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Interview: Singer and Songwriter Ilhame Paris Talks Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Dreams with Love and Determination


Interview: Singer and Songwriter Ilhame Paris Talks Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Dreams with Love and Determination

Jasmine Edwards

Ilhame Paris, a Parisian born singer and songwriter with Moroccan roots, is a soulful being whose music is infused with enough love, light, and energy to last a century. The passion she has for music comes from her family and fans whose love inspires her to write with no boundaries. Her heartbreaks and hardships never kept her away from doing what she loved. Knowing that it was all a part of her journey, she continued along her path with the bigger picture in mind—her fans.

At 19 years old, she found herself where any aspiring artist dreams to be professionally—signed to a major record label. But, that all came crashing down when her creativity was stifled, leaving her with two choices: stay and lose the ability to exercise her creativity or leave and uphold the right to create. She chose the latter. At the time, it may have seemed like the end of her career but it was just the beginning. After leaving that label, she found herself in collaborations with the likes of Erykah Badu, Ky-Mani Marley, Macy Gray, and other well-known respected artists.

Our Womanhood had the opportunity to speak with Ilhame, and boy let us tell you—it was so refreshing! What was supposed to be a 15- 20 minute interview turned into an hour long conversation. We love Ilhame’s spirit and are sure by the end of this interview that you’ll fall in love with her too. Ladies, she is the real deal and her energy is genuine and infectious. So if you were looking to be inspired this month, look no further. Enjoy!

Interview: Singer and Songwriter Ilhame Paris Talks Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Dreams with Love and Determination


Jasmine: Ilhame, thank you first of all for taking out the time to do the interview. I'm extremely excited!

Ilhame: No, thank you!

Jasmine: Well, no problem, you're welcome. Very beautiful name by the way!

Ilhame: Thank you! It means "inspiration" in Arabic.

Jasmine: Oh wow, that definitely fits your character. So, do you mind just telling us a little about yourself? A bit about your background, and what you do know?

Ilhame: Of course! I was born in Paris, France and am originally from Morocco. I started singing as a hobby at 12 years old with my sister. It was like a game. The first song I learned was “Ain’t No Sunshine,” by Bill Withers.  I didn’t even know what he was saying because I spoke French! So then I started doing some contests at school. But when I was 16, I knew that I would have the strength to do what I wanted to do and follow the dream that I had. And so that’s exactly what I’m doing right now!

Jasmine: That’s really interesting-

Ilhame: I started by writing a little bit and signed with Warner Record label when I was 19 years old.  But, it didn’t work out because I had a contract with them and they were telling me what to do—what songs to write and what music I should make.

To me as an artist, I feel like I shouldn’t be told what to write. You cannot give me my inspiration... 

So I broke my contract. I believe that when I came to America and visited LA (about 5 years ago), I knew that that was where my journey was going to start.

Jasmine: Oh, wow.

Ilhame: I knew it was the beginning of a big dream. You know in France, we always talk about big dreams—American dreams.

I am in France right now, but was in Morocco a few days ago visiting my family...I am an Auntie now and am so happy! I have a little niece. I’m so, so happy. It’s like she is my baby.

Jasmine: Congratulations! That’s so exciting!

Ilhame: You know, even to go back to my roots, its important to not forget where you come from. 

My roots have inspired me just like the people around me have inspired me.The spirits, the love, the smiles, the emotions...

Jasmine: Now that’s the type of introduction I love. That’s the type of information people wouldn’t even know about you unless you told them, so I thank you for sharing yourself.

So what is it like being a woman of African descent living in Paris?

Ilhame: To tell you the truth, I never felt racism. 50 years ago? No, I’m sure it would have been different. I’m proud to have been born in France and have my roots in Morocco. It enriches me. I can speak Arabic, French, and English.

Jasmine: Now I’m going to dive a little bit more into your professional music career. You got into the industry very early on, how did that start out?

Ilhame: Like I mentioned a little earlier, I signed with Warner when I was 19 years old. I knew exactly what I wanted really, really young.

A person stole 20,000 Euro from me when I was trying to produce an album in America and it made me really down. But that’s okay because it was part of my destiny. When I returned to France, I said to myself that this person can’t tell me I’m not talented and I’m nothing. Who are you to tell me that?

So I went back to America because I had more confidence.

Jasmine: That’s good that you gained your confidence back. Too many people get stuck being down when they don’t have to be. Sometimes you have to encourage yourself.

Ilhame: I just feel like we forget to look after each other.

Jasmine: I agree-

And I saw this a lot in America. Even in France too, but especially in America. There are so many homeless people lying on the ground and people just walking past them. I feel like when you give something, you get something back. We need to give to each other.

I want to say to the people, not only "look" at, but "see" what others need.

Jasmine: Yeah, I feel like a lot of times we do, we overlook people and we see something that’s wrong but we don’t act.

Ilhame: Right, and this is what I really want to spread to the world. I’m doing it in my way, step by step.

Jasmine: I don’t understand French, but I said to myself, “she has a beautiful voice! Why isn’t she huge?” Like Lady Gaga huge. Rihanna huge. I see your music going there. I feel like your music has an international appeal. I think that if Artist from America can go to foreign countries where their lyrics are not completely understood and still make an impression on their fans, so can you.

Ilhame: Thank you!

Jasmine: So what has it been like collaborating with Erykah Badu?

Ilhame: Erykah Badu was my first big-big show. It was like 10,000 people in the audience. I had the chance to share the stage with her and it was crazy! And that was just after the person stole the money from me.

Jasmine: Wow-

Ilhame: I believe that God gave me this opportunity. He said “You know Ilhame, something bad happened to you, but I’m bringing you something really beautiful and really huge...”

With Ky-Mani Marley, it was the same thing. I did a remake of “Waiting in Vain,” called “Still Waiting,” in French and Arabic and I wanted Ky-Mani to be on the track really bad! And I was a “no one.”

I didn’t have a label, it was just me with my music. I called his manger many times and asked him to allow Ky-Mani to listen to the track. If he didn’t like it then fine, but just allow him to listen to it one time. Well after he listened to it, I got an email the next day. A month later I was in Miami recording the song with him!

I’m really thankful. He didn’t make me pay! He enjoyed the song. He said I did a beautiful job and that his father would have been proud.

All of the people I worked with, including Macy Gray, has given me life. It’s like everything I’m doing, I take it as a gift.


Jasmine:  So I want to switch lanes and talk about the time you gained nearly 100 pounds. What was happening in your life during that time?

Ilhame: Well, it happened about 10 years ago. As a young girl I was very skinny, you know. I wasn’t big. But by 14 years old, I had gained about 100 pounds because I had been through some traumatic experiences. And I gained this in less than 5 months and kids were teasing me calling me fat. Even people were telling me, “oh, you have a beautiful voice, but you are a fat girl!”

So one day, my mom was like “Ilhame you are gaining too much weight, maybe you need to try a diet,” so I was like “okay, mom!”

Jasmine: Really? It was that easy for you to start?

Ilhame: Yes!

Jasmine: Ha, Okay!

Ilhame: But yeah, that was a really hard time in my life. Especially with kids calling me fat. But now I’m good! I’m happy. I’m happy when I’m around people. I’m happy to be interviewed by you.

Jasmine: Well, thank you! It’s not that easy to get people to agree to talk about their lives and their personal experiences.

Ilhame: Well thank you for interviewing me!

Jasmine: I guess we’ll be thanking each other all day wont we, ha!

Ilhame: If you were next to me I would kiss you on the cheek!

Jasmine: And I would kiss you back! I just love it when women are able to come out of a difficult or painful situation strong.

Ilhame: I’m such a big fighter, but I’m glad that I have, like the best sister ever.  She is my inspiration: the most beautiful gift life has given me—the best thing I have ever had. She has been my biggest cheerleader.

Even my mother, my father, my family—we are really close. Even when we fight, because in Arabic we get really loud, we still love each other. They are my strength because they support me. I mean my mom was like “you need to wake up because you are too big and there’s no way I’m paying for two plane tickets!” She really motivated me to lose weight.

A lot of people can say, “oh she’s beautiful,” but no matter what, I know I’m beautiful inside. I always knew this.

Jasmine: You know, you remind me of a butterfly, just as free and as beautiful as you want to be. I just love your realness. I love your honesty, and I love your story.

So, where did you get the idea to name your album “Just Wish It”?

Ilhame: So “Just Wish It” isn’t just an idea, it’s actually telling you who I am. I’ve been wishing since I was a little girl. When people go to buy my album, there will be a lucky number inside as well.

I am starting a foundation named “Just Wish It.” From each album, I plan on donating finds to the foundation. At the end of the year, there will be a person chosen from one of the lucky numbers to make their wish come true.

On my website, I have a place where people can write their wishes down. It always touches me to read peoples wishes.

Jasmine: And with that, I believe that’s what makes the world go world, Ilhame. I wish more people would do the same.

What advice what you give to women looking to get into the music industry?

Ilhame: For women to be in this industry, it is very hard. Because really, there are a lot of men. A lot of men are using their power. And I’m just going to be straight up with you, they’ll say, “oh, if you sleep with me, you’ll get this contract!” And so the advice that I would give women is to stay real and to never let anyone you are sh*t. Even if you fall down, you should get back up.

Continue loving because you cannot have inspiration without feeling.

Jasmine: What’s one word you would use to describe your journey thus far?

Ilhame: “Reve,” it’s an Arabic word. In English it means “dream.”

Jasmine: Thanks again for sharing your story Ilhame, I can’t wait to see where you go with your career.

Ilhame can be found on twitter at and on YouTube at

(This Interview was conducted in November 2013)