Category Archives: singing

me and Missy.002


So last weekend I ate lots of food, saw tons of relatives, and reflected on things that have happened for me between Thanksgiving 2013 and Thanksgiving 2014.

Like 2 super-exciting gigs, for example. I got to escape winter by singing in Dubai for 6 months, then I came home for the summer and filmed my first movie role playing the young Missy Elliott in Lifetime’s Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.

Of course there’s a silver lining in every cloud and a cloud for every silver lining. The Dubai experience was awesome, but being away from family and friends for that long can be tough. Playing the part of a pop culture icon in this major project is my biggest booking so far, but it didn’t come without a certain amount of . . . let’s call it . . . character-building.  =)

Now this post isn’t going to count, characterize or rehash any negative comments from the world of social media. (Although I offer a sincere “Thank You” to all those who took the time to send me encouraging messages; more than I expected! Bless up.) Nope, I’m writing this to share something that helped me keep my head up when it would have been easier to get angry or defensive or sad.

Let’s take it back to high school for a minute. As a tenth-grader at Thornhill Secondary, I had my first taste of graphic design in a course which I think was called Computer Sciences, and one project really stuck with me. Our teacher instructed each of us to Photoshop our face onto the cover of a popular magazine.

I loved the idea, and I scanned a hard copy of VIBE that I’d bought on a recent trip to the States (it was hard to find in Canada at the time).

double take

I’d never heard of a vision board or a dream board back then, but I kept a copy of this assignment. And I almost forgot about it until years later when the “controversy” arose about me portraying Missy Elliott. You cannot imagine how encouraging it was to find that 12-year-old piece of paper and hold it in my hand. It taught me 3 really important lessons.

me and Missy.001



Me designing this made-up cover, and keeping it, was my way of saying to God and the universe (long before I learned about the law of intention or self-fulfilling prophecies or anything like that) that I wanted fame and fortune and photographers. I still want to be a cover girl; I would love to do so in the world of music, but if it comes about through acting or some other form of expression, I’m fine with that as well. This taught me that making and using vision/dream boards is incredibly powerful as long as you’re putting the work in too. Mind what you wish for, because if you think it enough times, you’ll end up with it somehow.



Notice, the time lapse between my magazine assignment and the headlines for this casting was 12 years. I originally thought I’d have a record deal around the time I finished high school — HA! It would have been so easy for me to trash this printout when I realized I was headed to university instead of being the next teen pop music queen, or any of the times I auditioned/applied/submitted for a role/gig/deal and didn’t get it. Now I understand that years or even decades can go by, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get what you’re going for. It might just mean you haven’t grown enough, or learned enough, or sacrificed enough yet.

Let’s say you set your ultimate goal 20 years ago and you’re not there yet. I don’t know when you’ll make it, but if you give up, I know you won’t ever make it. And it might be right around the corner. So keep going.



To be honest, my choosing that cover was a matter of convenience; it had nothing to do with Missy herself. Of course I’m a longtime fan; the woman is a legend! But it ended up as my backdrop simply because we were told to choose our favourite magazine (mine was definitely VIBE) and that was the hard copy I had to scan. Of course, the funny plot twist is that I went from replacing Missy’s face with my own to being the face of Missy in the movie. So the timeline looks like this:

June 2002 – I declare “I’m going to be on the cover of VIBE one day” by inserting my face onto VIBE’s cover and changing up the headlines to reflect my own interests and wishes.

Summer 2009 – VIBE goes out of print. I mope about my lost opportunity. Even the magazine’s later resurrection and reincarnations don’t make me feel much better. I sulk, but I keep working (duh).

June 2014 – I audition for and land the role of Missy Elliott in Lifetime’s biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, and I keep an eye on social media as people speculate about the movie and about who will be playing the lead role. The majority of what I read confirms my suspicion that the public will be vocal about any casting choices they don’t like.

August 2014 – publishes a piece about the movie’s cast, announcing that I’m playing Missy. Figuring the cat’s out of the bag, I confirm via Facebook (where a bunch of people who know me are full of congratulations) and Twitter (where a bunch of people who don’t know me are full of something else). Remembering my 2002 DIY mag cover, I remind myself that I earned this role and that my job is to get up, dress up, show up, and play the part. I have an incredible time, working with amazing people — love and respect to Izaak, Alex, AJ, James, Brad, Etheline, Rose, Chris, Gisele, Joe, Michelle, Fast Eddie, and every single member of the cast and crew for making this experience as awesome as it was!

November 2014 – the movie comes out, and a new chapter begins.


I can’t wait to see what new things I’ll have to be grateful for by next Thanksgiving.





June already! I’m almost back on Canadian soil (editing and posting this from inside an airport terminal actually), after spending half a year abroad. For this edition of Top Ten Tuesday, here are ten awesome memories and/or accomplishments from this stay in Dubai . . .


1.  So much writing.

Beginning on Christmas Day 2013, I promised I would write every day. Even a single sentence, or a few words; some days this meant an entire song or three, and some days it meant several scenes of a TV episode. Sometime in April or May I got a little more strict with myself, so now I have to write a snippet or piece of a song, or a song idea, every day. Even on days when I’ve completed a song. Even on days when I’m totally focused on a script and don’t want to think about writing a song.

IMG_0726So, the final tally? 52 new songs and 3 new episodes of the series I’m working on. Plus, I’ve got about 11 pages of ideas to dip into the next time I think “now what can I write a song about?” Not bad at all.


2.  So much sun.

What do you when it’s 50 degrees warmer where you are than it is back at home? You go to the beach.

Feb 5 2014.027It’s not like I was out there every day, but I definitely took advantage of my winter and spring in the desert — and I’ve got the tan to prove it!


3.  So much singing.

Being onstage six nights a week and singing so many genres (pop, reggae, rock, country, soul, Motown, blues, calypso, jazz) is awesome training. Doing so without lyrics in front of you is great for your memorization skills. Doing so in heels has left my feet considerably uglier than they were six months ago . . . ah well, you can’t win em all.

DSC08154Shoutouts to my incredible bandmates Jo (keys) and Julian (guitar), for allowing me to experience the awesomeness that is playing with live musicians — and alllllll the hilarity that goes along with it!


4.  Friends from every corner of the globe.

Maybe not every single corner . . . but I now have people to welcome me in Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, all over the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and of course here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And as eager as I am to get back home and hug all my people in Canada and the United States, it feels good to know that friendship transcends borders.

jan 12 2014.012




IMG_0110Of course I look forward to welcoming any of my new friends if and when they find themselves in Toronto, too!


5.  Fly boarding.

Hands-down the coolest single activity I’ve done since leaving home.

flyboard10You can watch the video here (in fact, go do it right now) and I really hope I get the opportunity to do this again one day . . . Does anyone offer it in southwestern Ontario yet?


6.  Loving on nature.

At home I can jog along Lake Ontario, and I’m frequently amused by the friendly (well, probably just hungry) squirrels in my neighbourhood, and there are some nice views of the sunset from my building before it’s hidden by condos.  In Dubai, I’ve been bathing in the Gulf of Arabia, taking pictures of flowers and sandscapes and water views, and loving the sight (though not always the sound) of tons of birds — including obnoxious crows and shrill peacocks.


10am in Toronto, and 6pm in Dubai




There are some really cool manmade wonders out there, obviously, but it’s also been really nice to just look at a seashell or a cliff and enjoy that.


7.  Opportunities.

I’ll do my best to explain this clearly and without offending anyone.

Opportunities are everywhere, and so are opportunity-seekers and opportunity-creators. But it seems to me that there is a greater sense of possibility in Dubai than at home; and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with attitude. Both Toronto and Dubai are big, bustling cities with international populations and people at different socioeconomic levels . . . but they differ when it comes to the ratio of whiners to risk-takers. At home, I find a lot of people who feel that they’re stuck in a rut. In Dubai, I find a lot of people who are hustling, who are keeping it moving, who are creating some type of change instead of just complaining.

Example: my friend Davide Giusti (grey shirt), tennis coach extraordinaire who is opening his own academy in Dubai, and 15-year-old "Rpince Pavel," a future world tennis champion from Poland

Example: my friend Davide Giusti (grey shirt), tennis coach extraordinaire who is opening his own academy in Dubai, and 15-year-old “Prince Pavel,” a future world tennis champion from Poland

This is probably because roughly 80% of the people there are expats (not local to the area, they were born somewhere else), so they’ve already taken the step of leaving home, their physical comfort zone. Granted, many of the people I met were on vacation, but when I did meet someone who’a planning to stay for awhile I tended to notice a quiet confidence and certainty that they’ll be able to do what they came here to do. And if not then they can go somewhere else and try again. It’s all good.


8.  Truly cherishing interaction with people from back home.

It will be such a treat to sit down and have a meal with family and friends again. Even if I don’t like the food, I have to sit on the floor, and no one says a single word for the duration of the meal.

See these two? They will be smothered with hugs very shortly . . .

See these two? They will be smothered with hugs very shortly . . .

I knew homesickness would be an issue for me; I’m glad that I came through without getting too emotional (for the most part), and I now fully understand what a musician friend of mine meant when he told me staying away for a month wasn’t enough; he wanted to be gone for long enough that he missed being home.


9.  Exploring.

I’ll have to make sure I do this in Toronto/Ontario/Canada too! One of the best things about travelling is getting to know a new place. I don’t mean just the people and customs and laws, I mean the physical place. When you’re new to the UAE, you ask a lot of questions like “Why isn’t there any parking?” and “Can I take the Metro?” and some more unique ones too, like “Why isn’t there a street address?”

The huge sigh of relief when you finally somehow get to the place you were hoping to find . . .

The huge sigh of relief when you finally somehow get to the place you were hoping to find . . .

I’m very grateful to anyone who has ever printed and distributed a clearly marked map, and for numerous online forums where expats and travellers share tips. I’m also newly in love with Groupon (and similar sites like Kobonaty) for offering great deals in the area, making it that much easier to get out there and try a desert safari, or flyboarding, or a double-massage deal.


10. Discovering and developing new talents.

I’ve dusted off my photographer, videographer, and video editor hats, in addition to writing new episodes as mentioned above. I decided to share some of my insights in a 30-day art installation project via Instagram and Facebook/Twitter . . . (stay tuned to my YouTube channel for a video recap of that, plus a video recap of the whole Dubai trip) . . . and being genuinely touched and surprised by a bandmate’s comment that I’m “so visual,” I’ve been creating collages (as seen all over this blog) that are way better than those Instathings, and I even came up with my phoenix/mermaid photoshoot out of thin air.

collages.056Plus, I commissioned two newly designed dresses and had them made at a local tailor’s (and blogged all about it), and I’m really loving finding new ways to express myself visually!

tailor made.060

So what’s next for me? A Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring the 10 best things about being back home?

Nah, too predictable.

See you next time ;-)


Dubai recap – two months left!

Well hi!

130 days in Dubai … has everyone back home forgotten about me yet?  Haha!

With two more months til hometime, here are a few updates for the curious …


IMG_0144Our shows continue to go well, especially on Friday nights when we get to perform outside on the beach.  Here’s a clip from two Fridays ago – hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you soon!

instatrisseI now have an Instagram account, and I post new pics and/or videos every day, so you can peek in on the highs and lows of my #Dubailife =) Just follow @chattrisse

jan 30 2014Coming up next, I have my sights set on the Caribbean!  There is an incredible opportunity to spend July and August on the beautiful island of Tobago, and now that my video and bio are in, I need your help to get me there.  I’d be so grateful if you could take the time to “Like” the 60 Days in Paradise Facebook page and leave a comment about why Chattrisse Dolabaille should be the first-ever Island Connoisseur, and/or do the same thing on Twitter by mentioning @60daysparadise and @chattrisse and using the hashtag #60days … the Top Ten finalists will be announced on April 21st, and if I’m one of them I’ll need all the votes I can get to land the gig!

flyboard10Some of the experiences I’ve enjoyed here so far are camel riding, fly boarding (now that was a thrill), some shopping, lots of tanning, and even more peacock-watching.  Last week I posted ten more things that are on my to-do list … so far I’ve completed #9, booked #4 and #6, picked a tentative date for #2 and #5, and I hope to get #7 done this month as well …  stay tuned!

DSC07672And last but not least, I set a personal goal to write 50 new songs during this Dubai sojourn of mine; as of yesterday, I’m up to 37, planning to blow that goal out of the water.  Will I end up with 55?  60?  Time will tell …


All in all, I’m excited to go home, but I’m glad it isn’t time to go just yet.  Til next time!


Dubai recap – 2 months in and still going strong …

Before this stint in the Middle East, the longest I had ever been away from home was about 7 weeks, when I interned in Washington, DC.  (Shoutout to everyone from BET’s main campus!) So one thing I was excited to experience was being away from home for a long time. Anything over 3 or 4 months, with no visits back home, is long to me.

Now it’s been 2 months since I left Toronto (flew out on November 27th), and I can honestly say the time is going by faster than I thought it would. Working 6 nights a week is probably one of the reasons why. In Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple one of the characters says “Time moves slowly, but passes quickly” and that is so true – sometimes I’m in the middle of a set thinking “How is it that only 16 minutes of this set have passed and there are still THREE MORE SETS to go before bedtime?!?”

And yet, when I look back through my photos and videos, I’m reminded that I’ve been making good use of the time here. So let’s get you caught up a bit …

DSC07297Ah, the lovely White Orchid Lounge! This has been our show venue since we arrived and in less than a week we will be moving to a different stage here on the resort. I wish we could take all the White Orchid staff with us because they’re so fantastic … fingers crossed, we might get to bring one or two of them … and although I know I’ll miss the children who come dance to our music and the view from the balcony overlooking the pool, I’m looking forward to our new venue too. For one thing, my “commute” will be much shorter … instead of a 3-minute walk, it’ll be a 30-second elevator ride. #likeaboss


January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014

I’ve been getting off the resort and into the city a bit more, which is both nice and necessary.  Almost once a week I find myself at the famous Dubai Mall … it’s humongous and one of my fave shopping centres so I have no complaints on that score! We’re currently in the midst of the Dubai Shopping Festival (yep, that’s a real thing – check the pic below) so between that, looking around in souks like the one where I got the pink wallet/clutch pictured above for less than ten dollars, and a visit to the Dubai Outlet Mall (now that’s a heavenly word combination), I’ve been snagging some great deals.


And I have to say, I feel like I’m settling in pretty well! Eating three times a day is awesome. The weather has had its ups and downs, but it looks like it’s starting to heat back up slowly but surely. Being 9 hours ahead of home makes it tricky to stay in touch as much as I’d like to, but Facebook has become my lifeline and I’m very grateful for Skype as well. I’ve met some awesome people, I’ve written 6 new songs in just over 8 weeks, I’m finding a balance between work and play, and I’m already very excited about the rest of 2014 and into 2015. Oh, and I’m slowly tanning. =)

Stay tuned for more updates and another Top Ten list coming your way!  (The first Tuesday of every month.)  Check out my YouTube channel for videos of the Dubai Marina, the dancing fountains at the Dubai Mall, a baby peacock, clips of our White Orchid performances, and – soon – my first completed video project since I got here.  Much love …

My first week in Dubai

For those of you who missed my December email …


…I’d love to put you on the list.  Just let me know via, easy peasy. ;-)  I don’t like how many features get lost or altered in the transition from MailChimp to WordPress, so chances are good that I won’t continue to rehash my monthly newsletter here on my blog every month.  Forwarned is forearmed, lol …


Well, well, well.

Some of you may recall the time in 2010 when I made it through several rounds of auditions to play the role of Nala for The Lion King onstage in Singapore, and ended up not getting the part. You might remember me trying out for gigs on cruise ships (multiple times), and at Universal Studios Japan (multiple times), and sending my information out to booking agencies for gigs in places like Mexico.  Maybe you knew that I felt pretty good after an audition for a Calgary booking but never heard back about that role, or that I spent lots of time and energy (and money) with a 7-piece band in 2012 which was supposed to play a nightclub in the Middle East for a few months … except that only 3 out of the 7 of us were ultimately offered the job.  And uh, yeah, I was one of the “other 4,” lol!

Actually, most of you are probably learning all of that for the first time, because I’m not one to enjoy talking about “failed” auditions (this post on my blog covers some of the many reasons why).  And now that I’m settled into my own room in a resort on the Gulf of Arabia, with the first week of shows behind me and many more months ahead, rereading encouraging letters/cards/emails and sharing pics and video with as many people as I can … I feel like I can finally exhale.

A Facebook friend of mine posted this recently and I just had to borrow it:

“It’s hard to keep waiting for something you cannot guarantee will ever happen, but it’s even harder to give it all up know it’s everything you want.”

I could say “Amen” from now until New Year’s Eve and it still wouldn’t be enough to show how much I agree with that quote.

So I want to send a very special shoutout to every one of you who is pushing for something big that *might* not happen (at least not in the way you think it will), because the fact that you’re still going for it means you are guaranteed to receive some kind of reward.

Now for those of you who weren’t really looking for a pep talk (lol, sorry!), here’s what’s new in my world!

1. Dubai.
I’m here, loving it, and settling in nicely.

2. Blogging and vlogging.
I will keep everyone updated as best as I can through and and … of course these monthly newsletters are good too but there will be something new every few days, if not every day, on at least one of those sites.  Please stay connected =)  (I actually just posted a recap here on my blog, complete with a few pics, so check it out!)

3. Staying busy (without the mic).
Singing these six shows a week and doing rehearsals is, of course, my main focus, but thanks to the magical splendour of the internet I’m also still involved with SabreUp, L I Brown Productions, and of course my online business with Arbonne International.  So if you need to hire talent/servers/support staff for one of those holiday functions coming up … or get a Digital Dossier  to highlight your strengths and start the new year out right … or shop for amazing botanically-based products now to score yourself an additional discount for later … just let me know!

4.  Writing.
Stay tuned.


Love and Peace,



Dubai recap – Show Week One is done …

… and today is my day off, so my goal is to bang this out and get back outside =)  (Today I finally got to the beach.  Video footage here.)

So, Jo Maharaj and I have finished our first week of shows at the White Orchid Lounge (Palm Tree Court, Jebel Ali Golf Resort, Dubai).

White Orchid Lounge

White Orchid Lounge

With the creative band name of “Jo & Chattrisse” (yep, really), we have entertained several dozen guests for four sets a night since Monday night.

1st night onstage

1st night onstage

We have crooned, laughed and sometimes improvised through such varied songs as Sweet Love by Anita Baker, Beyonce’s version of Fever (we’ve done those two every single night so far), Rehab by Amy Winehouse, Just the Two of Us by Bill Withers, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, Let’s Stay Together by Al Green, No No No by Dawn Penn (click here to see a snippet of video footage), and Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross.  We’ve had regulars come back for 5 or 6 nights in a row, we’ve had people up and dancing, we’ve even had the power cut out on us more than once.  (That’s when your improv and/or a cappella skills come in REALLY handy!)

We’ve garnered fans, like 5-year-old Daisy who left us this note:

It says "I love your singing so much" =D

It says “I love your singing so much” =D

And taken song requests …

We get more requests for Bob Marley than for anyone else, and people from every background you can imagine are singing along, bopping their heads, or up and dancing.  #proudtobeJamaican

We get more requests for Bob Marley than for anyone else, and people from every background you can imagine are singing along, bopping their heads, or up and dancing. #proudtobeJamaican

And I am already so wholeheartedly grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity.

If you or someone you know is in the Dubai area and wants to check us out, come through!  No cover, if you’ve got questions you can leave a comment here or at

And with that – it’s lunchtime!  Feel free to stay in touch via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and of course right here at  Thank you so much for your support and well wishes; bye for now!!!


i wanna be down

Imitation is the highest form of flattery … Really?

I’m inclined to believe that imitation is another name for laziness. There was this kid who copied something from me in third grade, some in-class thing, I don’t even remember the details. But I remember being angry about it, because I was very proud of my own creativity and my own ideas and how dare anyone else try to pass them off as theirs. As I got older, that and other experiences … like students trying to convince me to do their work for them, or asking me to cheat with/for them … led me to a conclusion which was pretty hard to shake: if you don’t have what it takes to do what I’m doing, you don’t deserve to get what I’m getting.

Yikes! Those are the kinds of words spoken by people who don’t have many friends, eh? I’ve already blogged on how I felt about collaborative work as a student, and when it comes right down to it, I still believe that everyone needs to pull their own weight.

So the years went on and I grew more entrenched in my do-it-yourself-like-I-did posture, and that (combined with my dad’s disappointment in any artist who performed a cover of someone else’s song and didn’t “do something different” with it) led me to three conclusions.

  1. Singing other people’s songs is the lazy way up for new performers.
  2. Singing songs you didn’t write yourself is subpar artistry.
  3. I, as a proud and determined singer/songwriter (emphasis on the SONGWRITER), was going to forge my way nobly up the steep hill of success by singing my own material, only occasionally throwing in a cover song to appease the masses who just didn’t know any better.

Well, if you can’t guess how that turned out, I’ve been pursuing my career for 17.5 years now and I still have a long, LONG way to go. And as I gear up to spend many, many nights singing songs that have been made famous by other people, I’ve come to a few new conclusions about cover songs and cover bands and cover singers.

  1. Singing other people’s songs is how every one of us started, unless someone can find me a singer who was creating original lyrics and melodies from the time he or she learned to sing.
  2. Singing songs you didn’t write yourself can help you become a better writer, much like reading books you didn’t write yourself can sharpen your skills as an author.
  3. I, with full firsthand knowledge of how difficult it can be to get a crowd to warm up to a person they don’t know singing songs they’ve never heard before, really enjoy singing lots of songs I didn’t write, whether I end up modifying them or singing them exactly the way they were first performed (not all songs; there are some “classics” which crowds love and which I despise thoroughly, but those are the exception and not the rule).
  4. Some songs I’ve always loved listening to are, lo and behold, covers! “Taking a Chance on Love” has been recorded by 70 different artists and bands according to Wikipedia; it’s one of my favourite old songs and I thought the version I heard first, from 1943, was the original but it turns out it’s from Cabin in the Sky which was released in 1940. The late great Luther Vandross was a genius at breathing new life into old songs (I didn’t find that out until recently that lost of the Luther tracks I grew up listening to, like “Since I Lost My Baby” and “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” were covers). And, it takes a special kind of insight and artistry to take a previously existing song and turn it into a message for a new generation, or a response to the original track, or a challenge or tribute to the earlier creator(s). Yes, this means I don’t have a problem with most remixes and most examples of sampling. Which is funny, because the nine-year-old me would be rolling her eyes right now at all these copycats out there …

    We miss you Luther!

    We miss you Luther!

  5. Performing is not always about what the performer wants to do. It’s usually more about what the audience wants to hear. And they tend to want something familiar more than something brand new. I’m glad bands like Boyce Avenue picked up on this, because I probably wouldn’t know who they were if they had considered themselves too good to do cover songs; and now I see them as a personal musical inspiration.
My biggest audience so far (Massey Hall) was all cover songs - here I am honouring The Ronettes

My biggest audience so far (Massey Hall) was for a show of all cover songs – here I am honouring The Ronettes

Don’t get me wrong — I still feel icky about the possibility of monetary gain at someone else’s expense because I relied on their pre-existing work instead of creating anything new, so I doubt I’ll be content to only sing covers for the duration of my career. But I promise I don’t hate them any more. And yes, you’re welcome to cover one of my songs — just make sure you do a better job of it than I did. ;-)


Just in case you missed my November email update!

If you’re on my mailing list (you clever creature, you) you’ve already received all this info in your inbox, so feel free to scroll down and check out some other articles, I promise they’re all good.

If you aren’t on my mailing list yet … this is what you missed this month!


It’s about that time …

I’m roughly two weeks away from taking off for Dubai, and my list of things to do before I go is still pretttty long.

But the important things are getting taken care of … like learning the first 60 or 70 songs, packing, saying my goodbyes, getting a universal adapter for my appliances … buying at least one pair of shades ;-)

Anyway! Possibly my last Canadian performance for the year was a short-notice duet with my father at a ceremony for a very close friend of the family. Dad and I sang “When We Were Kings,” a song we’ve been performing together for years now, and I think we were pretty darn good! ;-)

Shoutouts are also going to my mom, who has launched her awesome signature product, the Digital Dossier. What’s that, you ask? Picture a resume, an interview, an audition, and a headshot all packaged together. Pretty much anyone can use a custom-made Digital Dossier to sell themselves and I’m honoured to be the subject of the first demo, which you can view here, and I’d love to hear your feedback, and feel free to check out to find out how to get one of your own!

Also! A big thank you to Ess for approaching me about an interview for TOinitiative  you can scroll down on my Facebook fan page to see my feature, published at the end of October, and definitely look over the rest of their site too! Lots of helpful resources for entrepreneurs and business owners in and around Toronto.

Last but not least, for those of you who haven’t had a chance to see the lyric video for Pisces yet, please view and share and like and let me have your feedback. Much love ALWAYS!!!

Love and peace,


You Are What You Are Reading

We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” right? Lately I find what I’m reading is showing up in my life way more than anything I’m eating is showing up in my appearance. And it’s really cool…


Example #1: This One’s Pretty Obvious.

After reading several books on managing money (authors like David Chilton, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, David Bach, Robert Kiyosaki, Dani Johnson, and George S Clason; also, listening to mp3s by T Harv Eker) I’ve begun making some serious positive changes in the ways that I handle my finances. I was pleasantly surprised that my piece on the dollars-per-use shopping rule was so well-received, but I never thought of myself as someone who others would ask for money advice from until very recently. Now maybe it’s not surprising to most of you that after I became more educated on a subject, evidence of that education began appearing in my life (I paid off one credit card this year and I’m on track to being debt-free by age 30, yay!), but read on…


Example #2: Now it Gets More Interesting!

I’m finding that biographies are impacting my daily life too, like when I read Kitty Carson’s biography on Oprah Winfrey this summer. I’m well-aware of Oprah-the-lifestyle-guru-and-media-mogul, but reading this book taught me a lot about Oprah-the-broadcaster-and-interviewer, and all of a sudden – seemingly out of nowhere – I was given the opportunity to do a live webcast interview of Destra Garcia, during one of my best weeks in recent memory (which I also blogged about). I’m not under any illusion that I’m on Oprah’s level because of this one gig, but to have that experience with one of the biggest soca artists in the world sure made me feel I could do some pretty big, impressive, Oprahesque things!

A great live interview with DESTRA

A great live interview with DESTRA


Example: #3: From Interesting to Awesome.

Let’s talk about Dorothy Dandridge. I love her story and her image and her legacy so much that it’s on my list to do a blog piece just about her, but here’s a quick synopsis for those of you who don’t know the name and haven’t already left me to go Google her.

The beautiful, elegant Dorothy Dandridge

The beautiful, elegant Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge was an African-American singer and actress who rose above numerous personal tragedies and professional obstacles to become the first black person nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award (1954, for Carmen Jones). After the nomination, her career plateaued and then declined, and just as it seemed she was on the comeback trail again, she died of a drug overdose. She blazed a trail for hundreds of other performers, including Halle Berry who played Dandridge in the HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and eventually became the first African-American to win the award for which Dorothy had made history by being nominated.

Here she is again! Just gorgeous.

Here she is again! Just gorgeous.

So what does this have to do with me? I kid you not: things in my life have started to pop up which mirror things I’ve been reading about in her life. (I read Donald Bogle’s biography of her three times before  returning it to the library this month, and did some online research too.) For one thing, the descriptions of the Dandridge Sisters (Dorothy, her sister Vivian, and their friend Etta Jones) harmonizing together and getting rave reviews definitely stuck with me because, as some of you know, deep down inside I would love to be part of a small singing group. Oooh, how exciting it must have been to sing with the big names of the time, like Nat King Cole or Jimmy Lunceford and his band. I would want to be the girl in the middle, like Dorothy was. And then what happened? Again seemingly out of nowhere, I was offered the chance to harmonize in a trio as backup for Lorne Morris, with several very talented musicians accompanying us… and guess who was in the middle?

L to R: Etta Jones, Dorothy Dandridge, Vivian Dandridge

L to R: Etta Jones, Dorothy Dandridge, Vivian Dandridge

L to R: Kelly Holiff, me, Kate Etienne, Lorne Morris

L to R: Kelly Holiff, me, Kate Etienne, Lorne Morris (Gareth Parry is on guitar in the background, and the DOP Martin is behind Lorne with the Steadicam)

Another similarity that made itself evident was the acting connection. Dorothy always had her sights set on a career as a leading lady of the screen. I felt for much of this year that my own career was at a plateau, but while reading and rereading the biography, I found myself going to multiple acting auditions per week. (My Carmen Jones hasn’t come along yet, but hey, it didn’t happen overnight for Dorothy either!)

And finally, one of the most triumphant periods in Dorothy’s career was her travelling nightclub act – she sang and gave wonderful stage shows, which the audiences loved night after night, accompanied by talented pianists like Phil Moore (another African-American groundbreaker in the arts and entertainment scene). And wouldn’t you know it, last weekend I signed a contract to perform for two months at a resort in Dubai as part of a duo – the other performer being a talented piano player who also sings – whaaat?!? Awesome!

I’ll release more details on that gig later, and will most definitely be blogging from overseas. But all this to say, even more than what you watch on a screen or hear in your earbuds, I find that what you read in a book in your hands has a way of showing up in your life in ways you weren’t expecting. (Whether this also happens when you’re reading my blog, I have no clue lol – you’ll have to let me know!)

10,000 Hours

There is an awesome book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers, and one of the “that-makes-total-sense-so-why-am-I-almost-surprised-to-read-this-in-print” revelations I took away from it was his “ten thousand hour rule.” In summary, Gladwell points out that 10,000 hours of dedicated practice are required to become a master at anything, and he uses numerous examples (most notably Bill Gates, who spent more than 10,000 hours programming before launching Microsoft, and the Beatles, who spent more than 10,000 hours playing together in Europe before launching in America) to prove this point.

If this huge amount of time and effort is such an important difference between someone who is really really really good at something and someone who is great at it, I wondered, how do I stack up? Good news and bad news: I have no idea.

As a singer, there is no way I could tell you how many hours I’ve spent singing, whether for fun or for practice or both. I started in the church children’s choir; let’s assume that was 30 minutes of practice per week for one year for about 1,500 minutes, or 25 hours not counting performances (I’m lowballing all of these estimates). I remember schoolyard singing competitions and that’s probably worth another 10 hours; at least 100 hours from the time I sang in a gospel band and 40 from the Jazz Ensemble at Baythorn and 150 or so from actual in-class singing at the same school over two years. Plus 20 or so for other performances; I was in the arts program, after all. That’s 345 hours before I started high school. Between the Concert Choir and the York Region Children’s Chorus and Voices of Praise, my high school gospel choir, there had to be another 360 hours for a total of 705 hours of instructed singing time, plus performances. I was in university by the time I started with a vocal coach and got thorough one-on-one vocal training … at least 300 hours’ worth … which finally puts me past 1,000. A tenth of the way there.

This pic is from 2007 (the one up top is from 2009). Even back then I felt like “Um, I’ve been doing this for a pretty long time already…”

Since then, I’ve added hundreds more hours in the form of rehearsals for musical theatre productions, a TV shoot, and dozens (maybe hundreds) of live shows. But what about the (literally) countless hours I spent just singing, not gearing up for any particular piece or performance? In the car, in the house when no one else was home (my favourite), doing dishes, leading youth services, sitting in the pews, at auditions, at the club, at fetes, playing mas, playing with my cousins and friends, writing songs, recording songs, teaching songs to other people, watching movies, learning dance routines, waiting to be picked up from work, waiting to fall asleep? And wait, wait — Gladwell points out that the Beatles played those 10,000+ hours together and it made a big difference. Does that mean I have to discount the hours I spent singing with other singers, or singing along to a radio or album? Or only count the hours I’ve spent singing my own songs that I wrote myself?

Okay, maybe it would be easier to count something other than my singing hours. Like writing; I’m better at writing than I am at singing, in my opinion. But when I considered that math, I stopped before even starting. And I concluded, as I have many times before, that my chosen professions are not linear so it usually doesn’t make sense to try to define or measure my progress in a linear way.

I remember feeling vaguely disadvantaged by this when I was younger. People who want to be chefs or architects or marine biologists have narrower career paths, from what I can tell — although I’m sure students in those paths have to stress over their grades way more than I ever did, so I’m not saying they have it easy at all. What I am suggesting is that when you have to learn on the run and make up a lot of it as you go, the trip might take longer than you thought it would and that fact itself is often enough to slow you down a little bit. The goal may be as bright and visible as it ever was, but the mountain range standing between you and it would be less intimidating if you had, say, a clear map. Or a tour guide. Or a clicker to track the amount of steps you’d taken. Because to the naked eye, your goal still looks very, very far away.

Lofty goal? For sure. Let's see how close I get in the next 12 months =)

Lofty goal? For sure. Let’s see how close I get in the next 12 months =)

Back to the timeline: I wrote my first song in 1996 (it might have been 1995, but again, I’m lowballing so nobody can accuse me of blowing things out of proportion when I’m a big deal) and that’s when I decided to become a famous singer-songwriter. As a kid, I figured I had all the time in the world to get over being shy, learn to sing better, lose weight, master the on-camera interview. Now, as a trained, educated, hungry, hardworking, and (luckily) photogenic adult with hundreds of original songs but no deal, no placements, one incomplete album, and only one radio single, I do have moments where I grope for something “real” to convince me that I’ve made a good amount of progress, distracted though I may have been by things like getting a degree and paying bills. It’s in moments like these that I turn to rules like Gladwell’s, and then turn away again. After all, I’m not yet convinced that I need to become a “master” pop artist, and quite frankly I don’t want to become quite as big as Bill Gates if I have a choice in the matter. So 10,000 hours, while they will accumulate in time, really don’t need to serve as a marker of how far along the path I’ve come.

But it’s good to remind myself that I still have some walking to do.