I’ve decided to do things a little differently. This is a very informal, very amateur short story on my life up to this point. Now, I am not a writer by any means, but I hope that you will at least be able to enjoy reading this little experiment as much as I enjoyed writing it. So, without further delay, here we go…

THE BEGINNING

It was the 24th of August 1981.  At the Mary Mount Hospital in Johannesburg, Liza and Denis (pronounced Denny) Lalouette, (a young couple barely into their second year of marriage) waited patiently for the nurse to return.  Finally, she entered the room, carrying a small, fragile gift for the exhausted but excited couple.

That gift was me.  (Well, at least I like to think of myself as a gift!)

I think they chose a good birthday for me.  You see, even then my father was a busy man, so the only way they could guarantee that the birth would be witnessed by him as well, was for them to pick a day, for him to show up and for my mom to push.  Luckily for me, they managed to do all three!

A few days later, it snowed.  Now, as happy as I am to have been alive when it happened, a part of me does wish that it could’ve waited a couple of years so that I could at least have remembered it more!  Oh well, such is life…

In all fairness to the weather though, I don’t really remember much from my first few years of existence.  I only know what my parents have told me, so I in turn will tell you: Apparently, I was a good baby.  I never really cried much and I wasn’t one for throwing tantrums.  Family friends always used to tell my parents that they’d only want to have children if there was a guarantee that they’d be as well-behaved as my younger sister and I.

[Family info: For those of you who may not know, I have two marvelous sisters.  Ursula is 6 years older than me, and Corinne is 6 years younger than me.]

Denny, Vee, Liza & CorinneUrsula

From about the age of 5, I have some recollection of the ‘goings-on’ in our house. I know my father loved to have music playing when we were at home.  It was usually ‘Yellow Jackets’ or ‘Michel Camillo’ or something along those lines.  He’d put me onto his shoulders and dance around the house, bopping me up and down in time to the music.  I would just laugh and laugh… 

To this day, whenever I hear one of those familiar songs, I can’t help but smile…

Speaking of smiling, you wouldn’t say so now, but in my early years, I had the worst time trying to smile!  I wouldn’t open my mouth, so all you saw were these tightly squeezed, awkwardly stretched out lips!  It was terrible!  It’s not that I wanted to smile that way – I genuinely didn’t know how to do it properly!  My mom finally helped me get it right one day, when we were visiting her mother.  During the family ‘photo shoot’, she took me aside and said that we wouldn’t continue until I found a different smile – the smile that I proudly use to this day! 

Now, one thing I really didn’t like about growing up was the whole ‘pulling out of teeth’ thing!  My mom once even tried to do it with pliers! Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not the biggest fan of torturing myself with household tools, so that was just NOT a viable option for me! I eventually found a method to doing it, so in the end it wasn’t so bad.  ‘Thundercats’ would come on and by the end of the episode, the tooth was gone! Voila!  No pain – all the gain!

I was one of those kids that loved nursery school.  I met my very first ‘boyfriend’ there.  When I say ‘boyfriend’, I suppose, in reality, we were nothing more than a boy and a girl who occasionally said ‘hi’ to each other.  In my mind though, he was my boyfriend. We actually ‘dated’ all through primary school. (Read: ‘we kind of spoke a little more to each other, using letters and mutual friends to find out whether the one still liked the other and vice versa…’)

Sadly, he ended up breaking my heart into a million pieces, helping me to lay the foundation for some of my personal little rules on relationships that I still follow to this day!  (I never spoke to him during high school, but we’ve since gone for drinks to have a big laugh about the whole thing.  Closure – you’ve gotta love it!) Looking back at my first diary, it’s hilarious to see how dramatic I made my life out to be!

I wasn’t your normal girly-girl when it came to toys and television.

Favourite TV shows: Thundercats, He-Man, The Gummi Bears, My Little Pony, The Care Bears, Rainbow Brite.

[Useless info: The ‘Gummi Bears’ theme tune was the first song I learned to sing!]

Favourite toys: well, those kind of follow suite from the TV shows that inspired their creation.  I had a fair amount of He-Man action figures, including Battlecat, but I also had quite a few My Little Ponies.  I even had the castle from Thundercats!  Barbie and He-Man were a happy couple for many years until our dog removed one of his limbs and she ended up leaving him for another man.  Tragic I tell you…
Not the average collection, but I think it provided a lovely balance between my masculine and feminine sides.

SCHOOL

I was never the most social of youths.  I never had more than two good friends at a time growing up, and I never made it a point to be a part of the so-called ‘in crowd’.  Thankfully (or should I say miraculously), peer-pressure was never an issue for me in primary school.

I understood from a very young age that school wasn’t the be-all and end-all of my existence.  In school, although you may be the coolest most popular person, when you go out into the real world, you don’t take that status with you!  So, I decided to focus on things that I knew I’d be able to use later on in life.

When I see what some of the more ‘popular’ people have done with their lives, it saddens me.  Very few of them are doing what they said they wanted to do, and more importantly, very few of them are happy. They’re either studying something they’ll never use or developing beer-boeps at 25 or working a job they hate, (you know: ‘Same ****, different day’ kinda thing), and when they find out that I’m living my dream, it amazes me to see the surprise on their faces.

See, I’ve known I was going to be a singer all my life.  Teachers would always ask me what I was going to have to fall back on.  I always told them the same thing: if I have something to fall back on, immediately I’m telling myself that I’m going to fail. Seeing as failure was never going to be an option for me, neither was another career choice, even as a ‘just in case’.

I was also never big on sports.  Oh, I tried, but nothing ever grabbed me.  (Jump forward to my matric year: at our final inter-house athletics meet, they forced me to do the 100m sprint.  I jogged it.  I rest my case…)

Dancing! Now, THAT was my passion!  I started when I was about five or six and I’ve never looked back.  Ballet and I never got along too well, but modern and tap, well, we very quickly became best friends! Most of my time was taken up by lessons, festivals and rehearsals etc.  My mother played taxi for a good thirteen years before I got my license and was able to cart myself around. 

[Semi-useful info: my mother was a dancer when she met my father.  He was one of the musicians in the show she was dancing in at the time.]

To this day I love to dance.  I don’t take many formal lessons anymore, but it’s still one of my favourite things to do.

Once again, in complete contrast, martial arts have also been a part of my life since I was a "laaitie". My older sister, Ursula (from my mom’s first marriage) did Karate at school, so I decided that I’d like to do it as well.  You know how it is: what the older one does, so shall the younger one. At the time I was still doing ballet, so I always managed to get a giggle from my family when I’d daintily bounce onto the floor for our gradings, (blonde pigtails and all), to assume my vicious fighting stance!

The one year, I even managed to give a boy a black-eye!  On top of it, he was a lot older than me, so you can imagine my sense of pride!  After I got my blue belt, I decided to stop.  When I saw what Ursula had to go through to get her black belt, I knew that I wasn’t ready!

After I matriculated, I did Wing Chun Kung Fu under Sifu Dean Jones for 3 years.  Due to an increasing work load, I wasn’t able to give it the dedication it deserved, so I decided to stop.  I still miss it and I plan to resume taking lessons in the near future.

I’m getting sidetracked!  Back to the school thing:

Back in my day (yes, I’m actually old enough to say stuff like that now! EEK!), mothers were still very much a part of your school marks.  At least, my mother was.  I’ll admit it:  I’m a procrastinator.  I have been all my life, and I will most likely continue to be one for the rest of it.  I’ve accepted this, and I’m ok.

School projects would be given to us WEEKS before they were due, so there was never really an excuse not to get them done in a calm and efficient way.  Based on the above info, I, in my infinite wisdom, would always leave it to the night before!

My mom lived in a torn world by this time: part of her wanted me to be punished by the teacher the next day so I could ‘learn my lesson’, but part of her wanted me to excel in my studies!

The solution? - She would end up doing all the work with me. In the 5th grade, we once stayed up all night doing a project on trees!  I only got 5 minutes of sleep that day, but it made the ‘A’ worth it!  (Was it my ‘A’, or my mother’s? We’ll never know…)

Now, here you have a pupil who never really pushes herself in school, nor does she try to push herself in any sports.  You can then imagine my surprise, when in final assembly, they announced that the head girl for our 7th grade year would be… me!  How that happened, I’ll never know.  All I know is that I’ve never seen the sporty girls and their mothers look so surprised in all my life!  I can’t deny it: it felt good! We never really did much, but it was fun, I guess.

[Useless info: In matric, I wasn’t even a prefect (thankfully)!]

High school just seemed to be an extended version of primary school.  Same things to worry about; same boy troubles; same people threatening to make your life a living hell… you know, the usual stuff, just on a slightly larger scale.

MAN! – was I an awkward teenager!!! When I look back at photos, I’m always amazed that I had any friends! Those outfits!  That hair!  That make-up!!!  Those braces with alternating pink and purple elastics!!!!  WOW! 

In my defence, Ashley (my bestest friend in the whole world!) had the hairstyle to end all hairstyles!  I won’t say any more because he’ll kill me, but just know that it was … err ... interesting. Thank goodness for the passing of some much needed time.

Annually, my school (Northcliff High School) would produce a top-class musical of some sort.  These proved to be the basis for my entire existence at the time.  Without them, I don’t think I would’ve made it through those five years alive! We got to sing, dance and act!  What more could a budding young entertainer ask for?!  It taught me so much about being on stage and, back stage.  I’ll be forever grateful for those lessons.

As to be expected, there were the inevitable crushes that were a part of the deal.  Oh dear, my poor little heart was broken so many times! I’ve lost count of how many people I had a little crush on during those years!  I once even had feelings for one of the musicians – the bassoon player in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ to be exact!  (Incidentally, we’re still friends to this day.)

We did it all: ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘Hello Dolly’, ‘Chicago’… 

I fell in love with my first serious boyfriend in the first production I did: ‘Christian’.  He was two years older than me and was the most mysterious boy I knew.  Well, I suppose anyone two years ahead of you is rather mysterious at that stage in your life. I’m normally quite shy when it comes to romance (as I don’t enjoy rejection much), so flirting was always done on the most subtle level.  Looking back, I was a little too subtle:  He never noticed me in that way. 

The next three years were agony for me and my fragile emotions!  There are no words to describe how much it hurts seeing the guy you love making out with another girl and not being able to do anything about it!  It was only when he was already out of school (the beginning of my 11th grade) that we eventually started dating.  We dated for three and a half wonderful years before we went our separate ways.

Heartbreak and all, I have some of the fondest memories of my life from those productions. I miss them a lot.

Besides that, there really isn’t much more to tell.  Like I said, the productions were my life. After I passed matric, I can honestly say that I haven’t missed being in school for a single second!  I still keep in contact with my old teachers though and I love the school itself.  Their support for my career has been so touching, and I really am grateful!

MY CAREER

In grade 8, I got my first professional gig singing jazz with one of my dad’s bands ‘The Light Years Quartet’ in ‘District six’ at the old Randburg Waterfront.  It was a duet with a man that was about 40 at the time.  I nearly chickened out because it felt weird to sing a love song with a guy I hardly knew, let alone loved!  My mom helped me to relax about it, and thank God, because who knows where I would be if I didn’t do that first gig?!

Light Years Music
Click on the photo to go the website of Light Years Music

I also did my very first backing vocal session in grade 8.  It was for Robin Walsh’s album, “Wings of Fire”.  I’ll never forget that day. There I was, still in my uniform at 6pm, fresh from a school function, surrounded by professional session musicians. I remember standing next to the other two ladies, feeling about as big as Thumbelina, listening to them asking the producer whether he wanted ‘the diminished chord’ or if he would rather we ‘switch our inversions’ for a slightly different sound.

I had absolutely no clue what they were on about!!!  I just paid attention as hard as I could and did as I was told to the best of my ability. All I could do was hope for the best!  Thankfully, it all worked out in the end.

To this day, I still feel that bit of good nervous energy whenever I walk into a studio for a session.  I suppose it’s good to know that you’re never too old or experienced to learn something new.

[Useless info: Throughout school, there were often times when I’d needed to leave school early because of some or other work commitment.  I never complained. J]

In matric, I joined my first gig band, ‘Black Ice’. The band consisted of myself and two young, good looking guys (one played keyboards and the other played guitar).

[Useless info: the guitarist now plays in ‘Watershed’, a highly successful SA Band]

We worked at a bar called ‘Mrs. Sippi Blues’.  It was in Gillooly’s Farm, and my poor mother had to drive me there and back (as I hadn’t turned 18 yet) on Friday nights (8pm-12am), Saturday nights (8pm-12am) and Sunday afternoons (2pm-5pm).

I was the only singer in the band, and as I had never really performed for long periods at once before, my voice took quite a bit of strain.  If I’m not mistaken, I had tonsillitis for the entire 6 months that I was with them!  Looking back, that was probably the reason they decided to ‘let me go’. 

[Useless info: At one stage I was using so many homeopathic medicines that one night, I actually got myself drunk!!  (Even though most homeopathic medicines use an alcohol base of about 20% of the volume, you generally use very small doses at a time, so you can imagine how much I had to have consumed to get myself to that point!)  It was not fun at all.]

On top of all of this, I was trying to get through my final year of High School without failing!  I also attended dance classes 3-4 times a week.  Talk about a busy schedule!!!

I recall being quite miserable at the time, but, looking back, it was probably the best thing I could’ve asked for, because now, whenever I get sick or rundown, I know how to manipulate my voice so that I’m still able to get the notes out.

When I finally matriculated after what seemed to be a lifetime, I wasted no time getting on with my career. I’ve been freelancing ever since, and I can honestly say that there’s nothing I would rather be doing. By being in this industry, I’ve had so many incredible opportunities to see places and people I would never have seen otherwise:  I’ve been to the Seychelles to work for a Saudi-Arabian prince; In 2004 I toured Taiwan for 3 weeks with the extravaganza ‘Las Vegas Fantasy’; In April of that year, I was also asked to scout West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia – to be exact) for contestants for the reality TV show ‘Project Fame’, which was awesome.  It was only for 10 days, but it was incredible to get to see those parts of Africa.
I’ve also had the chance to work with some amazing people. In the second half of 2004, the Transoranje Skool vir die Dowes was putting on their annual fundraising concert.  My mother was asked to choreograph dance routines for the pupils, and I was asked if I could teach the 1st Team rugby boys a tap dance!

When I arrived on the first day, I was terrified.  I’m not fluent in Afrikaans, so that was my first obstacle.  I also knew no sign language (English OR Afrikaans), so I felt even more stressed!  I really do my best to avoid being disrespectful in new environments, so I didn’t want to sign anything at first in case I did something wrong or ‘stupid’.

They were all so wonderful though!  They made me feel completely comfortable and were more than willing to teach me some simple signs.  Sometimes I’d just sit and watch them all getting on with their lives, and it would fill me with an overwhelming sense of joy. 

You know, our first reaction to someone with a so-called ‘disability’ is usually to treat them differently and to feel sorry for them because they aren’t exactly ‘the same’ as us.  My take on it is that every human being is different and unique, so, to treat anybody with any less respect than the next is ridiculous!  With open communication and a little bit of patience from both sides, anything is possible! Anyway, the point is that by the end of it all, we were able to sit and laugh and joke and chat about almost anything.

I was asked to sing a song for the event, and so I asked the teachers if they would teach me the signs for the lyrics of “The power of the Dream” by Celine Dion. Needles to say, I cried like a little baby on the last night!  It was so special to be able to see so many of them at that live ‘Idols’ spectacular.  I had to fight hard to hold back the tears, again! They taught me so much and I miss them all dearly!

I’m looking forward to a long-term relationship with the school, working both with and for them.

 

The ‘Idols’ Experience:

[`Idols’ has given me the opportunity to touch so many more people than I would’ve been able to without it, and for that reason, I will forever be grateful to the show.]

It was, without a doubt, the most challenging venture of my life to date. That said, if I could do it all again, I would.  In those tough situations, I learnt so much about myself as a person: who I really am underneath it all.  Very rarely do we actually get to experience those kinds of life-lessons over an extended period of time, so I consider myself to be very lucky.

It was, without a doubt, the most challenging venture of my life to date. That said, if I could do it all again, I would.  In those tough situations, I learnt so much about myself as a person: who I really am underneath it all.  Very rarely do we actually get to experience those kinds of life-lessons over an extended period of time, so I consider myself to be very lucky.

I wasn’t able to control the circumstances around me, but I was certainly able to control the way I handled things!  It may sound clichéd, but unfortunately/fortunately (depending on which way you look at it) it’s true. I think things would have turned out rather differently for me if I had gotten angry and rude every time somebody (whether it was a judge or a viewer) said something nasty and hateful about me or to me (which seemed to be pretty often). Sure, there were times when I’d let it get to me on the inside, (I think there’d be something wrong with me if I never experienced some feelings of hurt in those 3 months!), but I always reminded myself that  at the end of the day, at least I knew my worth.

Yes, the judges were hard on me; yes, the viewers were sometimes unkind to me on the forum; yes, I was usually put in the hot-seat on a Monday night, but, like I said, I’d do it again.  (Not necessarily in this lifetime though. They’re not kidding when they talk about ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences!  ‘Idols’ is surely one of them. Hee hee!)

So, I guess that brings me to where I am today!

First off, it’s so exciting to finally be in the position to make an album that is 110% me ... from my heart!  On top of it, I am honoured to have so many INCREDIBLE musicians actually being excited to work on the project with me!

It’s awesome to hear my colleagues say that they’re proud of me for entering the competition and for handling everything the way I did.  I thank them all for the unwavering love and support they have shown me throughout my career.

And then, there’s you: the person reading this.  If you’ve read this entire thing, you MUST be a pretty big fan, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every warm thought you have about me; for every time you cheer me on; for every note you listen to; for every positive difference you allow me to help you make in your life; and for all the things you help me to learn about myself.

Obviously, there are many things I haven’t mentioned in this little ‘story’, but hopefully you have enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

Though the chapters before this have been and gone, I look forward to sharing the creation of the rest of my ‘book of life’ with you.

Never stop dreaming of your greatest future, but never forget that others dream too.  If we could all help each other to achieve their dreams, imagine the heights we could reach together...