Interview translated from French in English by Isabelle NG
Despite what you could imagine, this is not the name of her new movie but a lovely mantra that Chloé Dumas likes to repeat :
“Life loves us like a mother loves her children. And a loving mother knows you can’t grow only on sweets… that’s why she brings broccolis to her kids, which believe they are punished, because this is not what they wanted right now. Even if we don’t understand them right now, the “Life’s broccolis” are there to make us happy in the long run.”
I’m so happy Chloé agreed to inaugurate this interview section. I couldn’t dream of a better beginning!
While she was locked down in her London flat, I had the opportunity to chat with her for a few hours from home, through my computer screen, and to get to know this gorgeous and multifaceted person.
When I’m saying “gorgeous person”, I’m not exaggerating. You should see how she brightens up the screen and the red carpets with her Greek statue looks. And Chloé Dumas is not just an actress !
She is also a gifted yoga teacher (go on her Instagram account and discover her impressive yoga flows) and successful athlete. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, horse riding, archery, dance and rock climbing… She embodies the motto “ Mens Sana in corpore Sano » and the Art of going beyond your limits.
Chloé is also an adventurer who doesn’t hesitate to take her chance abroad, in the UK or in the USA. Multicultural and speaking 4 languages, chatting with her is so insightful !
And Chloé Dumas is also such a funny person, easy to talk to and generous. The sole fact that she trusts me to discuss frankly, with simplicity and raw honesty proves it better than words could ! Her generosity is also illustrated through her numerous humanitarian or volunteering actions.
By reading all this, you must have understood how under the spell of this meeting I find myself, and how glad to share its content with you !
What do you love most in what you do?
I like People. I’ve also been fascinated by them. Human beings are a mysterious topic.
The more I work, the more I learn to understand human beings and the more I grow in self-confidence as a woman and actress. Eventually, being able to understand people helps me to come to terms with myself.
For an actress, acting is only 30% of the job. The other 70% are the upstream work, the personal and professional preparation. To have a life and to live it, develop yourself, it is the rock on which an actress relies. Personal empowerment comes from your own evolution.
And as for the actor, projects go on when the camera stopped rolling. What is on screen is only the final result but the process is so much more! All that matters most is off-camera, with so many people’s energy involved… For me it is so important to honor all the crew work by doing my best in acting.
Is there something in your career you are particularly proud of?
I’d say the fact of being able to manage so much at once. I’m a very organized woman, management assistant by training (and career) and it helps me a lot!
My evolutions as an actress and a Woman are intrinsically linked. Each choice I’ve made in my career was made for a very good reason, professionally or personally. And I’m very proud of everything I’ve done, even if it has become a satisfying sweet or a formative broccoli… Even if I’m especially proud of A Discovery of Witches!
I have a very positive Life Philosophy. I don’t believe in coincidences. This is the sum of everything I’ve done in my past that brought me here, to the person I’ve become, doing this interview with you. And I’m so grateful.
Thinking more about it, what I’m really proud of, is I have never voluntarily harmed someone. In everything I’ve done, I’ve never put my own benefit beyond the respect I can have for others.
And that must not have been easy since you work in one of the most competitive industries in the world.
How have you learnt to be fierce and true to yourself?
I had many opportunities to sell off my values, especially when I was a young actress. Many times, some producers explained to me that if I refused to sit on their laps I would miss the chance of my life. I was eager to be successful in the industry… but I’ve always said no. At 18 years old, I was full of huge dreams, but no dreams deserve you to quit your principles.
Today, I know “the chance of your Life” is a restrictive and wrong concept, fed from desperation. Success is the way your loved ones look at you. The way you look at yourself.
I’m admire so much those stars like Teresa Palmer* which show off their natural beauty, with no makeup and unfiltered pictures. I suffer so much from the way Women see themselves these days. We usually complain about the fact men need to change their way to see women. But we don’t talk enough about the way women see themselves.
I don’t want to tell the world that a woman’s beauty relies on what she wears.
The beauty of a woman depends on who she is, what she says, what she thinks. Beauty comes from the pride a woman has in her actions.
That’s how I’ve been educated. I’ve been raised by my grand-mother and I’ve always admired her elegance. I don’t talk about what she wears but about who she is. I talk about her strong mind, her pride, her independence despite the fact she raised her 8 brothers and sisters during the war. From where I come from, simplicity is elegance and we have to love ourselves as we are.
*with whom Chloé worked on A Discovery of Witches
If you could talk to your younger self, what would you tell yourself?
« This is the chance of your life » doesn’t exist. You’ll be the addition of all of your identities. Go on, this is the right path.
Can you share your best advice on believing in yourself and pursuing your dreams?
I have a strong faith in Life. Life loves us like a mother loves her children.
When a mother loves her children, she doesn’t give them sweets all day round. On the contrary, she gives them vegetables to eat. Even if the child believes he is punished! He has to eat them all !
Life doesn’t bring us what pleases us. Life gives her what we need to grow, to get stronger… to have enough strength and will to work harder.
I believe to seek your dreams you have to believe in it. Results don’t come from themselves. While working hard on it, our dreams flourish themselves. We have to reassess them regularly to be sure we seek our own dreams, and not the ones of our past-self … or our parents’…
When I was in my twenties, I came to realize my Life foundation wasn’t the good one. I had to deconstruct myself, to strip bare and let my shell go. Rebuilt has been long and challenging but now, it is the first time I feel attuned with the actress, the woman and Life. The “dream” still has the same name but its definition is so different now !
I’ve always known how to work hard. But believing in myself, in my chance, was another thing…
It took me so long to accept I could only do 99% of the work. For the 1% remaining, I must have faith.
Life will help us only if we let her have some room to do it.
Besides the fact you are a Yoga teacher, what do Yoga and meditation bring to your life ? What piece of advice do you give beginners ?
Yoga is such a small word that can mean so much … Yoga is you. Everyone will find what he needs.
Personally or physically speaking, I’ve always been a seeker.
When I was a teenager, I felt wrong in my body. I felt heavy, large, small, unbalanced, unable. And I was. I was so different from the woman I am today.
Yoga changed the way I saw my body. I feel fluent, supple, able. Practicing yoga opened the door to all my other physical activities, since it has restored my self-confidence. And I’m always pushing my physical comfort zone, even if it’s long-term work.
I love challenges and pushing my limits. That’s why I’m doing sports like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I practice 4 times a week, for 3 years. But it remains an out of comfort zone activity I try to push away, step by step. Yoga is all the contrary. This is exactly my comfort zone and it makes me feel so wonderfully! They balance out each other. Fortunately, yoga helps me to stretch all my muscles sore with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I’ve always had difficulties breathing. Meditation and the 3 types of breathing in Yoga help me to be grounded.
When you want to begin with yoga, you have to know which one you want. You have to be kind with yourself and to know if you want to get out of your comfort zone or to strengthen it. I believe it is important to be advised by someone expert to help you sort things out.
I don’t master everything in Yoga. I’m still trying some new postures and nothing is spontaneously easy, but the mat is really my comfort zone.
It is the same with people. It is great to meet new people and to go out. But it is also important to have close people with whom you can be yourself. Once again, Kindness is essential.
You are also very involved in helping people. You assist blind and low-vision people with the BeMyEyes apps. What did you learn helping them in their everyday life?
Be My Eyes is an amazing app. It has been created to help quickly and one-time people with low-vision. You just have to register your mobile phone number and the languages in which you can help. The visually impaired people launched the apps and all the volunteers of this language received the call. The first one to answer is put in contact. It is usually some small things like choosing the color of a short, helping to find with video something that fell from a desk or sometimes just talking to someone feeling lonely. And it is absolutely amazing how technology can make possible that kind of small thing that changes everything.
I volunteer because giving is my nature. However, it has happened once a caller needed moral support and, being not in my best self, I couldn’t give him what he needed.
That’s how I’ve become conscious you can’t give to others if you are not well. Even if you are a natural “giver”, sometimes, the only people you have to give is you.
Once again, you learn each time you open a new door.
Since the beginning of the British lock down*, you volunteer at the NHS in a London Hospital (which is so brave and a real proof of commitment).
How do you live being in the heart of the crisis, so close to the caregivers and the sick?
We do so many things as volunteers! I was there this morning for hours. This is a complicated situation because we have a rotation of the shifts and the staff in charge of volunteers is doing an amazing job.
Since Covid19 began, many United Kingdom funds deliver food in the hospitals, to help NHS members daily lives. Everything is centralized in the kitchen and the volunteers make the distributions in the different units. We are also in charge of the disinfection measures in the rest pods, to take the temperatures at the reception, to distribute the masks…
I’m also in charge of working in a Covid19 unit. Humanly speaking it was a very painful reality. The courage of the caregivers, whatever their country of origin or their job, is just unbelievable. Especially because they are not superheroes. Especially because it must be so frustrating to be only human and not being able to do more. Because no one has become a doctor to see so many people dying. Every staff member of the hospital was heroic, even the ones forgotten like the maintenance staff, the kitchen staff, the morgue… everyone has seen their daily life being so much more complex, while going on to work in those dangerous places.
In this situation, I’ve learned so much. In this very special context, I’ve learned not to challenge myself all the time. I’ve learned how to make human relationships and my own relationship with myself easier. I’ve learned how to keep calm, not to accumulate others’ energies. As I’ve already said, to give to others, you have to give yourself. That’s an endless process, but I’m learning !
How can you decompress after all these anxious hours in the heart of the pandemy?
I was very anxious for my family, especially for my grand-mother who lives in the South of France. I’m so grateful they are all in good health !
I’m also very grateful to have had the opportunity to be so productive while being locked down. In 3 months, I’ve passed my Yoga teacher degree in English language, I’ve joined workshops* every 2 days (with my agent Miles Anthony). I could have done selfs-tapes** Every day, I’ve made some volunteer missions, I could give some online Yoga lessons to my faithful customers…
I know all that asked me a lot of motivation and a lot of work but I’m very grateful Life let me do it. That lock-down asked many people to confront themselves. I’m lucky to have been in an advanced state of my personal quest for Life helping me in my productivity search.
* workshop between the agency’s actors and some casting directors
** This is a casting method more and more used where actors film their audition themselves and send it to the casters.
Do you believe in kindness? What does it mean to you?
I believe in being kind with others and being kind with yourself. And I believe strongly they are linked.
Being kind with others, it is mostly some empathy. Trying to understand others while not drawing things back to you, trying to understand their reactions and their state of mind. Being kind with yourself is mostly knowing yourself enough to set healthy boundaries, not to draw back constantly to others.
Being kind with others, it’s being demanding of yourself.
Being kind with yourself, it’s not being too demanding.
Kindness is a balance. Taking care of yourself to take care of others
What is the kindest thing someone has done for you?
If you make the exception of the family and the loved ones, I think it is a woman from the industry who made it.
In 2008, I shot a movie in Paris, called Paris Connection. It is a British movie produced by an amazing woman Ileen Maisel. I used to play the ex-girlfriend of Anthony Delon in the opening scenes. After the test projection, the scene has to be cut to reinforce the popularity of his character and I’ve been cut out of the film editing. Producers were so sorry to cut my character they kindly offered me an extra day as a shadow waitress, to be credited. It was a very kind gesture very few producers would have done.
In 2011, I left for the United Stated and just arrived, I got the main female character in a Comedy Central TV Show Jon Benjamin Has a Van with Bob Odenkirk*. Despite the fact I didn’t have a work visa, the production hired me and I launched myself in the administrative process. Amongst the necessary paper, I needed a « peer advisory letter ». It is a recommendation letter from one of my peers in the industry, preferably well settled in the USA. That’s why I’ve written to Ileen Maisel. Despite her overburdened work schedule, she sent me this letter within the 24h. She did it without asking me anything, just to kindly help me. This is thanks to her I could get my visa and I could shoot my episode.
*known as Saul Goodman, a character in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul
How can we develop more kindness in our everyday lives ?
Once more, I think balance is key. I think we have to get surrounded by things pushing us to improve ourselves while having some to feel good. Comfort and discomfort. Sweets and broccolis.
For the first time in my life, I’m reaching this kindness.
I’ve understood guilt is the enemy of kindness. Putting yourself under the pressure of being kind is in fact how you hurt yourself. You have to be patient with yourself, recognize you are on the right path. When my best friend got married, each napkin for dinner had a hidden quote. Mine was from Confucius “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” It tooks me years to understand it.
Nothing beats time.
Kindness is accepting your imperfection. It’s wanting to get better while being true to yourself. While being realistic on what is happening in the world around us.
When you are having a bad day, how do you overcome it?
In general, it’s by repeating my mantras I succeed to take some distance with my emotions. This is how I decide if it’s worth wasting my time. In 99,9% of the cases, the answer is no !
How can we, girls & women, stand together, support each other rather than being jealous of each other and tearing us down as it is usually experienced in our society?
I don’t think it is a gender issue. We usually say women are kinder than men but I don’t believe it. The issue is more individualistic and it’s upon you to learn kindness. The basis comes from the education and I feel it is too easy to come home full of anger and frustration and to pass them on to your kids. To teach your children to be kind and empathic, you have to give them the example. Reducing society to the nuclear family doesn’t encourage kindness.
What values do you admire most in the women that you surround yourself with?
I admire the fact they are able to take their decision without the fact of being a woman is in the equation. And I’m grateful to all the women from the past to fight for making this possible.
If you had the opportunity to reach every girl and woman around the world, what would you say to inspire or encourage them?
This question is difficult because, depending on the countries, the issues are not the same.
I would say that: “ Be kind to others, be kind to yourself”
I believe all the mistakes we can do are linked to a lack of connection to others, just because we are not connecting enough with our true self.
My advice would be : “Treat yourself as you would like other treat you”
Your self-love ritual?
Repeating my mantras as often as possible helps me to be grounded.
Your most inspiring human being?
Your dearest movie?
Your comfort food?
I give to my two brains what they need. My head brain and my belly brain. Pizza is a regular meal but always after a green. And to please my brain I please my eyes with the colors. A monochrome plate makes me depressed. My favorite ? Mango, avocado, shrimp, pomelo with a honey/soy dressing.
Your happy song ?
The mantra that inspires you?
Life loves us, trust the Life broccolis. Do 99% of the road and open your arms.