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We talked to the biggest international star you've never heard of

If you've ever doubted that one voice can make a difference in this world, then you haven't heard the voice of Angélique Kidjo.

The Grammy Award winning singer and activist has a list of international accolades that go on forever.

  • TIME Magazine called her "Africa's Premier Diva."
  • Forbes listed her among the 40 most powerful celebrities in Africa.
  • She's repeatedly been named one of Africa's most influential women.
  • She performed at the women's march in Washington D.C. in January.

And while Kidjo has many causes she sings and works for, one of the biggest is fighting to make sure girls around the world can got to school.

That's what brought here to Seattle, and gave Refined the chance to sit down with this remarkable woman.

Every year the Seattle YWCA Luncheon brings hundreds of people together to hear from world-class speakers. This year, they came to listen to singer and activist Angélique Kidjo, whose journey to global prominence started from humble beginnings in the West African country of Benin.

"My father always used to say, 'Dream has no gender, dream has no color and if your dream is not big enough, shut up," said Kidjo. "That's what my father used to say. Don't talk to me about small dreams. Dream big for the betterment of humanity."

Over the years Kidjo has used her music as a tool for furthering causes from human rights and girls' education, to HIV awareness and climate change.

"What motivates me is because I'm a human being, and climate change affects my life," she said. "Human rights affects my life. That's why I'm engaged in everything that I do because I want, at the end of my life on this earth, if I have grandchildren, for me to be able to tell them I've tried my best for you to have a better life."

The singer has won three Grammy awards - the latest, for her album "Sings" with the Luxembourg Philharmonic that fuses African and Western Orchestral music.

Her next big project premieres at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where she'll do a full-length live performance of the Talking Heads watermark album "Remain in Light" a record with strong African influences.

"Talking Heads, that album "Remain in Light" has been influenced by the music of West Africa," she said. "And the thing that I like about it at first listen I was like, something is weird about this music, it's not rock 'n roll. It's something that sounds African but I couldn't pinpoint what it was."

No matter what project Kidjo is working on, it always brings people together to make the world better.

"I decided, if I do music, what I will do with music is create bridges between cultures and bring people together to realize what they have in common."

If you missed this event, don't worry! You can join the next big YWCA luncheon on May 16th in Snohomish County with keynote speaker Terry McMillan, the bestselling author of "How Stella Got Her Grove Back" and "Waiting to Exhale" at the Edward D Hansen Conference Center in Everett, WA.

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