This article was supported by the 7th Annual NAAHP Conference.
“To Haitian fathers, if you’re not a doctor, lawyer or, engineer you might as well be selling crack cocaine,” said Karina Bonnefil, but this didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams and becoming an actress. Inspired by the comedy show “Languichatte Debordus,” Bonnefil left her hometown of Port-au-Prince and went on to represent Haitian Culture in the Disney Movie “Exchange” and expand the Haitian presence in the entertainment industry.
Who is Karina Bonnefil? Where are you from? What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I am woman and a Haitian and I’m still trying to understand who I am; that’s why I like to portray different characters.
My hobbies? I love puzzles. I love to volunteer, and I love to help guide new (talent) to the entertainment business.
What’s your connection to Haiti?
I am a proud Haitian-born and raised woman. I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and I went to school there until I moved to Kansas in 1987.
When did you realize you wanted to be an actress?
Growing up in Haiti, I loved watching the Haitian comedy show “Languichatte Debordus.” I knew I wanted to be on TV, but it was my move to the states that really defined that I wanted to be an actress.
What has this acting journey been like for you?
My father would not allow me to pursue an acting career until I was done with my college degree. To Haitian fathers, if you’re not a doctor, lawyer or engineer you might as well be selling crack cocaine.
How did it start and where do you want to take it?
After I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a minor in public relations, he rolled his eyes and said I was an adult and he couldn’t control me. I did a lot of student films, several commercials and independent films.
What was it like working in Disney Channel’s “Exchange” especially representing a Haitian family?
Booking “Exchange” was an amazing honor. See to most Haitians, I’m not Haitian enough, they think I’m more American. To the Americans, I scream island lady, so when I was called in for the role of the mother and booked the role of Grand-Mère it was a big accomplishment. Writer/Director, Daheli Hall is an amazing and talented lady.
I wanted to be part of this project so bad and when I got the role it was a big blessing.
How has living in America allow you to grow your talent and explore different possibilities?
In Haiti, the only friends you have are family. Being in America and getting to know other people’s behavior and views helps in any character I’m going into. The possibilities resulting from working in America has enlarged my territory. I am able to reach so many goals in all aspects of the entertainment industry.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
My brother Michael died in 1997 and wasn’t able to see me on TV or film and that breaks my heart. I believe he has helped me reach some wonderful levels in my career. I want to make him proud.
Knowing everything you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Be patient; everyone isn’t against you. You are enough.
How has your acting enriched your life?
I am in charge of my destiny. No one owes me anything, I owe myself everything!