I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, shortly after my parents emigrated from Brittany, France. I was raised on the Red River, in the small community of St. Norbert. Four months after my father experienced his first-ever salmon fishing trip to Vancouver Island, in August of 1971, he sold his 7 beauty salons in Winnipeg and we headed west to British Columbia, settling in the Island community of Courtenay. I was 12 years old and I worked in my father’s Courtenay beauty salon after school and on weekends, sweeping the floor, answering the phone and when I got ‘old’ enough, I was promoted to doing shampoos. Even though I was never formally trained, I learned a lot about the business (which would serve me years later in finding a job in Perth, Australia). I enjoyed working at the salon and it also got me out of doing the Saturday house-cleaning chores.
Eventually, my parents sold the hairdressing business and followed my father’s true passion: cooking. They opened a small restaurant in Courtenay (The Gourmet) and I soon learned another trade: the hospitality industry (which again would serve me years later). And for this, I am so grateful.
My parents were lovers of adventure and travel. They had me late in life, which meant that before I was even born, they had already traveled the world with my older brother and sister. Our house was adorned with artifacts from Tahiti, Australia, Sri Lanka… they had seen it all and now were ‘settled’. Even though I loved books and maps, I couldn’t see myself appreciating the world through pictures, stories or someone else’s experiences.
At the age of 16, I ran away from home, with my best friend from school whose parents were also avid travelers. We didn’t run away FROM anything, we ran TO something. I needed to see for myself the faraway lands of which my parents often spoke. So with just enough tip money saved up, we bought a ticket to New Zealand, with the notion to work our way around the world. We didn’t tell anyone because being 16 years old meant we were minors and could be legally stopped by our parents. My parents were terribly upset when they found the ‘good bye’ note on the kitchen table on that February morning, but cooler heads prevailed when they realized it really was their own fault that their daughter had wanderlust in her blood. I eventually had their blessing. And for this I am so grateful.
After traveling around the world for three years, through more than 40 countries, working in everything from hotels, restaurants, beauty salons to turkey slaughterhouses and vineyards…I returned home. During my absence, my family had sold the Gourmet and purchased an old resort on the ocean in Oyster Bay just north of Courtenay, and built The Gourmet by the Sea, (which would one day win the International El Bar award, listing it as one of the best 54 restaurants in the world). I worked with my family for 4 years, sinking my teeth in the hospitality industry, thinking this was the career path I would follow. Never did I think I would pursue a career on the stage. The closest I ever got to performing in public was sitting at the piano in the restaurant, singing for the last few patrons in the late evening.
I moved to Vancouver in September of 1982 to pursue my interest in the hotel and restaurant business, soon becoming assistant manager at Mulvaney’s on Granville Island. In the spring of 1983, my brother came to visit me at Mulvaney’s. His casual remark “My sister can sing”, to the manager, changed my life. The manager happened to know the theatre director Ray Michal of City Stage on Thurlow Street. Ray had been looking for a bilingual singer who could revive the role of Edith Piaf for his then struggling theatre. I was introduced, I sang a few Piaf songs (having been brought up on her music) and next thing I knew, I was taking a one-month leave of absence from the restaurant to enter a whole new realm. I was realistic, thinking this performing business would be fun to experience but it would be short-lived and I would soon be returning to a ‘real’ job. After all, I am an idealist without illusions.
Life throws unexpected curve balls sometimes. The show was a hit and it was held over time and time again. That one-month venture turned into a one-year stint of interpreting the songs of ‘the little sparrow’ night after night. After the City Stage run of ‘Piaf, Her Songs Her Loves’, the musicians of the show and I decided to branch out musically, writing our own tunes and setting up tours. The theatre bug had bitten me and I wasn’t about to slap it dead just yet. So off I went on this new adventure. My new ‘theatre family’ was kind, inspirational and so much fun to be with. For the last three decades we’ve toured our concerts as well as the new ‘Tonight…Piaf’ show we wrote in 1989. Tours throughout 5 continents have been highlighted with many laughs and we continue to share life’s ups and downs together; new arrivals; sad departures; forever unions; shift happens separations; bittersweet disappointments and unexpected celebrations. We’re family. And for this, I am so grateful.
I still have a passion of the hospitality industry, it’s in my blood, it’s my roots and roots keep one firmly grounded. Plus I don’t want to define myself by only one label: a singer. And I don’t want to deny myself what life has to offer. So I continue to accept and pursue non-musical adventures that allow me to tap into all my desires and abilities and I try to grab a taste of whatever is being served up on life’s platter when it passes by. After all… we only get one crack at it on this incredible planet but choices abound. And for this, I am so grateful.