Overcoming Trials and Reaching for the Stars
By Esther Sanchez
I’m going to be completely honest. A few years ago, the artist known as Christine Michele, seemingly came out of nowhere. Busting onto the local music and theatre scene with an amazing vengeance, many of us who are regulars in this community were curious about this beautiful, young vocalist with stellar pipes who seemed to be clawing her way into our precious little scene whilst we collectively thought, “Who is this girl and what is her deal?” We all soon learned to recognize that Christine is not only a sweet, kind and thoughtful individual…she is a fantastic vocalist to not only work with… but behold.
Born and raised in the Coachella Valley, Christine is a multifaceted talent who, regardless of her young age, has lived some life and has stories to tell. It is not very often that I get to interview an artist who is so willing to be completely open and vulnerable about her life’s journey, be it the good, the bad or the ugly. That being said, I was honored to sit down with the lovely Christine in her tastefully decorated home that she shares with her son to talk about how exactly she got to the place she is in today.
CVW: How did you get started in music and theatre?
Christine: “As far back as about the age of 5, I loved to perform. My sister and I would dress up and my dad would yell out, ‘Presenting the amazing Potenza girls!’ And we would sing for everyone. Of course I would usually push her out of the way because it was my time to shine and I wasn’t one to share the spotlight. But I really think everything started for me when I was in elementary school attending Sacred Heart. We used to go on field trips to see plays and musicals at the McCallum Theater and I remember looking at my mom and telling her, ‘I want to do that. I want to be up there on the stage.’”
Christine continues: “When I was 12 years old I auditioned for my first musical with On Stage Theater Co. It was The Sound of Music. From that point I absolutely fell in love with the theater. I took some voice lessons and have been a performer ever since.”
CVW: So it seems like you had a lot of support from your parents.
Christine: “Oh, yes! Oh my gosh, my mom has always been my support system and biggest fan. She literally sees all my shows twice.”
CVW: Speaking of family, did you inherit your talent from them?
Christine: “I’m actually adopted. But from what I’ve been told, my birth father was apparently a singer. I’ve heard it said that he had an amazing voice so I may have inherited that from him but it was all very much nurtured by my parents who raised me.”
Christine: “Actually, at 17 I ended up taking what turned out to be a 12 year hiatus. I was pregnant at 21, a mother at 22. Then I got married and, you know…life happened. I did the family thing and moved out of state. Eventually I came back to the desert and really felt as though something was missing. I had a real void in my life and it was taking a toll on my happiness. I started working at a restaurant, Cafe Italia where the servers would sing and that actually led to me getting some cool gigs. I got to sing for people like Barbara Sinatra, Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz and Bernie Sanders. Eventually, I found out that they were doing the Rocky Horror Picture Show at COD and I knew that I had to audition. I got back into the theater in 2014 and haven’t stopped since.”
CVW: Let’s fast forward a bit now. It seems like it wasn’t very long ago when you started doing music gigs in venues around town and getting noticed by the local music community. How did that start for you?
Christine: “In 2018 I entered this contest called, “Rising Stars of the Desert.” It was on a whim. I sent in a video and they were like, ‘We’ll call you back.’ I got in, I performed and I actually won for my category which was country. From there, Noe Gutierrez ,who most people know from music in the valley reached out to me and asked if I had ever thought about fronting a band, and I was like, ‘Me? No. A band? I wouldn’t even know where to start with something like that.’”
Christine continues: “I already knew Krystofer Do and Miguel Arballo, who we all know are amazing musicians in their own right and one day I just asked them if they wanted to jam sometime and see what happens? Then I ran into Corwin Hendricks who is an amazing drummer who has been a part of so many great projects and told him about the planned jam session and he was immediately like, ‘Woah! Can I be your drummer?’ And then, it just happened. Christine and the Lost Keys just happened. Things developed pretty quickly after that. It sort of snowballed. We were on the news and getting nominated for awards and I was like, ‘Wow, that was fast!’ That little band was like my window into launching myself out there and now I can’t stop. I just need to keep doing more and more so I can get to that place where I really want to be.”
CVW: I saw that you were recently in a local production of Rocky Horror Picture Show. How did that go?
Christine: “Yes! With Desert Rose Playhouse! There was a whole series of events that led up to that happening. I was originally cast in the role of Columbia before the pandemic forced it to be canceled. All this time went by, and eventually it was decided that the show was back on and I was going to fill the role which I was really excited about. Meanwhile, I went on a trip out of state and before I returned, I realized that my son was going back to school and as soon as I got back I was starting rehearsals which were four nights a week would be taking a lot of time away from him. At that point, I felt like that was something that I just couldn’t do. So unfortunately I had to make the really hard decision of backing out of the role.”
Christine continues: “I wasn’t thrilled about it but I had been in that show before so it was fine. Then funny enough, at the last minute they decided to add extra shows and they were losing some of their dancers. “Phantoms” is what they call them. They asked me if I wanted to fill in and to be perfectly honest, I was in a really dark place at that time. I needed something. I needed theater in my life. At that moment, I knew that’s what was going to make me happy so I went and talked to Phylicia Mason who was the director and played the lead role of Janet. We discussed it, and I agreed to take on the role. I learned all of the choreography in one hour and performed that night.”
CVW: Wow! What a pro, you are! How scared were you?
Christine: “I was pretty nervous but I’ve done it before. Once I was asked to be in a role as the lead 2 weeks before we opened and I had to learn a lot of the lines in that period of time. I’m not exactly sure how I did that because the night before opening I was crying and ready to quit. But that’s not what I do. That would be me giving up and I don’t give up that easily. I don’t care if I’m singing for karaoke or one person, I don’t back out.”
Christine: “Yes. That would be 212. I was approached by their guitarist, Chuck who informed me that they were losing their lead singer, Vinney Berry, and asked if I wanted to fill in. We decided to jam to see how it goes. We did a few songs and they decided they loved me. It’s classic rock which I love to sing so it really worked out. We played the Rock Yard in September and that was really nerve wracking because for me, The Rock Yard is kind of a big deal. I sang some songs with them and had the time of my life. It was the best rush ever! It’s definitely been a trip. It’s like I have to pinch myself. Like, this is actually happening and my dreams are really starting to come true.”
CVW: Is there anything else you are up to locally?
Christine: “Yes, actually I am the vocal director for Children’s Playtime Productions. It’s a youth theater company that has been around for about 30 years. They’re doing this amazing, global event called, ‘All Together Now.’ It’s basically a big cabaret that all kinds of people are auditioning for so I’ll be the vocal coach for that production.”
CVW: Before we wrap up this interview, I wanted to mention that you and I previously discussed the fact that you have been extremely open about the trials and tribulations you have endured throughout your life in addition to your struggles with addiction and mental illness. I know that you have had to deal with some huge blows in your personal life just in the past couple of years and you seem to have come through it shining. I personally want to thank you ahead of time to be so open and willing to share your journey with others because there will certainly be people who read this and might find comfort in your candidness and bravery.
Christine: “Absolutely! I am diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which is really difficult to deal with. When I was 16 I was diagnosed as bi-polar as well but was likely a misdiagnosis. I am really open about it all on social media and with friends because you really never know who you can actually help. I’ve attempted suicide quite a few times in my life and now I know that there is a reason I’m still here.”
Christine continues: “My son’s father passed away 2 years ago. He was amazing. The best father ever! I was actually living with him at the time that he passed because I had absolutely nothing. I was broke, I had no job and was basically homeless. I didn’t want to go back and live with my parents. I didn’t have any direction in life. Then he passed away and I was like, ‘I need to get my s*** together. I think that a death that is so close to you can either break you or make you stronger. It definitely made me stronger.”
Christine continues: “It lit a fire under my ass! I don’t have it all together. I don’t think anyone ever really does. But, I think I’m allowed to say that I’m proud of myself. I think that sometimes people who don’t really know me might think, ‘Oh, Christine, get over yourself. But, if they really knew what I have gone through to get to where I am today….You know I see so many people struggling and I’m like, I promise, it gets better.’”
CVW: And what about your sobriety?
Christine: “Almost 10 years. It’s not always been easy and there were definitely times, especially after my son’s dad died that I would be walking through the store, glancing at the alcohol…contemplating. And then I would snap out of it like, ‘No, Christine. It’s not worth it.’ I would think about all the times I was crazy and went to jail and I’m like, ‘Nope. Not doing that again.’ I have a son that I need to be there for. I am now his rock. I have to be there for him and in my right mind. He needs me too much.”
Christine continues: “I just want people to know that it’s okay to not be okay. If you’re struggling now, I promise it gets better even if you think it won’t. Reach out and ask for help. Asking for help is a good thing! I tell people, ‘Call me. Text me. I don’t care what time it is. I will be there for you because I know what it’s like.’”
You can see Christine perform regularly on stages all over the Coachella Valley and beyond. To keep up with her you can follow Christine Michele on her website, christinemicheleavery.com
If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health issues, you should never hesitate to reach out for help. One way to do so is to contact Calhope.org for guidance and referrals towards the goal of achieving wellness.