A love of all things French came early to OZY’s senior integrated marketing manager — the fourth grade, in fact. And, no, it wasn’t Madeleine or Babar. It was The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson, which the teacher read aloud to Natalie and her classmates in the gifted and talented program in East Harlem’s P.S. 46. Natalie was fascinated by the adventures of a homeless family that takes shelter under a bridge in Paris, where they befriend a single-shoed hobo. So fascinated that she asked the teacher to give her French lessons during recess.
And the love affair continued in high school at the Friends Seminary in Manhattan, which had a yearlong foreign study program in eleventh grade in Rennes, France. At Wellesley College, she took another junior year abroad, this time in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. That was followed by a masters program in French literature at Hunter College back in New York.
But it was the year in Rennes that was most transformative — an experience that was “amazing, life-changing.” As a child Natalie had moved with her family — originally from the Dominican Republic — from upper Manhattan to the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop, but she never expected to find break-dancing competitions and hip-hop concerts in northwestern France. “The French version of the music was powerful and focused on social issues,” she says, “when the American form had strayed to bling-bling. It showed me that the world is so big, and even though there are differences in cultures, there are more principles that we all share in common.”
Since 2012 Natalie has tried to help others from similar backgrounds to hers discover all that the world has to offer via her blog and social network, Women Who Will. It focuses on mentoring women at the start of their careers, giving them the information they need to “understand the dynamics of the corporate world and yet still live a life that reflects their inner-most desires and goals.”