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Hélène Ségara was born in Six-Four-les-Plages, a small seaside town on the Mediterranean coast, on 26 February 1971. Hélène spent her early childhood living with her Italian father, an office clerk who worked at the Seyne-sur-Mer shipyard, and her Armenian-born mother, who worked in the local tax office. When her parents divorced in 1979 Hélène went to live with her mother, but relations between the two became increasingly strained and the young girl began to spend more and more time with her grandparents.
Hélène had been a passionate music fan from an early age and her childhood dream was to launch a professional singing career. Her grandparents actively encouraged her passion and, at the tender age of 11, Hélène took the first step towards achieving her dream, winning a local song contest with her performance of the Nana Mouskouri classic "L'Amour en héritage".
Meanwhile, Hélène's relationship with her mother continued to deteriorate and, when she turned 14, she decided to move out and go and live with her father. The move coincided with a particularly turbulent period in Hélène's adolescence. The teenage rebel insisting on leaving school as soon as she could and began singing in a series of clubs and bars along the French Riviera. Hélène wasted no time in adapting to her new lifestyle, earning valuable live performance experience and attracting a local following of fans.
The talented teenage singer soon built up her own extensive repertoire, largely made up of covers of French and Anglo-Saxon hits. In 1993 Hélène went into the studio for the first time to record a debut EP entitled "Loin" (Far). Unfortunately, Hélène's debut release failed to make any kind of impact on the French charts.
In 1996 Hélène decided to make a few major changes in her life, leaving the South of France to move to Paris with her 6-year-old son Raphaël. Life in the French capital proved to be fairly tough for the first few months, Hélène missing the warm Mediterranean sun and the vibrant Latin temperament of the people in the South. However, Hélène gradually built up a small circle of new friends and colleagues who introduced her to producer Fabrizio Salvadori. It was Salvadori who would bring the young singer to the attention of Orlando (brother and producer of the famous 70's diva Dalida).
Orlando was immediately impressed by Hélène's voice and offered his services as her impresario. Under Orlando's guidance, Hélène would totally change her media image, shedding several kilos in the process. Orlando went on to introduce his young protégéé to a host of leading songwriters and composers – and before long, Hélène was ready to record her official debut single "Je vous aime Adieu". The song, which proved to be an instant hit with the French public, was to launch young Hélène Ségara's career in style.
Encouraged by the success of this first single, Hélène went into the studio to begin work on her debut album "Cœur de verre" (Heart of Glass). The album was written by the hit songwriting team which had come up with "Je vous aime Adieu" - Thierry Geoffroy, Christian Loigerot and Christian Vié – and also featured contributions from Hélène herself. Following the huge critical success of "Je vous aime adieu" (the song won 'Le prix Rolf Marbot' awarded by the French music copyright association, Sacem, in the spring of '97) Hélène went on to release a second single from the album. The single "Les Vallées d'Irlande" was written by the brotherly double act Alain and Marc Nacash.
However, the highlight of Hélène's first album was undoubtedly her duet with the classical Italian singing star Andrea Bocelli. The pair teamed up on the track "Vivo per lei" – although their duet was actually a virtual one, the singers recording their individual contributions in their own separate studios.
In 1997 Hélène auditioned for the role of Esmerelda, the female lead in Luc Plamondon and Richard Cocciante's musical "Notre-Dame de Paris". Much to her disappointment, Hélène was pipped at the post by the Israeli-American star Noa, who was finally chosen to play Esmerelda. However, after recording the album version of "Notre-Dame de Paris", Noa decided that her hectic schedule would not allow her to set off on tour with the stage version of the musical. Plamondon and Cocciante were thus faced with the problem of finding a new Esmerelda to step in and take Noa's place at the last moment. And it was then that the pair came up with the bright idea of casting Hélène in the role.
Hélène thus found herself thrown into rehearsals with the musical's French/Quebecois cast, preparing for the role she thought she'd lost. As music fans will know, "Notre-Dame de Paris" has proved a phenomenal hit to date, turning young Hélène Ségara into a household name. Plamondon and Cocciante's musical, which premièred at the Palais des Congrès in Paris in September '98, went on to play to capacity audiences over the next six months. And in March '99 the cast took "Notre Dame de Paris" to Quebec, where ticket sales have gone on smashing records.
Needless to say, "Notre-Dame de Paris" has attracted enormous attention in the media and Hélène Ségara, along with the other singers performing lead roles in the show, has reaped huge benefits in terms of her career. Indeed, the young French singer was recently invited into the studio to record the soundtrack to the French version of Disney's cartoon film "Anastasia". Hélène has also been busy on the fund-raising front, recording a duet with one of her Notre-Dame co-stars, Garou ("L'Amour existe encore") for the compilation CD "Ensemble contre le sida" (All Together In The Fight Against AIDS).
The Dalida Connection
At the end of 1999 producers began working on two new versions of "Notre-Dame de Paris" (a new French version and an English adaptation). Hélène did not join the rest of the cast in work on these new productions, however. Her voice was suffering from over-exertion and her recent performance in Quebec had not gone down well with audiences or local music critics who complained that her vocals had been too weak. Quitting "Notre-Dame de Paris" at the beginning of 2000, Hélène decided to focus her attention on her solo career instead, working under the guiding eye of Orlando, brother, mentor and producer to the legendary Dalida.
Héléne's new album, "Au nom d'une femme", proved to be a huge hit with the record-buying public, thanks to the phenomenal success of the first single release, "Il y a trop de gens qui t'aiment" (written by Christia Vie and Christian Loigerot, the duo behind "Je vous aime Adieu"). Hélène's new single was soon to be heard on radio stations right across Europe and, within weeks of its release, rocketed to the top of the charts.
Ms. Ségara went on to triumph at the Midem record industry festival, held in Cannes in January 2000, carrying off the award for Best Female Newcomer of the Year at the NRJ Music Awards. But Hélène was pipped at the post at the "Victoires de la Musique" awards the following month, when the award for best new female star went to rising world music star Natacha Atlas. Furious at this outcome, Orlando angrily contested the judges' decision.
The awards appeared to have little bearing on Hélène Ségara's career however. While Hélène may have lost out to Natacha Atlas at the "Victoires de la Musique", she continued to triumph in the French charts with no less than three hit singles - "Il y a trop de gens qui t'aiment", "Parlez-moi de nous" (a duet with Andrea Bocelli) and "Ave Maria Païen". Meanwhile, her album sold like hotcakes, sales rapidly topping the 800,000 mark.
Hélène toured extensively in France throughout the summer of 2000 and in October of that year triumphed at the Olympia, packing out the legendary Paris music-hall four nights running. One of the highlights of the show was a duet with Bruno Pelletier, her ex co-star from the hit musical "Notre-Dame de Paris". In November Hélène joined a host of French stars in the studio to record the fund-raising album 'Ensemble contre le sida' (Together Against Aids), which featured modern versions of carols and Christmas songs.
Following the phenomenal success of her album, "Au nom d'une femme" - which , in the year after its release, sold over a million copies - Hélène went on to triumph at the "Victoires de la musique" awards in February 2001, carrying off the trophy for Best Female Artist of the Year. In October 2001 Hélène Segara was back in the music news with a double CD album, recorded live at her first concert at the Olympia the previous year.
Then, Hélène Segara decided to conquer the Spanish-speaking world. She had all her songs translated into Spanish by singer Nilda Fernandez and, in May 2002, she released a compilation in Spanish entitled "Hélène". Hélène’s fans had yet to wait until March 2003 before she would release an original album.
This new album entitled "Humaine" was claimed to testify of the artist’s maturity. It featured a series of songs that she qualified herself as ‘light, profound and solemn’. Pregnant with her second child, she looked particularly beaming while promoting the single "L’amour est un soleil" (Love is sunshine).
Hélène hit the road again as sales of her album neared the 500,000 mark (within six months of its release). Her fans reveled in her perfectly-paced, professional show. The tour lasted a few months, during which the artist was accompanied by both her husband–who is also her drummer–and their baby. Later, she would give a series of gigs at the Olympia from November 3rd to 8th.
Hélène was forced to interrupt her tour when she fell pregnant with her third child. In October 2004, the singer gave birth to a baby daughter called Maïa.
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