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Mama Sings The Blues


Anais St. John is expecting, but there’s no slowing down for this powerhouse performer

Anais St. John’s Web page bills her as a “singer, model, actor, and educator.” To that résumé, she’ll soon add “mother”—the New Orleans native is due to give birth in June. It’s the latest turn in a career that has earned her degrees in music from Xavier University and the University of New Orleans, and taken her everywhere from solo turns with the New Orleans Opera to her recent New York cabaret debut.

Around New Orleans, St. John may be best known for her jazz trio’s performances at the Ritz-Carlton and the Windsor Court, her stint as an Egyptian temptress in the Bust-Out Burlesque revue, and her one-woman shows at Le Chat Noir. But anyone who saw her third-trimester performance at the French Quarter Festival could tell that the lady may be temporarily large, but she is most definitely in charge.

How far along are you, Anais?
Seven and a half months, but I’m still singing. I’m going to keep it up for another month. Thank God for operatic training—it’s taught me how to fight through breathing issues, and there are a lot of those with 40 extra pounds on my body!
Do you know if you’re having a girl or a boy?
It’s a girl, and we’re naming her Elle St. John. It’s not a family name, just something my husband and I thought would be simple and pretty.

What are you planning to do on Mother’s Day?
I’m planning on being pampered. Let’s just say: Someone better be planning to pamper me! I would love a spa day—being pregnant has done a number on my back. And I’d like to share Mother’s Day with my mom.

The prospect of bringing up a child in New Orleans: exciting or scary?
Exciting! I’m a full-time music teacher at St. Trinity Episcopal School, and they have a full-time nursery. I can come back to work after six weeks and have lunch with her every day, and have her raised in an environment of love and understanding. As far as New Orleans in general … my mom and my dad’s husband are here, and I can’t think of another city that’s better to expose her to music and culture.

We live Uptown in the “isle of denial,” but my mom is in Gentilly. I want my daughter to know the whole city. You’re gonna see me with her at festivals, at the zoo and the aquarium. I want her to know how to dance and laugh and sing. I grew up here, and if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for her!

You made your New York debut earlier this year….
Oh, that was very, very exciting. I brought my cabaret show No Reservations, and I was booked at the Duplex, and I performed at Birdland. My husband’s from New York, and I found an audience through my New Orleans people, who called and e-mailed everyone they knew.

I did blues songs, dealing with relationships, food, double entendres—a very sexy show. And I was able to sing for Tony Bennett, who happened to be at Birdland the night I sang. It was a Monday night showcase for all the Broadway divas and “divos.” I did a song by [New Orleans songwriters] Harry Mayronne and Ricky Graham, because I wanted to do something he’d never heard, and he came up to me after my performance to compliment me. I was just beaming from ear to ear.

Tell me about performing in Bust-Out Burlesque. Was that fun?
I’d never done anything like that. I don’t have dance training. Rick DeLaup, the director, called me out of the blue and said he was interested in putting together this authentic burlesque, keeping the tradition of the old-school Bourbon Street burlesque dancers alive. I wasn’t nervous about the striptease, as I’ve never been a shy girl—I was nervous about the dance part!

It’s something I’ll probably never do again, but it was refreshing and fun. Sexy. Just three months of fun, and I ended up in the best shape of my life.

What’s on the schedule career-wise after the baby is born?
I’m going to come back like a locomotive! I know that as a performer, the longer you sit back, the more you’re missing out. I want to come out with a CD, resume my Saturday night position at the Windsor Court and get back into performing with the Women of Jazz at the Royal Sonesta. I want to do Jazz Fest. I want to do another cabaret show. I want to do everything, and I know that’s ambitious, but it’s not impossible!

Okay, Anais, five quick questions. Saintsor Hornets?
Oh, my goodness. [Long pause] Hornets.

Cats or dogs?
Cats. We have a cat.

Muffuletta or po’boy?

Red beans or jambalaya?
Red beans.

Rum and Coke or gin and tonic?
Rum and Coke.

I bet you’re looking forward to that again.
You’re right!