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Francesca Andre: “Don’t try to do it alone”

I don’t see myself as having an enormous influence especially since nowadays influence has a lot to do with fame, money or social ranking but I do consider myself a person who has an enormous responsibility to be the light that I was meant to be in this world. I would like to inspire a […]

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I don’t see myself as having an enormous influence especially since nowadays influence has a lot to do with fame, money or social ranking but I do consider myself a person who has an enormous responsibility to be the light that I was meant to be in this world. I would like to inspire a movement that focuses on healing especially people who are grieving. Lately, I have seen so many people who are grieving and still have to show up for themselves, their families while they grieve. This year has been very painful for a lot of people in the world and I wish I could support a movement that can create a safe space that focuses on healing.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Francesca Andre, an award-winning filmmaker, photographer, and writer known for creating richly emotional work that tackles the complexities of life. Through her camera lens, Andre invites you to a world full of beauty, color, passion, and triumph.

Andre is the co-founder and creative director of Optik 21, a creative agency offering high-quality photography and video services. She has been a freelance photographer since 2008, and her work has been published in outlets such as Forbes, the New York Post, New York Daily News, News Day, Connecticut Post, Daily Mail, Black Enterprise and Ebony Magazine. In 2017, she released her award-winning short film, Charcoal, which captures the stories of two black women as they embark on a lifelong journey to overcome internalized colorism, find self-acceptance, and ultimately find redemption. The film, which has been screened at several US and International film festivals, was also featured and reviewed by outlets including, but not limited to Essence, ThinkProgress, Ebony Magazine and Connecticut Post. In 2018, Francesca Andre was named one of “40 under 40” high achievers by Connecticut Magazine.

Francesca has a Masters in Film and Television from Sacred Heart University. She is currently the Co-Chair of Capracare’s Marketing and Development Committee, and is the Public Relations and Outreach Manager at NAAHP. Andre is releasing her second children’s book, “I am a Phenomenal Black Boy”, which defies societal stereotypes by centering black boys as heroes of their own stories. It encourages young black boys to be unapologetic about their identity, magic, history and brilliance through its prose and poetry and highlights the contributions that powerful black male and female figures have made to humanity.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Francesca! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always had a love for storytelling since I was little. Growing up in Haiti with my grandmother, storytelling at night was part of our everyday life. I learned so many amazing folkloric songs and stories such as Tezin and Bouki and Malice, all these characters are very well known in Haitian culture. I decided to venture into photography which led me to film, creative writing and now I am an author. Writing is a necessity for me especially now as I am going through some challenging personal times. Although I have not branded myself as a writer, I do enjoy the escape and freedom that this art form allows me to experience.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The creative space/industry is a leading industry. It’s an industry that brings healing. Art brings healing. I wish the world that we live in was more appreciative of artists- all artists not just the ones who are famous but especially those who took it as their personal mission to make a positive impact in this world. Everything we do in life starts with an idea and artists give birth to ideas. One thing that I can share is being intentional with my business, my ideas and my work. To be able to be a part of someone else’s journey by either photographing them or helping them bring an idea to life is phenomenal in itself. So being able to operate at this conscious/intentional level has been liberating and empowering for me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am not sure If I can recall a funny mistake, I tend to be very hard on myself but I always find it hilarious when I am photographing a client and the lens cap is on. There’s no particular lesson to learn but it’s usually a good ice breaker.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

When I decided to go to graduate school for film and television, I was full of doubts and questions. I decided to follow my heart despite reasonable doubts. I was born to create and I will not run away from it. When I fully surrendered, the healing started. I knew that the stories that came to me deserved to be honored and they also matter. The issues in the industry that bothered me such as lack of diversity not only racial diversity but how women filmmakers are overlooked. I saw it as an opportunity to create and tell the stories that I am not seeing. My film Charcoal was the first project that I launched to tackle internalized colorism- not too many were talking about it and it was a subject that was dear to me. I knew what colorism was before I had a concept of racism. “ I Am a Phenomenal Black Boy” book idea came to me during the racial unrest in the world and being a mom of a young black boy, I wanted him to have a book that reflects his light as a powerful and amazing being that he is. As a new mom, I wanted a book that reminds me of a perfect stew- a little of history, identity, black boy brilliance, and positive affirmation paired with powerful illustrations that uplift young black boys.

This is a book that allows parents to take back control of the narrative that surrounds black boys by reminding them of their true identity and their purpose in this world. Phenomenal black boy is a poem, positive affirmation, and a work of activism against the many negative stereotypes that this world has set for young black boys. It asserts that black boys are filled with limitless potential and have the right to express the full range of human emotions.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

So many people were touched by my film Charcoal- every screening felt like a retreat/ a social gathering for healing and open dialogue. To live in a world that makes you feel invisible, ugly, to live in a world that tells you that you don’t matter is cruelty. This is why I continue to create.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

More representation! Diverse storytelling! More positive stories

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is serving

Leadership is having compassion and empathy

Leadership is being able to lead with love, courage and vulnerability. We are humans after all.

Some of the most amazing people who have impacted my life in a positive way weren’t even trying to but I watched how they treat others, how they carry their light and that transformed me, that empowered me, that motivated me.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t try to do it alone

Find a mentor

Network more

Don’t be so hard on yourself- Love yourself through the challenges, the pain, the mistakes, the failures. Love yourself while you wait.

Your ideas are God’s way of connecting you with others! Take care of them! Cultivate them and do right by them!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I don’t see myself as having an enormous influence especially since nowadays influence has a lot to do with fame, money or social ranking but I do consider myself a person who has an enormous responsibility to be the light that I was meant to be in this world. I would like to inspire a movement that focuses on healing especially people who are grieving. Lately, I have seen so many people who are grieving and still have to show up for themselves, their families while they grieve. This year has been very painful for a lot of people in the world and I wish I could support a movement that can create a safe space that focuses on healing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Tomorrow is not promised! Every day is a blessing. This used to be a cliche until I lost half of my heart/spirit. I don’t wish to go into details but I now know how important it is to live life to the fullest and cherish every single second.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Ava Duvernay! She is my personal social impact hero

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/francesca_andre_/

Twitter:https://twitter.com/francescaandre

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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