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Changing the Game; Interview With Alice Waters; Iran's Election. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 15, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's overwhelmingly in the interests of the United States of America to have a great relationship with
NATO and with the E.U.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Back to normal. Biden pays his first foreign visit to allies before meeting Putin, high up on the agenda, Iran, where this
week's election could turn the country back to the past and put relations with the West into the deep freeze.
Then: We are what we eat. Pioneering American chef and restauranteur Alice Waters on her slow food manifesto.
MACK BEGGS, STUDENT ATHLETE: I am a man. And I'm the state champ of female high school wrestling.
AMANPOUR: "Changing the Game." Hari Sreenivasan looks at the documentary giving trans athletes a voice.
And, finally, the one and only Angelique Kidjo joins me to talk about her new album and about passing the torch to a new generation of African
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A warning against phony populism -- that was U.S. President Joe Biden's message in Brussels as he defends democracies on his first overseas trip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: By pointing out we have to prove to the world and to our own people that democracy can still prevail against the challenges of our time and
deliver for the needs of our people.
We have to root out corruption that siphons off our strength, guard against those who would stoke hatred and division for political gain, this phony
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, with that, Biden flew off to Geneva ahead of his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow.
The last time leaders of those countries met there was 1985, when President Reagan first met with the reformist head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail
Gorbachev. That was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. But, since then, U.S.-Russia relations have tumbled to an all-time low.
Among the many issues bound to crop up in the meeting, Iran. Washington and Moscow are both keen to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump
unilaterally abandoned, and, of course, all this set against a landmark presidential election happening in Iran this Friday, in which the hard-
liner, a cleric and former judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi is bound to win.
So, to discuss what all this means internally and for the world, we turn now to Abbas Milani, professor and head of the Iran Studies Department at
Welcome to the program, Professor Milani.
So, let's just first ask about Iran itself, the eternal global boogeyman, let's say. Obviously, there's never been a Western-style democracy there.
But people had some kind of diversity of choice. Not this time. It looks like it's all cooked up to put a hard-liner back in power.
Is that how you see it? Is Raisi a shoo-in?
ABBAS MILANI, DIRECTOR OF IRANIAN STUDIES, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: I think Raisi is a shoo-in.
And I think, in the past, there have been almost always engineered elections, the 2009 being the most infamous. But I don't think there has
ever been an election that is so clearly manufactured to create Mr. Raisi, eliminate anyone who could potentially offer any challenge to him, and
align him for what is next to come.
Whether it is just the presidency or whether they're, in fact, grooming him to be the successor to Khamenei I think remains to be seen, but it is a
very consequential, but also profoundly farcical election.
AMANPOUR: The last consequential election was 1997, when, by surprise -- at least it caught the Iranian political class by surprise -- a reformist
president, Khatami, won. And we saw some actual differences enacted, up to a point.
Tell people who have never heard of Ebrahim Raisi who he is, why it matters, and what it means if the whole system is wrapped up now in the
conservative hard-line power.
MILANI: Ebrahim Raisi has been in the judiciary the entire career that he's had, for -- almost for 40 years.
He has been everything from a prosecutor to the head of the judiciary. He is most infamous for having been part of a team of four so-called judges
who sent about 4,000 people within the span of three months on the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini.
These were people who were serving time already in prison. There are very few judges who have as dark of a past as he has. I'm not sure he can travel
to many countries in the world because there might well be actions against him. He certainly was accused by the person who was designated to succeed
Ayatollah Khomeini, Mr. Montazeri, as a criminal.
He called him in a meeting -- the tape of the meeting exists. He says: You have brought shame to this regime. You have brought shame to Islam.
So he is as infamous as you can get. But he's also a docile soldier of Mr. Khamenei. And I think that's the reason they have picked him. He is very
conservative, as you suggested. And he's also very willing to use power to suppress dissent, and he is very much anti-Western. He is very much into
the camp of trying to create more of an Islamic state and much less of a Islamic republic.
AMANPOUR: To your mind, is this an inevitable shift? Or is it in large part due to how, let's say, the Trump administration dealt with Iran?
I ask this because there's a lot of writing about how President Trump's maximum pressure campaign only served to eviscerate whatever moderates
there may be, but certainly the middle class, and to empower the hard- liners, not just domestically, as you have mentioned, but also in terms of actually breaking out of their nuclear agreements and amassing more
Would you say, as some suggested, that Raisi's rise is also thanks to Trump policies?
MILANI: I think, to some extent, that argument is true, because, when pressure was brought, when the U.S. unilaterally and, in my view, wrongly
withdrew from a deal that was essentially working, the hard-liners, particularly Mr. Khamenei, began to play this card that: I told you so.
The United States can't be relied upon. And we need to continue on our path of intransigence.
But the other side of reality is that the sanctions have brought a great deal of suffering to the people of Iran, but they have also weakened this
regime. The reason this regime is now so willing to negotiate and so willing to make some concessions is because they are, I think, at a dead
So, clearly, the harsh policies, the maximum pressure eliminated the middle, made it very difficult for the middle of Iranian politics to make
an argument. But it also weakened the top. And instead of the top, Mr. Khamenei, deciding that the economy is now on the verge of collapse, and
they need to have a national consensus, they need to have a government of consensus, they need to bring everybody in, he decided to opt for the
They decided to eliminate everybody but themselves and go much more in the path of a very unified, right-wing, conservative, Islamist, and very little
republicanism left in it, direction.
AMANPOUR: We will get to what that might mean and the consequences of that on the ground.
But I first want to ask you. You suggested that Iran realizes that they need to get back into this Iran nuclear deal. We have been talking about
how Presidents Biden and Putin are likely to talk about that. Presumably, it's in Russia's interests, as well as the U.S. declared interest, for that
What is your prognosis for how those two leaders will talk about Iran and whether you think a deal or a deal-plus will in fact be achieved?
MILANI: I think it has been a common assumption that Russia wants the nuclear deal to work.
I never believed that that was true. And Mr. Zarif's leaked tape that led to essentially his demise -- he has been sidelined now from the nuclear
deal, from the nuclear negotiations. In that interview, he basically says that it's Russia that is driving part of the U.S. -- Iran's policy in the
region. It is Russia that is dictating policy in Syria.
It is Russia that, in his words, got Qasem Soleimani to bring Iranian regular forces in Syria to keep us out. So -- and he said very clearly, he
said, at the moment we were on the verge of a nuclear deal with the United States, Russia began to backstab us.
I'm almost verbatim quoting from him -- quoting him. So, I think it's a questionable assumption that Russia wants this deal to work, because I
think Russia wants a weakened Iran, where they can dictate policy, where they can dominate the economy, where they can infiltrate the intelligence.
And if Iran does rejoin the international community, it won't be as isolated, it won't be as needful as it now is of Russia's support and of
AMANPOUR: Well, it'll be interesting to hear, if one was a fly on the wall, that discussion between Presidents Biden and Putin.
But let me just ask you to try to extrapolate what the West wants. And that is -- and the Trump administration made it very clear that they wanted a
better deal than the nuclear deal. They wanted one that talked about terrorism and missiles and human rights and all of that kind of stuff.
Do you think that's even remotely possible under the current circumstances, and given who's likely to win this election in Iran?
MILANI: You know, the choice of the president really doesn't determine foreign policy. Foreign policy has been the monopoly of Mr. Khamenei for
many years, military matters, nuclear matters.
Khamenei and the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guards, they are the ones who dictate policy. Who represents Iran is part of their tactical posture. It
is not -- Zarif never made foreign policy. Zarif was an implementer of the policies, implemented them with polished English, but essentially
implemented the policies that Mr. Khamenei. And the IRGC dictator, he himself, literally, verbatim, says that -- as much.
So I think the impact is going to be minimum in terms of who the president is. But I think Mr. Khamenei sees no choice but to make a deal, because the
economy's on the verge of collapse. Dissent is on the rise. Anger is brimming. And they know it. Their own intelligence, apparently, reports
So they need to get the economy fixed. And they know they can't get it fixed unless they have a deal that ends at least some of the sanctions.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk a little bit about -- clearly, you look closely inside Iran too on the social level.
And if this is going to be a new regime, where all the levers of power are consolidated in hard-line conservative, revolutionary hands, and the people
are not there -- we know that from every election. They don't want that. They want a much more -- as you say, better economy, more liberal
And the only threat to the regime that's happened in recent years has been people on the brink of poverty and them demonstrating and protesting. Do
you envision, under a new conservative leadership in Iran, or more conservative, any kind of space for popular uprising and discontent?
MILANI: Well, the regime is clearly aligning its forces to confront any such uprising. You can literally read their writings and their own
intelligence forces say that, we are lining up.
When Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was Mr. Khamenei's, as you know, darling president, when he was denied the chance to run in this election, he had
threatened that he was going to call his supporters to demonstrate. And the night before they told him that he was not going to be allowed, they sent
the commander of an IRGC -- I'm quoting again Ahmadinejad injured himself - - who delivered them the message the says, if you move, if your people move, we're going to suppress it.
They don't joke around. So they're lining up their forces to confront this. But if they're going to make any improvement -- and they need to --
otherwise, I think there will be an explosion of discontent, double-digit unemployment, double-digit inflation, no hope on the horizon, addiction.
And the number of problems, a rising woman's movement who want equality, who want to end this gender apartheid, these are serious problems that
might break open any minute. And the regime, I think, knows it. They are moving in the direction of more consolidated dictatorship, rather than a
kind of openness that would help Iran in its largest conception, Iran inside and Iran outside, to find a solution to this truly tragic moment.
Thousands of people are dying of corona. The regime's handling of corona has brought people to the verge of massive hysteria that -- you should read
Iranian media and see what they say about this incompetence. Iran is one of the worst.
All of this is creating a volatile situation. And the nuclear deal, as you say, couldn't have come at a more sensitive moment.
AMANPOUR: And you point out that Ayatollah Khamenei, the so-called supreme leader, who you have been talking about, refused point blank to accept
Western vaccines and will only accept, I think, the Soviet one or the Chinese one.
So my question to you is, could this be Iran spinning completely off any sense of trying to have some kind of relationship with the West, and just
going into the arms of China or Russia, with whom they have very, very serious relations economically, and who put no accountability in terms of
human rights or other things on their relations with Iran?
MILANI: Mr. Khamenei and his cohorts, the paper that speaks for him, "Kayhan," are open about the idea that Iran needs to have a real pivot away
from the West and towards Russia and China.
The only reason that this re-pivot hasn't occurred more profoundly, the only reason Russia and China are not more entrenched in Iran is because
both of these countries have other fish to fry. They're worried about their dealings with Europe. They're worried about their dealings with Israel.
China is trying to make deals much bigger than the deals they could make with Iran, with Saudi Arabia. All of those other concerns have put a damper
on China's willingness to enter. Iran has offered China a 25-year deal that is remarkable. I have never seen it in the modern history of Iran that I
have studied a deal so one-sidedly in favor of an outside power.
We have virtually given the right of first refusal to China on every new economic deal. China hasn't yet accepted, because China has bigger fish to
fry than just Iran, as does Russia.
AMANPOUR: Really fascinating, such perspective from you, Professor Milani. Thank you so much for joining us from Stanford.
And so, no matter what you think of the politics, one of Iran's most popular exports is, of course, its cuisine. I grew up there. I grew up
around those rich flavors, the local produce, and what we now know as slow cooking.
But 50 years ago, in Berkeley, California, the chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse, and launched the farm-to-table movement in the West. Now
she's out with a new book called "We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto."
And Alice Waters joins me now from Berkeley.
Welcome to the program. Really great to have you on with this very timely topic and this movement that you pioneered in the West.
So, you have said in your manifesto: "The way we eat is emblematic of how we live our lives, both as individuals and as a culture."
What do you actually mean by that?
ALICE WATERS, AUTHOR, "WE ARE WHAT WE EAT: A SLOW FOOD MANIFESTO": Thank you for asking that question, because it's very important to me that we
understand that, when we eat, we eat a set of values that comes with that food.
And so, when we eat fast food, we're not only not nourishing ourselves, but we're eating the values that tell us that more is better, and time is
money, and cooking is drudgery, and everything should be fast, cheap, and easy. And that's what this book is about, because I have wondered how we
have lost our humanity in the last 60 years.
What happened? We have completely changed the way that we grow food and the way we eat it.
AMANPOUR: Yes, the way you put that is really quite profound.
And, obviously, during COVID, many people have gone back to actual cooking, to caring about what they put in their bodies, to what they source. And
they have -- from what we read anyway, there's been quite a shift towards that kind of more sustainable and healthy food.
But I want to ask you to go all the way back 50 years. What made you decide this? It was at the time of protests, obviously, anti-Vietnam War. Berkeley
was the center of the counterculture protests there. And there you were with your counter-food revolution.
What brought you to that then?
WATERS: At that time, I was just naively in the background listening to what Mario Savio was saying, and so concerned about civil rights, about
free speech, about stopping the war in Vietnam.
And I was empowered, in a way. I felt like, if we got together, we could do anything. And, strangely, I still feel that way. I still feel that, if I
wanted to, I could change what I was doing, that I could gather a group of people together who believed what I believe and make dramatic change.
AMANPOUR: Alice, obviously, a lot of this is about education. We know that all the healthiest food -- or at least we're told that all the healthiest,
freshest food is the most expensive, that many people simply cannot afford it.
I'm sure not many people can afford to come to Chez Panisse or any of the other restaurants that have followed your -- in your footsteps. And schools
have attempted -- we have had the famous effort by the chef Jamie Oliver. And it's been really, really difficult to put that message and that
substance in front of enough people.
What is it going to take to bring it to a sustainably affordable level?
WATERS: It's going to take telling the truth.
Now, it's the fast food industry that has told us we're not able to cook for ourselves, and certainly not able to cook in the school system for that
many people. We can't do it. It costs too much.
Well, I know, from running a restaurant, buying directly from the farmers and the ranchers who take care of the land. And I buy directly from them.
It doesn't cost more money. Of course, it depends entirely on what you're cooking.
And for a school lunch, if we wanted to, we could buy directly from the people who take care of the land and who are addressing climate change by
practicing regenerative organic agriculture. Can you imagine that the truth is there, but the fast food indoctrination is so powerful that we don't
And it means that we have to really teach this in the public schools. It's our last truly democratic institution, as Gloria Steinem says, and I
believe that, that, if we begin--
AMANPOUR: Clearly, I mean, you have talked about how 6-year-olds are addicted or become addicted through the fast food industry to the stuff
that you believe they shouldn't be eating too much of.
But we are at this moment now where the world is on the cusp, and you just mentioned it, of a massive climate awareness. I mean, this is now
political. Every government is talking about it. All the right intentions are at least being put out that.
So do you think that's something that we will be able to convince? I mean, we just hear one of the centers -- I think it's called Eleven Madison Park,
one of the finest dining locations in New York -- is going to go meatless.
Do you think that kind of thing is what might help push this manifesto and movement along?
WATERS: Everything helps, but we need dramatic change tomorrow.
What if the USDA decided to give a reimbursement to public schools for purchasing organic regenerative food? What if they did that, instead of
giving it to the fast food industry, they gave it to the slow food, farmers and ranchers who -- all the people that were taking care of the land?
What if we purchased that food locally? Can you imagine the power of procurement? I mean, this isn't just an idea for the United States. This is
a global vision, because schools are that place where we teach -- we could teach the values that we need to live on the planet together.
We could teach about diversity, we could teach about community. We could teach about generosity and stewardship and nourishment. And that's what
really happened at Chez Panisse, is, when we connected to this network, they brought the values right into the kitchen door of Chez Panisse, and
took all of our scraps back to the farmers, and they made compost.
And we learned how important our producers were, that we couldn't run a restaurant without them, that they were the reason that the food tasted so
good. It was just picked. It was seasoned when you grow, like this apricot I have--
AMANPOUR: So, just briefly, then, give us an idea, Alice, briefly, in our last few seconds here.
You have got a fridge. You have got vegetables in it. You have got I don't know what in it. You have got maybe things that are not quite fit to eat
raw. What would you say to people who -- of course, to cut down on the waste as well, how to use all leftovers, what kind of -- give me one recipe
that would be healthy from whatever is left off in the fridge?
WATERS: Well, I have been working on school lunch meals that fit into that reimbursement.
So the first thing I think about is a pot of beans, to cook a pot of beets. And you have that for the week and some greens. Maybe, right now, it's kale
or Chard. Might even throw in a little salad that is left over with garlic, olive oil, and maybe even cornbread.
But these are very nourishing internationally available ingredients that are incredibly affordable. And, again, they don't take too much time. If I
have a pot of beans ready that I cooked on Sunday, I can make myself a little tortilla in about two minutes on the stove, just heat up the beans
and the greens, and there you have it.
WATERS: So it's that disempowerment that has come from the fast food industry that has changed our world.
AMANPOUR: All right.
Well, you have whetted my appetite. Alice Waters, thank you very much indeed. I hope people start more to follow the manifesto.
Thank you so much.
And now we turn to the world of sports and the lives of young transgender athletes. Mack Beggs was a star wrestler at his Texas high school. But
despite living his life as a boy, he was told he had to compete on the girls team.
Mack's story is just one of several featured in Hulu's documentary "Changing the Game."
Here he is with his grandmother, Nancy, who helped raise him, talking to Hari Sreenivasan about their experiences and about the recent wave of anti-
trans legislation in the United States.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks.
Joining us now, Mack Beggs, and his grandma Nancy.
Thank you both.
I know there's a lot of people that have not seen the film. So I want to start with just a quick excerpt of the trailer. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACK BEGGS, AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLER: Wrestling found me. I love it.
I do train as hard as a man. I fight as hard as a man. I am a man. And I'm the state champ of female high school wrestling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being transgender is not a choice. Would it be fair for me to be competing on the boys team? No. I am a girl. That's who I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has given me some self-worth, self-confidence. They could say whatever they wanted, but, at the end of the day, I'm still
running on the female team.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's so unfair. It's totally unfair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Male biology.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you locate that so-called right to be included? They don't have the right. They're not girls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Mack Beggs, knowing that it was going to be hard, why did you want to wrestle so bad? Why did you want to wrestle, even if it was on the
M. BEGGS: I enjoyed it.
I mean, I felt like -- I guess it like kind of stems deeper into the fact that it was something that I was used to my whole life, was playing on a
female team. That's all I ever knew.
And I felt like, if I just quit -- I'm not a quitter. And just because this one thing is stopping me from doing the thing that I love, I'm not going to
let it stop me, because I'm going to continue living my life the best way I can to the best of my ability.
And if I have that capability, damn for sure, I'm going to use that.
SREENIVASAN: There was a point in the documentary where you were wrestling boys and you said, I feel like I'm winning but I feel like I'm losing at
the same time. What does that mean?
M. BEGGS: I mean, it is bitter sweet. I mean, to identify as a man and, you know, compete against women. It was really like hard because it is like
I'm enjoying what I am doing as I'm, you know, doing the craft, right? And when you see, at the end of the day, like you're stepping on the mat with a
girl rather than a guy, you're not really playing on a team that you're supposed to be playing on. And it is kind of like -- you kind of like have
to shut down in your mind a little and go into to a whole different place.
SREENIVASAN: Nancy, at one point in the film you said that, you know, Mack wasn't a girl, we made him into a girl. What did you mean by that?
NANCY BEGGS, GRANDMOTHER TO MACK BEGGS: From the time Mack was little, he acted like a boy. He always acted like a boy. He threw his dolls in the
trash. He hated dresses. Keeping one on him was like -- we talked about, how are we going to keep him dressed in dresses? And he was going to a
school where he had to wear a little jumper, and he hated that. It was such a fight every day.
And I don't know if -- when he finally came out, it was like, OK, now it makes sense. Because I have never seen a child hate, I was a born tomboy,
but I did not hate the things that Mack did. I did not fight them like he did. And we just -- I had never been exposed to transgenderism.
I didn't know what it was. And I do remember at one point, I don't know if Mack remembers, when he was in junior high, he came home and we were
talking about it, and this is after he told us that things weren't right, that he thought he was a boy. And I looked at him and I said, why can't you
just be gay. What is the problem with this? I don't understand. I don't even know what you're talking about. And --
M. BEGGS: I say, I don't even know either. But we figured it out together.
SREENIVASAN: You know, one of the things in this film that strikes people is you and Nancy and how you were processing the change. And I want to play
a small clip of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
N. BEGGS: When I look at the pictures of Mack as a little girl, I remember how sweet and we kept thinking, we got a little tomboy on our hands. What
are we going to do? And it just never even -- never dreaming that we would ever have to change. It was just always our little tomboy. So, yes. I never
look at them anymore. It is easier to leave them locked up. So, I can see why Mack feels that way too.
This is a picture of Mack. And I know he wants it off the wall so bad, but he won't say anything because it is the only picture I have of Mack with
long hair. So, I think today I am going to take it off the wall. And put it up with the others. So, I'd like to be a fly on the wall when Mack comes in
and sees it gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Mack, do you have any recollection of walking back home and seeing that last photo gone? What went through your head?
M. BEGGS: The thing was is that I didn't even know that, I guess, it was down because it got -- it was up so much. I was just like, maybe I could
just kind of like walk it out. And then, like I saw the film and she said that, I went back. Like as soon as we got home, I went back to go see where
she took it off. I was like well, she actually did it. Because I actually was asking her for a while and she was like, I guess, just -- they finally
did it. I was like, I love you.
SREENIVASAN: Could you empathize with the ideas that your grandmother was expressing here? I mean, she felt basically a loss of a granddaughter. She
gained a grandson, but she felt a loss to a child that she had connected to over the years.
M. BEGGS: Yes. I definitely did think about it. Because like that was like one of the hardest things when coming out was like how like my family was
going to react. I didn't -- I guess I wasn't afraid in the sense whether they would react wrong or right, I think I was just like scared of every
reaction of any kind. And that was like -- kind of like the unknown a little bit.
SREENIVASAN: And, Nancy, in this film, what's also interesting is, is you talk a little about the struggle that you had with acceptance. You say in
the film, you know, that you are a southern Baptist through and through, you're a gun toting hardcore Republican.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
N. BEGGS: I am a deputy sheriff and I work in Dallas. I have been with them 25 years. I was issued a nine-millimeter. So, now I have two nines,
two 40s, two AR-15s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: But here you are, not afraid to step on some toes when it comes to trans kids.
N. BEGGS: No, I will stomp toes when it comes to trans kids. I don't have a problem with that. At work, I have a problem with a lot of people having
a bad attitude. And I told them, I said, we can agree to disagree, but this is what my child -- my grandson is. He is going to be this way. It is
nonnegotiable. And your opinions, whether they'd be religious or whether they'd be political, don't really matter to me.
And I did struggle with the religious aspect of it and I did some real in- depth reading in the bible, and God loves us all. He doesn't care. And he is there for us and we don't have to make a choice. So, I thought people
have a right to criticize and I don't have a right to criticize. If this keeps Mack happy and he is -- he really in his heart feels this is what he
is, then I accept it without any reservation.
Took a while, but I had been raised in a real strict background.
SREENIVASAN: You know, Nancy, staying with you for a second. You were there at all those wrestling matches. You're, you know, not quite the stage
mom but you're the wrestling mom, standing there, banging on the mat, saying, pin him, get it done. And you must have heard the yells and the
taunts from parents in a way that would hurt any parent. What did you tell them? How did you respond to that?
N. BEGGS: I tried not to be in anybody's face about it because I didn't want to agitate it. I knew Mack was facing a lot to stay in wrestling at
all because we were getting threats of, you know, we'll sue, we'll sue. And I knew what that -- having dealt with cases like this, I knew what it could
So, I tried not to agitate. But if people came to me, I didn't have a problem telling them my opinion and that they didn't have to like it, that
was the way it was going to be. He is going to wrestle. He's going to wrestle girls. If you don't like it, you need go to your representative and
have them change it so he can wrestle boys.
So, I kind of used it as an enlistment for parents to help us, help us get it changed. If you don't like it, help us get it changed.
SREENIVASAN: Mack, during that time you were wrestling, one of the more consistent critiques from parents was about your hormone therapies and, you
know, they would immediately say, listen, if my daughter was on steroids, if she was on something else, she would be banned from this. But here's
this girl who wants to be a boy, who is transitioning.
And, you know, it just seems unfair. And so, if you could help our audience understand, what is the threshold of the types of hormones or therapies
that you were taking and was that an advantage? Was it a disadvantage? What was it there for?
M. BEGGS: I felt like I was on even playing field just because of the fact that I always -- when I went to a doctor's visit, I was like, are my
hormones exceeding in a way that would be disadvantage for a woman or levels of is just women? And we would always have conversations, we'd have
my dose at a low dose, bare minimum, if even minimum in terms of transitioning.
It was just more of like a mental health state of mind that kept me right, like knowing that I could transition through high school. In a way, that's
like in my head, it helped me. And I just want to make sure I was on an even playing field with this woman. So, a lot of people just think that
because, you know, trans men we take testosterone, they automatically think that's steroids, and it is not the same thing.
SREENIVASAN: Florida, for example, just the beginning of this month, it became the eighth state this year to ban transgender girls and women in
public secondary schools and colleges from participating on girls and women sport teams. And then, Alabama, the state you're in, Mack, sent a bill to
the governor barring trans athletes altogether. And they have overwhelmingly passed a bill to make it a felony to provide gender
affirming health care to trans youth. I mean, there's about 18 other states that have some sorts of bills like this.
So, Mack, I want to ask you, why do you think this is happening and what are you doing about it?
M. BEGGS: The best that I can do is to use my voice as power and through the actions I do every single day, which is helping kids making a platform
for the community to, you know, arise from all these chaos pulled in the country.
And, you know, it just makes me really sad and angry because we've had multiple cases of, you know, legislation, trying to provide examples for,
you know, why -- how, or and why or how does a transgender have an advantage in sports, and they don't. It is just, you know, you want to
focus on the transgender individuals that are winning. And as soon as we're winning, you want to take that away from us.
SREENIVASAN: You know, what do you say to those parents that say, listen, this changes the levels of advantage that people, if gender have any kind
inherent strength difference or speed difference that allowing children to play on teams with the opposite gender isn't fair. I mean, you've heard
that throughout your years now. So, what's your --
M. BEGGS: Well, I mean, if you want to talk about unfair, I mean, if you want to talk about biological differences being an advantage over one
another, I mean, look at Michael Phelps. He had biological factors that he was born with that made him a better athlete than other, you know, men in
this category. I mean, it just comes down to biology and we are all different not matter male or female.
SREENIVASAN: You talk about the fact that -- in the film, that you went through severe bouts of depression. And the statistic is that 4 in 10 trans
athletes contemplate suicide. Did you?
M. BEGGS: Yes, couple times I did. It was really rough. I felt like I couldn't talk to anybody. It was just -- you know, back then. I feel like
now that I do have more worth living for no matter who I am as a person. And that took a lot of growth and a lot of self-care in order to get to
SREENIVASAN: Nancy, what was that period like? Did you know that he was this sad?
N. BEGGS: Yes. Yes. It was obvious. He -- before he started puberty, he was outgoing, he was -- seemed happy all the time. When he started to hit
prepuberty, we noticed a difference in his personality. And it concerned me a lot because, in my family, we've had a couple of family members that
committed suicide. So, I was aware of what we were looking at, that you don't just get depressed for nothing, there's something seriously there.
That's when we started seeking out counselors.
And some of Mack's behavior constituted some real serious concern for medical reasons. And we actually sought out behavioral group and put Mack
in it, because we were at our wit's end. We didn't want -- I did not want and his mother did not want to see him commit suicide. We wanted a happy
kid. And we weren't sure how to get there because what we were doing didn't seem to help it. That's the times that he was going through getting on the
computer. He was learning about transgenderism. We didn't. We had no idea what he was doing.
And teenagers, as you know, have a tendency not to come to the parents, they go to other kids for advice. And I was concerned that he was getting
the wrong advice. And we wanted to make sure he got the right advice. And I think it's when he went through this clinic that it came out that he was
unhappy because he felt like he was in the wrong body.
SREENIVASAN: Mack, what do you hope people get from watching this film?
M. BEGGS: I hope they, you know, get a firm understanding that we are here and we have always been here. And I just -- that there needs to be more
love and acceptance because with that, that's when you start seeing like true happiness and, you know, acceptance goes a long way.
SREENIVASAN: The film called "Changing the Game." Mack Beggs, and his grandma, Nancy, thanks to you both.
N. BEGGS: Thank you for having us.
M. BEGGS: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: A lot to take in and absorb there. That film seems to be really, really useful right now.
And finally, four-time Grammy-winning artist, Angelique Kidjo, has just released a new album called "Mother Nature." It is an ode to the African
continent and its cultures. Kidjo shares her spotlight with a new generation of African musical artists, including Burna Boy, Sampat the
Great and Mr. Eazi. It is music with a message that you can dance to. Here's a taste from the title track.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELIQUE KIDJO, GRAMMY-WINNING MUSICIAN: We need each other now. We need each other now. Each one of us, each one of us, we need each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Angelique Kidjo, welcome back to the program.
So, the first new album in several years, "Mother Nature." And you are known as ma or grand sir (ph), a big sister to so many African artists.
Where does that come from and what are you doing now?
ANGELIQUE KIDJO, GRAMMY-WINNING MUSICIAN: Well, it comes from the fact that I always care for my brothers and sisters around the world, especially
on my continent because I know the resilience, the beauty and the creativity of my continent.
And during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was really grounded at home and I started gardening, having my potatoes, tomatoes to eat. And at the same
time thinking about how mother nature has been through our generations of being here, being generous to us, providing everything we need. So, I
decided that I am going to do an album in which I'm going to write a love letter to mother earth. And also, thinking about climate change impact on
I wanted the youth, the young generation that's going to pay the highest tribute to this climate change to speak for themselves. I mean, I have --
I've been talking about this, but I want them on board for all of us to start thinking about what we can bring through our arts and using our
tradition of transmission to start talking to the generation after them now.
AMANPOUR: You know, it is really fascinating. And just listening to you now, I mean, you are sort of repeating the thread that we just had from the
great chef, Alice Waters. She uses her restaurant, you use your music, and passing, you know, the torch to a new generation, you talk about climate
and our culture.
So, you know, the Grammys, a few years ago -- or rather last year, you said, four years ago on this stage, I was telling you that the new
generations of artists coming from Africa are going to take you by storm. This time has come. And, you know, now, you're working with people like
Burna Boy, Yemi Alade and Zambia, Sampa the Great, as we said -- Alade rather. How did you choose who you would work with? You know, did they come
to you? Did you go to them? How did you make this ensemble?
KIDJO: I mean, you believe me or not, it was not planned. Because I'm the person that (INAUDIBLE) where, I have been told, just follow the flow.
Every time you wake up, be thankful that you wake up and you're in good health.
So, I let the album and the songs basically lead me. And the first guest that I have on the album was Yemi after the (INAUDIBLE) movement where I
was worrying. So, we started and saying, we want to use song to talk about police brutality, and we need the police to respect our dignity and for us
to respect their own dignity.
And only -- for me, the weapon that we have, us artists, especially African artists, is our music. We talk through our music and empower people. Music
lift people from the ground. Mr. Eazi send me message saying he has song for me and I told him send it away. Burna Boy said, I want to write a song
for you, Ma. I said, go ahead, Burna, just send it to me. Every time I have to do something, I always listen to others.
Sampa the Great started when I saw her on Tiny Desk. And I said to myself, this young woman is fire. I want her on my album. So, I sent her a message.
And right there, she was. And everything floats like that. We speak. And within a week, the song is there.
And talking about mother nature, I wanted to express that concern, also across the diaspora of black people and human being, period. We all have
one earth to share, one ecosystem. There's no other place where we can live. So, why don't we take care of this one and nurture this through music
and deal with the ills that we are facing.
I was looking at the young boy that was a girl. Why do we spend so much energy trying to raise people and then, why don't we let people be? God is
not discriminatory. God create us different. And we are here every day -- I mean, weaponizing God to kill, to take lives from people, to make people's
lives miserable. Even politicians are doing it.
I mean, for me, this album is lessons of love to one another. And one of my songs I say, humans are their own enemy. Fear have grabbed hate by hand so
tight that they shoot love and we are all afraid of love. And I want that to stop. I want transmission of my ancestors to teach us that we are all
one and need one another.
AMANPOUR: You know, that's a very powerful statement that you've made. And you also come from a political background. I mean, you had to leave Benin
in order to become and to fulfill your dream of being an artist.
Because at that time, if I am not mistaken, you couldn't have been an independent artist without, you know, singing propaganda and building up
the regime in your country. How important and how life changing was it for you to leave? And conversely, now you're trying to enable the young African
musicians and artists to actually work in their own country and continent.
KIDJO: I believe in the freedom of each one of us to decide what they have to say, what they want to sing and what they want to do. My father has told
me that as an artist, I shouldn't be linked to any political party because they come and they go. So, my whole entire life have been educated through
music for so many different genre of music, from traditional music to all of James Brown, to name some few.
The thing that I -- it is important to me that make me wake up every day is that inside each one of us, there is strength, there is love. Us being on
this earth is an act of love. So, why can't we just use the music to speak to people. I've come from that kind of culture. And I cannot let any
politician tell me that I can't sing, I'd rather die than stay in there and letting somebody think that he have power by taking my power away.
Power -- when you have power is when you don't use it. If the only way we can be powerful is through violence, we have failed. Violence is the
weapon, hatred and violence is the excuse of the coward. And I don't believe in any leaders killing people saying he is powerful. Blood on your
hands, you're a criminal, period.
AMANPOUR: And, Angelique, I just want to ask you briefly, what were your earliest influences? Who were your earliest influences? Who did you look
to, either in Africa or outside of Africa, as your musical mentors, so to speak? Because you've done everything from talking heads to, I mean, just
everything. You've got such a wide, you know, variety and repertoire.
KIDJO: I would say that the traditional musician in my country were really my backbone. Because when music start coming and my brother started doing
music, I listen to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding James, Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Miriam Makeba, Celia Cruz. So
many music. And music from a Democratic Republic of Congo, from Cameroon, from Ivory Coast, all around.
So, for me, sometimes I get lost in it. And I would go to my village and say to traditional musician, can you play this? And they say, bring it. And
they'll play the drums. And as soon as the drum comes in, it makes sense for me, it brings everything together.
The traditional music of my country is the glue of everything I have been doing as musician 'til today, because it's modern, it talks to people and
it tells a story. We are storytellers. Every musician, every artist is a storyteller. Every chef is a storyteller through taste and through what
have been given to them. And that's what it is. Storytelling is powerful.
AMANPOUR: Well, you have graciously agreed to sing us out, to play us out. Your authenticity reaches all the way to not being afraid to do that
without your backup, without the instruments. Acapella for us So, Angelique Kidjo, what are you going to sing? I think it's from, obviously, "Mother
Nature." But what title are you going to sing for us?
KIDJO: "Mother Nature," I was going to sing for you.
AMANPOUR: OK. Go for it.
KIDJO: And I am sending you strength from mother nature every day from now on. You are on the wings of mother nature as all of us.
Don't ever let them touch you in any way. Oh, never let them steal and take the best of you. Keep building cities from the ground. We're rising with
the waves. Mother nature has a way of warning us. A time bomb set on a lost count down. Will you hear it? Will you stop it? Won't you listen. We need
each other now. We need each other now. Each one of us needs one of us. We need each other.
KIDJO: You want more?
AMANPOUR: So beautiful. Angelique kidjo, ending our show.
KIDJO: Thank you so much for inviting me. It's always a pleasure to speak to you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
KIDJO: And keep on doing the interviews you do to let the world know. We need education. We need people to be informed. We need people to think. Set
aside fear and violence and we will create the world that is more for everybody.