When You’re Good To Mama…

Or, ‘All great cabaret divas are destined to one day cross paths.’

The first known image of Mama Alto and Ilana Charnelle, 2011

Once there were two vintage-loving chanteuses, drifting separately in the sea that was Monash University Student Theatre.

It was through the insistence of friends that I first met the beautiful Mama Alto, having regularly been encouraged with the likes of, ‘They like jazz and vintage fashion too, you guys need to be friends!’

And when we finally did meet, our friendship was instantaneous. Mama Alto is the most lovely, caring and kind-hearted person, and it has now been nearly four years of sharing Underbelly Razor references, swapping jazz standards, and swooning over Old Hollywood stars together.

As just one sample of Mama’s beautiful soul, below is an excerpt of a letter that they sent me around the holiday season last year.  A believer in beautiful traditions such as Christmas cards, Mama instead sent the non-Christmas-observing me a letter that I still hold so dear I keep it in my songwriting notebook and carry it with me every day.

Mama writes, “Though there is much in this world that would aim to break us, you are a lioness. Stay forever fabulous”.

One thing that I have learnt over the last year is that times of tribulations can show you who is willing to stand unwaveringly by your side, and I count Mama Alto as one my closest friends and confidants. Mama, thank you for sticking by me through the darkest of times, and for lifting me up out of the fog with your beautiful soul. I hope that you know how much I care for you, and I am so excited for what we have in store for the future.

Sisters! Photo by Maggie Journal from Mama Alto’s Season 2015 Launch.

Alongside a beautiful personal relationship, I have been so privileged to also have a professional relationship with Mama Alto, having performed twice in their annual Christmas Special, and appeared in cabarets that they have curated.

Mama Alto's Christmas Special, The Butterfly Club, December 2014. Photo by Natalie King.
Mama Alto’s Christmas Special, The Butterfly Club, December 2014. Photo by Natalie King.

And at Mama Alto’s Season 2015 Launch, which I was honoured to MC, Mama announced that we would be collaborating with the beautiful Miss Chief and the gorgeous Satta to be presenting ‘Sophisticated Lady: A Nightcap with Billie, Judy and Ella’ as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival this September.  It has been so delightful to watch a friend absolutely blossom, and despite setbacks, go from strength to strength and enjoy the success they deserve.

So stay tuned for more fabulous, vintage-inspired collaborations with this caramel goddess, this sophisticated lady, this countertenor diva that I hold so dear to my heart.


I love you, Mama!

Yours & c.,

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