No matter what you might think about Maria Hawkins seemingly endless string of bad luck - there is just no denying the woman has incredible talent. Described as Ottawa’s Treasure, the blues singer who has worked tirelessly preforming on stage and in schools for the last 30 years could finally be on the brink of something big. And I mean BIG. The Ellen Degeneres show has Maria in its sights. That’s right.
Someone who recognizes that the talented Maria is in bad need of a break sent the
Ellen Show her story, and its producers want to know more.
Maria’s story is not simple. Certainly it’s a tale of misfortune, mishaps, bad luck, and bad choices. There is so much more. The 58 year old was born with Blues in her soul. She is blessed with a richly textured voice that transcends time and location. In any other era, perhaps in any other city - Maria Hawkins would be a star.
Not in Ottawa. Oh yes, she has received awards, accolades, has been named a Community builder, all while living on poverty’s doorstep. Maria is one of those women who, while loved and admired, has never been able to command the respect needed to demand being paid really well. The desire to share her talent, for the love of it, as it so often does with women, has diminished her worth.
It isn’t the only reason - life is so much more complicated than that, but it has contributed to Maria’s current situation. She is living the Blues. Without a permanent home, she now staying at a co-operative for seniors, hopefully until she get on her feet.
Hopefully that will be next year, after five more eye surgeries that will give her new corneas. Maria suffers from a hereditary eye disease called Fuchs Endothelial Dystrophy. For years she managed to live with the condition, until she was nearly blind. Today she counts herself lucky to be part of experimental program at the Ottawa General Hospital’ s Eye Institute, that is restoring her eyesight, and will enable her to live without anti rejection drugs for the rest of her life. .
She wasn’t lucky however, when she slipped off an icy porch a month ago, hitting her head. The injury forced the fourth surgery on her left eye to be postponed.
In the midst of all the trauma, a glimmer of hope for a woman who continues to dream.
Maria has always wanted to record her own album. She had been working on it. Nine songs are done. Her goal is within reach, yet so far away. She needs the surgeries and time to heal before she can belt out the Blues that way she always has. Until that time she has no income. Maria tells me she had given up hope. Until the email from the Ellen Show. Someone, aware of Maria’s plight, has nominated her for to be Ellen’s Deserving Person in Need. Those who are lucky enough to be nominated are profiled on the Ellen show, make a guest appearance and usually leave with a sizeable cheque. Maria has filled out the forms, and is keeping her fingers crossed that she will be chosen. She doesn’t mention money, just that she wants to sing for Ellen, and maybe, just maybe, she will land a record producer. It could be her big break, and believe me, she needs one.
It got me thinking. How wonderful that Maria could be helped by a widely popular American talk show host. And then, how sad that we in Ottawa can’t be the ones to step up and support a woman who has entertained us for years, kept the Blues alive in the city, and who has helped support so many local causes.
Maria Hawkins, is a valuable member of our Ottawa family, and she needs help. Our help. She won’t come right out and ask for it, so I am doing it here.
Yes, I hope Maria Hawkins gets her moment in the Ellen Show spotlight. And yes Lord, may she sign with a record producer who recognizes her immense talent. Perhaps all the love, work and hardship she has endured doing something she loves, in the city she loves will finally pay off. If that happens I have no doubt it will be Ottawa that will truly benefit. Until then let’s give Our Treasure, Maria Hawkins, some love.