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Pauline Jean: “Don’t compete”

My movement might be called “World Blazers” and should bring to light history that has been hidden. It would incorporate mandatory classes from preschool to college level that focuses on trailblazers who changed society for the better. Such movement will inspire us to tap into our humanity and unite the common good within us all, […]

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My movement might be called “World Blazers” and should bring to light history that has been hidden. It would incorporate mandatory classes from preschool to college level that focuses on trailblazers who changed society for the better. Such movement will inspire us to tap into our humanity and unite the common good within us all, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, culture and creed.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Pauline Jean. Haitian-American performing artist and humanitarian, Pauline Jean, is a captivating vocalist whose distinctive contralto and rousing melodies have caught the attention of audiences both young and old. Jean brings a refreshing sound to today’s music; creating an erudite blend of worldly jazz that draws from her Creole roots and integrates modern and traditional inflections. She has received considerable press globally from leading media publications such as DownBeat, Jazzwise, All About Jazz, World Music Report, JazzTimes, Kreol Magazine and many more.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Pauline! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn. I grew up in East Flatbush in a predominately Caribbean community. My parents migrated to the United States from Haiti. I am the youngest of nine children. I grew up in two worlds: that of Haiti and that of America.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My musical journey began in church. While sitting in the alto section of the children/youth choir, I got my first ear-training lesson. Attending Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts & Performing Arts (the “fame” school), where I majored in voice was one of the happiest moments of my life. After graduation, I went to Saint John’s University and received a degree in Political Science. I worked as a paralegal for many years before taking a leap of faith to return to music school. While working in New York City, I began music lessons at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. My first encounter was that of a spiritual nature. The first question that my instructor asked me was, “Pauline, you can sing from this (low) note to this (high) note…when you stand before the Father and He asks you what have you done with My gift, what will you tell Him?” Music took on another meaning for me after that encounter. I took a jazz vocal workshop and fell in love with the genre. I was asked to perform at the Duplex Cabaret Theater in Manhattan, which also featured two other vocalists. It was such a memorable experience because it was my first public jazz engagement. Some of my coworkers attended the show and one of them told me to really think about studying music because, as she put it, “you have a gift and your time is now!” Eventually I followed my passion for singing and moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music where I received my Bachelors in Music and Vocal Performance. After my graduation, I returned to New York City and immersed myself into the music scene. It was the best decision I made for my life. My career allowed me to see parts of the world I never would have seen. I met and collaborated with many amazing musicians, and performed on stages of prominent venues and festivals around the globe.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I began to unearth and discover myself, and my purpose for living. I began to see the world with new eyes. I have always considered myself a late bloomer. As one of my mentors told me, “you may be late, but as you blossom, you are still holding up the fragrance.” I no longer needed validation from anyone. I was living for me. I felt free doing what I love. I felt free being unapologetically 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?

Never stay on a stage where the drummer is too loud and ahead of you. That is like watching a martial arts movie and the lips are not in sync with the character. This happened to me. It was not funny then, but in hindsight, it’s a bit humorous. I was inexperienced and just went with the flow. I remember feeling and sounding crazy. The lesson I learned from that experience is that the stage is my sacred space. When I am performing with other musicians, I always want to experience mutual respect and “utmost” musicianship.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have just completed my latest single and video, “Ain’t I A Woman (Singing Truth)”. It is my tribute to the courageous Sojourner Truth based on her memorable speech during the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851. She used her identity to point out the injustices of Black women and slavery. Sojourner Truth’s mission for justice was so powerful that it inspired me to write a song that generates awareness of voter registration, women in leadership, gender equality, and violence against women. My hope is that Sojourner Truth will become a household name and that her legacy is celebrated annually to value and build upon her immense contributions toward the advancement of Black women’s rights in America.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

The world itself is a true representation of diversity. It is imperative that those in the entertainment industry reflect such reality. Diversity is needed to eliminate stereotypes and biases that have plagued our society for too long. Authenticity and the truth are best portrayed in the media when the narrative is coming from a person that has lived the experience. A story is more believable when it is rooted in facts. Diversity gives us an opportunity to learn, respect, understand and appreciate our differences while embracing our humanity. The entertainment industry has a huge platform and for that reason diversity is key to promote tolerance.

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

1. “Watch out for the phonies.” “I will make you a star.” “Stick with me.”

Actions speak louder than words. Don’t take people’s words at face value, they must be credible. Investigate!

2. Know your worth.

If you do not know your worth, someone will determine your value. You can’t give away work for free. You must get paid for your time and talent.

3. Hone your craft.

Perfect your God-given talent, surround yourself with positive influences, practice, recognize your strength and never give up.

4. Educate yourself in financial and legal matters.

The more you know, the less likely you will be taken advantage of. If you are not sure, seek wise counsel. Never sign documents prematurely. Give yourself a day or two to review.

5. Don’t compete.

Just do YOU! In the music industry you can get caught up looking at what other people are doing, Instead, focus on your own artistry. Learn to put blinders on. Like my father used to tell me, “everybody has their season”. My motto is: “Do what you can control, God will take care of the rest.”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Maintain a healthy balance between your professional and your private life. Life is too short to immerse yourself solely in only one thing. Make time for what is also important in life. When your two eyes close and you depart this earthly realm, you want to leave without complaints or regrets. Nat King Cole said it best in his song Nature Boy, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”.

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. 🙂

My movement might be called “World Blazers” and should bring to light history that has been hidden. It would incorporate mandatory classes from preschool to college level that focuses on trailblazers who changed society for the better. Such movement will inspire us to tap into our humanity and unite the common good within us all, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, culture and creed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to God for His many angels here on earth. There is one particular angel that stands out above the rest. I am grateful to my friend and confidant, Heidi Glaeser. We both met while working at a law firm in New York City. She saw my very first jazz performance and encouraged me to pursue music. Unbeknownst to her, she planted a seed that positively changed the trajectory of my life. She believed in me when at times, I did not believe in myself. Through all of my ups, downs, victories and defeats she always supported and encouraged me to keep moving forward, never sideways. I am eternally grateful to Heidi!

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

Follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

You have to treat people the way you want to be treated. Treating others with respect, dignity, and kindness goes a long way. This rule is relevant in all aspects of my life.

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

I would love to meet filmmaker Ava DuVernay. I admire how she uses her platform to bring truth to light. It would be amazing to collaborate with her on a future project that showcases other unsung heroes and sheroes. I love creating from ideas and images that have their origins in culture and history. I would love for Ava to make a movie about Sojourner Truth.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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