Kate Powers

Our friend Kate Powers has died.

Outside of my immediate family, few deaths have impacted me like the news about Kate on Monday. It was not unexpected yet, still, my knees buckled and time seemed to stop, as if the world was trying to readjust to losing one of its biggest beating hearts.

As expats, few people can share your grief when a person in your native country dies. Friends here can empathise with loss, but it is rare they knew the person or can share stories to help you keep their memory alive. With Kate, we are all mourning and instead of being sad alone, we can be sad together.

Kate made each of us in the community feel like we mattered in this world. We felt special because the core of her being was special, this was her superpower. There is a shared sentiment in the role Kate played: “Kate was the first person I met in Monaco.” “Kate treated everyone the same way, no matter who we are.” “Kate had known my kids since they were babies and always asked how they were doing.” “Une bonne personne, toujours au service et un petit mot pour ses clients.” “Kate introduced me to other people when I didn’t know anyone.”

For me, I had lived in the region for many years before I met “the” Kate Powers. I had heard so much about this American who owned a Tex-Mex restaurant in the port and was not only a childhood friend of the Prince but her mom was close to Grace Kelly. Slightly intimidating? What I remember in meeting her for the first time, and this has always stuck with me, is that Kate was the opposite of what I expected from the jet-set bling-bling crowd of Monaco – instead of resting on her laurels, she was a down to earth, open and a warm human being who instinctively knew when to hug at the right time. Like all of us, she had her insecurities although she was unaware of her beauty. “How can I help?” the tireless champion of kindness would always offer.

Of course pre-restaurant days, there was Kate’s made-for-the-movies life, one that she had hoped to share in writing or a series of video chats. Sitting with her and Annette Anderson one day talking about how to get all Kate’s stories out there, I remember my mouth dropping when she gave me a teaser: “Roman Polanski had called to ask me on a date and my mom grabbed the phone and told him to ‘F-off’ before hanging up. We were living in Switzerland at the time and I snuck out to the party where he was with Jack Nicholson. They were drinking too much so I left but as it was snowing outside and someone had left their keys in a car, I decided to drive home. I hit a snow bank so I had to abandon the car and walk the rest of the way.”

*******

On Monday night, as the tears rolled down my cheeks and dampened my pillows as I tried to fall asleep, I realized that while I wish Kate had stuck around much, much longer than her 68 years, she accomplished in life what we all hope for when we leave this earth: she made a difference. She did not wait until her diagnosis to live the life she wanted. She did not have to learn about spiritual awareness or quickly check off a Bucket List. No, Kate Powers had been evolving every day of her life, and gently nudging us along her path of change for the better.

She did not need to change. The Monegasque could have easily sat back over the years and let Stars’n’Bars, the restaurant she co-founded with Didier Rubiolo nearly 30 years ago, ride on the coattails of the Prince Albert connection. Instead, she rolled up her sleeves to transform the family-friendly eatery as a leading example of what she called “ecolution” in the Principality. It was the first restaurant to have its own urban vegetable garden, and to stop the use of plastic straws and non-biodegradable throwaway coffee cups.

When Covid hit last year, Kate told me, “Lockdown helped us wake up to necessary ecological changes that were more important than economical ones. We need to keep taking steps forward and raise awareness about wellness, whether its ours or the planet’s.” Stars’n’Bars replaced serving industrial sodas (Coca-Cola and Sprite) with only Fizz Bio organic colas made in Bordeaux, which some customers did not appreciate and would even walk out. “I try to explain that we are focusing on sourcing locally. When I tell people not to expect the taste of Coke with our organic soda, at first they are unsure but now they love it.”

That was the Kate effect. She had her way of doing things but she opened the floor for dialogue to educate; and she listened to learn.

*******

The first time I spoke to Kate after learning she had cancer, about six months ago, she was, typically, positive. Much of my connection with Kate was over our shared appreciation of nature and often I would send her a message describing some random observation, a text that I could never send to anyone else (including my husband) because they would think I was crazy. She got it.

Here is what I mean. The day after I learned of her illness, I went for a long swim along Cap Roquebrune, specifically with the intent of putting healing energy into the sea for her. This is my form of meditation. I focused on Kate for the entire 5 kilometres and when I returned to shore, I discovered my safety buoy was no longer attached. That had never happened in my seven years of open water swimming. From my apartment, I could see the orange buoy out there floating on the open sea. I texted Kate to tell her the story and said “Whenever you come across anything orange, know that the universe is your safety buoy.”

Kate replied: “I was biking earlier, talking to the trees and asking for their assistance. I looked up to see orange. Orange is Didier’s favourite colour and he is wearing an orange shirt now! The universe is definitely on my side.”

Half a year later, out on my run yesterday morning, the sunrise across the sea, with the clouds, captivated me and I thought “I’ll share that with Kate.” I stopped in my tracks for a moment before telling myself, I can still share these moments with her, just not in the physical world.

I will honour Kate by trying to follow some of her examples – to continue to raise awareness about our planet’s health, to be kinder and more helpful to each other and, as Kate was no fan of the news and its negativity, share good and positive stories with others. Really, to be the best version of myself possible.

Our friend Kate Powers came into this world with wings; she did not have to earn them, only spread them to get back home. And, knowing Kate like we all do, she will certainly raise the bar for all the other angels.

Louise Morelli

Photo: Svetlana TF Photography

Born and raised in Billinge, Lancashire, Louise Morelli says her childhood was filled with love, laughter and fun with her older brother and sister. “Family has always been so important in my life and not seeing my family has been the hardest part of Covid life,” says the British entrepreneur.   

Louise moved out to Monaco with her partner around 15 years ago, which she describes as “a new adventure and a great decision” and the couple later married in the Principality. A passionate runner, Louise is often seen whizzing around Monaco. “We live on the Rock, so the last hill home during a run is always a killer,” she laughs. The health enthusiast has recently developed a fondness also for Tibetan yoga, which she practices daily.  

Monaco is home for Louise and her husband. It is where their daughter was born and attends school, and where Louise is an active member of the community. She is a member of St Paul’s Anglican Church, as well as a Council Member, and additionally helps out with their Mother and Baby group, which runs on Monday and Thursday mornings.

“Being a new mom in Monaco can be a challenge,” Louise confesses. “I found it surprisingly lonely when my daughter was a new-born. Thankfully there are a few parks here where you can meet other mothers and there’s the brilliant Mother and Baby group at St Paul’s which gives moms a bi-weekly place to go, make new friends and have a coffee/tea and a chat. For me, it was a lifesaver. There are a growing number of activities available and thankfully we are blessed with beaches nearby and access to nature.”

And how does Louise compare her upbringing to that of her 6-year-old daughter? “Oh my goodness, it is so different,” she insists. “Monaco apartment life is not at all like my childhood experience. I grew up on a street with many other children and we were in and out of each other’s houses all day. There was a freedom and simplicity then that is difficult to achieve today. In Monaco, space is limited and playdates need to be organised. For many of us, though, the biggest difference is that our families do not live nearby. Thankfully we have technology so that video calls can happen, but there is nothing like visiting family members in person and sharing hugs.”

Growing up, Louise wanted to be a doctor and although that dream did not pan out, her fascination with the human body and mind continued. “People really interest me,” she reveals. This led her to obtain a qualification as a Baby Sleep Consultant and launch her own business, Gently to Sleep. “Sleep deprivation is a huge part of parenthood and it is torture. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 15 months old. I was totally exhausted and when I finally managed to get her sleeping well – and, by default, me sleeping well – the process of achieving good sleep for our daughter then sparked an interest in all things sleep and ignited a passion to help other families.”

Louise describes witnessing exhausted parents in survival mode regain their joie de vivre. “I really want them to have the energy to be the best parent they can be and appreciate their parenting journey. I absolutely love my work.”

Parents approach Louise with a range of issues including: frequent night waking, poor napping, struggling to settle little ones to sleep, bedtime battles or more pro-active needs, such as needing help to get babies into a good routine. “The great thing is that all sleep challenges can be improved or resolved and in a way that feels right,” explains Louise. “I see a lot of guilt and self-criticism from parents, and especially moms, when their little ones aren’t sleeping well. There’s a lot of pressure to be the perfect parent and parents, and especially moms, often feel judged if their baby isn’t sleeping through the night. But they shouldn’t feel this way.

“More often than not, I see parents who have been responsive and intuitive and have done everything necessary to ensure their baby sleeps well. They just reach a point where all the things they have been doing to get their baby to sleep, suddenly become less effective, so the time comes to change this and encourage their little ones to fall asleep easily and stay asleep.”

Louise points out that there is a lot of misinformation around infant sleep and how to encourage little ones to sleep better. “Many people think that encouraging great sleep means automatically using the ‘cry it out’ method – leaving a baby to cry and not responding – and this simply isn’t true. There are many ways to ease little ones into independent sleep and sometimes simply changing the timing or length of sleep, or making adjustments to the sleep environment, is all you need to make a huge difference. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and my aim is for all parents who work with me to feel that the route they choose feels right for them and fits their philosophy and needs as parents. No judgment, just kindness and support.”

Any tips for those with young children during the current pandemic? “Life with Covid has certainly been interesting. The initial period of confinement with school closures was a huge change in the daily rhythm of life and I really felt for our daughter not being able to socialise with her peers. My best tip for parents is to keep a routine in place as much as possible and get outdoors as much as you can. Fresh air, movement and nature work wonders for wellness.”

Johanna Houdrouge

“I consider myself Senegalese by birth, Franco-Lebanese by origin, Monegasque at heart and a citizen of the world,” says Johanna Houdrouge, president of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Monaco (Association des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises de Monaco, AFCEM ).

“Growing up and living in Monaco means being able to work in a reassuringly safe environment, knowing nearly everyone – the kids I went to school with are now entrepreneurs and business leaders – and having an openness thanks to the multitude of nationalities that coexist.”

Although Johanna passed the Bar – “Why did I want to become a lawyer? Because I love the law, I love the idea of ​​defending a cause, whatever it is” – she is vice-president of Mercure International, an import-export business that has 250 points of sale in 17 countries on three continents.

The family-run business was founded by her Monegasque father and began with their own City Sport brand. Today the company covers three sectors of activity – sport, fashion and food – with supermarkets under the Casino and Super U banners (in West and Central Africa), as well as shopping centres in Africa (Gabon, Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast).

They have 5,000 employees worldwide, including 100 in Monaco, which is where Joanna works at the head office, alongside her father and brother. “I manage all the legal and administrative aspects of the group throughout the world. I am a specialist in business law and more particularly in OHADA, that is the Organisation for the Harmonisation in Africa of Business Law. So, even if I no longer litigate, my knowledge of law is still useful on a daily basis,” she explains.

On December 4, 2018, Mercure International opened the first N’Kids activity centre in Senegal. “N’Kids is my baby. I had been very keen to launch this concept of indoor games for children in African countries, where activities for kids are sorely lacking. Parents are delighted to be able to fully enjoy their shopping experience in our shopping centres, without feeling guilty, since their children are having fun in complete safety.”

Johanna joined AFCEM 10 years ago, and was the youngest member at the time. The network – whose slogan is “Alone we are invisible, together we are invincible” – promotes business and defends the rights and interests of women entrepreneurs. “The association’s values ​​speak to me, they correspond with my own. I have always been very involved in the social fabric, not just in Monaco but internationally, and am very invested in the economic life of the Principality.”

Johanna’s election as AFCEM president last September allows her to carry strong messages to the “courageous and competent women entrepreneurs each in their own field.” For example, she believes the time has passed for focusing on the differences between men and women in the workplace. “Of course, we are different, it would be nonsense to deny this, but why not play on these differences to make them a strength and work together?

“I also want to pass on entrepreneurial desire to younger generations who are the business leaders of tomorrow. We owe it to them to support them, to prove to them that women, like men, are responsible, competent leaders who keep the human factor at the heart of their concerns. This is, I believe, a primary mission incumbent upon us today.”

Board of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Monaco.

For Johanna, Monaco’s female entrepreneurship is a formidable patchwork of skills and diversity. “Our members represent all areas of activities – insurance, health, e-banking, art, new technologies … we even have a navigator among us! This diversity is a pledge of openness and human wealth.”

Covid has been particularly challenging for all businesses but women have been particularly impacted over the past year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, there were 2.2 million fewer women in the work force between October 2019-2020. Between January and September last year, the largest net decline was among women with two children, down 3.8 points, and among women whose oldest child is 2 to 6 years old, down 5.6 points.

A Catalyst survey of adults ages 20 to 65 working in large companies (500 or more employees) found that 2 of every 5 mothers say they must hide their caregiving struggles from colleagues while a McKinsey survey showed that 1 in 4 women was considering taking a leave of absence, reducing hours, moving to part-time, or switching to a less-demanding job. McKinsey also reported, “women in France, Germany, and Spain will have an increased need for pandemic-induced job transitions at rates 3.9 times higher than men.”

“Covid spared no one and AFCEM members were impacted to varying degrees,” Johanna states. “Our association brings together women business leaders from all sectors and some, like those in the event and travel industry, are still going through difficult times being at an economical standstill yet having to continue to cover operating costs. Fortunately, the Monaco government put in place the Economic Recovery Support Commission, which provides assistance for companies in difficulty, and also the €20 million Monaco Blue Fund, which subsidises all companies, regardless of their size, to cover 30%-70% of their digital transition.”

In addition to keeping its members informed in real time as government financial measures evolve in response to the pandemic, the association also organises conferences, like with CHPG director Benoîte de Sevelinges last December, a webinar on “The success of women in business” organised in partnership with the Monaco Economic Board on International Women’s Day, and, on March 18, Julien Dejanovic, the Director of Digital Services hosted “Extend Monaco” on digital technology and businesses.

“We want to continue our missions while keeping this entrepreneurial spirit and dynamism that defines us. Today we not only need to survive but also to reinvent ourselves. All AFCEM members live in complicated situations, both professionally and personally, but they all have this desire to emerge stronger,” asserts Johanna.

“Covid has impacted me personally and professionally, and continues to do so,” she shares. “As Mercure International is present in many countries that did not implement the same measures at the same time, you can imagine the difficulty in managing stores and shopping centres and, consequently, the men and women who work there. Our main suppliers are in China, and China was the first country to be confined, which meant no more deliveries to our stores. When China deconfined, the rest of the world confined. Production resumed, deliveries also, but we could no longer sell the goods. This was a real headache but fortunately our diversification saved us – the food sector continued to function.”

“From all of this, I will especially remember our formidable capacity for resilience. I believe that word, resilience, is definitely the word of the year 2020. We always say, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger”. We have seen it. When it is really necessary, we have tremendous resources within us.”

Johanna is not only an entrepreneur, but also a mother. “And like many women, I had to deal with my two children during the first confinement … and after. I had to change hats regularly in 24 hours – that of a business leader, then a school teacher, then a mom … A very complicated situation to live with mentally and physically.”

Paula Farquharson-Blengino

Photo: Ed Wright Images

“I’m a Dubliner who loves the rest of Ireland,” enthuses Paula Farquharson-Blengino, who grew up and went to an all-girls Dominican convent school. She picked up a Bachelors and Masters from Trinity College Dublin, famous for the Book of Kells medieval manuscript. “This education was a window to the world. My first stop after graduation was New York and having Trinity on my CV opened doors to interviews, landing me a prize starter marketing job at Christian Dior USA-LVMH headquarters.”

This was the start of Paula’s corporate world journey with companies, including L’Oréal and Pretty Polly, spanning the luxury industry and publishing with a stop in Australia and back to Ireland. “Then 20 years ago I followed my dream to base myself in France permanently and haven’t looked back.”

Moving to Nice, Paula changed everything – lifestyle, language and career. She leveraged her communications experience and landed a journalist/editor job at the English-language publication The Riviera Times (now Riviera Insider). “That honed my skills to tell a story although I guess being Irish it came quite naturally!” Writing across a wide range of topics, the job expanded her network in the region.

One of the Times partners was Top Marques Monaco so when the time came to leave the newspaper after eight years, she was hired there as Press Officer by the founder Lawrie Lewis. “I learnt a lot from him, like attention to detail and the importance of people to ensure an unforgettable event.”

When he retired, Paula moved back into the corporate world – “quite a change” with the oil, gas and renewable energy industry. “SBM Offshore is listed on the Dutch stock-exchange so that gained me a whole new tool box of skills around governance and compliance. Confidentiality was key in my role when talking to the media; I was a gatekeeper for non-financial information from the company,” she shares.

All the experience that I’ve gained during my varied career, led her to her current position as Director of the Princess Grace Irish Library. “I enjoy working in the non-profit sector now. The Library is under the aegis of the Fondation Princesse Grace, which does such good work helping sick children and assisting young people embark on training for careers in the cultural domains such as literature, music and dance. This is a way to put my corporate experience to work for the good of others,” Paula says.

The mom of two adds, “When I was new to the region, the Princess Grace Irish Library felt like a home from home. It is a lovely, intimate ambiance and over the years I met so many wonderful people at the regular talks – and not just Irish. It is nice to chat with people who ‘get’ your Irish humour and Irishisms!”

The Princess Grace Irish Library represents a loving tribute to Princess Grace’s attachment for Ireland by her husband Prince Rainier III, who inaugurated it in November 1984, and the Princess’ personal collection of books and music scores form the heart of the library. “My favourite is a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses published in 1922. But it goes much beyond its content. We organise our own events and we facilitate conferences, symposia bringing people and academics together, we host writers via the twice-yearly bursaries supported by The Ireland Funds of Monaco.”

This October the Library has a symposium planned with academics from Villanova University close to Philadelphia (Princess Grace’s hometown) and there is a desire to develop more collaboration with the schools in Monaco. Princess Grace supported the arts and culture and the Library continues her legacy, operating under the aegis of the Fondation Princesse Grace.

With Covid, the Library remains open but reservations are necessary to ensure limited numbers and everyone’s safety. “We have the Monaco Safe Label. The health crisis forced us to review how things have always been done and adapt – we have gone online with events and even when normal life resumes, the digital world will allow us to be creative and reach more people, beyond the cosy, intimate setting of the physical Library. There’s no doubt that people are craving face-to-face events but I see us benefitting from having a hybrid offering with both live and online events going forward.”

On St Patrick’s Day, the library was honoured to host a small event with Irish music and drama in the presence of Prince Albert and his children, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella. We filmed it as we could not invite Friends of the Library due to health measures.

“On the programme was traditional music by the pupils of the l’Académie de Musique Fondation Prince Rainier III and a semi-dramatized reading by actors from the Monaco-Ireland Arts Society. The pupils were so happy after a year void of performances.

On a personal level, Paula admits that with pandemic it has been hard not being able to travel to Ireland to see family and friends but “being at the Library allows me the luxury of engaging face-to-face with people safely.”

Paula Farquharson-Blengino has found a silver lining in the Covid cloud. “The past year underlines that people value culture. They also yearn for a physical place to enjoy it and by keeping our door open, the Library acts like an oasis, where you can get lost in books and meet other like-minded people here.”

Located at 9 Rue Princesse Marie de Lorraine in the old town, the Princes Grace Irish Library is open Monday to Thursday 9 am to 4 pm and Friday 9 am to 3:30 pm.

Ben Rolfe

With an opportunity to join some friends in a startup, Ben Rolfe moved to Monaco in 2003 with his family. At the time, he and his wife Sally had two girls and #3 came along in 2005 “born in our apartment on the 19th Floor of the Chateau Perigord!” (Ben fondly refers to his daughters as #1, #2 and #3.)

“I mainly wanted to get away from the commute and the politics of large organisations and Monaco was a great place to bring up the kids with great schools and loads to do,” says Ben Rolfe. “It can be quite a transient community with people coming and going but that can be a huge plus as residents are always looking to meet new faces so the social side is very full.”

Family-man Ben is certainly well known around town, especially for combining his endurance sports with raising awareness and money for charities. “I played a lot of rugby during and post-university but once that stopped, I was a bit lost and gained a ton of weight. Then I entered my first marathon for charity and was hooked,” he recalls.

From the marathon distance of 42.195 km, he graduated to ultras, pushing the boundaries partly for a challenge and partly to raise the bar to encourage people to sponsor him. His team Pussyfooting Around, comprised of family and friends, has been a staple of No Finish Line Monaco for years and by May 2018, he had raised over €100,000 for various different causes through the JustGiving website.

“I always said to my kids that if they were dedicated to training that when they turned 16, they would be able to do the Marathon des Sables – a 7-day semi self-sufficient 250 km-ultra-marathon across the Sahara Desert.”

#1 took him up on the challenge in 2018 and remains the youngest ever female finisher at 16. The dad-daughter duo raised money for Diabetes U.K. who have been brilliant at helping the Rolfe family since #2 was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic in 2013.

#2 wanted a different challenge and so …“We climbed Kilimanjaro over five days from base camp when she was 16.”

#3 turns 16 this November and awesome dad Ben stumbled across the Camino Santiago – an ancient 900-km pilgrimage from France across Spain to the west coast.

“I like the idea of meeting a bunch of different people and also the challenge of getting up and walking every day for a month, but also focussing on what is important in life – just exercise, company and moving forwards carrying everything you need on your back. It’s just an idea at the moment but hopefully in June 2022, #3 will be walking for a yet-to-be-decided charity.”

In 2013, Ben published Running High, Running Low, Running Long, a book about a fundraising challenge he took on to try and prove to #2, when she was diagnosed Type 1 diabetes, that she could do anything she put her mind to. “I ran over 100 km from Monaco to Limone to the start of the Cro-Magnon ultra-marathon. I then did the race – another 130 km, and I achieved my goal of not coming last!”

The narrative also touched upon his journey “from fatty to fitty” to hopefully inspire other people to get off the couch. In 2004 during a routine medical, Ben, an overweight smoker at the time, was told he wouldn’t see 40 unless he changed his lifestyle. He lost 35 kilos and has since finished some of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons, including the Western States 100, the Ultra Trail of Mont Blanc and, as he mentioned, the Marathon Des Sables.“As they say, if you don’t make time for exercise, you will have to make time for illness.”

When he’s not running around the streets of Monaco in the early morning, Ben likes to have a little fun, and admits he is a fan of Eurovision. “I probably started watching Eurovision at university. We used to have Eurovision parties, sometimes in fancy dress, and friends would come round to eat drink and singalong at the TV. We always put the subtitles on for the songs which are translated into English which makes it even more hilarious.

“The event itself is fantastically mad. Somehow it seems to take itself super seriously but at the same time, there is a huge tongue-in-cheek aspect to it all, especially with the partisan voting – neighbouring countries voting in blocks and ganging up on others that they don’t like,” Ben explains. “Also the randomness of it all. I mean how can Australia be part of Eurovision? Terry Wogan was brilliant at the commentary with his sarcasm and wit and I think Graham Norton is doing a good job following in his footsteps.”

For the second consecutive year (thanks Covid), Ben virtually steps into Graham Norton’s shoes by bringing us Lockdown Eurovision. For the 2021 edition, he has created a special Facebook group, providing summaries of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest with 40 countries participating.

For the local community, Lockdown Eurovision is a breath of fresh air from pandemic news. For Ben, the last year has been extremely challenging professionally and personally. “Covid has helped me focus on the important things in life, though, staying connected with friends and family. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”

Monaco and Eurovision

The first Eurovision Song Contest, also known as Le Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne, was televised live on May 24, 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland. The concept was based on the Sanremo Song Festival.

Only seven solo artists representing their countries participated in the first edition and while duos were permitted in 1957, groups were not allowed to compete until 1971.

In 2021, there are 40 countries competing, each song must be performed live but there are no live instruments.

Before mid-March, each country will have already chosen who will represent them (maximum 6 people) and with what song (maximum 3 minutes, not released before), normally through a national televised selection. Usually France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the host country (whoever won last year) pre-qualify.

Other participating countries will then take part in one of the two Semi-Finals. From each Semi-Final, the best 10 will proceed to the Grand Final. This brings the total number of Grand Final participants to 26.

Advancement is based on a voting system, one by a jury of five music industry professionals and one by viewers at home, who can vote by phone, SMS and through the app. This year’s host country is Rotterdam and the Grand Finale is on May 22.

Monaco has participated in Eurovision 24 times since it began in 1956, in every edition between 1959 (it finished last) and 1979, and then from 2004 to 2006, when the semi-final system was introduced.

They won once – in 1971 with Séverine’s “Un banc, un arbre, une rue” – and picked up a few second and third places ribbons as well. But in its last appearance in 2006 on the Eurovision stage with Severine Ferrer’s “La Coco-Dance”, Monaco finished 21st in the semi-finals. Télé Monte-Carlo, Monaco’s broadcaster, later commented that the voting patterns in the contest give Monaco “no chance” of qualifying to the final.

Susanne (Batstone) Bohush

“I am not as British as most people think,” reveals Susanne (Batstone) Bohush. Born in Ipswich, Suffolk, to a German mother and Ukrainian dad, she joined Lloyd’s bank as a Management Trainee at 18 and worked her way through all the departments including Human Resources. “It was there I learned the importance of teamwork, motivation and bringing out the best in people.”

In 1991, she decided to take a break in her career and moved to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin “initially for a couple of years.” She worked in Monaco starting in television and then the corporate world.

Four years later, when her daughter was one, she moved to Menton and has now lived there for more than half her life. “It was a safe place to bring up my two lovely children, who are now 27 and 24, and the town has certainly become livelier over the past few years with – in non-Covid times – lots of entertainment and activities.”

The former treasurer of the British Association Menton says she has always enjoyed helping people and been interested in personal development and holistic health. “I firmly believe in the link between mind, body and soul and am fascinated by the mind and the effect that our thoughts and emotions have on our physical wellbeing,” she remarks.

A chance meeting with an excellent retired Bach Flower Registered Practitioner (BFRP) trainer from the UK inspired her to study at the Bach Centre near Oxford where she completed her qualification in 2015.

Discovered by Dr Bach in the 1920s and 30s, Bach Flowers work by treating the person as a whole and work on any negative emotions by restoring inner harmony and balance. Dr Bach gave up his renowned Harley Street practice to concentrate on helping his clients in this completely natural way.

“Bach Flowers are an excellent tool for fostering a greater understanding of oneself and help people towards being the best version of themselves,” explains Susanne, adding that her role as a practitioner is to help clients become more self-aware and autonomous, responsible for their own healing. 

“I have witnessed people becoming more resilient with greater confidence and a clearer vision of their life purpose. Their perception of painful outside events is calmer,” she shares. “I have also seen complete career changes and more ability to deal with day-to-day challenges.”

During Covid, Susanne has been able to do some online consultations. “People have been confronted with anxiousness, loneliness and fear more than usual.”

In addition to her full-time job in Monaco and work as a Bach Flower practitioner, Susanne has spent the last five years raising awareness and fundraising on behalf of Mothers of Africa UK, a charity in Wales founded by a friend in 2004.

In 2017, Mothers of Africa registered as a non-profit association and Organismes de Solidarité internationale in Monaco and two years later, Susanne took over as President of Mothers of Africa in Monaco (she is also Trustee of the UK Charity).

“We came on board in Monaco just as the Shiyala Primary School for 540 children was being built in Zambia. We work in the Chongwe district and our mission is to empower girls through education as we believe that through education they can take control of their lives, promote health and reduce poverty,” describes Susanne.

“We are a listening charity who never impose but wait to be invited. We have a great team, all volunteers, and have fun raising awareness and organising events.”

Typically across the year, Mothers of Africa would host a variety of events – dinners, bowling evenings, cycle rides, walks and a Christmas Market – as well as taking part in the annual Journée International Droit des Enfants and No Finish Line Monaco, but due to Covid they are limited to online functions.

They are hosting an African Dance Class on Zoom on International Women’s Day, Monday, March 8, at 7: 30 pm. “If anyone would like to take part, please make a donation through the White Feather Foundation campaign, which will go towards our next project – building a nursery school for 60 children, hopefully this summer. It is thanks to our ambassador, Julian Lennon, this joint campaign is possible.”

Susanne expressed that Mothers of Africa is also very happy to work with the International School of Monaco’s Philanthropy Club. “Our children at the Shiyala school have just received a very generous donation of solar lamps from Little Sun.com thanks to funds raised by the Early Years at the school,” she shares.

“I have been fortunate to visit Zambia twice, to help run a summer school for 25 children in 2017 and also to hand over the build of new classrooms at theEvergreen Primary School to the education authorities in 2019,” Susanne states.

“Since Covid, we have been working with a local women’s sewing circle in Chongwe, providing handmade face masks to the schools and district hospital. We have also provided PPE, signage and training for Covid to the hospital and given handmade sanitary protection packs to all the girls at the Shiyala and Evergreen schools. We will be extending this to all the girls, some 16,000 people, in the district over the next two years.”

During the Covid pandemic, Susanne has been either working from home or at her office in Monaco. “The time saved on travelling has given me more time to enjoy my garden,” she enthuses. “I have also discovered Zoom, which has been great for connecting.”

Covid has also brought the Mothers of Africa teams in UK and Monaco closer together, resulting in much brainstorming and new project ideas.

“It has been a great time of introspection and gratitude. I think it is very important to make the most of the situation as it is for the moment. Nothing is forever and staying positive rather than resisting definitely helps,” she observes.

Susanne (Batstone) Bohush’s next adventure is to start training to become a Sophrologist later this month. “I am excited to see where that leads me.”

When you make a donation through the White Feather Foundation to help Mothers of Africa Monaco build a nursery school for 50 children in Shiyala, Zambia, you will receive a link for the African Dance Class on Zoom that takes place March 8 at 7:30 pm.

Gavin Sharpe

“I felt trapped in my corporate success,” says Gavin Sharpe. “However corporate life had seduced me, it controlled me rather than the other way around.”

His recruitment company, SSQ, was independently ranked by The Sunday Times as one of the best companies to work for and was placed as the most profitable in its sector. “I was losing my identity. Something was missing and that something was me,” he states.

Having grown up in a small village in Hertfordshire and studied in London, once Gavin sold his company he yearned for a different lifestyle and kinder climate. “My parents had lived in Monaco and it felt familiar. It was one of those defining moments and the start of an adventure that began some six years ago and which feels like it is just unfolding,” he describes about relocating to one of the safest countries in the world.

Gavin jumped off the corporate bus and into a career that “allowed me to be authentic and congruent. I had enjoyed my own therapy and developed a passion for the field of psychotherapy.”

As a counsellor, coach and therapist, he is now on his true life path. “The calling had always been there. When I was ready to listen, it spoke to me. I wish it was less of a cliché but it is true,” he admits.

Comparing the amount of time and money we spend on our physical wellbeing (yoga, Pilates, breathing, healthy eating) versus our mental wellbeing, Gavin observes, “I bet we are more comfortable telling the boss that we are leaving the office early for a Pilates class than for a therapy appointment. Men are certainly more likely to say they have a personal trainer to lose weight rather than a therapist to help with their erectile dysfunction!”

He believes the taboo arises from a lack of awareness and education about mental illness. “Sadly, some people do not seek out treatment due to the self-perceived stigma. Perhaps one good thing to emerge from the Covid pandemic is that there seems to be a willingness to talk about the cost on our mental health. Who knew that when you lock up humankind and hide the key, it impacts our emotional wellbeing?”

Gavin wants to make mental health more accessible and is excited by a new partnership with Rivera Radio. “Wellbeing Window” will be an hour on the first Wednesday of each month at 9 am CET addressing a topic on mental health and inviting listeners to write in with their questions.

“It was brave of Rob Harrison and Sarah Lycett to have me on the Full English Breakfast Show back in 2019. We broke new ground. I think there was a fear that people would be drowning in their cornflakes, and as a result, listeners would tune out. Instead, we found them tuning in. When I appeared last on New Year’s Eve, I ended up staying for longer than scheduled as the number of listeners writing in rocketed. Rob and Sarah have an amazing talent in being able to discuss deep and meaningful subjects that touch us all and seconds later they have us roaring with laughter over something meaningless and mundane.”

For Gavin, there is another dimension to wellbeing that has been forgotten. In his upcoming book on how we can follow our true life path rather than the one we find ourselves on, he has dedicated a chapter to Financial Wellbeing. “We all have money scripts, a set of beliefs or values about money. Do I deserve money? Is money good or bad? What does money represent to me?” he asks. “When a couple argues about money, it is never about the money per se. It is about what the money represents. I have studied financial disorders and run money intensives with individuals and couples to help them explore these deep-rooted issues.”

On Covid
Gavin’s appointment calendar was already pretty busy before a pandemic forced us to face unprecedented issues as couples. “You could have been the most solid couple in the world but if you are in lockdown in a small apartment with three children and home schooling, your relationship will likely have felt the strain. Couples who were struggling before the pandemic have unsurprisingly felt the cracks widen.”

He adds, “I think it is unhealthy for couples to be living and working together with this level of intensity. Relationships need to breathe and need spontaneity and creativity to fuel ongoing desire. The pandemic has the potential to kill desire – unless you are single in which case, you might not know what to do with your desire! There is usually hope for struggling couples. The key is to seek help before contempt sets in.”

For Gavin, the popular media is full of titillating stories informing us that the divorce rate will spiral while others indicate the opposite. “The truth is probably somewhere in between. What we do know from studies of past pandemics, such as SARS and Ebola, is that psychological reactions such as panic, depression, loneliness, anxiety, stress, grief, anxiety and PTSD are common. This obviously has entered into our relationships during the Covid pandemic.”

On Expats
A study released this year showed that US expats were two and a half times more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their US-based counterparts. “I am sure it is the same for expats based in Monaco and the South of France,” Gavin insists.

“Expats sometimes tell me they feel trapped and long for their roots. Many have moved around in childhood and coming to the Riviera is just one more notch in their portable bedpost. When we move around, we experience loss. We leave behind family, friendships, rituals and routines. I think the wellbeing litmus test for expats is the extent to which we allow ourselves to grieve those losses or do we just move on?”

For Gavin, expats can also suffer from “I should” syndrome. I should be happy. Look where I live. I have no right to be miserable. (He once replied, “If I was married to your husband, I’d be miserable, too.”) “The point is that we have to allow ourselves to experience our emotions wherever we live. Living by the sea is not a passport to happiness. We still have to work at it.”

In this part of the world, he sees men and women facing different challenges. “There is a power dynamic which troubles me. Many women move to join their breadwinner husbands. The men carry on largely as before while the women often find themselves dependent and isolated. That sometimes leaves the door open to control and abuse. Even without this dynamic, I think Monaco can be an intimidating place for women to integrate.”

He advises that if you are going to live in or around Monaco, it is helpful to know your relationship with money. “This is not the place to compete. There will always be someone out there with more. More money. More cars. More wives. I’ve worked with many successful business people who are trying to heal a childhood wound with the purchase of a larger yacht. It’s not going to happen. Heal the wound first and then think about the yacht.”

On Group Therapy
Gavin works with individuals and couples who are looking to make profound changes in their relationships and lives. “As a therapist, I wear many hats. Alongside my Masters in Integrative Psychotherapy, I am also trained in addiction, trauma and relationship and sex therapy. My services and workshops reflect this.”

He currently runs three weekly online groups – one exclusively for men, one for women and, as he is the only certified sex addiction therapist in the Riviera, the third is for male sex and love addicts.

He also holds intensive weekends throughout the year for people coming to terms with addiction. “One of my most popular workshops is my two-day couple’s wellbeing intensive. I love this workshop. It’s not so much about resolving problems – although it can be – but more about rediscovering love and building deeper intimacy and connection. We are all craving connection, pandemic or not.”

Connection is also part of what makes a good therapist. “I could have a hundred initials after my name but if we don’t have chemistry and click, I am likely to be the wrong therapist for you. Only work with me if you connect with me. That’s my mantra. The relationship is key.”

A good therapist will most likely have trained at a reputable educational establishment, ideally up to or beyond a Masters level. Therapy is an unregulated profession in the UK, so Gavin choose to be a member of several professional associations to ensure he is held accountable to the highest standards.

He underlines that a client also needs to feel that therapy offers a safe and confidential space, offline or online. “And comfortable chairs help!”

Attending a group is usually less expensive than attending one-to-one therapy which can be why some people chose only group sessions. “Let me say at the outset, I am passionate about groups. There is a lot of research which has tested the efficacy of groups. They can be transformational. Sometimes what we seek is an acknowledgment from others who have walked in our shoes and groups provide this collective empathy. Participants are able to see their pain in others and vice versa,” he emphasises.

“I don’t see group therapy as better but more as a therapy tool in the whole wellbeing toolkit. Many people find it helpful to participate in both group therapy and individual psychotherapy.”

Being a therapist on the French Riviera is unique. “I can go out for dinner and see three or four clients. My clients know that I will ignore them and respect their privacy. Sometimes we laugh about it in session.”

ON GAVIN
Like many of us, Gavin learned to mask his inward lack of confidence. “Growing up, we all experience attachment wounds – for example abuse, neglect, betrayal, loss or abandonment – and those wounds impact how loveable and worthy we believe ourselves to be. For a long time, I didn’t feel worthy and for a while, I disguised my wounds even from myself. I became what I thought others expected of me. It led to my success in the corporate world that I mentioned earlier but left a sense of emptiness inside,” he relates.

His upcoming show on Riviera Radio on March 3rd will address that inner critic and voice inside our head that often undermines our accomplishments leaving us feeling guilt and/or shame.

“I’ve learned to silence my inner critic. Of course, it crops up every now and then but like my clients, I, too, am always evolving,” says Gavin Sharpe. 

Remember to post your Pink Ribbon Monaco photos holding
a sign with a message of support this Sunday, February 14.
#seinvalentin #Pinkribbonmonaco

Marketa Häkkinen

Marketa Häkkinen. Photos Danny Meier Photography.

It was at a 2007 golf tournament in Cologne when Markéta Remešová met her future husband, Mika Häkkinen. It wasn’t long after that the two-time F1 World Champion invited her to move to Monaco.

“Monaco was overwhelming at first,” Marketa confesses. Born in the western Czech Republic countryside, the Pilsen native spoke only Czech and German, later learning English and some basic French. “I have always been very low-key and worked hard for everything I have so it was not easy to step into Monaco society. Over time, though, I have developed a real appreciation for living here.”

A former dancer, Marketa graduated as a fashion designer in 1996 in her home country and at her winter wonderland wedding in Rovaniemi to Mika in January 2017, she designed her wedding dress. That same year, she started her own label Nordic Angels and showcased at Monte Carlo Fashion Week.

Now Marketa has launched Love Fertility Coaching in Monaco. “Trying to have a baby with my husband was not so easy,” the mom of three shares. “In school, they only teach you about not getting pregnant – “if you stop the pill, you’re going to get pregnant” – but no one speaks about what happens if you can’t get pregnant.”

She and Mika decided to see a doctor, did the necessary tests and were told that everything was in working order. “The doctor’s message was to keep trying but after a year and no pregnancy, IVF treatment was suggested and that failed. All those doctors just kept sending us for test after test without ever finding anything and then when IVF didn’t work, they didn’t know what to say.”

Marketa decided to take matters into her own hands. She signed up to online university to study a holistic and medical approach to infertility, to research and study how the human body works. ‘I was able to understand what was going on with me and was truly sad that not one of those doctors was able to help me,” she admits.

Creating her own holistic fertility program to follow with her Finnish husband, she got pregnant after four months. “I was overwhelmed with happiness and today my lovely Ella is ten,” Marketa radiates.

Two year later, her “beautiful twins” Lynn and Daniel arrived. (They are now seven). “When I became pregnant, my friends and their friends struggling with the same infertility problems came to me, and I was so pleased to help them with my holistic fertility approach. All of them got pregnant naturally or I helped prepare them for IVF treatment,” she explains.

This was the beginning of her business idea. “Infertility is mentally and physically painful and I would like to help every woman who is going through this, to give them information that can spare them from pain and frustration. There are many environmental reasons as to why the world is getting more and more infertile coupled with, unfortunately, little knowledge of women’s general health.”

During spring lockdown last year, Marketa used the time to finish her studies and create her company Love Fertility Coaching. “With my ten years of infertility experience along with many happy pregnancies, my business had an easy start. I hope many other future couples will also get pregnant with a healthy baby.”

Love Fertility Coaching offers a one-on-one three-month program – to get your body balanced and ready for conception naturally or for those undergoing IVF treatment – as well as an intensive 8-week Wake-Up Fertility group coaching program for up to four women. She also just added new pre-menopause and menopause programs.

Working mostly online from home, Marketa has been able to connect with women around the world. “Every nationality is different and you can see how each country educates women on general health, mostly missing out on quality information concerning infertility. I hope over the years we can bring a more holistic fertility approach to Europe because it would be easier for different cultures to accept the issue. Some countries, like the US, are so advanced with fertility education so it is easier to communicate with women about how they are feeling.”

Marketa says that women are still really shy about talking infertility. “They are hiding behind the pain and waiting for a miracle to happen but if they know that I understand what they are feeling, they start to open up and are ready to take the next steps. There is no shame in being infertile; the shame is not finding the root of the fertility problem.”

Does she have any advice for couples who are struggling with infertility? “Don’t give up and don’t be ashamed to ask for help if your pregnancy is not happening after six months of trying, especially as the quality of your eggs decreases massively after age 35. Trust a holistic approach, we are able to find the root of your fertility issue whereas doctors can only treat your symptoms,” she emphasises.

Covid hasn’t really impacted Marketa’s new business as she works remotely for the most part but she has noticed an increase of interest from clients in group fertility over private coaching. As a result, she has decided to launch “One Go,” a personalised plan but without follow-up. “My goal is to make fertility programs affordable for everyone,” says Marketa Häkkinen.

Photos by Danny Meier Photography courtesy of Marketa Häkkinen.

Remember to post your Pink Ribbon Monaco photos holding
a sign with a message of support this Sunday, February 14.
#seinvalentin #Pinkribbonmonaco

Natasha Frost

Natasha Frost, founder Pink Ribbon Monaco.

Natasha Frost was born in London to an American film producer dad and British mom with a passion for writing screen plays and playing the piano and cello.

“At the time he met my mother, my dad was working with United Artists on the Beatles films when he came to London and was involved in the signing off on the first Bond film with Sean Connery, initially to be in black and white,” recounts Natasha Frost. “In 1970, he was also the first American to produce a film for the National Theatre, Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters, starring Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates, Joan Plowright.” 

Flawlessly bilingual, Natasha, along with her brother and sister, learned French attending the Lycée Français in South Kensington. When her parents separated, her mom, who was re-writing a screenplay commissioned for TV, brought the kids to Beaulieu-sur-Mer so they could improve their French on holiday while her dad went to LA to produce two films. “My father ended up staying in LA and re-marrying a wonderful lady. Mom loved living in Beaulieu, where she put us into the local maternelle because she saw what a difference it was to bring up three children down here rather than in the centre of London.”

Natasha later became, literally, a kid in a candy store, when her mom remarried a Frenchman who owned (still owns) the family-run candy factory Nice Bonbon.

“While my bio-dad would send us cool things from movie sets and photos of our favourite stars that we would show off at school – a photo of him as VP of Universal Studios with my idol, David Bowie, when he sold the rights to Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, is still my prize possession! Needless to say, we also were quite popular thanks to our step-dad and the silly amounts of candy we would give out!”

Natasha admits she was an “unrepentant book worm who read voraciously,” devouring most of Zola and all Maupassant by the time she was thirteen. “I figured out how to speed read diagonally around 12, but I’m not sure I absorbed the meaning at that age! My sister and brother thought I was a real geek, back in the day when it was not cool to be a geek, but later on in life, especially when I went to LA to finish high school, I found myself quite comfortable with the curriculum. When I read Jules Verne’s Voyage au Centre de la Terre, I decided I needed to become an archaeologist-explorer.”

She was passionate about history and, in the early days of college at Humboldt State University in Northern California, “obsessed” with medieval manuscripts. “The idea had evolved to become a parchment-velum restorer,” she laughs. “Life clearly had another plan for me.”

After getting her degree in 1995, Natasha returned to France for the summer to visit her mom, step-dad and siblings for the summer. “I got a summer job at Stars’n’Bars in Monaco … and never left. I was having way too much fun to go back to school.”

Her plans certainly did change. These days, Natasha is widely known as founder and tireless campaigner of Pink Ribbon Monaco, a non-profit association to support cancer awareness. “I set it up for two reasons. Firstly, I felt there were too many cases of breast cancer that were going undetected for too long. I had family members and friends affected and I can easily say that most of the worst cases would have been easier to cure if detected earlier. I figured, let’s start doing something about it.

“Secondly, I had been to many Pink Ribbon awareness walks in LA, which were way more than a pretty stroll in pink clothes – it was a day of women’s empowerment, women supporting women and joyful sisterhood. I felt that Monaco needed some of that vibe. I thought I could bring something positive to my beloved Principality.”

Natasha was invited to speak at the United Nations in New York representing Monaco for a Breast Cancer event in march 2018. “I am still so proud to have represented Monaco in such a prestigious place,” she understates.

Over the past ten years, Pink Ribbon Monaco has gone from a small and relatively unknown local entity to a calendar event with their annual 5-km port-palace-port walk supported by the Palace (Prince Albert opened the walk last year), the government and Minister of Health and Social Services, Didier Gamerdinger, as well as the President of the National Council, Stéphane Valeri and the Commisson de Protection et Promotion des droits de la Femme (Natasha is a committee member).

“Our main events are the walk, sadly cancelled this year due to Covid, and our Pink October illuminations held on the first Thursday or Friday of October, when we ask key local landmarks to light up in pink in support of breast cancer awareness and the patients fighting the fight. We had to cancel last October, but in 2019 it was under the High Patronage of Prince Albert and attended by our special guest, Oscar winner Jodie Foster, who was awarded the Pink Ribbon Award for her positive impact on women.”

This year, the walk was scheduled to take place on Valentine’s Day, but was cancelled for obvious reasons. Instead, Pink Ribbon Monaco came up with the idea of a virtual support event on social media –#seinvalentin, a play on words as Saint-Valentin in French is pronounced the same as sein, the French word for breast.

“We are simply asking people to show their support on Sunday, February 14, by posting a photo of themselves in pink, holding a sign with a message of support, using the hashtags #seinvalentin and #Pinkribbonmonaco. We will repost everything in our story and hope to get loads of posts. This will show our support to our loved ones and remind everyone to get checked.”

Natasha does not mince her words. “Covid has had a terrible impact on our association, not only because our te10-year anniversary events have been cancelled, but, more importantly as we have been made aware of massively lower numbers of breast cancer screenings. Princess Grace Hospital reminds everyone that these screening appointments are maintained and there is no health risk in going to the hospital to get your mammogram.”

Her message is clear in reminding women that the Covid pandemic should NOT prevent testing. “Pink Ribbon in Monaco and its life-saving message is hugely important to me and I have full admiration for the devoted people at Centre Hospitalier Princesse Grace doing everything they can to fight and cure breast cancer. It is safe and essential to continue testing and ensure family members do so.”

Natasha at theUN in New York.

Family is clearly a priority for Natasha, who gushes how proud she is of “my large, recomposed family and they are all part of the cool things in my life.” Her brother, Matthew Frost, is a double Clio winner (the Oscars of Advertising) and fashion photographer who has shot some of the biggest celebrities (Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Karl Lagerfeld, Cate Blanchet, Damian Hirst to name a few…) for Vogue, L’Officiel, Jalouse and others. Her step-brother, Noah Wyle, played Dr Carter in the American TV drama ER “for ages.”

Her fashion-designer sister Allegria of Balenciaga and ACNE fame is “an amazingly talented designer who also works tirelessly as an activist for the preservation of the planet.” Her youngest sister Victoria is a business entrepreneur while “my eldest, crazy sister Tabitha has amazing artistic and interior architecture talent which has influenced us all.”

Her siblings on the Wyle side are equally accomplished. “My sister Alex is one of the foremost equine vets in the US with three clinics to her name in California and my brother Aaron is a top executive at HEB in Texas.”

Natasha is currently helping her step-dad rebrand and develop his 75-year-old family-owned candy business. The confectioner has just signed a partnership with the Petit Prince-Saint Exupéry Foundation and has been granted exclusivity for a Petit Prince range of nostalgic, delicious and all-natural range of caramel sweets.

“This is a big deal for me as I have always been passionate about Le Petit Prince, and it was sort of serendipitous to have this opportunity as, since his birth, my son Magnus has reminded me physically of the main character. Way before this happened, I was reading him the pop-up child-friendly version.”

Using local butter and sticks are made of wood, the exclusive Petit Prince range by Nice Bonbon – whose old-school website relaunches the first week of February – should be available in the early spring.

Natasha and Roberto at Blue Coast Brewing launch. Photo: Nancy Heslin

It was nearly nine years ago when Natasha was flying home from a holiday at her step-dad’s place in St Barts when Swede Roberto Savio popped on the flight at the Curacao layover. “He was seated next to me. It was a fun flight to Amsterdam,” Natasha laughs. They married and has Magnus five years ago.

The couple are also business partners. In 2017, the dynamic duo launched  Blue Coast Brewing Company, an idea that came to them after a trip to a friend’s brewery in San Diego the year before. “We shared the idea with some friends and investors – including 2018 Monaco Grand Prix champ Daniel Ricciardo, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button and founding partner Shane Heminway, amongst others – without whom the project would not have taken off financially. Our plan was that should things go well and become successful, we would pass the show so to speak after a certain amount of time to a new team because we are entrepreneurs at heart.”

Natasha is still the CEO of the French company but is happily passing the torch in the coming month while CEO Predrag Krupez, a “young and super dynamic guy” who was one of the first investors, continues to take the Nice-based brewery to a whole new level. “Thanks to Predrag and the talent of our brewer Robert Bush, we have a great new collaboration beer with a UK brewery and, despite Covid, great things are coming.” The couple is still amongst the top five Blue Coast shareholders.

Meanwhile Natasha is in the process of setting up a communication company, High Octane Communication. “I’ve had so many requests to share my branding and marketing skills,” she says modestly. “And Roberto and I are working together on some exciting new projects together, too. We are a team.”

Post your Pink Ribbon Monaco photos on Sunday, February 14.
Remember to hold a sign with a message of support and hashtag #seinvalentin #Pinkribbonmonaco

Véronique Liesse

Véronique Liesse is a French-speaking Belgian who came to Monaco five years ago with her husband who was developing his business in the Principality.  

Véronique, who also speaks fluent Dutch and English, splits her time between consultations in nutrition and micronutrients at Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, teaching nutrition to health professionals and providing in-house training for companies to improve wellbeing and quality of life at work. Even with 20 years of professional experience and a company in Belgium, she admits, “It was a new challenge to start my work here in Monaco.”

She understates her credibility. Véronique is also an accomplished writer, having penned four books tackling health – on weight-loss mistakes, hormonal issues, energy foods and immunity boosters – all published by Broché and available on Amazon.fr. Her fifth release “Ma bible pour perdre du poids sans régimes” (My Bible For Losing Weight Without Dieting) is scheduled for release on March 16.

“The book is a summary of all the factors that can lead to becoming overweight – and it is not a question of calories. The plate is key but it is much more a qualitative aspect than a quantitative one. Other things that can block a weight loss program include hormones, microbiota, chrono-nutrition, way of life, stress, sleep … and I offer concrete steps to take along with a hundred recipes.”

Growing up, Véronique says that nutrition didn’t play a big role in her life although her mother paid attention to what the family ate. “Nutrition has been a reconversion for me,” she says. “Once I finished my studies as a dietician, I quickly felt that I was missing something and so I trained more in depth in micronutrients, nutrition for athletes, children and adolescents, and in gut microbiota.”

Véronique points out the different nutritional requirements for kids. “They are not just little men and women. Today we know the importance of adopting good habits from a young age because it increases the chances of success and good health in adulthood.”

She says the same goes for elite athletes. “There are so many different sports, with different constraints and objectives, and it is important to know what we are talking about.” 

Photo: Bettina D.

In Monaco and the French Riviera, people are fortunate to have access to a Mediterranean-style diet, which is synonymous with health and quality and with an abundance of choice in local produce. “Marrying health and the art of living is the ultimate goal for Monegasques who are very aware of their health and that precious link that exists between them and their plate,” she describes.

In fact, it is the plate that Véronique examines during consultations. She looks at what people are eating to determine any missing nutrients that could help reduce inflammation and provide the immune system with what it needs to function at its best. “I also have clients who realise that diets simply do not work and in order to lose weight permanently, or for other reasons, they need to be supervised.”

She adds, “Of course, maintaining immune system health at an optimal level is a key element in dealing with this Covid crisis. This can even help to b the effectiveness of the vaccine. Fortunately, specialists are starting to talk about the importance of taking vitamin D. It really could save lives and even for children who are not at risk of Covid, vitamin D is important.”

Véronique, who has her own YouTube channel L’Healthentiel, is adamant that the impact of Covid is largely underestimated. “Beyond the direct link with immunity, our mental and emotional health has also been strongly affected. I am afraid that the damage will not be noticeable until we come out of it all. Not to mention the people who have stopped exercising or who have gained weight …

“Since the pandemic began, doing sports has seemed normal, partly because we have had more time, and partly because we were locked up. But the majority of the population doesn’t see it useful to eat better, mostly due of a lack of information.”

Like everyone, Véronique’s consultations and training came to a complete halt during the first confinement. “We are lucky in Monaco to be supported by the government. Little by little, things have been put in place, even if the situation remains complicated. Obviously, face-to-face training is impossible and has to be done at a distance but learning to adapt and bounce back is always good,” says Véronique Liesse.