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Valerie | "We are a family. And that is the best feeling ever"

The first thing that strikes me when Valerie enters the cafe, is her rather pregnant belly, hard to miss in the skin-tight black wool dress she is wearing. “20 weeks now” she laughs as she gives her stomach a reassuring pat, and sits down on the chair opposite me by the window. “Ah it's good to sit down! I have been standing up at work AAAAALLL morning.” She quickly flags down the waiter to order a ginger and lemongrass tea (her favorite).

The second thing that strikes me is her genuinely natural beauty. The second she smiles the room lights up and I’m at ease. Valerie (“call me Val”) compliments my handbag, which is coral – “perfect for spring!”. I ask her where she works and she tells me Mecca Cosmetica. She is a colour specialist, and as it turns out, is featured this month on a large poster in-store. Her make-up is impeccable, in that barely there kind of way.


But lets talk about the music – that’s why I came here!” she teases. Before we do, I have to ask, that charming accent, where is she from? “Mauritius.” She laughs again before joking “You probably don’t know where that is. It’s a very small tropical island in the Indian Ocean.” I do in fact know where that is. I tell her that I’ve heard there is some amazing music from there. “You’ve heard of sega? I’m impressed! This music is in our blood.” she nods and just then her tea arrives in a nifty glass teapot. “Ow, it’s so hot!”

I ask her to tell me what it was like growing up in such a small country. “Well, it's so small that it feels like almost everyone is a cousin of mine and we know everyone in our neighbourhood. To drive from one side of Mauritius to the other only takes about one hour. My parents lived on one side of the island and drove to work every night to the other side.” What do they do? “They used to play in a cultural troupe, playing sega music to hotel guests in the resorts all over the island. When I was little I stayed with my grandma, but once I got big enough I could come to dance and sing with them. My dad (Clency Gery) is also a singer/songwriter and he won a TV song contest, so his song “Boum Boum” was very famous at home. People still recognise him in the streets today. My mum, Isabelle, runs a music entertainment company too. So you can see I’m born into this business”. Her eyes sparkle and I think she doesn’t take herself too seriously, but it’s true – she has been singing since she was old enough to hold a microphone.

I suggest to her that she is quite the dancer. She chuckles. Having watched her perform with her band several times at the Melbourne Central Lion Hotel over the past few years, I have seen for myself that she has enviable natural rhythm, and a stage presence that is magnetic. I don’t see that kind of audience connection often these days. “But now I can’t dance like that any more, I’m TOO PREGNANT!” She puffs out her cheeks and makes a side to side movement “I can only do the penguin dance now”.

So why would Valerie move to Australia when she was already in paradise? “My dream was too big for my small island. But when I came here to study music at Box Hill TAFE (where she also met her Colombian husband, Seb), I realised Australia was SOOOO big, maybe nobody would notice me here. At home I had already been on TV to sing and I didn’t think I would have to start all over again from the bottom”. Valerie was only 17 when she arrived on our shores, a brave move for someone so young. It must have been scary. “I was actually not that scared… I was super excited to start that new chapter of my life and was very determined to find a band and start making some music."

Did she always know that she wanted to sing? “Yes, for a long time music was the only thing that I wanted to do. But then I discovered makeup and I also developed a love for that. Being both a makeup-artist and a singer both allow me to be creative and to connect with people. I now have my own business called Marielou Makeup”. She proudly shows me her Instagram, filled with images of her work. They are great photos. So how does a little Mauritian girl suddenly find herself with a record deal with a major label, I ask. Valerie playfully punches me in the arm “17 is not that little!” I beg to differ. She pauses wistfully to sip her tea with a wry smile. “Do you want the long story or the short story? I’ll tell you what, you can have the short story. It wasn’t just instant like that, boom, you know? I was in a band and we performed for several years. We even toured Australia together. I was very blessed that my best friend (bandmate) Leo really believed in me and he was always looking for and creating opportunities for me to get discovered. It took some doing, but we managed to meet the right people at the right time, and suddenly I was in Sydney auditioning for the CEO of Sony Music”.

Valerie’s first single “I’ll Be Loving You” (and subsequent eponymously titled EP) were released earlier this year. The single received some commercial airplay and was well-received. So why the split? “Well, without going into too much detail, I would say it was bad timing for me. I was very ill in the first couple of months of my pregnancy, so I was not really able to concentrate on my commitments and obligations as an artist”. It seems from her account, that ultimately the decision to terminate the contract, was a natural and mutual one. “But I still want to make music, perhaps now even more than before. But with less pressure and more freedom. I do it for love, you know what I mean? I love to sing and perform because THAT is what makes me happy. I don’t care about fame or money or anything like that, and most important of all, I want to be able to be myself. And I want to write songs that I love, and perform them with the people that I love.” Signing with Damasta Recordings earlier this month, means she can do all those things. “We are a family. And that is the best feeling ever.” Valerie nods and checks her watch. Her lunch break is nearly over.

Today, Valerie’s first single with Damasta Recordings is released. “Thanks to some hackers (DDOS attack that affected Spotify) you can buy or stream my song everywhere EXCEPT Spotify at the moment” We both roll our eyes. Jinx! Stupid hackers, I agree, they really could have chosen a better time, hopefully it’s fixed soon. “This single is a song I just LOOOOVE and it’s called “I Wanna Know” – written in Mauritius, did you know? So it is very special to me, and cool.” I agree, it’s a laid back mid-tempo track, with a cool urban, yet tropical vibe, and some wicked deep bass that kicks in just when you wish it would. Valerie’s vocal is emotive and sensual, expressing the desire for honesty in a relationship – “are we a thing or not?” a feeling I’m all too familiar with myself. You do really find yourself wanting that guy to treat her right. “Of course it’s not about Seb, he would never do that to me, hehe” With that, Valerie stands, collects her things and I wish her all the best on the rest of her pregnancy, and baby due early next year. She kisses me on the cheek and rushes off to work. When I go to pay I find she has paid for my coffee already.

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