field of Websites, Blogs, and IT for her Entrée to Black Paris™ blog. Since 2016, she has been honored to serve as the U.S. Ambassador and Delegate for France’s Academy of Culinary Art for the Creole World.
A consummate storyteller and presenter of topics ranging from toxicologic pathology to life balance, Monique has addressed audiences on four continents. She has mentored women entrepreneurs on productivity and life balance and recently launched a life balance mentoring service for women leaders.
You can connect with Monique at:
You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.
Quiet your mind and listen to the voice that comes from deep within.- Monique Y. WellsTweet
Timeline of the Chat
00:44 – Monique’s Bio
05:16 – Celebrating 5 years of WIF
05:40 – Living the dream of living in Paris
07:40 – Dr. Wells – Medical background
09:15 – The definition of pathology
10:47 – Her current relationship with the medical field
13:51 – The Inspiration for the Les Amis de Beauford Delaney Nonprofit
27:49 – A Path Determined by Serendipity
30:42 – Using passion to overcome obstacles
36:19 – Monique’s current project
41:22 – Supporting artists during the pandemic
43:05 – The project closest to Monique’s heart
46:53 – The current Beauford Delaney project
47:45 – Where Monique’s ideas come from
48:44 – Managing a flood of ideas
50:50 – Productivity Habits
54:15 – Challenge/Invitation from Monique
55:29 – Trusting your Intuition
56:19 – Book Recommendation
You just have to know that something will [happen], and then just keep that faith long enough until it does.- Monique Y. WellsTweet
- Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris, Monique Y. Wells
- Paris Reflections: Walks through African-American Paris, Christiann Anderson and Monique Y. Wells
- Black Paris Profiles, Monique Y. Wells
- Dr. Doolittle, Hugh Lofting
- A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson
- Thrive, Arianna Huffington
Note that Amazon Links are affiliate links. This means that I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases made at Amazon if you use this link to make a purchase.
You hopefully are exposed to a lot of things and you’ll learn early on what things light you up.- Monique Y. WellsTweet
Transcript of the Episode
Monique’s Bio [00:44]
Dr. Monique Wells is a visionary, a changemaker and a steward of legacy. She’s a native of Houston, Texas, and a 28 year resident of Paris, France. Through her entrepreneurial work as a veterinary pathologist and toxicologist, travel professional, writer, speaker and mentor, she embraces and harnesses the power of education to change lives. Monique worked for 13 years in the corporate world before combining her passion for life sciences, literacy, STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics], education, the arts, travel study abroad, and women’s empowerment under the umbrella of her US nonprofit organization, the Wells International Foundation [WIF].
She is also co-owner of Entrée to Black Paris [ETBP, formerly known as Discover Paris!] – a travel business that has provided services tailored for the African-American travel market since 1999. Over the years, she has created Afrocentric itineraries, self-guided and guided walking tours, comprehensive Black Paris bus tour, and Afrocentric, and other culinary activities for those wanting an in-depth, unconventional travel experience in the City of Light.
Her Paris and Afrocentric perspective course is the only continuing education training for travel professionals on the African diaspora in Paris. Because of her activities to promote and expand the legacy of painter Beauford Delaney as president of the French nonprofit association, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, Monique included the Arts as a Strategic Focus Area for WIF. Delaney was an African-American expatriate who spent the last 26 years of his life in Paris. Monique’s successes in extending his legacy include the preservation of his grave site, installation of two commemorative plaques in Montparnasse, the area where Beauford lived during most of his Paris years, and the organization of a major monographic exhibition of his work in Paris. Through her travel business, Monique has worked with study abroad groups across the United States since 2001. WIF and EntrÃ©e to Black Paris have welcomed women undergraduate and graduate student study abroad interns to Paris for several years.
Monica is a three-time book author as well as a freelance journalist and editor. She’s the author of the award winning cookbook Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris, co-author of Paris Reflections: Walks through African-American Paris, and author/publisher of the Amazon bestselling ebook Black Paris Profiles. She has written articles for publications, including the International Herald Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and France Today.
In 2013, Monique was the first recipient of the Tannie Award for Excellence and Achievements in the field of Websites, Blogs, and IT for her Entrée to Black Paris blog. Since 2016, she has been honored to serve as the US Ambassador and Delegate for France’s Academy of Culinary Art for the Creole world.
A consummate storyteller and presenter of topics ranging from toxicologic pathology to life balance, Monique has addressed audiences on four continents. She has mentored women entrepreneurs on productivity and life balance, and recently launched a life balance mentoring service for women leaders.
You can connect with Monique on LinkedIn, Twitter, and on Facebook, and you will find all of the links in the show notes.
Welcome to changes big and small Monique.
Monique: [05:13] Thank you so much. Damianne.
Celebrating 5 years of WIF [05:16]
Damianne: [05:16] To start off, let me say congratulations on five years of WIF. I know that you recently or you’re about to celebrate that anniversary?
Monique: [05:25] We have just come off of our five year celebration during the month of October. We were incorporated on October 1st and so we designated the entire month for celebrating. Thank you. Thank you for mentioning that. It was, it was great.
Living the dream of living in Paris [05:40]
Damianne: [05:40] I have to say that as I’ve been learning about you and reading about your work, I think, Oh, I want to do a tour of Paris with you. I think that would be so fun.
Monique: [05:51] It would,
Damianne: [05:53] it would.
And you have the name, Monique, which sounds like a French name but you’re from Texas.
Monique: [05:59] That’s right. That’s right. My name is actually Monique Yvette. Those are my given names and my mother chose them. I will say that my family is largely a Creole Louisiana family, so that might’ve had something to do with it although she doesn’t really say that, but yeah, it’s a legitimate French name.
Damianne: [06:20] Living in Paris was your dream. What do you love about the city of Paris?
Monique: [06:25] Oh, goodness. Well, first and foremost, I really like that even though it’s, you know, very cosmopolitan and it has a very sophisticated look and all of that, Paris is really, when it comes down to it, just a series of connected little villages. And so even within a given district or arondissement, as we say, and there are 20 of those, even within any given district, you walk from neighborhood to neighborhood and you can have entirely different feels, just by crossing a street really.
And so it’s just a lovely place to be on the ground, walking and soaking in the culture and soaking in the ambience. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful place for me in that sense.
Damianne: [07:15] One of the things I love about traveling around Europe and living in Prague is that lots of places are so walkable. I’ve been to Paris a few times and every time that I’ve been, for very short trips, one of my favorite things to do is just to walk around in different neighborhoods and different areas and just get a sense of what it feels like to walk down the different streets.
Monique: [07:36] Yes, it’s marvelous. It is absolutely marvelous.
Dr. Wells – Medical background [07:40]
Damianne: [07:40] We’re going to jump around a bit because there’s so much we could talk about. Tell me about what you studied and you’re Dr. Wells. So what inspired you to pursue and achieve a doctorate?
Monique: [07:54] Well, my doctorate is in veterinary medicine and from a very, very young age, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I read Dr. Doolittle, the book Dr. Doolittle, when I was very young and that’s what inspired me. And I just held that with me throughout my entire life.
I was advanced in school. In the US, you generally graduate from high school at the age of 18. Sometimes you’re 17, just on the verge of 18. But I graduated at the age of 16 and I went straight through undergraduate and veterinary school. And when I got to veterinary school, I discovered that I didn’t want to practice medicine. And I was devastated because that had truly been my entire life’s goal and dream.
I went to the University of Pennsylvania, which is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I decided that I would go into my second year and just, you know, kind of see what happened, but I was really devastated. The first semester of second year, in that school, I had a core pathology course, and that lit me up all over again. I’ve pursued pathology as a career course in veterinary medicine since then.
The definition of pathology [09:15]
Damianne: [09:15] So when you say pathology, what does that mean?
Monique: [09:18] So the definition of pathology is really it’s the study of disease and it is a physical manifestation of disease. And so when you think about, for example, let’s say a woman is afraid that she has breast cancer. So she will go to the doctor and the doctor will do a biopsy. That means taking a little piece of tissue from the breast and then looking at it under a microscope to see the different cells, how the structure of it is and what the individual cells look like, et cetera.
So that’s pathology. You’re looking at not healthy tissue; you’re looking at diseased tissue. So that’s what pathology is. And that’s a very sort of easy way for people who don’t know anything about it to think of it. Another way is that when a person dies, then you do an autopsy. And so the person gets cut open and the tissues are evaluated as they are normally situated in the body. Then little pieces of it are taken and it’s looked at under a microscope. And so the looking at the tissues just with your naked eye is called gross pathology. And then looking at them under the microscope, little bitty pieces of them, that’s histopathology.
And so that’s a real basic intro to that. And I do that for animals.
Her current relationship with the medical field [10:47]
Damianne: [10:47] How are you still involved in the medical field in addition to everything else that you do?
Monique: [10:51] I have really stopped doing my pathology practice, if you will, and I was also doing toxicology, but I’m not doing that anymore. From a, how should I describe, it’s not my primary focus anymore. What I do now is put together training programs for organizations that would benefit from the expertise of people in various areas. I did that for several years in India, starting in 2005. I would put together teams that would go into this particular space in South India and train the pathologists, just in terms of all the organ systems and things like that.
But also, there’s an area of pathology called clinical pathology, which is where you look at the fluids of the body, so the blood and maybe the cerebral spinal fluid. Or if you have fluid in your chest, we can extract that and look at the cells and things that are in there. So there’s a whole different kind of laboratory that works on that and I brought in people to help that laboratory, look at all of its equipment and its procedures and everything, and then it’s diagnostic capabilities and just all kinds of things like that.
And so that’s what I really love doing now. And through my nonprofit, there is one segment of activity where we would do training and mentoring in that area.
Damianne: [12:18] Do you still do work in India and do you do work worldwide to them?
Monique: [12:23] I’ve always done work worldwide since I became a consultant. I will go wherever the need takes me and wherever we can get funding to go. The funding is critical. We’ve been trying for several years to build a program in Cuba, but between the natural disasters and just, you know, trying to figure
Damianne: [12:44] politics.
Monique: [12:45] yeah, the politics it’s just been, we haven’t gotten it off the ground.
Damianne: [12:50] Out of curiosity, where in India did you spend the most
Monique: [12:53] time.
Mostly in South India, in a little place outside of Chennai. I haven’t traveled throughout the entire nation, but I have done different areas in South India, visiting different laboratories. And I’ve also visited a lab in Mumbai. I’ve never gone farther North than that.
Damianne: [13:12] I only ask because I lived in Bangalore…
Monique: [13:15] I’ve been to Bangalore. I’ve been to Bangalore a couple of times. I’ve been to Hyderabad. For vacation, I have been to Pondicherry and I have been to Kerala.
Damianne: [13:25] Kerala is one of my favorite places in India for vacation. I think part of it is some of the food reminds me of the Caribbean, especially with the use of coconut and banana being used in dishes. I think that’s one of the things I like about it.
So you run two non-profits. Which one did you start first and how did you decide on that?
The Inspiration for the Les Amis de Beauford Delaney Nonprofit [13:51]
Monique: [13:51] Okay. So my first nonprofit is a French nonprofit. It is called Les Ami de Beau…, as you said, Beauford Delaney and that’s the French pronunciation of the artist’s name. In the United States, we would call him Beauford Delaney.
Damianne: [14:09] I struggled so much. I was mixing French and English, trying to figure out what pronunciation to use.
Monique: [14:15] Okay. Yeah, it’s, it’s a struggle. I will say Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, but when I’m speaking to French people, I will say Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, and sometimes Buford would use the French pronunciation of his; it would just depend on who he was talking to. But anyway, Beauford Delaney is deceased. He died in 1979, and I came to know about him because I was writing an article to promote my husbands and my travel service on Entrée to Black Paris, which at that time was called Discover Paris.
I found out about Beauford Delaney because he was a friend and mentor, a very important person in the life of James Baldwin, who was one of our, when I say our, the US’s preeminent African-American writers.
Damianne: [15:09] And he spent a lot of time in Paris
Monique: [15:10] as well.
He spent a lot of time in Paris and he eventually established a property in the South of France, in a town called San Paul Duvall’s and that’s actually where he died. And Buford spent a lot of time there too. And so I was looking for Beauford Delaney, not really because of Beauford himself, but because of James Baldwin.
I was writing an article about gravesites of famous African-Americans in and around Paris. Baldwin is buried in New York. Even though he died in France, his body was taken to New York and his remains are there. But Beauford I knew was in the Paris area. And I found out from friends of his – Les Amis means friends, the friends – I found out from friends of his where he was buried.
I learned that he was buried in a cemetery in suburban Paris, a little town just outside of Paris, and the cemetery is part of the Paris cemetery system but not in the city limits. And I went out to this town; it’s called TA and I inquired about the grave and was told that… Well put it this way. When the friends told me where the cemetery was and they gave me the coordinates of the grave, the division, and all of that, they asked me if Beauford Delaney were still buried there. And I said, I guess, somewhat naively, depending upon your point of view, why would he not still be there? I didn’t know at the time that the French have a system whereby you have to continue to pay for your grave site every so often or the cemetery can exhume you.
Damianne: [17:01] And where do you go?
Monique: [17:02] Well, so if you’re in the ground, if your bones are in the ground, they can take your bones and put them in a common grave. And if you’ve been cremated, they can take your ashes and sprinkle them in a garden. Yes. And so I didn’t know that. And so when I went to the cemetery, the first thing I asked was, is the grave still intact? And they wanted to know, well, who are you, you know, why are you asking?
They’re very particular here about what they tell people, if the person or people are not part of the deceased’s family, and I wasn’t, you know. I’m just inquiring on behalf of friends and I’m writing an article. And so they say, well, yes, you know, the grave is still there. And I go out and I don’t understand the system. There is a system by which the cemeteries are laid out. The divisions it’s easy enough; you can find that on a map. But when you get to any individual division, then there is a row and there is a tomb number. But there are no markings in these divisions.
So you don’t know where row one is and you don’t know on which side tomb one is. And so you’re faced with this area and it’s just like, okay, what do I do now? So this is my first time doing any of this and I get to the division and I’m really proud. I can see the sign division 86 and I step in there and there’s just, and it looks like it’s half empty. There are weeds growing up; they were literally as high as my knees and it looked like the division was half empty because there were so many spaces with no stones.
I did not know that Buford Delaney’s grave did not have a stone. All I knew was the row number and the plot number. So I’m just bewildered. And I’m also dismayed because this particular division is so poorly kept. I had walked by divisions that were absolutely splendid and I get to this space and I was just like, Oh my God, this is decrepit, you know, and I couldn’t figure out anything.
This is not a small cemetery either so each division is actually quite large. And I thought to myself, even if I had the time to look at each individual stone in here, they’re in such bad shape, the ones that I could see. Some of them, you could barely see the writing on them, the etched names and things. And I’m just like, I can’t do this. So I stepped out of the division and I saw guards coming, thankfully. I stopped them and I said please help me; I don’t understand how this works. I’m looking for this grave. I don’t know if it has a stone, you know. And I said, this is the row and this is the tomb number. Can you instruct me on how to find it so that when I come back again, I can find it, you know. And so they each went in and on their own, they explain, okay, so this is row one, madam. So this would be row two and the grave is in row two.
And then they, each individually walked it off. And each of them individually came to a space with no stone but with a little ceramic flower arrangement there. I had no way of knowing whether that meant anything or not, but they said this is the space. So I took pictures of it and I went back and I, you know, and I’m just… my heart is in my throat.
I went back home and I emailed the friends, just a handful of like four people. And I say these are the photographs that I found. Why didn’t you tell me there was no stone. And I said, so the grave is still intact. But they will not tell me when the remains will be exhumed. I found out that his concession as they call it was originally for six years.
He died in 1979. So you add six to that; he should have, he could have been exhumed in the 1980s. I’m coming in the 2000s and he’s still there. But the person at the cemetery did say he is scheduled to be exhumed this year and they would not tell me when.
Damianne: [21:37] So then there is a race against time now.
Monique: [21:39] Right. And so I tell the friends. I give them all of this information and they’re like, Oh my God, so he’s still there. So maybe we can save the grave. And could you inquire on our behalf what that would take, and in speaking with them and each of them individually, you know, exchanging emails and then getting on the phone with a couple of them, I hear their stories and I understand why this is so important to them. And I feel like I’ve been given this charge.
To put all of this in context, you know, my business is talking about the African-American experience in Paris, sharing the African-American history, talking about contemporary life, et cetera. So this is my business, and I feel like now, you know, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon this story, and this is something that I can do for the preservation of African American culture in Paris.
And I hear the stories and the stories are pulling at my heart. So it’s not only that, you know, I can do something too sort of magnanimously, but also these people are making this man, not just a figure, but a real person who, you know, had real failings and real, um, real life experiences, real successes, real, just an incredible life in a very poignant, and in a lot of ways, a very tragic life, but in other ways, a life that was full of things to celebrate. And so I, to make a very long story short, I petition the cemetery system to have these friends send the money to pay for his grave.
It was less than 300 euros that was required and they allowed it because he was a painter. Really, that was the only reason that they paid any attention to this story was because he was a painter. And I found out that the French government actually owns his work and that the Pompidou center, which is the French national museum for modern art owns one of his works. And so whenever you tell French people about something like that, they pay attention.
So they allowed me to collect this money and pay it. And then I went back and I told the friends, you know, success. And they said, Oh, fantastic. We want to place a stone there. Can you find out what this would require? And so I’m like, okay. I inquired on their behalf again and found out that it would cost a few thousand euros to do a very modest but sturdy stone, because I told them about how the stones were crumbling in this division where he is.
I said, it’ll cost a few thousand and they said, well can you, you know, will you support us? And I’m like, well, okay. They were willing to contribute, but they didn’t have all the money required. And I said I will not raise money under my own name. So I started the French nonprofit to raise the money for the stone. And we’ve been in existence ever since. I started the blog, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, to raise awareness of this whole story.
And when we did raise the money and we raised in not too long of a time; it was a few months. And from the time I found out about this whole thing, which was in September, 2009 to the time the stone was laid, we laid the stone over the summer in 2010. We had a graveside ceremony in October and the US embassy hosted a reception for us at the space that used to house the American consulate.
And so that was just over a year’s time. And when all of that was done, I felt like, okay, Monique, you have really done a good thing. You can stop blogging. You can go on to other things. But Beauford Delaney was like, no, there’s still work to be done. And so fast forward to today, I am still blogging about Beauford Delaney once a week.
Damianne: [25:54] Wow. So in all of this time, there’s so much detail and so much information that the story keeps progressing and still has a hold
Monique: [26:04] on you.
It still has a hold on me, a major hold. So that’s my French non-profit. And then the US non-profit I founded because of Beauford Delaney. This is a short story. After all the years that I had blogged about Beauford and just tried to find ways to honor him and his memory, including a major accomplishment, we got two commemorative plaques installed in Montparnasse, which was the area of Paris where he lived.
We got two plaques installed in his honor and still it wasn’t enough. I felt like it’s not enough. It’s not enough. What else can I do? And it occurred to me, you must do a show. You must do a show of his work. And so because of the blog and thanks to the blog, I had met people who collect his work in Paris and in the Paris area. I asked them if they would be willing to loan their works for a show and they were willing to do that.
We put together an exhibition of over 40 of his paintings and works on paper in a one-man show. We did that at Columbia Global Centers. The space is called Reed Hall but it is owned by Columbia University. And we had that exhibition there in 2016 and I had to raise money for that and I needed to raise US funds for that. I decided that I would start a US nonprofit to raise the money and mount the show. So we were founded in 2015. We did the show in 2016 and the Wells International Foundation, or WIF for short, has never looked back either.
A Path Determined by Serendipity [27:49]
Damianne: [27:49] That is such a wonderful story. And it really sounds as if it happens by, I don’t know if we’ll want to call it chance, opportunity, your being open actually. What do you attribute it to, the fact that you created first one and then a second non-profit?
Monique: [28:07] Oh, I think the first nonprofit was really, I don’t know it was never meant to be this long lasting thing, you know, but it was serendipity I believe. And I’ve ever since just really became involved with Beauford Delaney. There’ve been so many serendipitous things that have happened and I just call them flat out, they’re miracles.
I’m always talking about the magic of Beauford Delaney. There is something about his story that touches people and motivates people. And I can tell you any number of things since that time in 2009 that have happened. Somebody has heard me tell a story and they have been moved to do something magnificent. An example of that is a woman who learned about the art exhibition and told me that she wanted to have one of her journalist friends write an article about it. And so she arranged for me to meet this journalist. We all three met and as I was telling the story, her eyes kept getting bigger and bigger. And she said, somebody needs to write a play about him. And I said, well, why don’t you do it? And she did. And we had a reading of that play at Columbia Global Center’s Reed Hall last year.
Damianne: [29:21] You know, I recently read a book by Marianne Williamson called A Return to Love. And it basically talks about a book called The Course on Miracles, which I haven’t read. But the thing, I mean, whether you’re religious or not religious, we all have this concept of what we think a miracle is and whether or not we even believe in miracles.
But one enduring idea that stuck with me from the book is that there are miracles all around us and miracles doesn’t have to be this grand, religious experience, but it can be a heart connection that comes from love of something or someone. And since then, that little idea has stuck with me to make me think when are there miracles? maybe somebody wants to use a different word; that’s fine. But where are those miracles around us that we fail to see just because we won’t allow ourselves to?
Monique: [30:20] Exactly. Exactly. They’re popping up all over. We just have to be able to tune in.
Damianne: [30:29] I’m sure that as you went through these journeys of creating those nonprofits, you encountered some challenges.
Monique: [30:36] To say the least.
Using passion to overcome obstacles [30:42]
Damianne: [30:42] What has stuck with you from any of the challenges, or what enduring lessons have you learned, what challenge have you overcome that you’re proud of, however you want to go with this?
Monique: [30:56] Well, I think, and this is true not only of the nonprofits, but also for my entrepreneurial businesses. It is true for anything really. If you have a passion about something, truly a passion, then the obstacles, it’s not that you won’t encounter them. For sure you will, but that passion will give you the fortitude to overcome your obstacles. It will drive you.
So even when you can’t foresee how you’re going to get past this thing that’s in front of you, the drive from inside will propel you forward, and you have to combine that with an ability to let go, because sometimes, you know, in terms of what your mind can conceive, there is no way forward, but you must have the faith that something can happen. And if you believe that miracles are happening all around you and that all you have to do is tune into them, then you don’t have to know what the miracle is. The miracle does not come in a pre-packaged form. The miracle can be almost anything as long as you’re open to seeing it.
And so then if you have that passion and you have that willingness to be open, and we call that faith, then you don’t have to know mentally how it’s going to happen. You just have to know that something will, and then just keep that faith long enough until it does.
Damianne: [32:47] I was listening to a podcast this morning with Tara Brach and she is a meditation teacher. She was talking about how we can act in ways that manifest the world we want to live in. And I thought that was such a great way of putting it because sometimes the idea of manifestation can be very fuzzy for us and we think that if we think hard enough, it’s going to happen automagically. And the way she said that, it really made it sound like manifesting means putting in the work, putting, in the practice, taking the actions, along with the belief that things are going to change, that magic is happening and miracles are happening. So I really liked that idea.
In what you just shared, you talk about passion, but then you also talked about going forward and what sounds to me like having a commitment. What’s the relationship between passion and commitment from your perspective?
Monique: [33:51] There doesn’t necessarily have to be a relationship between passion and commitment. It depends on what you are wanting to accomplish. Let me put it this way. If you have made a commitment to do something, then passion is often what allows you to succeed. You can make a commitment without passion, and then when those obstacles come up, you give up.
If the obstacles are big enough, you give up because it’s not easy because you’re not driven. But you can have passion about things that you’re not committed to necessarily. I mean, you know the people passionate about music, but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to go out and pick up an instrument. It just means they can listen to it when they feel like it and enjoy it. So the two are not necessarily connected, but when you make a commitment, it is definitely going to be better. If that commitment requires any kind of effort, it’s better that that effort be backed by passion.
Damianne: [34:54] One of the things I’ve been thinking about, curious about is do people find passion, or is passion the thing that’s inside of you or the thing that you develop?
Monique: [35:05] I think it can be both because sometimes you may not necessarily know about something, so you can’t be passionate about something you don’t know about. Then as you start to learn about it, then there are things about it, maybe there’s some things… You were introduced to some topic and there’s, you know, it’s just like horrible, but then there are some aspects of it that you never considered before, and that part of it strikes a chord in you. So then when you go down that road, then you have this passion, you can see that this passion is developing.
I think early on, when we’re little kids, you know, you hopefully are exposed to a lot of things and you’ll learn early on what things light you up and what things you don’t really like.
I remember when I was little, I loved the life science and I did not like earth science. I didn’t care about stones and soil but give me a little furry creature and I was just like over the moon. I didn’t like insects. Okay. So life science, I didn’t like insects. I didn’t like worms, but give me a furry creature. And I was just all lit up, you know?
Monique’s current project [36:19]
Damianne: [36:19] Yes, there can definitely be those sparks and those kernels that come from different things, right? I know you’re doing a project right now that you’re really excited about with the American nonprofit. Can you tell us about this project? I think it’s slated for 2021, right?
Monique: [36:35] Yes. Yes. Yes. Okay. So this is a project, the idea of it came out of the pandemic and actually it’s a virtual art exhibition called COVID 19 Pages: The Influence and Inspiration of Women. Now, one of the donors who has been with us since the beginning, she supported the. Beauford Delaney exhibition in 2016 and she’s been giving to us since that time.
When the pandemic hit and when we decided at WIF that we needed to try to figure out how we were going to shift our activities in relation to the pandemic and the things that were going on, this donor suggested that we do an online exhibition that honors women who at that time, we were really talking about first responders, essential workers cause the pandemic was very new. She was saying, well, just do something online that honors these women because women are the majority of the first responders and essential workers, and also women and girls are disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic. So I thought that was a brilliant idea and we got going on that. And now, the pandemic is… Well, we all thought it would be over by now. Needless to say, it is not showing any signs of abating. And so as that became evident, we have grown this idea for an online exhibition. We’re doing this in two phases.
We are reaching out to professional women artists for the first phase. And that phase will launch on International Women’s Day 2021; that’s March 8th, 2021. And for the second phase, we are doing outreach to communities around the world. And I should say that the professional artists we’re reaching out to are women artists around the world.
The second phase is community outreach to schools, K through 12 schools, as we would say in the United States, so kindergarten through 12th grade, universities, youth groups. We are reaching out to women’s shelters. We’re reaching out to elder facilities, elder care facilities. We’re asking women, women and girls in these spaces to contribute art to the second phase of our exhibition. And we want them to view the creation of this art as a means of therapy, to release anxiety, to release an angst about the pandemic.
The subject matter for both the professional artists and the non-professional artists is a woman or a group of women who have done something in the world, whether you know them personally, or whether you’ve read about them in the news, someone who you admire, a woman who you admire, who is making a positive impact on mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
So that is our project and we have already reached out to people in both segments. So we’ve reached out to a lot of professional women artists already. We’ve reached out to a lot of schools and community organizations as well. And next week actually, on November 11th, we’re going to have a round table discussion, virtual of course, where we’re going to have four panelists.
Two of the panelists will talk about the marginalization of women just like in so many other professions. Women who are professional artists have more difficulty getting their work shown and they earn less for their work than their male counterparts. And so we’re going to look at that as an entity, and we’re going to look at how, or if the pandemic has exacerbated that because the pandemic has wreaked havoc in the professional art world, pretty much across the board. And so we’re going to look at how this might have increased this already negative effect for women artists. The other two panelists are going to talk about the usefulness of art as therapy in general, and then how it is really useful in times of massive crisis, in times of war, in times of natural disaster, in times of pandemic.
Supporting artists during the pandemic [41:22]
Damianne: [41:22] That sounds like a wonderful project. Have you seen any examples of where the public or any listeners can support the work of artists, if they are feeling for the plight that is facing the art world during the pandemic where people can’t perform face to face in many places?
Monique: [41:43] There are organizations. So when it became obvious that it was a pandemic and people were seeing the effects, there were movements out there by grassroots movements to support artists in local areas. For people in theater, for example, people who are either actors or dancers, you know, who make their life performing on stage, and nobody could go to see them.
Different organizations, whether it be local arts organizations or, um, God, there was one, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was ballerinas all around the world who filmed themselves dancing, I think it was Swan Lake and they put that up online and they asked for contributions. So there were all kinds of things like that going on.
Damianne: [42:31] Yeah. Yeah, so if you’re a listener and you have felt the loss of the opportunity for live culture, for live presentations and arts in your life, then consider that the artists who have been involved in these productions are possibly suffering right now. And you could look into your local communities and see if there are any movements, any opportunities to support those works that we hope will come back but are really suffering right now.
The project closest to Monique’s heart [43:05]
So from your bio, we saw lots of different things that you do. Maybe this isn’t a fair question, because for example, parents always say, I love all my children equally, but what’s the project that’s closest to your heart either now or in the past.
Monique: [43:22] Okay. Well, I think there have been a lot, but I think truly the work that I do to honor Beauford Delaney is the closest to my heart. And WIF does that and Les Amis de Beauford Delaney does that. And because of the work that those two organizations have done together, we were the impetus for the launching of a group, a consortium of sorts back in Beauford’s hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee called Gathering Light: The Delaney project. And the reason that that came to pass is because when we did our art exhibition here in 2016, 11 people from Knoxville, Tennessee came to Paris to see that show. And four of them were affiliated with the Knoxville Museum of Art, which at that time only had three Beauford Delaney paintings in its collection.
Those people came to Paris and they saw the exhibition. None of them had ever seen so many Beauford Delaney paintings in one place ever, including the professionals at the museum. And they went on the Beauford Delaney Montparnasse Walk that Entrée to Black Paris created in honor of Beauford. And they saw the two plaques that Les Amis de Beauford Delaney had installed in Beauford’s honor in Montparnasse. One woman literally cried. She said we have nothing for Beauford in Knoxville and you have his name on two buildings in Paris, France. And not only that, you have acknowledged that he was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Knoxville, Tennessee, USA is displayed on two buildings in Paris, France, and we have nothing in Knoxville for Beauford.
So gathering light has changed all of that. Those people got busy let me tell you and we’ve done collaborations and I have visited Knoxville a few times since that time. I’ve worked with them on various things and now Knoxville is proud to say that the Knoxville Museum of Art has the largest collection of Beauford Delaney paintings of any museum in the world. They have over 50 works.
Damianne: [45:39] What a turnaround.
Monique: [45:40] Yes, they house the Beauford Delaney archives, at least the estates archives I should say. There is another archive at the Schomburg Center in New York, a small one, but they have the bulk of the Beauford Delaney archives. And this year before the pandemic, they had a huge show of Beauford’s works, a one man show that honored Beauford’s relationship with James Baldwin.
Major museums loaned their works to that show. It had to close because of the pandemic, but they were able to open again in July. And the show ran through, I think it was the 20 October, 22nd or so of when it was actually supposed to have closed much, much earlier because the people who had loaned the works were like, this is very important and so we’re not going to take our stuff back. Once things can open up again, we’ll allow people to go in and see, obviously with social distancing and all of that. And then the biggest thing, so just like I felt that I had to do that show because I hadn’t done enough with the plaques and the blog, even with everything that’s happening with Gathering Light, I still have not done enough.
The current Beauford Delaney project [46:53]
And so my latest project is to do a video documentary on Beauford Delaney, and we are working to raise funds for that. At present, we did a trailer that was screened at Cannes, the Cannes film festival last year. We had hoped to have the full thing finished this year. Cannes didn’t happen this year. But because of various things, fundraising, but then the pandemic, we’re in production now.
What needs to happen is that our director/producer/writer needs to go back to the US and film a couple of interviews. He needs to go to Knoxville to do some filming there and with travel being, you know, just so, so curtailed right now, we don’t know when that’s going to happen again.
Where Monique’s ideas come from [47:45]
Damianne: [47:45] You talk about the idea of feeling like you’re not doing enough, knowing that there is something more for you to do. Is this just a feeling? Do you have a practice, journaling, questions you ask yourself? How do you arrive at the decisions as to where to go next?
Monique: [48:03] You know, mostly they either wake me up at night or they’re the first thing that’s on my mind when I get up in the morning. I get a lot of inspiration or sometimes, okay, also I get my best ideas in the shower. But really, the sort of light bulb moments will either wake me up at night or I’m waking up in the morning and I’m like, this is what you must do. And then from that idea, then I get in the shower and I’m like, okay, this is how you can do it. But the what generally comes in the middle of the night or as I am awakening.
Managing the flood of ideas [48:44]
Damianne: [48:44] Interesting. And do you write these down or are they just so powerful that they stay with you, they sit with you?
Monique: [48:50] I really don’t write down the big ideas. The big ones stay. The what just stays but the how I need to, I do, I have a bullet journal and I do braindumps. I write ideas about how, because my brain is just flooded, flooded, flooded. This is again another, it’s a US metaphor. But I compare it to the Mississippi river and the force of ideas is just…; it is always moving, always moving, always moving, always moving and it is enormous. And so if I have an idea about how to do something, I’d better write it down because 10 minutes later I have already had probably another 50 ideas.
And so, you know, in order to capture the important things, and not all the ideas are good, but even just to come back and say, let me just think about that a little bit more, I need to write it down.
Damianne: [49:46] Have you always been this way or have you cultivated this way of being in any way, the flood of ideas?
Monique: [49:54] flood of ideas, I guess that has really opened up for me since I became an entrepreneur. Even when I was working full-time and my husband and I had the travel business as a side business, I would, because I was working all day and I had to focus on other things, if I had an idea during the work day that was relevant to the travel business, then I needed to write it down. And so when I became an entrepreneur and all of the things that I did professionally were done out of this space that I’m in right now, my home, my apartment, then I had to write things down because I had different businesses to keep track of, and the nonprofits. So it became a best practice.
Productivity Habits [50:50]
Damianne: [50:50] Yeah. And I imagine that with so many things that you do, you have to be organized. At least from an outside perspective, I think I could say that you’re incredibly productive. Are there any habits or beliefs that you think contribute to your productivity?
Monique: [51:11] Yeah, there are habits. So one of the things that I did during the 2008 recession was reinvented myself again because my toxpath consultancy tanked. I created a productivity course for my industry. I looked at various areas and ended up putting together a six week course that was custom built for my industry. But those ideas apply to any industry, and they apply to you in your personal life as well. And so I use those principles and I try to build into them the idea that while they are principles, there’s a lot of fluidity that you can infuse in them.
A lot of people, when they hear productivity, they think negative. They just contract because it’s like, Oh, all these rules and Oh, you know, and if I don’t get it done, it’s, Oh, I don’t want to do it. Or I procrastinate and all of that. And so, you know, obviously in order to get things done, you must actually do them, but there is a mindset that goes with “productivity” that can allow you a lot of suppleness and a lot of ease as you are being productive.
And so I learned as I went along, and I started to work with women, that I needed to focus more on that suppleness. And so I stopped talking about productivity and I started talking about work-life balance. And then I graduated from work-life balance to life balance because after all, work is not something that’s on another planet, it’s one life.
And so the integration of work into a fulfilling life is the idea as opposed to gotta work, gotta work, gotta work, shut that door, let me go about my life. No, it’s all one and the same. And so it’s some key mindset shifts that allow you to be a bit more easy with yourself while still getting things done.
When I launched a productivity practice called Making Productivity Easy, I felt like that was going to be a compromise between getting the word out about productivity, and saying yes it can be easy. So listen to me and I’ll make it easy for you. But my definition of productivity became knowing what matters and getting it done. And I still believe that today.
The focus is on the knowing what matters, because if you know what matters and you believe in those things, you have the passion about those things that you have decided matter to you, then it’s going to make it easier for you to get them done.
Damianne: [54:09] Yes, you need to know what you want before you can put in any action towards that.
Challenge/Invitation from Monique [54:15]
Do you have an invitation for listeners that could help them live the life that they want?
Monique: [54:22] An invitation.
Damianne: [54:25] Or a challenge or some action they can take that would help them with this?
Monique: [54:31] This is probably the hardest thing of all for a lot of people, but the challenge would be to sit down with yourself, be quiet and tune into not your mind because your mind chatters a hundred miles an hour all day, every day. Quiet your mind and listen to the voice that comes from deep within, the voice that comes from your heart and the voice that comes from your intuition, your soul. If you can do that on a regular basis, even if it’s only for a minute or two every day, then you’ll know what matters. And then you’ll be able to figure out how to get it done.
Trusting your Intuition [55:29]
Damianne: [55:29] I think that’s something we’re so out of practice, or even if I just speak for myself, this is something that I’ve been trying to do. For so long, I’ve been head driven. I think we can trust our intuition to a large extent, but it’s hard to know if the message we’re getting is intuition or our head being in control once again.
Monique: [55:50] Yeah, knowing the difference takes some cultivation, particularly if you’re not in practice. So that’s the challenge; everybody on this planet can benefit from that.
Damianne: [55:59] As I said in the beginning, all of the links to where people can find you, to your work will be in the show notes For the last question today, do you have any books, media, podcasts, any recommendations of something you would like listeners to go and find beside your own books?
Book Recommendation [56:17]
Monique: [56:17] Yes, I do. And actually I’m trying to remember when I read it, but it’s a book by Arianna Huffington called Thrive. In this book, Arianna Huffington defines what she calls the third metric for success. She identifies money and power as the two metrics that we normally, at least in the Western world, associate with success. And she defines the third metric as let’s see, I think it’s well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
Damianne: [56:49] I love this. I haven’t read that book although it’s on my shelf along with too many other books. But one thing that I have been trying to cultivate is wonder, and maybe I will inch that book higher up on my list so that I could get some good practices.
Monique: [57:07] It’s actually an easy read. It really is.
Damianne: [57:10] Okay. Great. Anything, any last words that’s on your heart or mind that you would like to finish with today?
Monique: [57:20] I would just want to thank you again for inviting me to, you know, gush about all of these things. And I just want to say to everybody, you know, we’re living at a time that’s just unprecedented in modern life. Just know that there is something on the “other side”. We may not ever slam the door on this pandemic, but the world is not going to, I mean, we’ll be here. We will be here and there is good in what is happening, even if we can’t see it.
So if you have that faith, like we were talking about earlier, miracles are popping up everywhere, some of them, a lot of them because of what is happening right now. And so if we can just keep our eyes and our minds and our hearts open, we will find those miracles; your faith will be rewarded and renewed and we’ll go forward better for it.
In order to get things done, you must actually do them.- Monique Y. WellsTweet
My definition of productivity became knowing what matters and getting it done. – Monique Y. WellsTweet
- Theme music by Rafael Krux. Inspiration on freepd.com. License: CC0
- Headshot in this post provided by Monique Y. Wells. All Rights Reserved.