French Prince Saves Damsel


Sometimes princes do show up and save you – and sometimes in a most unexpected way.

July 29th, Georgia and I were sitting in Umbrella Media Studios. We had already recorded two days that week and had a good jump on my new album (The Secret of Happiness due out this November!). Our big days with musicians were mostly done, vocals were underway, we were in the midst of music chaos – my favorite locale – but something was hanging over my head. So many disparate elements go into making a CD from conception to release, my least favorite of which is … cover art. Cover art requires a photo shoot. You might think an actress loves taking pictures. You’d. Be. Wrong.

I am all about the music. This album is thrilling for me as it combines my gal-pal-ship/collaboration with Georgia, my adoration of and writing with Brian Haner, new songs from amazing contemporary theatre composers like Paul Gordon and Jason Robert Brown (who is also arranging a stunning Paul Simon tune for me)… I am loving every aspect of this production, but for those darned photos.

I like to get the rough stuff over first, so the week prior I had a photo shoot with an LA photog, that was … fine, but uninspiring. Yet in an effort to avoid having another shoot, I was trying to talk Georgia (my producer) into how “great” those shots were. “See? See? Isn’t this perfect?” She wasn’t buying.

Then, on a break I checked my email and uncovered a message through my website from a fan – always a nice distraction. But this was no ordinary fan. This one happened to be celebrated French photographer, Olivier Ciappa.

Learn more and LIKE Olivier here!


He introduced himself as a fellow artist who enjoyed Broadway music and who happened to (from time to time) play my CDs while he was shooting. He wrote that he had a trip to New York planned and would I be interested in having a photo shoot – his gift? Holy moly! I went to his site and spent the next thirty minutes (on the clock at the recording studio – cha ching) looking at his incredible body of work. I was particularly moved by his photo series of mothers and children. I showed a few to Georgia, she stopped what she was doing to look, saw what I saw and half-jokingly said, “Maybe he’ll shoot your cover.” Hmmmm.

I wrote back to Olivier, told him how much his work intrigued me, and how I was very interested, but now lived in LA. But also how I was in the midst of a new recording, needed some photos for that, and without being presumptuous (yeah, right) would he consider shooting for the CD? Oh, and by the way, will you do a session with my young, wiggly children? I hit “send” and did not expect to receive a reply.

He responded that he was coming to LA, too! And so it began.

Before we even met, we talked about ideas. I sent him rough mixes of the songs from the CD; he listened and conceptualized. His graphic designer, David, created preliminary sketches of shots. We set a date.

As the time drew nearer we tried to find a location, and ultimately Olivier offered to drive to me (little did he know LA traffic) 50 miles south of where he was staying. [Incidentally, in the category of “it’s a small world,” he happened to be staying with Disney animator, Andreas Deja “Did I know him?” he asked. Um, yes! Andreas animated the character of Hercules, I hung out with him on several occasions, then I lured him down to the school of the arts (OCHSA) a decade ago to talk with art students there. In fact, I have a sketch of Gaston (who he also animated) hanging on my wall outside my office.] I couldn’t believe it.

The day of the shoot, Olivier arrived after having spent several hours in his rental car in the worst traffic, and yet he was so lovely and kind. He charmed my shy girls immediately – probably the accent. And with my pal Karen to help wrangle the kidlets, we headed off to a nearby park to shoot. Olivier wanted to catch a certain light, which meant shooting at sunset (nearly 8pm in summer – bedtime for the girls) a tough feat – and we knew we’d only have 10 to 15 minutes to capture magic.

We found a spot at the park and I hung out with the girls, while Olivier hilariously hid in different areas to photograph us naturally. He wanted something real. So did I. Besides, try posing with a 20-month-old and a hungry 4-year-old! We shot for 20 minutes.

When I saw the photos later I was blown away at how Olivier can capture light, emotion, action. Were I to attempt a photo in that light, my camera would show blackness. His captured life.

One of hundreds of shots Olivier captured.

A few days later, Olivier and his pals headed to Disneyland for the day, and we joined him for a few hours. Again he caught some moments on his camera (of my family watching a parade) that take my breath away. Goodness knows I have endless snapshots of my little ones, but only now, thanks to Olivier, do I have photos that capture how these girls make my husband and me feel – the richness of our relationship with these funny roommates we have. Each photo tells a story. Personal to us, but universal.

Isla and I are watching Nina run around.
Nina sees a REAL princess at Disneyland!

Yes, Olivier has vision; he is talented. But he’s also such a lovely, authentic, heartfelt soul. As much as his camera captures the beauty around him, I think it equally encapsulates Olivier’s own splendor. These photos are a window into their subjects, yes, but also their creator. And they cause a response in me, the viewer. That fact says everything about his artistry … In my own world, I hope this is what I am able to accomplish with music. I hope when singing I tell the story, provide an insight into the writer and also me … and ultimately show you an aspect of yourself.

Olivier is a prince. No doubt about it. Swept me off my feet, saved me (and my CD!), and made me (and my girls) feel truly princess-like. I am reminded over and over again how fortunate I am to meet and work and befriend such people. Merci, Olivier. Can’t wait to share the photos (not seen here) that are on the CD!


The prince, Olivier.


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