is a pop culture icon in Quebec with a long-standing and impactful career in music, acting, media and entertainment, fashion, and entrepreneurship.

Driven By Creativity


Mitsou Gélinas discusses how her family’s artistic background inspired her to pursue a creative career, as well as the challenges and setbacks she faced at the beginning of her journey.

Mitsou Gélinas: I have a rather interesting life because I have a grandfather named Gratien Gélinas, who's much more a part of history than I am. He's known as the father or grandfather of Quebec theatre. It's thanks to him that people like Michel Tremblay were able to make theatre that used our words, our expressions, our history. Before Gratien, the actors and the plays in Quebec were productions by French playwrights who would simply tell French stories. And he decided to write in our language, about our political reality. So, I have him in my genes. My mother was also amazing. At one point she used to manage artists. She's very artistic, even though she doesn't do it for a living anymore, but she did it when she was young. My father is Gratien's son. His name is Alain. He's an actor as well. I started acting on television at age five because I wanted to be like my dad. Then I started doing commercials, and then soap operas, including "Terre humaine." And then I started doing commercials. Using that money, I was able to start buying musical instruments. I bought a Korg Poly-800 from Steve's Music and started playing in a band called DanceLab. And I've always... It's funny, because I think my daughters are the same. I've always had this kind of drive and vision that is pure. And it's a good thing I had that, because now, as an adult, with everything I know about life, I wouldn't be able to re-create that "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy" moment, because I would be way too worried. about what others would think. But at that age, there's something so naïve, so pure. I fully embraced what was pure and did exactly what I wanted to do. Something that was missing at the time was music for our generation. We were coming out of a time where they were all rock bands from the 1970s and early 1980s, the Offenbachs and all that. We had singer-songwriters, too, but at that point, we had much more of a mix of pop and underground in the 1980s. There wasn't a lot of music that spoke to teenagers like me. We had Jean Leloup, who was just starting, who was super-interesting but otherwise we had these singers with voices that were much more pure and innocent, if you will. That's not what I wanted to represent. That's not who I was. I came from a hippie, artistic background and from Women's Lib. The Spice Girls didn't invent Girl Power. For me, it was my mother and all those women from the 1970s. So, I came with all of that passion, all of that drive, and that's what I wanted to share. Then came the backlash and how my work was perceived. It was definitely disappointing and shocking, because I didn't come from a puritanical background. So, I couldn't understand why people didn't just accept what I was offering. People would assign certain intentions to what I was doing. They would even say I was simple-minded, a doll for whom someone had invented a role. And yet it was really my own creation. That was extremely disappointing to me. And that's when I lost my self-confidence. I had to maintain the level of perseverance and boldness that I had started with.

Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy!

3 min 22 s

Mitsou Gélinas talks about achieving national and international fame after the release of her hit so...

Mitsou Gélinas: It's funny, because the impact of that first song, "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy" opened so many doors, both professionally and personally, because, with the success of "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy" across Canada, and a bit in the U.S., too, I learned a lot. I travelled to different parts of the world. I discovered my Canada, too, in a way that no one else could. I didn't hitchhike across the country, like many young people did, and will continue to do. I did it by going to little towns, to radio stations, TV stations, doing shows, in places I never would have gone had I not been given that opportunity. It was a great way for me to explore. I was also proud, because, like it or not, it's one of the few French songs from Quebec that really went all across the country, from coast to coast. Maybe that's because it's called "Bye, bye," and it has the word "cowboy." Obviously, those are English words, but at the same time, the rest of the song was in French and people still connected with it, which was fabulous. To this day, I'm an artist on Apple Music. I signed up, and every week, I see the number of plays. When you see, one week, that you even have 11 plays in Japan, you say, "How come? That's amazing." Or, "Why Poland? Why such-and-such a place?" It's wonderful to see just how much you can connect with people even in another language, because at the same time, there's all this imagery. There was an interesting thing with gay culture in clubs, and that really helped me cross over into the U.S., too, because DJs started playing it, and I had the chance to go to Texas and sing in gay clubs. It was mind-blowing! We redid the music video for an American record label, but this time, the song was remixed by Shep Pettibone, who was one of Madonna's producers. Then, we had a director who did Black Label commercials at the time who came and did a second video for "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy." This time, the budget wasn't $1,800 we had for the first version, but $100,000... in New York! It was completely wild. And that's not my only story with what you might call an international audience. With "Dis-moi, dis-moi," it was the same thing. I was fortunate to have that opportunity.

From Artist to Entrepreneur

4 min 50 s

Mitsou Gélinas discusses the challenging phase in her career when she had to reinvent herself as a b...

Mitsou Gélinas: Financially speaking, it wasn't the best choice. But at the same time, it was part of how I expressed myself. And when my career started going downhill, if you will, I found myself with lots of costumes, but no food in my pantry. So, I went back to live with my mother so I could eat properly, because nothing was working anymore. That's when I met my boyfriend, who is now my husband, Iohann Martin, and we decided we would create and do business together. So we started our first company, a music production company, but for TV, so soundtracks for TV, commercials and movies. We'd be able to continue making music, but with something more financial, something more solid behind us. We started in that world and started renting film equipment. And the rest is a great story. But there was really a point in time where I only had stage clothes, but I couldn't wear them in my new life as a businesswoman, as an entrepreneur. I didn't have jeans, T-shirts, blouses, normal flat shoes. My boyfriend had bought me light blue Hush Puppies, and I hated them because I was like, "Is this what my life has become?" I was bitter, telling myself, "Everything I've worked for my whole life no longer exists. I need to reinvent myself. I don't like this character. I'm mad, but I don't have a choice." It was really hard. And... People didn't believe in that character, either, because they'd say, "How can an artist become an entrepreneur? How is that even possible?" It took a good four years for people to start believing it, and I had to believe it, too. I had to believe in myself as an entrepreneur. Now, I feel as though life has allowed me to create the right balance, because radio came into my life. I was asked to do a gig between Christmas and New Year's in the early 2000s, or late 1990s, rather, because I... I was someone with a name, who was funny, who had things to say. So, they asked me to co-host a morning show, and I did 21 years of radio, non-stop, every day, for shows morning, noon and night, at two of Quebec's top radio stations. Then, there's also the whole writing aspect, creating, which came in a different way when I was asked to be the editor-in-chief of the magazine "Clin d’œil." I had already managed a company and liked fashion too. A woman named Claire Syril, a former singer who became a magazine editor, thought of me, imagine, to do this. I had a lot of fun and managed to connect with people as much as I did with my singing, but this time with my editorials, every month. I provided fun content on women's fashion. And then I started my own magazine, called "Mitsou Magazine", which is a kind of fun mix of business and creativity. I've been able to raise my daughters within that milieu as well, one of whom I met when she was five, Kaia, who's now an amazing woman in her early thirties, and then my own two daughters. Kaia, Stella and Mila.

Music Avant-Gardism and Gender Biases

4 min 58 s

Mitsou Gélinas reflects on how her gender and the type of music she chose to create were misundersto...

Mitsou Gélinas: My award at the end of Grade 9 was "the most original girl at the school." It's funny, because some of my strongest values have to do with curiosity and innovation. And that's something I've always been proud of, being the first to do something. When I don't have... It's not necessarily about being first, but with the magazine, when a topic has been covered too much elsewhere, I tend to stay away from it. To me, it's already been done. It doesn't really interest me. I like learning, for my own sake, but also teaching others, in a way. I did that instinctively with music. That's for sure. I was carving my own path, doing my thing, and sometimes, it was too innovative. Sometimes, I was less successful with music, with some songs, precisely because I wanted to innovate and create a sound and take certain ideas further. But at the same time, when it's so deeply rooted in someone, you can't take that away or change it. So, I never made conventional choices. I knew it would catch on, that it would get people's attention. But I didn't want to put out things that felt too derivative. That's why I didn't always feel understood, but at the same time, that's life. But there was also a lack of understanding, when it came to how I was using my femininity. People said I was being sexy just to get attention, but to me, when it comes to meaning, there was something a lot more sensual to it. It was also about eroticism, sure, but with humour. It was about showing something that wasn't just "in your face" and cheap, you know. That's not at all what I was going for. There were other people for that, and that's OK. It's funny, because many years later, I realized what I went through... I was listening to the radio, and someone was talking about slut-shaming. I didn't know the term at that point. And I was like, based on the definition they were giving, it was exactly what I went through. But I didn't know what it was. It didn't have a name in those days. But the way you can describe it is to devalue someone based on their sexuality. So, I tell myself that what I was showing, when you look at today's artistic choices, it was really nothing. It was no big deal. But in those days, it was different. People didn't want to believe that... People couldn't imagine that a young 17-, 18-, 19-year-old girl could be that in touch with her sexuality. That's what bothered me about it. People were shaming me, saying that my character was created by men, but it was like... it was the exact opposite. This was a woman who was free, who was proud and assertive. But they were taking that away from me, and I found it truly shocking. But, at the time, I don't think I had the words to express that and defend myself, because I was also very young. But we can't forget that my mother was part of the first group of sexologists in Quebec. So, I got an education that was quite ahead of its time.

“Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy”: The 30th Anniversary . . .

4 min 28 s

Mitsou Gélinas talks about her outfit and performance at the 30th anniversary celebration of her son...

Mitsou Gélinas: Some songs last, and clearly, "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy" has stayed in the Québécois imagination. One thing that was really special for me was the 30th anniversary of "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy". Obviously, I no longer have a team around me for all of these musical anniversaries, but I have a superfan who has always kept me up to date. "Don't forget. Such-and-such album came out 30 years ago." He said, "Don't forget the 30th anniversary of 'Bye, Bye.'" I said, "OK." So, I started doing appearances here and there to talk about it, to bring back memories, for myself and for the public. And the organizers of a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration came and asked me if I was interested in coming back to sing the song. So, 30 years later, on the Plains of Abraham, in a show with thousands of people, which was broadcast live, I needed an outfit that could be worn by a woman who's 48, and not 18. So, we went with something that would be just as structured, like armour, with these kinds of studs. That dress was a joint effort with some stylists I used to work with, called "Les Relookeuses" and Marie-Laure Larrieu, a Frenchwoman who lives here who really does haute couture, if you will. We came up with this dress, which was also very short, because the legs are still great. It also gave the shoulders some structure. And, of course, we kept the cowboy hat for the occasion, created by a young designer who makes wonderful hats that we found on Instagram. And we went... Sorry, not "we." I went to sing onstage. I went and sang that song again along with other hits for the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration. My God... I really have a love-hate relationship with the stage. I really prefer the creative process and studio work over getting up in front of thousands of people. It's not my bag anymore. I like more intimate things. It was about memories, love from the audience, love from my fellow artists who were around me, and from the musicians. It was also a moment that's now a part of history, and that's why I wanted to give you that dress, because... because it speaks to longevity, and history. I'm also going to give you something else, some boots, that look like the ones from "Bye, Bye, Mon Cowboy". But, when I wore the "Bye, Bye" costume again, nearly 30 years later, — except that I'd lost my Mom's original 1960s boots — and because fashion is cyclical, and things come back in style, at the time, Michael Kors made boots just like them for his Fall collection, so I decided to give them to you because I think it's fun to see those cycles come back around and how a song and its image can capture a moment in time in different eras.