"I want to make a difference in women’s lives. If a woman has the will, then I can help."

— Lise Watier

On October 13, 2016, the fifth annual Gala benifiting the Lise Watier Foundation raised $535,000. These funds are essential for raising awareness among the public about women in need.

Quebec’s Beauty Queen

Giving is receiving for Lise Watier

By Jason Santerre

Few neighbourhoods have felt the effects of the economic rollercoaster in this province like Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Despite a recent influx of young, working professionals and signs of gentrification, “HoMa” remains a working-class neighbourhood with the scrappy charm of an underdog. It’s hard not to cheer for the “little quartier that could.” And it’s hard not to cheer for one of its most famous former denizens.

Despite the odds, Lise Watier, an only child born to doting parents with more hugs to give than dollars and cents, made a lot from very little. By tapping into an inner strength and a determination that would prove invaluable as an adult, young Lise beat the odds to become a healthy, wealthy, and wise businesswoman, wife, mother, and philanthropist.

“I was born in a modest environment,” says Madame Watier. “But I had big dreams. My grandfather would give me a dollar every time I scored the best on an exam. I always wanted to be the best. From very early on my motto was: I’ll prove them wrong.” “Them” being the doubters, neighbours, and friends who felt she should accept her fate.

She says her parents always believed in her and the nuns running her school always said she was the best student. “Unfortunately, like a lot of girls, I lacked self-esteem, at least outwardly. I was very, very shy. But on the inside, I was full of ambition and felt self-assured. I know it sounds strange, but there was a complex kind of contrast within me.”

“Working hard was number one. Plus, I was blessed with a great memory and a God-given imagination. It all served me well in business,” she says. And that’s not immodesty, it’s fact. Madame Watier launched her own makeup line in 1972 after spending part of the 1960s offering beauty advice on a local television station. She ran the business until she and her husband retired from the day-to-day operations in 2013.

She’s most proud of her baby, the Lise Watier Foundation, which she created in 2009. The non-profit organization helps empower women in need and who might not have the means but have the will to be self-sufficient by helping them re-enter the workplace, start their own business, or go back to school.

“It’s the challenge that nourishes me,” says Madame Watier of the foundation. “I want to make a difference in women’s lives, women who have not been as privileged as me. There is a will in every person, a will to have a better future, and not necessarily in terms of money. But if a woman has the will, then I can help.” The Foundation assists those eligible for one year, studying their business plan, and offering advice and support. “If we see that it can work, we offer her the financial support that maybe a bank is not willing to do.”

For Madame Watier, autonomy is of the utmost importance in a woman’s life. To not have to depend on anyone else — a man or the government or anybody — equals independence. “This is freedom,” she says.

Of course, not all women want to enter business, and there are different levels of ambition. “Those levels are as varied as there are humans,” says Madame Watier. “For some women, all they want is to be able to work and make ends meet and be able to take care of their children and send them to school.”

Lise Watier says that, at its core, the Foundation is there to not only help women but their children as well. She says that when children see a strong, independent mother, they emulate those qualities. “All of this creates a strong role model. A child learns by example,” she says.

Speaking of children, Madame Watier is hopeful for the future. And although she rarely offers advice unless solicited, she says that for any young women entering the workforce today should always try to go beyond. “If you go that extra mile, if you work harder than your colleagues, people will take notice, you will stand out.”

No one would blame Madame Watier if she wanted to sit back and relax. The thing is, she never just sits back. She’s as active and vibrant and beautiful as ever. So what’s the secret of success for this officer of the Order of Canada and the Ordre national du Québec?

“I wish I could tell you that I love exercise, but the reality is, I don’t,” she says, chuckling. “I simply eat properly, and I don’t drink except for the occasional glass of wine. I’m very happily married for over 30 years now. And I love the people I care about. I give a lot of love and receive a lot of love. This makes me feel alive. Whatever you give, you get back. For me, the key is to give, to receive, and to appreciate. And I appreciate every little thing.”


Winter 2017, Vol 9 N°1

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