You probably remember the photos from the shoot I did for Bohiomania Haiti, a hand-made jewelry line by Haitian designer, Marie Valerie Placide. Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with her, and I got to learn how her jewelry line started. Looking back at our conversation, I remember why I admired Valerie so much when I was a child. Her intelligence, vivacious personality, and go-getter attitude are some of the many things to boast about this incredible, independent woman.
Valerie’s family are long-term friends with mine. Her mother is the image of the strong woman who did all she could so her children could excel or at least live some of the dreams she never got to. Her mom provided catering services to others, made peanut butter and confiture from scratch. I watched her work her blade to make some of the best pikliz in Haiti. I still have images of her now, and I remember her being as strong as a “poto mitan“. She raised Valerie to walk into a room, and to be able to speak with the president with poise in either French or English. It might not seem much to you now, but achieving something like this in Haiti is almost impossible. In Haiti, the majority of the time, people from lower social classes never have the chance to advance. It’s a country where if you’re raised poor, then you stay poor, and you die poorer. It’s sad, but true.
Valerie had an opportunity to leave Haiti to come to the states with her son right after the devastating earthquake of 2010. She moved to upstate New York with the help of some friends and people she worked with back in Haiti. Although she acquired a nice day-job in the finance world, she wanted to find a way to express herself artistically. Searching for a way to feel closer to her beloved Haiti, ill mother, and loving younger brother she left after the earthquake, she dedicated all of her free time to come up with Bohiomania.
Valerie’s jewelry-making actually started in Haiti way before it became Bohiomania. Back then, it was just hobby, and she was the only one wearing her pieces. She began to make these necklaces because her jewelry would get snatched often by thieves on her way to and from work. She figured pick-pockets would want nothing to do with beaded jewelry, so she started purchasing them whenever she would travel. After realizing how expensive they were and how the quality was not something she preferred, she started crafting her own. She started slowly with basic beads and tools, and now she uses the most interesting of stones that makes each piece unique and original.
Her hand-made jewelry line is her inspiration to present a positive side of Haiti. As a woman who has had a gun pointed at her many times in her country just for trying to make a living, she still believes there’s hope. She is an ambassador in every sense of her beloved country. She aspires to open a school and trade-shop to teach women back home how to make jewelry to sell internationally.
Valerie is now residing in the states with her son, missing Haiti more than ever. She tries to balance her role as a mother, bread-maker, and artist. She is one brave woman who is not only providing for herself and family through hard-work, but she is courageous enough to follow her dreams. Valerie is a pure example of all “fanm vanyan” around the world.
You can visit her website: http://www.bohiomania.com or follow her on facebook and instagram.