Somewhere in the Oberkampf area of Paris, I am waiting to meet and interview Alienette Coldfire. After watching her videos and listening to her songs, I am secretly wishing that she offers to sing. Despite our “pa-sample” culture in the Philippines, I do not think I would be able to ask a professional and world-renowned musician for a free performance. So I hope she sings out of her own volition. Finally, she arrives. She walks in through the door, singing.
Alienette is a Filipina chanteuse from Iloilo. In 2016, she was handpicked to do live auditions for France a un incroyable talent, the French spin-off of America’s Got Talent, effectively propelling her into international stardom. Her touching renditions of Les Misérables songs, virally shared, touched hearts across the globe and spawned countless admiring comments and reaction videos.
Today, I catch Alienette on a leisure trip to Paris, and I get to hear her sing.
Her unique voice renders this experience physical as much as it is sentimental. A voice that is stable and hefty.
Full. With a slight vibrato that pierces the air in the room, pierces you. Hovers above like a mist and descends like a soft blanket, leaving you in awe and riddled with goosebumps. In between playful banter, she sings, from Celine Dion power ballads to contemporary Angèle hits. She sings. As if song is just another language, fluidly switched to and from Tagalog, English, and French, all of which she is fluent in.
“I learned French by talking to my friends on the Internet. I listen to podcasts, watch Youtube tutorials, and study French songs,” Alienette shares. This interest developed around the time she heard Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. “She touches me in both artistic and personal ways. Her profile. The way she expresses herself when she sings,” she continues.
This personal connection to chansons française, and French culture in general, became the base and motivation for her language learning and eventual mastery. Today, she speaks like a French woman. “It’s funny, it was just a passion, and now it’s my identity,” she says. “Some people in the Internet, they don’t even ask. They think I’m from Paris.”
This question of identity is important for everyone, but maybe even more so for public figures. Burdened with the pressure of having an image, they are tasked to craft a concise narrative, forcing them to a certain box, a certain stereotype. A notion Alienette turns away from, in favor of a more universal approach to music: “I sing in different genres and languages to convey the idea that music is universal, boundless, and diverse.
People may identify me as a blind singer, but to me, I’m but a singer who happens to be blind.”
Her very screen name, Alienette, loosely translates to little alien girl. It reflects her feelings of unbelonging, being mal placée, out of this world, but also, on the flipside, mysterious, unconventional, and one of a kind. “I feel like when I sing, I don’t belong in this world anymore. I belong nowhere. I am just me, I am the artist that I am.” This screen name is also culturally malleable, an insight she jokingly points out. “If I ever break into the latino music scene, I could just change it to Aliencita Maldita.” Hasta la vista, then, Aliencita.