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  1. Her Childhood
  2. Her Musical Beginnings
  3. Mali
  4. The United States
  5. Her First Singing Lessons
  6. Star Academy

Her Childhood

Nolwenn was born in Saint-Renan, near Brest, in France on September 28th 1982.

At the age of four, she left Brittany to go to Paris, then Lille, and finally came back to Guingamp in 1990, the last club where her father, a professional footballer, would play: it was also the year of birth of her little sister Kay. In 1992, her father deserted his family. Nolwenn would live difficult years, other moves relative to her mother's work problems. In December 1993, the whole family moved into her grandparents' house.

Her mother, who worked in Lille and travelled a lot within her activities, returned every weekend to Saint-Yorre. It was a difficult period for Nolwenn and her little sister who, in a certain way, would feel better when their mother lost her job in 1996. From her childhood, Nolwenn got her love for the sea, Brittany and Celtic legends. She also got a great adaptability to people and new situations (she attended six different schools from four to eleven years old).

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Her Musical Beginnings

It was her music teacher, in her first year at the Celestins secondary school in Vichy, who detected her great skills for music, and advised her to learn to play the violin. The violin Nolwenn uses was offered by her grandmother, who had got it herself from her father.

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At the age of thirteen, she won the Cora hypermarket contest "Les écoles du désert" (The schools of the desert), and went to Mali for ten days for a humanitarian mission, which led her from Gao to Tombouctou. In 2001, when she enrolled in the University of Law of Clermont-Ferrand (in case singing shouldn't have worked), she was hoping for a diplomatic career in the UN or a non-governmental organization, that experience having made her aware of the Third World problems very early.

To the financial problems linked to her mother's job loss, her grandfather's disease would be added. Indeed, in 1994, she would face his suffering from cancer, then her two great-grandmothers' close deaths. Her current dark side has probably something to do with that period.

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The United States

In July 1998, she was chosen by the Rotary Club of Vichy to spend a year in the United States as an exchange student. She left knowing she wouldn't see her grandfather again; he would die in November 1998. For Nolwenn, that last goodbye remains a determining moment in her life; she wrote a song on this theme besides.

That year in the United States was hard, as it meant one year without seeing her family, a difficult thing when you are sixteen. However, Nolwenn came out of it stronger, and completely bilingual. Over there, she made real friends, and two new families with whom she is still a lot in contact. When Nolwenn came back to France, she would feel bad for a very long time, because she felt more American than French. She didn't know very well where her real place was any more. While she was in Cincinatti (Ohio), she would go to a two-day workshop in a Performing Arts School, a friend of hers attended. That school would certainly make her feel like auditioning for Star Academy later on.

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Her First Singing Lessons

It was when she came back from the United States that she decided to take classical singing lessons, and slightly gave up playing the violin. In fact, Nolwenn had always sung, but she thought she could improve and get strong bases in lyric singing. At the Vichy conservatory, Ms Berthaut Fontanille, her teacher, guided her, then Nolwenn enrolled the regional conservatory of Clermont-Ferrand where she wouldn't stay for a long time, because she likes all kinds of music, and found it was a too confined universe.

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Star Academy

The continuation, you may know it; she hesitated to send a videotape for the Star Academy (a TV show broadcast on French channel TF1) auditions, but her mother advised her to do it, telling her it would be the experience of an audition, as she had never auditioned before. Moreover, they were still both convinced Nolwenn's classical profile would be fatal. But, destiny would decide differently. It is also important to specify that Armande Altaï never pushed Nolwenn forward for the audition, contrary to what some rumours pretend. Here is the true story: while watching the first Star Academy edition, Nolwenn was fascinated by the singing teacher Armande Altaï, and appreciated the high level and quality of her lessons. She thus decided to enrol in her singing class, and she worked at the weekend as a cashier in a supermarket to pay her tuition fees, and the return tickets to Paris. In June, Nolwenn finally sent a cassette even though she remains passionate about lyric singing, and was afraid to be catalogued forever in this field, where you are too easily labelled. Nolwenn was aware of the danger; and being not sure of herself, only told Armande about it when she was selected. Besides, others attending Armande's lessons also tried to audition for Star Academy without success. Moreover, the production and the record company (Universal) have very exacting criteria. It is also necessary to add that, during the selection phase at TF1, Armande was never present: she was devoted to her singing class and her personal work as an artist.

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