LoPresti and Champion Santa Revealed

The classic song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” received a much needed upgrade this year… you know, one that adequately represents what a family in 2015 might actually look like. And for once in our society, instead of watching videos of people dancing idiotically to the ‘whip it nae nae’ or ‘hit the quan,’ people are gushing over a Christmas video with an unexpected but refreshing twist.

After seeing that their family wasn’t being adequately represented in the media (especially when it comes to holiday music and movies), real-life spouses Danielle LoPresti and Alicia Champion set out to show the world a love they couldn’t ignore. It’s mind-blowing to think that the 21st century is almost completely void of any holiday material involving same-sex couples. Seeing as these talented ladies are no strangers to the lime-light they rallied their resources (and Santa’s reindeer) in hopes of spreading holiday cheer and creating something heartfelt, real and just downright amazing. Looks like their Christmas wish came true!

The video has created so much buzz and has brought some welcome attention to the San Diego recording artists. To say they’ve succeeding in putting their own spin on a rather traditional ditty would be an understatement and a disservice to what they’re attempting to accomplish here. The two not only have entertained us thoroughly with their sweet rendition but have opened up the dialogue regarding mainstream media and its representation of our changing world. Their beyond adorable son Lucian even got to be a part of the “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” fun, pretending to be asleep, sneaking around the house and yes, even catching his mommy’s kissing in the video. This charming video is sure to warm even the grumpiest holiday goers this season.

I had the pleasure of chatting with LoPresti and Champion and asked them some in-depth questions. We spoke not only about their inspiration behind this video but their accomplishments, struggles and hopes for the future.

‘Tis the season!

MCKENZIE MORRELL: For starters can you two tell me a little bit about yourselves, and your backgrounds?

ALICIA CHAMPION: I was born in Singapore to two very musically inclined parents. My mother was a classically trained pianist, my father, a good old-fashioned rock ‘n roller who took me to my first rock concert (Deep Purple) when I was eight years old. When my folks divorced, I moved to San Francisco with my mother and younger sister. I was nine years old and found the transition quite hard. I found solace in music and songwriting immediately. At age 17, I wrote and produced my first album, and then took off to Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA to pursue a ‘rockstar’ life. Not long after graduation however, I realized that my real passion is in music production. I had a short 15 minutes of fame after winning VH1’s “You Rock With Melissa Etheridge” reality TV competition and I came to really understand that being in the lights was not something that was super healthy for me.

DANIELLE LOPRESTI: I’m a San Diego native, born to two parents who are legendary in the sport-fishing industry. I started working professionally as an actor/singer in my teens, and then went on to study theatre at United States International University alongside colleagues John Barrowman and Jamie Foxx among others. I graduated valedictorian from USIU, but knew immediately after college that I wanted to use my talents to effect social change as much as possible – so I started writing and pursuing a career around my own socially-conscious music. I moved to LA and worked as a songwriter and session voice talent while working on my original material.

I wrote and performed original music for various film and TV projects, including 1996’s “The Nutty Professor,” among others. After I put out my first original demo, the producers of The Los Angeles Music Awards introduced me to a famous music attorney who was known for brokering major record deals for new artists. He had me send the CD to him. One week later, he called me and proceeded to spend 30 minutes on the phone with me. Among the many things in his arsenal, he said that I had two options; either scrap the socially conscious lyrics and write sexy songs about men and relationships, or quit music altogether.  He told me that it was flat out “impossible” for women to make it in music unless they’re focusing 100% on their sex appeal.

The funny thing about this phone call, is that typically when industry executives turn down talent, it’s a very quick “no.” Rejection happens all the time in this business and it’s usually swift. The fact that this attorney took a whole half hour of his precious $500-an-hour work day, spoke volumes to me about what women are really up against in this industry. So to honor him- and women – I wrote him a thank you note entitled, “Dear Mr. Penis Head,” where I directly quoted a great deal of what he said to me on that phone call. I then made that song the title track of my debut indie release.

AC: And so was born the “say it girl!”

DL: I released that album under my newly founded independent label, Say It Records, which represents truth-speaking, and the encouraging of us all to find our voices and speak truth to power.

MM: How did you two meet? And how long have you been together?

AC: We met September 2003 during a festival sound check. I was on stage finishing my sound check when Danielle’s band was loading in behind me. When I unplugged my guitar and turned toward the stage stairs, my eyes caught hers and I lost my breath. I used to always think “love at first sight” was a myth – I was proven wrong that day 🙂

DL: We became fast friends  – we bonded over the same philosophies and world values, opinions and dreams for independent musicians. We started producing events together and after about eight months, I finally gave in to what had become Alicia’s relentless, patient pursuit :). We married on the weekend of our tenth year anniversary. It’s now been 11 and a half years that we’ve been together.

MM: What was the driving force behind you ladies putting your own spin on ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’?

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AC: It was last year during Christmas when that video of Michael Bublé and Idina Menzel’s rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” went viral. We were watching it with our son, who loved it, and we thought, “ok, after we watch this cute video of two adorable white kids doing a holiday number, we should find a video that has a brown kid or two.” Lucian is a beautiful mix of African American, Mexican and White, so we’re constantly introducing him to examples of beautiful kids like him, as well as men and women of color who are doing remarkable things in our communities. We make a focused effort to do this to try to balance the whitewashed world we live in. So we thought, “Let’s try to find a holiday video that features a family that looks like ours (same-sex, multiracial, etc).” And would you believe it… we couldn’t find a single one. So we thought that since we had access to the resources, maybe we should make one ourselves.

MM: Did you anticipate such a great response from this video? Have there been any negative comments since the videos release?

DL: It’s always hard to anticipate how people will receive your work. As an independent artist, you work so hard for so long, always hoping that your next project will be something that people embrace on a large scale. It’s really nice to see that happening with this video.

AC: The comments on the YouTube page have been truly gratifying to read. And while yes, there is the occasional disapproving (and sometimes awfully hateful, so-violent-it-needs-to-be-removed) contribution, the love-filled comments outweigh the negative ones a hundred-fold.

LoPresti Family Shot

MM: What was the filming process like? You shot it with your real life adoptive son Lucian, which is amazing!

DL: Thank you! It was a pretty remarkable experience for so many reasons.

AC: Lucian was truly incredible, especially since he was still three years old when we shot it. It’s really a lot to ask a little guy to do. But we also have a renewed understanding of why most young child roles in Hollywood are cast to identical twin and triplet sets! 🙂

DL: Also, the very talented the director of the video, Asher Brown, is a good family friend and someone Lucian has a loving rapport with. Having Asher and his fantastic crew at the helm was a big part of why Lucian was able to do so well.

MM: Do you think if you two weren’t a same-sex couple, you wouldn’t be getting as much exposure as you have for this video?

DL: I think we are absolutely getting this attention because of who we are, and because it’s the first same-sex music video rendition of this song.

MM: Has being “out” ever affected your careers?

AC: When I was 17 and performing in the San Francisco club scene, I was courted briefly by an A&R rep. from Capitol Records, and my androgynous, gender non-conforming style was an issue for her. This was 1998-1999. If I was 17 today and doing well in a local music scene, I think I’d be seen differently in that regard. Gender ambiguity is even kinda’ hip these days. On the flip side, being out certainly helped my case on VH1 reality TV, haha.

DL: I think what’s been a curious challenge is being bisexual in an industry that’s really needed to pigeon-hole artists for so long. We’re seeing that fade away at an inspiring pace these days – so many mainstream artists (mostly female) identify as bisexual, or sexually-fluid. But again, in the nineties and early 2000’s, that just wasn’t the case. And as a bisexual woman, I felt torn between needing to choose very mainstream (and not super inclusive) events, or the very LGBT-oriented Pride festivals to play. What I really wanted was to play events and venues that reflected the diversity of the world – which, to me, is the epitome of beautiful.

AC: And I second that. In fact, that was one reason creating San Diego IndieFest was so important to us. We wanted to create a performance space that honored all kinds of fantastic, unique, important artists, regardless of genre, age, race, gender or sexual orientation.

MM: I heard that you two are fans of The Fosters on ABC Family, what makes that show one that resonates with you? Do you think there should be more shows like that on TV today?

AC: Besides that it’s about a multiracial, lesbian, foster-adoptive family from San Diego? Haha. It’s as if the show was made just for us. Families like ours are so dramatically underrepresented in pop culture. The Fosters is such a breath of fresh air.

DL: And here’s hoping our dear friend Annika Marks gets more screen time in this coming season. She’s so much more extraordinary of an actress than most people know!

Any other shows on TV that you think are adequately representing the LGBTQ community?

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AC: There are definitely an unprecedented number of LGBTQ characters in film and TV – now than ever before. It’s so exciting. From shows like The Fosters, Glee, Orange is The New Black, Modern Family, and Transparent, where LGBTQ themes are central to the storyline(s), to popular uber-mainstream, celebrity-led programs like Empire, How To Get Away With Murder, The Walking Dead, Person of Interest, and so many more… LGBTQ characters are finding more and more space on the small screen, and on shows that don’t have queer specific titles (ie. Queer As Folk, The L Word).

DL: As far as this representation being adequate, we’re still miles away from equality. We need to see women and men of color in way more leading roles, we need to see more transgendered actors and actresses cast, as well as more trans characters written as three dimensional, complex human beings like all the rest of us…and we need to see characters that are LGBTQ children!  – that’s something that is immensely important for the health of thousands and thousands of LGBTQ families and youth around the world.

AC: The fact that teenage Fosters characters Jude and Connor are in a loving, out relationship on mainstream cable TV, gives me great hope for the kinds of families and characters my son will see on TV when he is a teen. Fingers crossed, we see much more of that.

masthead-sdindiefest-10
MM: You guys are also the founders of San Diego’s IndieFest, can you talk a little bit about that and what sparked your love and devotion to indie music?

DL: I think we answer this a little bit above, about how our journeys and experiences led us to creating it. We were inspired to create IndieFest from our own day to day experiences as professional musicians. We wanted to turn people onto new music, under-represented music and music folks never get to hear on the radio because it’s too unique, or not “pop” enough or not enough like the latest big marketing success. We also wanted to build a more connected, resourceful community of artists here in San Diego. A community that truly helps one another, shares connections, grows together, etc. We started then and continue to work now on making IndieFest one of the most inspirational events a person will ever attend.

MM: Danielle, in 2013 you were diagnosed with Stage 3B Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with the holidays right around the corner and people often asking themselves what they’re thankful for– can you tell us how you got through such a difficult time and how you managed to also focus on your music and your family?

DL: It’s wild, because it was Christmas time in 2013 when I got really sick… honestly, I was already so grateful before cancer. I mean, it took us seven years to become parents. That time was the most dark and agonizing of my entire life. Finally becoming a momma to Lucian was an utter miracle. Every single day, even amidst intense sleep deprivation, I was pinching myself. But then, being diagnosed with a rare, fast-growing, advanced cancer (with the longest name I’d ever heard) – “Diffuse Large B Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma with some characteristics of Hodgkin Disease” and then beating it….well, let’s just say that honestly, I live my life in a constant state of truly overwhelming gratitude.

AC: In fact, we wrote a song called Grateful that’s on our brand new Holiday EP that explores this. The EP comes out this Thursday, December 17 exclusively on our BandCamp store for “pay what you can.” It’ll be available for standard purchase on iTunes and CDBaby on Christmas day.

LoPresti Screen Cap

MM: What message did you hope this holiday music video would send to people watching it?

AC: That love is love. Parenting is parenting. That queer families have the same joys and challenges than straight families do. That love makes a family.

DL: That we are all more alike than we are different. That if we can take a few moments to suspend our judgment of one another, we can often see multiple ways we connect. Sometimes the most powerful activism we can do for social justice, is to courageously be ourselves.

MM: What is your favorite holiday song, and tradition?

DL: Oh we have so many. Listening to Christmas music, lighting all the candles

and the tree while baking…

AC: Mmm… Danielle’s baking…

DL: …and making presents…I love the feeling of coming inside and meditating on the people we love with each present we make.

MM: Will you make this a yearly tradition? Any videos in the works for you two (and your son)?

AC: Haha! If we can find someone to bankroll it every year, then Yes! 🙂

DL: We love making videos. We’re excited to make more and we hope you check out the ones already on our YouTube channel.

They’re releasing a Holiday EP this Thursday exclusively on our Bandcamp website for “pay what you can.”

 

The debut holiday EP from Danielle LoPresti features the sacred and the secular, in celebration of several winter traditions, including the new original song, “Grateful,” and the popular progressive interpretation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

To purchase, click HERE

It will be available for standard purchase on iTunes and CD Baby on Christmas day.

 

McKenzie Morrell
Currently working at a Literary Publicity Firm as a tech nerd and Producer. A college grad with a B.S. in Journalism, who loves covering the Entertainment world. I recently worked at World Wrestling Entertainment as the Intern Online Content Editor, NBC Universal for both The Steve Wilkos and The Jerry Springer Show, and at Red 7 Media where I created content both online and in print for the company's various publications. In my spare time, I enjoy watching and reviewing my favorite T.V. shows, as well as interviewing some of my favorite celebs in the industry. I'm sarcastic, opinionated, and thrive off of technology and social media.