Returning to the family business
Céline Cousteau talks about her adventures
By Tammy C. Barney
Céline Cousteau speaks Oct. 29 at the LBC.
A filmmaker, an environmentalist, a storyteller, an entrepreneur, a field producer, a one-woman film crew, an ocean explorer, a philanthropist; you name it and Céline Cousteau is doing it.
"Tonight, I want to give you a glimpse into the work that I do," Cousteau told an audience of about 200 Oct. 29 in the Lavin-Bernick Center. The Newcomb College Institute brought the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau to campus as part of its 2009 Powerhouse Speaker series.
"My family has been in ocean exploration for decades. My mother was an expedition photographer for 13 years," she said. "I never get tired of hearing: 'I grew up with your grandfather.' "
During her lecture, Cousteau showed videos of her and her family swimming with sharks, anacondas and humpback whales. "We don't just jump in the water and swim up to an animal without talking to the locals about the animals and how they might react," she said. "A lot of it is observation of behaviors. There's a whole team there. What you see on camera is just a fraction of what's going on out there. We stared at the anaconda while standing on land for about an hour and a half."
Though she loved the family business, Cousteau wanted to test other career waters. With a degree in psychology and a master's in International and Intercultural Management, she started out as a therapist. After working in Costa Rica for three years, however, she decided to return to her roots.
"Though I strayed away from what my family did, I came back to it," she said during her 45-minute talk and video presentation. "I worked with my father [Jean-Michel Cousteau at Ocean Futures Society] for six years."
In addition to swimming with sharks and anacondas, Céline Cousteau has two new passions. She is starting a production company and is donating her time and money to produce videos for non-profit groups to use for fundraising.
"I'm not a scientist. I'm not a doctor. But this is what I can do to bring in the doctors, the scientists, and bring in the dollars [to help non-profits and indigenous people]. It's a whole new process and it's humbling."
The Powerhouse Speaker series raises awareness of women's contributions to society by featuring influential women across academic disciplines and professions who are role models for women. Past Powerhouse Speakers include publisher/activist Gloria Steinem, composer/historian Bernice Johnson Reagon, atmospheric scientists/hurricane hunters Robbie Hood and Michelle Mainelli, and architect Ila Berman.