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Women in Charge: Meet Award-Winning Filmmaker, Photographer, Author, and TEDx speaker, Francesca Andre

Francesca Andre is a dynamic creative force, celebrated across multiple disciplines as an award-winning filmmaker, photographer, author, and TEDx speaker. Here, she showcases her work, and lets us in on her approach to storytelling and contributing to social impact.

Francesca’s journey began in 2008 as a freelance photographer and evolved into founding Creative Group 21. Additionally, she co-founded and now serves as creative director of Optik 21, renowned for its high-quality photography and video services. Her work has graced the pages of esteemed publications, underscoring her profound impact in visual storytelling.

Image: Francesca Andre

As a director, she excels in narrative depth, showcased notably in her acclaimed short film "Charcoal." This poignant work explores the journey of two Black women navigating the complexities of internalized colorism, seeking self-acceptance, and ultimately discovering redemption. "Charcoal" has captivated audiences at prestigious film festivals worldwide and earned her global acclaim. We caught up with her amidst her busy schedule.

Glamour: Your journey in the creative industry began as a freelance photographer in 2008 and has since evolved into a multifaceted career encompassing filmmaking, photography, authorship, and speaking engagements. What inspired this diverse path, and how do you balance your various creative pursuits?

Francesca: At this stage in my life, work and motherhood occupy most of my time. Each discipline has its own demands and moments. While I do some writing occasionally, photography has been the least demanding creative outlet for me in recent years.

Glamour: As the founder of Creative Group 21 and the creative director of Optik 21, you've established yourself as a leader in providing high-quality photography and video services. What principles guide your approach to visual storytelling, and how do you ensure your work stands out in a competitive industry?

Image: Francesca Andre

Francesca: When an idea comes to me and I have the courage or inspiration to follow it, I just go for it. I don’t focus too much on the industry or market trends. I believe that what is meant for me will not pass me by. I approach each project on a spiritual level, which allows me to create with joy. Alignment is crucial to me, even in business transactions.

Glamour: Your acclaimed short film "Charcoal" delves into the sensitive topics of colorism and self-acceptance, particularly within the Black community. What motivated you to explore these themes, and what message do you hope audiences take away from the film?

Francesca: "Charcoal" focuses on internalized colorism, and I've had my own experiences with it as a child. It wasn't until years later that I realized these experiences had morphed into self-hatred. I am grateful for the power of redemption and transformation. "Charcoal" is about transforming our inner dialogue and beliefs. I hope that those who watch the film take back their power from self-hatred and find the courage to transform into enlightened versions of themselves.

Glamour: "Charcoal" has received widespread acclaim at prestigious film festivals and garnered recognition from esteemed publications like Essence, Ebony Magazine, and ThinkProgress. How has the reception of the film influenced your perspective on the importance of representation and storytelling in cinema?

Francesca: On a personal level, my creative process has become deeply spiritual. If an idea comes to me and stays alive, I believe I am meant to be the vessel to bring it to life. We are a people and a force, so it's essential for us to tell our stories—not just for others to understand us, but for us to understand ourselves better and for future generations to know who they are. In this age of technology, we are collectively “the platform.”

Image: Francesca Andre

Glamour: Being recognized as one of Connecticut Magazine's "40 Under 40" high achievers in 2018 speaks volumes about your impact in your field. What do you believe sets your creative work apart, and how do you navigate challenges as a Black woman in the industry?

Francesca: I see myself on a collective path, and when I am balanced, I can fully embrace my role as a creative. It’s a spiritual battle—I am constantly fighting demons and gatekeepers, but ultimately, I am my own gatekeeper. With the help of some benevolent energies, I have opened all my doors.

Glamour: Your children's book series, starting with "I am a Phenomenal Black Boy," aims to empower young Black boys and challenge stereotypes through engaging prose and poetry. What inspired you to create this series, and how do you envision it impacting the next generation?

Francesca: My son, Gustavo Limye, is the inspiration and driving force behind this series, as well as my own dreams of what I wish I had access to as a child. I hope young readers feel the intention behind it—to inspire them, empower them, and remind them of all they can be.

Glamour: Through your storytelling, you celebrate the contributions of influential Black figures to humanity. Can you share some insights into your creative process when highlighting these historical and contemporary figures, and the significance of their narratives in today's society?

Francesca: It’'s in our ancestral DNA—a rite of passage in one’s personal journey of discovery. Knowing who came before us and their contributions serves as our internal GPS. When I highlight these historical and contemporary figures, I aim to connect us with our past, providing a sense of direction and identity that is significant in today’s society.

Glamour: In your experience as a TEDx speaker, what topics do you find most compelling to discuss, and how do you use your platform to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the creative industry?

Francesca: I haven't yet used my platform for this purpose, but the topics I plan to tackle as a storyteller in the future might address it. Telling our stories and asserting our right to exist as a people is our birthright. Those who oppose this need healing and fixing—it's ultimately their own battle and spiritual work to undertake.

Image: Francesca Andre

Glamour: How do you approach collaborations, and what impact do you hope your work has on readers and viewers?

Francesca: I love collaborating, although it can often be challenging with other creatives. Lately, I've been attracting more like-minded individuals, so I'm excited for what the future holds. Through my work, I hope readers and viewers can experience Haiti's rich culture and rhythm.

Glamour: As a filmmaker, photographer, author, and speaker, you wear many hats. How do you stay inspired and motivated amidst the demands of your various roles, and what advice would you give to aspiring creatives juggling multiple passions?

Francesca: Inspiration is not methodical; it’s either there or it’s not, and it comes from above. I stay inspired by maintaining balance and harmony in life, staying grateful, and not fighting the currents of life. This often brings me into alignment with my ideas and projects. My advice to aspiring creatives juggling multiple passions is to bet on themselves and follow their own path—it’s a unique journey.

Image: Francesca Andre

Glamour: As a leader in the creative industry, how do you foster a supportive and inclusive environment within your organizations, and what initiatives do you undertake to uplift marginalized voices?

Francesca: As someone currently leading my own ideas and projects, I draw on my experiences from a marginalized community, which not only reflect challenges but also showcase the full spectrum of human experience. Diversity in storytelling is essential because it allows us to portray laughter, life, and love alongside the realities of marginalization. My intention is to highlight this diversity and, importantly, to share the knowledge I've gained through my journey.

Glamour: Your journey from freelance photographer to renowned filmmaker and author is incredibly inspiring. What challenges have you faced along the way, and how have they shaped your growth and resilience as a creative professional?

Francesca: The most challenging aspect of my journey has been navigating it without my partner. Creating without the fuel of love has been incredibly difficult. While my son and my own spirit motivate me, the absence of my husband has been the most painful experience.

Image: Francesca Andre

Glamour: what role does storytelling play in driving social change, and how do you leverage your platform to amplify underrepresented voices and advocate for justice and equality?

Francesca: In all honesty, I've been on a deeply personal journey towards healing, piecing together my life and understanding the lessons from my challenges. This journey has awakened a realization of who I aspire to be, which necessitates radical healing. I firmly believe that by healing myself, I contribute to healing the world around me. Currently, my focus is on this internal journey, as I believe it's essential for me as a Black woman to prioritize my own well-being first before I can effectively contribute to my community and amplify underrepresented voices through storytelling.

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