Jeanne Damas likes to remind us: Rouje is about women. Paths intertwined, inspiring encounters, ideas that lingers. Throughout these portraits, she gives a voice to some feminine figures whose stories resonate with her. Here’s the first Rencontre en Rouje, with Josepha Raphard.
Bonjour Josépha! I have been wanting to meet you for quite some time… Since finding out about you on social media actually. When I was pregnant, I discovered your group therapy project for new mothers and mothers-to-be, the Loma Club, that you created with other women and I found it super powerful. For this series of portraits I’m launching, I would love for you to tell me about yourself, about Loma and its origins. We probably need to talk about how you became a mother. You had your daughter Paloma quite young - did you always know you wanted to have children?
I got pregnant when I was 24, it was quite young and I really wanted to have a child. My boyfriend was also ready, we had partied a lot before and we didn’t feel like we had to wait.
Is it because you became a mom that you’re doing this job now?
For sure, yes! I organize talks with new moms, it’s like group therapy and I facilitate them via video calls. I’ve always had that in me as my documentaries on the subject, “MEUFS” and "MÈRES", can attest.
These are the two documentaries you directed - how did this idea come to be?
I was working in press relations at that time. One evening, as we were talking about our lives with some girlfriends, I started filming them. I thought it would be nice to show that we’re all going through the same things, the same hardships.
I filmed 90 women, it was super long yet fascinating. The best episode from MEUFS is the last one where I interviewed women between 70 and 90. And it’s also the link with the docuseries MÈRES: I became pregnant when I published the last episode.
When you become a mother, how you see other women and their lives changes. I feel like there’s a special relationship between these women who all share the same experiences, without knowing each other. It looks like you already had this bond, when filming your documentary MEUFS?
No, to be honest, before that I always felt like I was competing with other women, these relationships were not necessarily natural for me. I was surrounded by boys, I have a lot of brothers and guy friends. I wanted to make MEUFS to show this thing that happens between women, that we never see but that we feel right after a girls’ dinner or spending some time with other women.
It’s sort of your take on sisterhood actually. And for Loma club, this group therapy, how did the idea come to be?
By becoming a mother, I realized how wonderful and hard it was at the same time. Earlier you were telling me that you feel privileged as a mother and yet it’s still hard. It’s exactly what made me create Loma Club because whatever your situation may be, you should always be allowed to express how you feel.
It’s essential to nurture a community of women who are going through the same experiences so they can speak in a safe space. It’s what makes Loma Club so important: to connect with women who feel just like us. I speak with them ahead of time to create balanced groups then I facilitate the sessions by making sure everybody can speak and listen to each other.
Over time, I’ve built a network of kinesiologists, doulas, etc. And I can direct the ones who need it to the right professional.
It’s an important mission, a project that probably helped a lot of women. I hear you’re moving to Belgium, will these sessions continue over there?
Yes… It’s the great thing with working remotely and I will still be able to come to Paris if needed for in-person meetings. It was one of our criteria: be less than 2h away from Paris! The other thing that was important to us was to live in a multicultural city. And in France, apart from Paris, there’s not a lot of options.!
In France, Paris is actually the only global city.
Exactly! And so we had spotted Brussels, without really knowing it well. We spent a weekend over there, toured the city and got into it. It was 2 months ago and now finally, we’re taking the plunge. We’re moving this weekend! But I already know it won’t be permanent… Paris is so close to my heart, I’ll come back for sure!
You have always lived here?
I was born in the western suburbs of Paris before moving closer, to Boulogne. I arrived in Paris when I was 19, in a tiny room in the 16th arrondissement. I was going to college and working on the side as a barmaid in a lot of different places in Paris: La Bellevilloise, then at the Social Club, Wanderlust etc. I met a lot of amazing people and partied a lot, I really had fun before having a child (laughs) !
And now you live in Boulogne ?
Yes, we moved here with my boyfriend. Before we were in the 10th, right next to the 18th, around Louis Blanc. And I didn’t see myself being a mom over there, I had two not-so-fun experiences while I was pregnant in this neighborhood. And I also had too many memories in my old apartment, I needed a new place with neutral energies for my new life as a mom.
I needed a family-friendly neighborhood, more calm, with parks around. Boulogne seemed perfect for this, on top of being close to my boyfriend’s job. At the same time, we knew that the apartment we’re currently living in was temporary, an in-between.
With what you’re telling me, I feel like you’ve found your cornerstones with your boyfriend and your daughter… That they give you the courage to change lives overnight.
Thank you Josépha for this conversation, are you showing me around your neighborhood now?
Yes, we’ll bring Paloma with us and I’ll take you to les Jardins des Serres d’Auteuil, it’s super beautiful.
Photos by Jeanne Damas
Video by Nicole Lily Rose
Documentary "MEUFS" directed by Josepha Raphard