THE JOURNALIST WHO REPRESENTED FRANCE AT THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
Laurence Lemoine was born in Paris, France in 1969. When she was 12 years old she wanted to become a journalist. At the age of 16, she came to New York to the bicentennial of the Statue of Liberty with Nancy Reagan. She represented French youth at the event because she had won a contest organized by the American Embassy in Paris. Years later her dream of becoming a journalist came true. She studied Political Science in Paris, speaks 4 languages, and has a deep interest in major world issues. Laurence has traveled all over the globe, working at times for newspapers, radio, and TV stations. From the Middle East to Africa where she interviewed Yasser Arafat, to Central America where she worked for a radio station, Laurence Lemoine has covered all areas of journalism and communications.
Octavian CURPAS: You were born in Paris. Can you tell me a little bit about your family?
Laurence LEMOINE: I' m the youngest (with a twin brother) of a Christian family of 6 kids. I received a very strict education, but my parents gave us the best to be happy in life: love, self confidence, the ability to adapt, and independence.
Octavian CURPAS: What lead you to become interested in journalism? What sparked your interests in this profession? Was there someone in your life at the time that inspired you to become interested in journalism?
Laurence LEMOINE: When I was a pre-teen in the 80's, the news was all about the Middle East (Lebanon in ‘82 with the invasion of Israelis, the Palestinian conflict with hostages, hijacking and so on). It was then that I started to read newspapers and listen to the radio station. I was fascinated with all these issues and wanted to understand something that in fact was impossible to understand. I became interested in journalism to know and discover the world and to touch reality. I wanted to experience live what happens in the world. It was clear and natural that I would be a journalist. Then I started to prepare myself. For example, when I was 15 or 16, I recorded news broadcasts from the 24-hour radio station, France-Info, in my room. I would write it all down on a paper and say it with a professional tone. A few years later, I would wake up lots of people with this special tone of news and interview! Also, I was very interested in the politics and economy of France and the world.
Octavian CURPAS: Do you consider yourself fortunate?
Laurence LEMOINE: I have to say that, in general, I have been very lucky in my life, not only because I was born in a beautiful and peaceful country (France) and in a good family, but also because sometimes I was in the right place at the right moment (I use to say that "luck" is like tomatoes&; we need to cultivate it!). I wanted to be a journalist because, for me, it was a way to live many lives at the same time! Speaking about others and making reports about other countries or people, was a way for me to learn a lot! Also, it was a way to have a sort of power because what we say and report, and the manner we do it in, is important and can influence people. That is why it is also a big responsibility and a very serious profession.
Octavian CURPAS: In 1986, you won a contest for the bicentennial of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Why did you win the contest? Was it your poem? Was it how you read your poem? Was it something else or a combination of these things?
Laurence LEMOINE: One of the great moments of my life was in 1986 when I represented the French youth in New York for the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty with Nancy Reagan. I was there because I won a contest, thanks to my father. He helped me a lot with a poem about Liberty and I’m still very grateful. It was so exciting for me! I met numerous personalities in the US, and I was a VIP for 15 days. I was only 16 years old at that time. Reading the poem in front of many TV cameras and photographers was incredible! I was not shy. I could read the poem easily. This event (a major event in my life) allowed me to meet journalists and to appear on TV and radio stations in both countries.
Octavian CURPAS: How did that event further influence your decision to become a journalist?
Laurence LEMOINE: One year later, I spent one week at the first French radio station, RTL, for training with all the journalists and editors. I saw everything about news and journalism during this week, and more than ever, it was evident to me I would be a journalist, but I was still too young to start.
Octavian CURPAS: Tell me about the skills and natural abilities you had prior to pursuing journalism that helped you in your career as a journalist.
Laurence LEMOINE: As far as skills, I would say CURIOSITY, in the broad sense of the word. In my case, my friends and family always say I have the "cancer of curiosity"! A journalist needs to be OPEN and KEEN on understanding and explaining anything and everything. One cannot be shy but must dare to ask questions that can embarrass people, especially politicians! I was famous for this kind of interview and people loved it. Often there were fights of words between me and the political representatives.
Octavian CURPAS: When you were in Lebanon, were you planning to return to Paris for a Master’s in journalism?
Laurence LEMOINE: Lebanon was my first real experience as a journalist. I was very young then and a bit of a novice. It was during the war with Syria. The father of the actual dictator, Haffez Al Assad, was trying to kill Lebanese Christians. As a young French girl, the "show" was incredible, but I learned a lot about human beings and their capacity to be good or bad and to adapt to extreme situations. It was better than having lessons at the university for me because it was real and concrete. I've been lucky because I met General Michel Naim Aoun, who was prime minister at that moment. I had an interview that made me famous because what he said was a bit embarrassing for France, and Francois Mitterrand (the French president at the time) had to answer. Journalists all over the world talked about this interview of mine! A few months later, I went to Tunis where the headquarters of the PLO were with Yasser Arafat.
Octavian CURPAS: I would like to know more about your two hour interview with Yasser Arafat in Tunis. What year was that?
Laurence LEMOINE: I was fascinated by this man and I wanted to conduct an interview. I spent two hours with him during one evening. For security purpose, the PLO did not tell me, "See you at this address at this time." I had to stay in my hotel. They came to pick me up, banded my eyes and took me to an undisclosed office location. Once inside, they removed the banding so I could see. It was quite exotic for me! This was an interesting time in 1990, when he started to leave terrorism for being a man of the state and having direct contacts with the Israelis. I asked him lots of question, and at the end, he joked and asked me if I wanted to marry him! In the French media, my interview was not very successful, but I enjoyed my trip in Tunis, the meeting with Arafat, the many hours I spent with his colleagues, and talking about that major conflict.
Octavian CURPAS: In one of our conversations you mentioned that you worked for "Mont Blanc Radio", near Geneva for six years. Also, during that time, you were working for a TV station called "Channel C" doing political interviews.
Laurence LEMOINE: I met a very famous and brilliant journalist in Paris, Jean Pierre Elkabbach. He is in France like Larry King is in the U.S. I asked him how to plan my career as a journalist. He told me to first go outside of Paris to provinces to learn more about everything and get mature. He explained to me that it is the best school for a young journalist and it's true! So I went to Haute Savoie (the high mountain "Mont Blanc" is near Chamonix and Geneva) and started journalism for a private radio station. I also had a monthly show on TV Channel “C” with interviews of politicians and famous people, but only about their private life. The show had high ratings. After that, I decided to leave France again. I love France (fantastic country), but living in different countries gave me the possibility to view things from different perspectives.
Octavian CURPAS: You worked in Haiti at a radio station that needed a French journalist. Did you work in the field or in the studio?
Laurence LEMOINE: “Radio Vision 2000” from Port Au Prince was looking for a French journalist to handle the news and information and train their journalists. When I arrived there, I realized how lucky we were to be born in a country having freedom and everything we need. I stayed working in the field and in the studio for one year. It was not easy but I learned a lot every day. The country is still in my heart. I am also grateful to Haiti because it is where I met my husband! He came to Port of Prince for a week during the holidays at the house of a Canadian diplomatic (the consul) and we met! He is now the father of my 11-year-old daughter, Anouck, and my son Alvaro, who is 8. He is a lawyer in business and we have been living in London, Paris, Valencia (he is from Valencia), Banjul (Gambia in West Africa) and Lisbon, Portugal. In Gambia (a wonderful small country, good for a first contact with Africa), I gave birth to my son in a public hospital! It was my choice because my follow up was done by a fantastic team of Cuban doctors present for the operation. It was funny because the delivery of my first child was in the best private and modern hospital of Valencia with lots of devices and technology. But, for my son I preferred the one in Banjul with my friends, the Cubans doctors, in a very poor hospital. The electricity went off just after they cut for the C-section. After my second child, I started to edit and publish tourist guides. The first was about the Gambia. Then I published a few in Spain and the last one about Saint Gervais, in France.
Octavian CURPAS: What are some interesting facts about Saint Gervais? Why would someone want to visit this town?
Laurence LEMOINE: Saint Gervais Mont Blanc is a beautiful site for holidays, skiing or walking. The high mountains give you fantastic views and pure air. This is where the
highest mountain in Europe is, Mont Blanc, with a peak of 40,807 meters! I knew this town because I went there many times when I was journalist in Radio Mont Blanc and Canal C.
Octavian CURPAS: Where do you live right now and what are you currently doing?
Laurence LEMOINE: Currently, I’m living in Spain, in Valencia again. It’s a very beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea. I’m working with an American company called Reliv (www.reliv.com). They produce and sell excellent food supplements made from a large range of natural ingredients and nutrients. I saw my mother taking them one day and became interested in their products. I have always been interested in nutrition and health. In Europe, a lot of people are taking supplements because they actually improve their health with these nutrients. We are facing a serious health crisis in Europe. Our food does not have enough vitamins and phytonutrients. By depriving our bodies of essential building blocks and replacing them with processed convenience foods, we leave ourselves vulnerable to illness, disease and nagging fatigue. We know now that supplementation can bridge the nutritional gap. These products provide optimal levels of essential nutrients, and Reliv is a high profile company. Last summer I attended the International Conference in St. Louis (Missouri), where I met the founder, Robert Montgomery. Thanks to these products, I have helped many of my friends and family with their health issues. Of course, I also take these nutrients even though I’ve always been healthy. But with these supplements, I feel much better. I have more energy, a greater ability of focusing, and better sleep. I’m fortunate to work for this company because this job gives me the possibility to help people and to be with my children.
Octavian CURPAS: Have you ever considered moving to the United States?
Laurence LEMOINE: I would love to live in the USA because I have visited a few times but never enough, and I have a special relationship with America. I consider that I know a country and its culture if I stay at least one year. Hopefully someday I will have this chance.
Octavian CURPAS: What do you know about Romania? In your travels, have you encountered any Romanians?
Laurence LEMOINE: My husband is working in Romania now on a wind turbine project in the mountains. He likes Romania. My only link with Romania was the housekeeper I had in Portugal. She was from Romania and became a friend to me. She helped me tremendously. I wish I could go there with my husband next year. He keeps telling me that it will be worth it.
Octavian CURPAS: What hobbies do you have?
Laurence LEMOINE: I love to travel and share moments with my friends, and I enjoy being with my two children. I also enjoy squash, tennis, skiing and mountain climbing. I have climbed Mount Blanc. It took me eight hours to reach the summit and six hours to go down skiing in a totally wild manner. It was fantastic!
Octavian CURPAS: What are your plans in the near future?
Laurence LEMOINE: I am developing the sales of Reliv here in Spain, and I just started a book about nutrition and health that will be published in France.