VALENTINE & MAUD / ARCHITECTS & ENTREPRENEURS / FRANCE
I met these amazing friends in Uruguay, interviewed them in Italy and now I write to you from New York City. Rereading this interview is surreal. Valentine and Maud speak with a rare eloquence and convey an authentic level of calm, comfort and confidence. This interview is near and dear to me because in a short amount of time, they expertly touch upon career, aspirations, love, loss, family, bravery, gender equality, compassion and self-discovery. They remind me often that I am worth it and have gone out of their way to make me feel extraordinary. I am fortunate to have witnessed their friendship and to be considered a friend by such badass French qweens. So gosh, meet two women that I respect dearly. Take a bath in their words because hot damn, they’re blooming.
VALU: Just because you do not achieve notoriety does not mean that you are not successful. The best achievement will always be confidence. Regardless of gender, we must push to be secure in ourselves.
MAUD: At the end of 2015 I learned how to let go, to let things happen and to seize the amazing opportunities presented to me. I realized that my stress was a choice. I made the choice to be myself. I made the choice to be confident.
HOW WILL YOU BLOOM IN THE NEXT YEAR?
MAUD: I am currently an architect and recently started my own business which is the first step in my growth. I am starting small but already I can see that I want to go bigger and to do that, I am feeling good about pushing myself into interior design. In the next year I will try to expand my career through pursuing my interest in furniture design and woodworking.
VALENTINE: I am finishing my last year of my architecture degree and currently working with an agency. I need to decide if I should carry on working with the agency and continuing grow my experience there or if I should to pursue my own business, which would mean growing my client base and challenging myself to pursue new projects. This first step is always the hardest part; we somehow must choose to simply start. There is no easy path in this life, but regardless, we must first choose one path or the other and see what follows.
M: --and once you choose your path, although it may be a risk, it can be very rewarding. I launched my business two months ago with no clients. Through producing good results and persevering, my clients began talking about my quality of work. Each client told more people to trust in me and suddenly I was booking new projects and jobs. What Valu is experiencing right now is very hard because she is in the difficult and temporary place that lies just before entering the next step.
V: What excites me most is that once I choose my path and start, I can discover that it is not right and further, I can choose a different route. Sometimes we forget that we do not have to be stuck. We do not have to settle on one path and stay there. I am comfortable moving on if it is not right which applies to me now as I can already see that this current place is now where my journey ends. This is not my dream.
DESCRIBE AN OBSTACLE THAT YOU HAVE OVERCOME.
V: One obstacle that took me a long time to overcome was going through an extremely painful breakup from a relationship that had stopped being healthy. I was unsure about my future; however, I was sure that I needed to take a year for me. I decided to move to Canada with the goals of working and enjoying a trip of self-discovery. Everyone said to me, “Oh, you’re so brave” and “That is so hard”, but it wasn’t hard for me. I could see how important it was to do this for myself and while it presented a lot of challenges, I knew that I needed the experience to take care of myself and better understand me.
M: For me, I realized something very difficult and fulfilling at the end of 2015. Since I was young, I have always been stressed and could never understand why. I always felt the need to do everything—push myself harder, do more, please my family, my boyfriends, my friends. I had always had this feeling that nothing felt like home. At the end of 2015, I decided to apply a new philosophy to my life. I learned how to let go, to let things happen and to seize the amazing opportunities presented to me. I realized that my stress was a choice. I made the choice to be myself. I made the choice to be confident.
HOW DO YOU HELP WOMEN?
M: I always had a tough relationship with my mom. We had disagreed frequently growing up and I often found myself nervous around her. Now that I am growing, I am pushing myself to be more understanding of my mother. I need be more compassionate towards this very strong woman.
On a different note, I also want to be the best at what I do. I want to set an example for women and men. I want to show everyone that I can run a successful business and that I can be self-made.
V: I too have had some family tensions. I have a family member that suffers from depression and anxiety and also someone who has gotten into some trouble in life. When I was 18, I was the first one in my family to leave my hometown for university. It was a risk in a way but I knew it was the right next step. When I return home, I know that I need to be a role model in my household. I try to hold my family together and although it can be hard, I can see that they are proud of me. I am very autonomous, I take care of myself financially, I maintain jobs and I work hard so that my family does not have to worry about me. When I decided to move to Canada on my own and my family decided to come visit me, it was a moment where I knew they were proud of me and it was very motivating.
M: Valu, I have to tell you that I am very proud of you and that you are so brave.
ARCHITECTURE IS AN INCREDIBLY MALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY AND I CAN SEE THAT YOU ARE BOTH ALREADY WORKING TO CHANGE THE NORM. WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH IN THE FIELD?
V: In Europe it’s cultural. There is a history that has been built around this idea that men are careerists. We are working to change this old way of thinking.
M: There are so many women architects that work in junior positions and never get to see the top. The best thing that I have done for myself and other women is that I have tried to enter my work without thinking about gender. I will never consider myself less than anyone else. I try to ignore the old ways of thinking and focus on producing the best work. I do my own thing and try not to let these pressures get under my skin.
I had an experience with a very good architecture firm in Paris and at the end of my internship they offered me a job. Unfortunately for them, I did not agree with how they treated their employees and further, how they judged my work without reviewing it thoroughly. I gently declined the offer to pursue what made sense for myself. You do not need to enter a bad relationship if you have the choice. We must be ourselves. Don’t consider men as men and women as women when approaching your work. We are equal and I try very hard to act that way. Starting my own business has enabled me to grow confident in front of clients and students and has additionally, allowed me to know that some people will trust you if you are confident regardless of your gender.
V: A lot of the issues with gender inequality come from insecurity on both sides. As women, we have a responsibility to be secure in ourselves because there is pressure to be the security blanket both in the family and at work. There is a feeling that we must do it all. We have to work, create comfort and a sense of reassurance. With this pressure comes insecurity and we must push beyond this stress to find confidence in ourselves. Just because you do not achieve notoriety does not mean that you are not successful. The best achievement will always be confidence. Regardless of gender, we must push to be secure in ourselves.
HOW DO YOU APPLY THIS CONFIDENCE TO YOUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS?
V: I met my current boyfriend only two months before I went on my trip to Canada alone and I was resolved to take this trip for myself which meant no men, no problems and no attachments. I ended the relationship before I left but he disagreed. Even after I had left France he was still thinking about me and decided to come to Canada at a moment when I was very focused on myself. I was in my cocoon and prioritizing me, which meant that I was not ready for a commitment.
He came back a few months later to surprise me and then again a third time. This final time made me see that he was willing to fight for me even when I was being difficult, even when I was skeptical of a new relationship. What I realized is that it is important to work hard for the good people that come into our lives because even if there are challenges, they may come with great potential.