Singer, performer, and bandleader Kitty Baudoin (also known as Miss Kitty), has been performing in New Orleans for decades. She took her talents to San Francisco and Hawaii in the 1980s and made a name for herself in the performance spaces of the time. Now back in her home, she performs with her band ‘Sleazeball Orchestra‘ at the world famous Marigny Brasserie each Sunday.
To keep her creative work afloat she started her own business at 59 in the vitamin supplement industry. It gives her the flexibility to make a living at her own pace so she can focus on the music.
Following are selections from our recent interview with Kitty edited for brevity and the audio is available using the podcast player.
Next For Me: Kitty, Will you tell our readers about your journey as a singer and businesswoman?
Kitty Baudoin: I’m a Louisiana born native and I traveled and lived in California for 20 plus years and then Hawaii for 6 years. Then I moved back to New Orleans about 10 years ago.
What I’ve done and which I will always do consistently, no matter what else I do, is sing. That’s my God given gift. The universe gave me this awesome voice and a performance presence. As a little baby I stood up and opened my mouth and danced around the room and they’ve never asked me to stop yet.
So I’ve traveled around singing, performing, and leading bands – causing riots and movements. I currently do it. And as I age, I don’t see it stopping. You know, it’s like, that’s why one reason why I moved back to New Orleans is because I’m in a place where music grows and your knowledge and wisdom allows you the freedom to continue that lifestyle.
And then of course there are other things that I do because as much as I would love to be able to make enough money playing music, you really have to find other ways to pay the bills. I create my own realities in my alternate moneymaking wisdom so that they’re all legal.
I’ve been really lucky to encounter some awesome opportunities which I’ve taken advantage of that have helped me along the way too. In the health food industry, I learned a lot. So I’ve created my own small business. I’m a traveling educator for supplements. I go around to vitamin and supplement stores and the big box stores and I educate and I sell their product.
I’ve been doing my own business now almost four years. I’ve always been really creative and like working with people. I’m not so crazy about working for the corporate giant, which we all basically do in one level or another, whether we know it or not.
NFM: Would you tell us how old you are, if you don’t mind.
KB: I’m a southern woman. We don’t do that.
OK, I will. Aging is awesome thing. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s not. I am 63 years old and I am learning to buck the system and love the fact that I’m 63 and I’m kicking some major ass and will continue to. I’m in good shape and I look great. I sound great. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, this is just the truth. I know it more than I ever have.
NFM: When you started your business, you came to some realization that it was a good path for you to go down.
What was different is that I didn’t have to listen to somebody coming down on my head because I’m an individual or because I’m a woman who is older. I have been in the business for a long time and I need to get paid a certain amount of money.
So I decided that I don’t want to work for other people. I don’t want to be battered anymore because I know my stuff. So it was a natural. When the decision came that I needed to change from working for a corporation to working for myself, it was very organic. What changed was as my own boss I have freedom to gain or take risks.
What changed was a change in me. I’m tired of people telling me that I’m overqualified, which is another form of ageism and sexism, because I’m a woman that’s over the age of 40 and I demand respect and, and at proper pay for works given.
NFM: What is the difference in the amount of energy you put into your own business compared to when you were working for a large corporation.
KB: I always give 100 percent no matter who I work for. That being said, when you have your own business, even if it’s a business of one or two people, you always are working. So the energy that I put into this, it’s all day, it’s everyday.
I have two businesses. I have my music business and I have my product specialist business. I’d actually like to back off a little of the product business and give more energy to the music business. It’s a delicate balancing act, but I’m in control of that balancing act.
I’m the one who can make those decisions and I’m the one that can make it work and I am in charge of my positive attitudes towards those businesses. Nobody can bring me down except myself. That is a good.
NFM: When I met you, I found out that not only did you have this great singing voice derived from the New Orleans side of things, but you were also extremely visual and that caught my attention. Let’s let’s talk a bit about that and how you honed your visual style.
KB: I was a younger woman living in New Orleans and back then I also wanted to work for myself, so I got hooked up into the art scene down here in New Orleans and started modeling with artists and being an exuberant entertainer. I started doing some pretty innovative modeling and got to be very famous down here in New Orleans in the eighties. There was a really large visual arts community working with all mediums, film, sculpture, painting, assemblage, anything you could think of.
With other curators, we produced a large show that took about four years to put together called ‘Images of Kathy B’, which is what everybody knew me as down here in New Orleans. We juried 50 Louisiana artists working in mixed media to participate in the show. It was pretty awesome. Then I did a show which led me to doing some performance work at the Mario Villa Gallery, which resulted in me being the model for the mermaid on the gates of the 1984 World’s Fair, which was quite an honor. Nobody else can say that.
NFM: Then you came to California and you were performing here.
KB: Nothing can happen without music in my life. San Francisco was another satellite in my artistic life, kind of like a seed that was planted and then burst forth in San Francisco. A nightclub called Club Nine offered a really fertile place for me to land. I started working in retail, then rolled into Club Nine and showed what I had done in New Orleans and was accepted into the family.
I started playing music there and met some really great musicians, and performed in a few bands that we formed. San Francisco in the eighties was just nothing but fantastic for a visual artist and a musician. Any of us who got to experience that in the eighties are lucky. It’s gone now, but we share what we did then and forward it into the now.
NFM: Let’s talk about the music that you’re making in New Orleans now and how that brings the richness of the place into a new kind of music.
KB: New Orleans is steeped in culture and stories. It’s about passion and grinds and ancient structures. That’s where it finds it’s strength in that ancient crumbling structure. The music is very rich, tasteful and it’s crumbling at the same time.
I have a five piece band now called the ‘Sleazeball Orchestra.’ We have upright bass, drums, myself, a sax player and guitar. We are original in our approach. We have put a new CD out titled ‘I Ain’t in Love No More.’ The music is a lot of jazz, a lot of cabaret. Kind of like weird stripper music, German cabaret, New Orleans jazz meets a rocket ship. Okay?
It’s great. I’m happier now than I ever been. Yesterday, two young women come yesterday to the gig. They asked, “why do you look so happy and joyful?” I liked them, and I said “Because I am, I am.” It was a pertinent and good question. I had to think about that for a minute.
You know, it’s like we all have a certain amount of time, you get to make the choice to be happy or not to be happy, to dig what you’re doing or not. And I frankly choose to dig what I’m doing.
NFM: What’s next for you?
KB: What’s next for me is, is music, music, music — a concentration on music, on simplicity and completion.
Thanks for doing what you do because this is a joint project. This life that we lead, we gotta we gotta hang on to each other.
Kitty’s Band: Sleazeball Orchestra
Photos by LeAnne Hitchcock
A sample from the CD: Deadbeat Heart