Laima Vaikule is a popular Latvian actress, singer, director and choreographer, best known in Europe and in the former USSR for such popular hits as "Vernisazh" ("Exhibition") and "Charley," among other songs. She was born on March 31, 1954, in Cēsis, Latvian SSR. Her parents moved to Riga when she was 3. Young Laima was fond of music and dancing. In 1966, at the age of 12, she took part in a competition of young singers and was noticed. From 1970 - 1973 she studied nursing at the Riga Medical College, while also continuing to sing with a band. Eventually she became a lead singer with a local band in Riga and worked night gigs at local clubs and restaurants for several years. In the 1980s she studied acting and directing at Moscow State Institute for Theatrical Arts (GITIS), graduating as actress and director. In 1985, Laima Vaikule made her first hit in the Soviet Union. Since 1986, Vaikule has been enjoying a fruitful collaboration with popular Latvian composer, Raimonds Pauls, and Russian poet Ilya Reznik, who wrote such hits as "Vernisazh", "Charley" and "Skripach na kryshe" ("Fiddler on the roof"). She is among the original organizers of the Jurmala Festival of popular music , along with Raimond Pauls. During the 1980s and 1990s Laima Vaikule was a regular participant at international music competitions and festivals across Europe. Vaikule was awarded the Golden Lyra at "Bratislavská Lýra, 87", was guest singer and a host at "Jurmala 92" festival, and also took part at "AU music world" in Monaco, among other festivals and competitions. She was awarded the title National Actress of Latvia and was awarded the Grand Prix (1996) for her special contribution to the music and culture of Latvia. In 1993, Laima released an album on compact disc of soul styled pop songs in English on the MCA GRP label titled "Tango" (GRM 40202). The album has ten tracks: 1. Tango 2. Undertow 3. Breakin' Away 4. What's Forever 5. Baby It's You 6. Shelter From A Storm 7. Lost Without You 8. Dream Love 9. Died In The Midst Of A Dream 10. One World Musicians playing on the album included Marc Hugenberger, Tim Heintz, Mike Miller, Ricky Minor, Gerald Albright, Terry Wollman, Joel Taylor, Jeff Jorgenson with backing vocals by Catte Adams, Sheilah Chambers & Katrina Perkins. Laima Vaikule is currently living and working in Riga, Latvia and owns a second home in Moscow, Russia.