This week, we spoke with a strong and courageous woman who birthed the idea of a show loved by many around the world, Maîtresse d’un homme marié. KALISTA SY is the author behind this series and she shared with us a little bit about her journey to getting the show on the big screens, as well as who is she! Let’s take a read below!
AIDA: Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and background?
KALISTA: I was a journalist. I think we remain that for life (haha). I went to school for it and took a very classic route to getting there. I recently became an author but it was some time coming. I’ve always been passionate about writing, since I was little; we can say it was my destiny. I wrote the série “Maîtresse d’un homme marié.”
I am a product of Sénégal, 100%. I was born and raised in Sénégal. Studied in Sénégal. Work in Sénégal. And love Sénégal. There is pride in me saying that. Because it’s important that people can make their dreams come true in Sénégal.
AIDA: How did you get the inspiration for the scenario?
KALISTA: I was involved with a group of woman, kind of like a support group. We talked about stories your typical Senegalese woman might encounter – real issues like polygamy, infidelity, etc. I shared the stories I wrote with a friend of mine who pushed me to make it into something more; that’s where the idea for the serie came about.
A friend, Khadijah Déme, from the série Adja introduced me to Mass from Marodi TV. It was 3 years in the making before the série launched! A lot of thought went into it. I wanted to touch on more than just one topic (i.e. infidelity) so the stories evolved over time and new characters came about to build it into a cohesive story line with interconnected characters. This helped to create the authenticity of the show.
I wanted it to be relate-able and not just isolated stories. One example of this is how many of the characters visit the therapist in the show. This tackles two issues in our society: the idea of getting help for mental issues and the notion that we all just want someone to talk to. So in the show, many of the characters are seeing this therapist without anyone knowing, and without themselves knowing that someone close to them is also seeking help for issues they are battling with. They are all interconnected.
AIDA: The show touches on a lot of topics that we generally don’t speak of in our households growing up in Senegal. It’s quite impressive to see how these topics are being teased out one by one. What inspired you to tackle what some might call “taboo” topics?
KALISTA: In life, when you work on something that is going to be consumed by others, you obviously want the work to be good; you want them to like it! I think the stories are realistic and everyone watching can see themselves in one character or another. The issues we touch on are real, whether we talk about them or not.
There has been feedback about some of the concepts and topics we cover, such as Marieme’s sexuality or some of the intimate scenes between married couples. Our intention is not to be vulgar – it’s to show what is happening in real life and from multiple angles. Not everyone views it the same way and we respect different points of views but I am proud of my work and I stand by it.
AIDA: Would you or have you changed anything about the scenarios based on feedback?
KALISTA: No, I believe in my work and the messages I am trying to articulate and share with viewers. In the end, myself and the staff working on the show get the final say. I have always maintained my independence, including with my ideas and beliefs. Doxuma si lu niak fayda and that’s that.
We’ve had sponsors walk away because of the fear of backlash but that never stopped us. We continued working and today, we say Alxamdulillaa.
AIDA: Have you had thoughts of other scenarios/stories that you’d like to work on?
KALISTA: I think there is a tendency to want to do more, especially if the first time, you have success. But I don’t believe in advancing just for the same of advancing. I believe in moving with a purpose. We have to think about the impact that this show has had, not just in Senegal but all over the world. We have to continue working hard on it and finish it in peace. We can’t afford to make mistakes so we keep our heads down, finish strong, and then take a moment to reflect. Truly reflect on the impact of this show before working on another. It’s too soon to think about another show right now. After the series, there will be time to sit back and reflect.
AIDA: Did you approach other production houses before Marodi or … how did you go about it?
KALISTA: I talked with a few other companies and had a lot of declines. The declines and feedback associated helped a lot, I would say. It helped me further perfect my story and allowed me to get better and better each time.
When I finally met Mass from Marodi, within five minutes, they signed up for the project. I haven’t regretted that one bit. I work with people who appreciate the efforts and hard work needed to make it a success. I love working with Mass and the whole Marodi team. They love the project as much, if not more, than me.
AIDA: When we think about Kalista, help us understand how you became the woman you are today. I ask this because in Senegalese society, it’s not every day you meet someone who is as bold to have these ideas and ambitions and go through with them all the way. I think it’s getting better but it’s definitely a journey so what/who made you like this?
KALISTA: My mom and my journey to today. My mom was divorced with four kids. Growing up, I watched her work tirelessly and she instilled great values in all of us. Dignity. Determination. Perseverance. We can translate this to the Wolof terms Nguor-Foula-Fayda-Diom. That made me believe in myself and love any woman that crosses my path with the save fervor.
I think we should all believe in ourselves and our potential in this world. The woman that’s selling tomato paste in the market today can live to start her own tomato production and packaging company tomorrow. The makeup artist looking at YouTube videos to better her technique today can start her own makeup line tomorrow.
In this life, we all have problems. Money problems. Family problems. Relationship problems. Health problems. We are all battling something. But you have to believe in yourself and keep pushing forward. I had some rough days but I pulled through and today, Alxamdulillaa. It’s okay to fall down; you just have to keep getting up each time.
AIDA: Who is your role model?
KALISTA: My mom and you already heard a little about why (LOL). But I just want to point out that a role model doesn’t have to be someone far away (i.e. celebrity). People close to us are doing great things and leading by example – we can look to them for inspiration too.
AIDA: What is your life motto?
KALISTA: Yallah moy takk, moy tekki. Lepp lou ame, yallah la. (God is the doer of all things, everything that happens is because of his will.)
I don’t know about you guys but I am inspired once again. An amazing soul is this brilliant woman and we’d like to thank her for time! I think we can all learn something from her bravery and vision, not just for the Senegalese community but all over the world! Thanks again KALISTA! ❤