Meet the 'Du woman'

Singer Frankie Alcala swaps baby blues for rhythm and blues

Interview

How long have you been singing?
All my life! But professionally I’ve been singing for around 20 years now – in South-East Asia, Australia and now here. I sing every night except Mondays at Carters in Wafi. And I do commercials. (Looks bashful) In fact, I’m the ‘doo doo doo doo’ woman (the radio advert for Dubai-based telecom firm du).

Really? Sing it!
(Sings the jingle then bursts out laughing.) It’s so funny: I love jazz, soul, R&B, all sorts of music, yet everyone wants to hear the ‘du’ song!

Was it ever an option for you to stop singing?
When I was eight months pregnant, everyone was pleading with me to stop. I was so big, I was making them nervous when I belted out the high notes! I returned to singing when Bailey was three months old. At first I felt guilty. I’m originally from the Philippines and the culture there is more conservative, so I guess that rubbed off a little. I thought that being a good mum and a good wife would mean giving up singing and, particularly now I’ve turned 40, I thought: Frankie, slow down. But I didn’t really want to stop. The crunch, though, believe it or not, came when I was watching Oprah and she was talking about kids adapting to the parents’ lifestyle, not the other way round and I thought: You know, she’s got a point; and I decided then I would continue. I love my daughter but what if I stopped singing and just put everything into her? I’m not sure it would be good for her and I don’t think it would be good for me. I have to be me and do what I really love. I don’t think I can change it.

So how do you feel when you’re on stage?
It’s not that I feel different – I’m still Bailey’s mum even on stage – it’s just that, now, it’s Frankie’s time. I have to concentrate on singing and being professional. I had a lot of personal stuff going on recently – my mum being alone in the Philippines, the floods – so there was a lot going on in my head. But for three hours every night I put all that to one side and focused on my performance – the show must go on, and all that. It can only be good for my mental health. And I love looking out at the audience and seeing the people I entertain having a good time, and I enjoy the adult conversations about music.

So you feel more grown-up?
Yeah, during the day I’m a mum and a playmate for Bailey, although now she’s two you can have a normal conversation with her, which is hilarious. I take her to an arts and music programme during the day – she’s really musical, which I guess is understandable given her background. Her dad plays the trumpet and she knows what all the instruments are and what sounds they make – flute, trombone, tuba. It’s amazing to watch – I feel like I’m looking at a younger version of myself!

But are the late nights not tiring?
No. I finish singing at midnight during the week and by 1am at weekends, and my husband looks after Bailey on a Friday morning when our nanny is off, giving me an extra hour lie-in. It’s a routine and you get used to it.

Do you think singing makes you a better mum?
I’m really lucky that my schedule fits around Bailey. She’s asleep when I leave at night and I get to spend the whole day with her. But, yes, singing makes me happy, and if I’m happy, she’s happy, everyone’s happy. I love being a mum and I love singing. I have the best of both worlds. Being a mum is a miracle, but it’s important not to forget you still have a life.

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