Interview with Pierre Chupin
Volunteer with the association of the paralyzed of France, then director of summer camp for Aux Captifs La Liberation, which accompanies the people of the street, Pierre Chupin, 33, is a director. In 2014, he created the association The Real Me. For five years, with a team of volunteers and professionals from the world of music, he offered young women in prostitution to follow musical training and produce a series of concerts.
How was your associative commitment born?
Long before The Real Me, I had already had several experiences with the Association des Paralysés de France. In 2012, I had the desire to give of my time during the summer and I prayed to God for enlightenment.
I was then offered to co-organize a camp with the association Aux Captifs la Liberation for young Nigerian girls in prostitution. They were four, between seventeen and twenty-two. It was my first contact with these young women.
Establish a relationship of trustThe stake of the camp was to offer them the opportunity to meet social workers in the best conditions. The stay was punctuated by times of rest, prayer and sharing. This is fundamental for building a relationship of trust and for them to be able to move forward on a path out of trafficking. We organized with them cooking competitions, sports, hikes, in a fraternal atmosphere. A year later, I joined the Captives as a volunteer, and I started marauding.
What was the purpose of these marauding?
By distributing coffee and contraceptives, the association creates a first point of contact with these young women. Before offering them support to get them off the street, you must first go and meet them where they are.
It was there that I received a big slap: the kid with whom I had spent a week, I found her in the woods, in her underwear, in a hostile and violent environment.
How do these young women find themselves in such a situation?
They are captive womenIt is against their will if they find themselves there! They are captive women. We must imagine that these young girls generally grew up in a form of precariousness. Networks take advantage of this vulnerability. For the most part, they one day receive a visit from the “Mamas”, as they are called in the community. They promise them that they will go to Europe and that there, they will have a decent job (saleswoman, hairdresser…).
Most of them undergo a voodoo ritual, the "juju", which is similar to a first psychological grip, before imposing on them an obstacle course to reach Italy. In general, they reach Libya, on foot, in extreme conditions; before crossing Italy for France. Some sometimes fly by plane, but in return, they contract an enormous debt with the smugglers. Arrived in Paris, their papers are withdrawn, they are imposed a debt of several tens of thousands of euros by threatening them with reprisals if they escape or show themselves to be unruly.
One of the few young girls who managed to leave her network on her own lost her brother in retaliation. These mafia networks are really ready for anything. This mafia, which imprisons them psychologically and physically, also deprives them of their identity and gives them new names, always the same: Princess, Favor, Beauty.
How can they get out of there?
Every situation is differentGetting a woman out of a network is an extremely long and complex process that is not automatic. Every situation is different. Above all, we must understand their concrete situation: their identity has been stolen, they risk their lives and health every day and are regularly attacked for money matters. It is very difficult for them to project themselves into the future.
Their distress is such that most of them have lost all self-confidence. To this must be added the barrier of culture and language. The smallest step, in this terrible context, is a mountain for a 17 year old girl!
So what was The Real Me's place in this liberation process?
The project pursues a dual objective. Through music and relying on their talents, restore the confidence of these young women in order to change the way we look at them. We start from so far that we need something powerful, deeply embodied. What could be better than art to succeed in changing the balance of power? We needed something to get us out of our delusional debates where some people think they have very realistic conceptions when they are light years away from what these women are going through.
Change the reading gridTo change the reading grid, you have to be able to speak from heart to heart. This is truly Jesus' message: if you speak to someone's heart, all barriers and prejudices fall. And for that, we must allow these women to discover themselves for what they really are, allow them to have enough confidence in their talents and in their beauty to stand up and express themselves in front of an audience. Obviously, even if we try to support them as best as possible, their progress does not belong to us and we must be very vigilant to respect their freedom. For me, when you know where they come from, what they've been through, it's a miracle. Following a concert on Radio France, the manager told us that he had never seen such enthusiasm, such a touched audience.
We are in a society where a lot of weak signals suggest a very caricature and degraded image of the prostitute woman. Very often, in our representations, nothing humanizes them. How, then, can we feel real compassion for them? I told myself that we needed a project that shows their dignity, their beauty, which speaks of what they experience, without being either in denial or in overbidding. Something that leads us towards hope.
As many talents as there are womenArt was the best way to reconcile these issues in the most successful way. Again, this is a time consuming process that is intrinsically linked to the development of the person! This is why this very modest project mobilized few women and few resources. But I was sure we would succeed. I said to myself: “In this wood, there are as many talents as there are women. As a Christian, I couldn't think of anything else. It was enough to try to give them maximum love, to work and to have faith!
How did you start the project?
At first I sounded like a foolAt first I sounded like a fool. In the evening, after work, I started by towing with Nigerians in the Bois de Vincennes. Then, once their confidence had been won, the project really started in 2014, with our first camp in the company of a composer, musicians and a social worker from Aux Captifs la Liberation.
In parallel, with about fifteen girls and Eric, our composer, we set up music workshops, which we conducted, from 2016, in collaboration with the Captives. In addition, many goodwill contributed to the project. Jacinthe and Anne, from the Les Frangines group, thus led our workshops for almost a year!
If all of this was possible, it is also because we received invaluable support from the Masalina Foundation, the ADP group, Caritas or even by winning a competition from La Fabrique Aviva.
After some very modest first show cases in front of a few friends, we had the chance to give real pop soul concerts, with Gloria. For example, we intervened at Radio France in 2016, before the Paris Bar in 2017, or at the UN in 2018, where we were part of the French delegation for France's transition to its universal periodic review of human rights. This only happens once every 5 years.
Why did you choose music?
Art is an extremely powerful mediumWhen I dated these women, I quickly realized that they loved to sing. They sang all the time. I said to myself that we absolutely had to work on this. Art is an extremely powerful medium. In front of an audience that knows nothing about these women, the first thing that stands out is admiration. When this audience understands where they come from, they don't see a prostitute but an artist, a talented woman! It changes everything. As I have seen each time, people come out upset. The questions that parasitize their dignity disappear.
Did you cast the girls?
No, we weren't making a selection on vocals. Any woman was welcome! The selection was made naturally, depending on the degree of commitment. It is a very hard public to retain because these women have a rhythm of life and an offbeat culture. They come from another world and, in Vincennes, they live in another world.
For the concerts, it was mainly Gloria who sang.
She has a wonderful voice and she's been in the project from the start. When I knew her, it was total shit in her life. Today she has a job and is expecting a little guy. Please note, it's not just thanks to us! She was accompanied by other associations. But above all, it was she who accomplished these feats and trusted us.
Thanks Jesus!One of the dreams I had was for the powerful in this world to have their hearts touched by one of these women. And that's what happened, when Gloria sang at the UN. It was crazy. We were proud to show an initiative, however modest, from our country. Two months earlier, a foundation told us: “You don't have enough women and not enough impact. “Indeed, it was difficult to enter The Real Me in an Excel table. And two months later, we were at the UN in front of the human rights gratin in Geneva. Thanks Jesus!
What do you plan to do to conclude this adventure? What lesson do you draw from the last 5 years?
We would like to do a last song with Gloria in order to transmit a message of hope to as many people as possible. Moreover, those who want to support us in this last project are welcome. We need help! This adventure gave me a lot of confidence in life and in entrepreneurship.
I became aware of all the fears that can prevent us from actingI became aware of all the fears that can prevent us from acting. I was really taken for a fool at first. However, I was convinced that I had a hyper pragmatic approach, an approach based on the Gospel. That did not prevent me from having big moments of doubts like all project leaders. It seems that Jesus wants us to be a little crazy. I believe that in the unknown, in what we do not master, a real path of faith is played out. If not, what place do we leave for Jesus to try to do his will?
Interview with Gloria, singer and songwriter
Gloria is Nigerian, Protestant and soon to be the mother of a little boy. She is the figurehead of the association The Real Me. Arrived in France at the age of 14, forced into prostitution, she ended up leaving her network with the help of associations. For five years, this young singer has shone at each concert with her talent and professional level. In 2018, she even sang in front of the UN to defend the cause of women. Today she testifies for JESUS !.
When did you join The Real Me?
I arrived in France in 2009, and it was in 2013 that I joined the association. I am 18 years old. At the beginning, when Pierre told me about his project, I told myself that it was a completely crazy idea (laughs). I was even a little scared. It was so far from what I was going through. But that's because I didn't know Pierre yet. Today he's a real big brother for me! The Real Me has changed a lot of things in my life. I was able to build a part of myself and understand what I was capable of. It was an incomparable opportunity to receive training of this level, with such a team. I, who have been singing since I was very young, at church, at home, everywhere, I have made so much progress thanks to the association and to all the work we have accomplished together!
What musical style do you subscribe to?
They speak of faithPop soul. I am very inspired by a woman from my country, Sinach, who is very well known in Nigeria but whom I only discovered when I arrived in France. He's a real role model for me. I do covers and I also compose my own songs, in English. They speak of faith and courage. But I also like to sing in French!
How did you find the courage to get out of it?
This courage comes from GodThis courage comes from God. It was thanks to him that I was able to get out of it. I have always prayed and I prayed every day to find the courage to come out and face life in the face. In my old life, I was not myself, I was completely imprisoned. But I prayed to God every day to send me help. And help and courage have been sent to me!
What would you like to say to young women who are still trapped in their situation?
I know this situation is terrible, I lived it. But you have to open up to get out of it, a lot of people are there to help you. You just have to open your eyes and make the right decisions. Courage will come with it. If you want to become yourself, you have to free yourself from this tragic situation.
Has people's outlook changed with your concerts?
The real me revealed itself on stageThe look before and after on the stage is not at all the same. First of all because I see myself as a singer when I prepare to go on stage. And in turn, people look at me, listen to me, also see me as a singer. The reality of who I am, what I'm capable of, the real me, The Real Me, was revealed on stage, not in the woods.
How did you feel when you heard that you were going to sing at the UN?
Surprise! I never imagined I could do such a thing. Once there, I knew that it was by the grace of God that I was there, in such an important place, in the presence of all the ambassadors and international delegates. Many good singers did not have this opportunity. I sang a song there that I composed for the occasion and which speaks of what I lived: Make up your mind.
What do you plan for the future?
We're going to create and record one last song with The Real Me, but I'm going to continue singing and I wish I could eventually devote myself to it full time. Today, I got out of the embarrassment thanks to Les Captifs la Liberation and the Dagobert association. My situation is regularized, I have a job, a companion… At 23, there is no more stress! But if I have the opportunity, one day, I would like to create an association specially dedicated to women. To help them cultivate their talents. They are not lacking: I have met singers, dancers but also great preachers! I would like to be able to help them cultivate their charisms and develop their gifts.
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