World-Renowned French Street Artist FAFI Discusses Work, Life at the Art Theater

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Photos by Asia Morris.

Not only did the ever-vibrant FAFI fly all the way from France to bring her pouty Fafinettes to POW! WOW! Long Beach (see her piece-under-construction next to Lyon Art Supply), but she alighted, if just for an intimate moment, at the Art Theater on Wednesday evening to enthusiastically offer a look into her life as an artist akin to "the gypsy life," as only she would have it, during the Jeff Staple 1-2-1 with FAFI, presented by Imprint.

Here is just a snippet of the talk that evening, which the Post gathered for your reading pleasure; a lightweight acquisition of the artist's words collected to inspire the dreamers and creatives who may someday follow in the footsteps of a woman innately driven to go against the grain.

Urban street wear visionary Jeff Staple, founder of Staple Design, led the interview with the artist whose work he has been following for over a decade. He met her for the first time this week to prepare for the 1-2-1 session, and was "fanning out" about getting to meet one of his favorite artists, he told attendees.

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Staple introduced FAFI, saying, "I remember the first time I saw some of her work it was just amazing to me that an artist was able to express in that way what it meant to be female, empowering, taking the sexuality of the female then flipping it and turning it into something that was powerful for herself."

"Also, surviving in a very male-dominated world...," he said, regarding her work in the realm of street art. "When I asked her about that she said, 'I'd never even thought about being a female in this industry.'"

The first time FAFI realized that she might be able to make a living as an artist, she was being interviewed in an attempt to get into nursing school. The fact that she was even considering the profession (her mother was a nurse) didn't seem as far out of line for her personality then as it did on Wednesday night as projections of her characters and successful career moments were flashed on screen behind her.

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"I went to nurse school more because I didn't know what to do." she said. "And I felt some kind of sympathy for the human being in general so I thought maybe I should take up nursing. And I am very maternal, I like to take care of the persons that I love. That was just something I could do and I wanted to keep the painting as a hobby."

Later during the 1-2-1, FAFI explained to her humored admirers, "It was when I was about to go into nurse school. I was having an exam, an interview. And I was speaking so much about the drawings that I was doing that the girl told me, 'Maybe you should do that instead of go to nursing school.'"

Influenced at a young age by the 1980s Japanese television series, Cat's Eye, based on the best-selling manga about three sisters who run a cafe by day and spend their nights as art thieves eluding the police in search of their long-missing father's collection, FAFI developed a desire to push the boundaries.

"That was my dream, to have a double life. Since like five or six," she said.

"So you were a trouble maker," Staple responded.

FAFI smiled slyly. "Yea, I was looking for trouble. Always."

She had many a run-in with the police, was sent to jail several times, and shrugged off this fact with the fare-thee-well attitude of an artist whose daredevil beginnings have ultimately paid off. One of her first clients was actually the chief of police who commissioned her to paint a wall in his house. When cops would arrest her they would look at her drawings and ask if they could have one.

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And that's how she hit the ground running, from her first illegal painting barely a block away from her parents' house, handing out drawings to officers and giving away work for next to nothing.

"In the beginning you give a lot," she said. "At the beginning of your career you never ask for money, you give a lot and you [draw] plants for $100 and stuff like that because you want to build your [portfolio]."

She would paint in broad daylight, rather than the dead of night to fool passersby and officials into thinking she had a permit to liven up the space.

"People, if you paint at night, they think you don't have authorization. But if you are in the middle of the street, a little bit dressed up girl, brushes... perfect. They always ask, 'Do you have the authorization,' [and I would respond] 'Yes, of course!" she flipped her hair back with a grin.

Nowadays, she's left the illegalities behind and is more focused on her brand and raising her nine-year-old son, Neil. Although she still lives the unpredictable life of a freelance artist, she's a little more careful now for his sake. She's focused on exposing him to the highs and pitfalls of her career as much as possible, a lifestyle she had to force her way into as a young artist.

"I want him to know the life that I didn't know when I was young, that I've created for myself," she said. "I love my job. I know I'm lucky, I'm so lucky."

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The death of her ex-husband in 2011, Mehdi Favéris-Essadi, DJ and music producer, shook the very foundations of her existence, as a creator and as a human being.

"When he had the accident we were separated for one year. And we were starting to have this new life. Having Neil, half-half. And I was with someone else. And it shattered everything."

She continued, "Actually we were living this life where we were a little unconscious, just partying or just enjoying the life and death was not a part of my life. And now I know it's part of life and I realized that with the event. And it changed me. I needed a few years to come back to what I am now and I'm super strong now, but it changed everything."

Currently, FAFI said about her work, "I'm thinking more about the sense that I want to give. I'm thinking about more vision and giving it away. Instead of an ego trip."

Toward the end of the interview, Staple asked the enigmatic artist if there were any mistakes she'd made along the path of her career that remained notable.

She harkened back to a few mishaps when attempting to work with a friend had ended that relationship. Then, immediately, she said, "I love mistakes, actually. I love to make mistakes because you always learn. I think there's no [such thing as a] mistake. Honestly. Mistakes help you."

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To learn more about the artist, visit her Tumblr here and follow her on Instagram @therealfafi.



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