Cocktails with - Mica Paris
British soul songstress Mica (pronounced Misha) Paris knows how to work a room. Tall, engaging and blessed with amazing pipes, the international singing sensation is celebrating her 25th year in the music biz. On The Rock for a vacay, Paris is the house guest of art enthusiast and philanthropist Theresa Roberts and her private equity lawyer hubby Andrew Roberts at their palatial Hanover Grange abode at Tryall, Hanover. After wowing guests with a spirited musical performance at a fundraiser at the Roberts' home, the jovial, wickedly funny shares couch space and cocktails with us. (Photo: Aceion Cunningham)
What are you sipping?
I am sipping Champagne and it tastes soooo good!
How's your day going?
I'm having a very good day. We went to the beach today and took some rays in and came back to Andrew and Theresa's home and had a fantastic fundraiser to raise money for the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts. I sang and entertained the gathering while they dug their hands into their pockets and took all their money out. The more they liked the music, the more they dug a bit deeper. It was nice to see everybody dancing, getting up and moving around. It is always good to raise money for a good cause.
How have you been enjoying your time on The Rock?
My parents are from Jamaica and I've been coming here since I was 14, but I haven't been back in about seven years. I had forgotten how fantastic this place is, because we used to come every year for a good 15 years now as I was with Island Records for a long time. Chris Blackwell had signed me up so we used to come all the time and stay at Goldeneye.
So is this trip a homecoming of sorts?
It is a total homecoming with my people. I can speak di Jamaican [voice changes into Rock-flavoured dialect]. What really is funny about this trip is that when I used to come to Jamaica before and I used to speak the Jamaican accent, they used to laugh at me because I was younger then and they used to say, 'Nobodda try talk Jamaican, yu sound stewpid' but now they telling me, 'You is a Jamaican' because over the years, it's gotten better...thank God for that!
Who does your hair?
I have a fantastic guy in London called Paul Edmonds who cuts my hair for me. He's at Knightsbridge in London and one of the top hairdressers...he's really good.
Jeans or LBD?
LBD, darling... every day. Look, I'm five foot eleven. I'm really tall and I like to show my pins. Jeans are great but the thing about jeans is that they are not as glamorous. You can dress up an LBD or dress it down and it still looks quite elegant. I like things that finish with a good line.
Flats or stilettos?
Always stilettos... no flats! We have no time for that. It doesn't matter if the feet are killing you and pounding with pain, it's all about heels.
What's your must-have accessory?
It's actually two things: sunglasses and lip gloss.
Who is Mica Paris?
Mica Paris is a typical soul singer brought up in a gospel church. My grandparents raised me and they were ministers, so I went to the New Testament Church of God for the first 15 years of my life. I signed my record deal when I was 17 and had my first big hit with My One Temptation, and the rest is history. My debut album So Good went double platinum and then I made six albums after that, and now I'm on album #7. As much as I sing all over the world, first and foremost I'm a mum; I have two children, one is 20 and the other is five years old. I love being a mum. I also love cooking and do a lot with fashion. I had a show in London for a couple of years called What Not To Wear where I made people over . I'm known in England as not only a singer, but also a fashion guru. That happened accidentally. I have always cared about how I look because I am so tall and you tend to stand out when you are, everyone sees you quicker.
Who is your favourite fashion influence?
My favourite fashion influence really has to be Marlene Dietrich because she was probably one of the first females to wear a man's suit in a really feminine, elegant way. She gave the image of strength but kept it feminine at the same time, which is really important because for me strength is femininity. I also love Tom Ford, he's my favourite designer. I wish he would get back and do more clothes, he's really good.
Who are your musical influences?
There are a couple of people. First from the church, the Hawkins Singers who did Oh Happy Day. I grew up with their music. Then people like Chaka Khan and Barbra Streisand. I like crooners... people who sing really good ballads, like Marvin Gaye, that capture people. It's all about singing about love and expressing love. Music has become quite hard... I'm of the old school, music should make you want to make love, not war.
You're on album seven. How have you musically evolved from the first album to now?
You know what's funny is that I've kind of gone around. I kind of started out very much soul and then after that I went into a bit of dance and other types of music, like jazz. I have gone on a kind of expedition musically, and then what's happened is that I have come back to where I started, which is really bizarre. It's really funny how that works, how you go on an adventure and come home. The album I'm making now is actually reminiscent of my first album which is really interesting and it wasn't done on purpose. What happened was I was doing this TV stuff in England and I got a phone call from the songwriter and producer, Rock Templeton, who did Michael Jackson's Off The Wall and Thriller and he said, 'C'mon, let's make a record'. I hadn't made a record in nearly 10 years. He is producing and writing the album. When you get that kind of phone call, you have to make a record. We are halfway through. We've done seven songs and we should be finished by this summer. It's really fabulous to get back to music from being so much in radio and television.
Are you a socialite or a homebody?
I'm both. When I go out, baby, I'm Jamaican. When I'm at home, I love people to come to me, I like to cook for everybody, I'm a typical Jamaican.
What Jamaican food do you cook best?
You know what? I do an amazing curried chicken and rice. People go crazy for that. Ackee and saltfish with callaloo and plantains, I also do really well, my kids love it.
What's your single greatest accomplishment?
My children. I have been a singer since I was seven years old, so the singing is a gift from God. I didn't create that, he just gave it to me, whereas my finest accomplishment is my children. They are great kids and really normal, considering in the United Kingdom and Europe I am big over there. They are not falling out of clubs, messing up themselves and dem foolishness dere.
Is being a celebrity and living under a public microscope difficult for you?
This year I have been in the music business for 25 years and you get used to it. For me, I'm never angry at people asking for autographs because I know they brought me here in the first place so if it wasn't for the people, I wouldn't be successful. I am humbled by the fact that people are still interested in me 25 years later. How do I feel about paps taking my picture all the time? I smile at them, I know most of these guys, I've been around so long, I know them... it's like "John, are you alright?" It's nothing, I've been here so long, they know me and I feel like I've known them forever.
We met your beau His Royal Highness Alexander von Preussen of Prussia at the Sugar Cane Ball at Round Hill over the weekend. What's the exact status of your relationship?
Al is fabulous. He and I have been together for four years. He's amazing. It's a big age gap but it doesn't feel like it. Spiritually, we are on the same level. He's a fantastic music producer and has his own record label. It's funny, I'm 42 years old and finally I have met my best friend and that's really nice. You know when you just get on, even if we weren't together, we'd be friends. That's really important. I always say to people, the most important thing you can have in your life is your lover who is your best friend. That's it, period.
So you've rubbished all the cougar labels then?
You know why? Alex comes from a serious family and he's very different from your regular 28-year-old guy. And to be honest, I couldn't be with someone who is very immature, because I am very together and a mother. My children love him and it feels like we are on the same page with the way we think. If he was immature and his age, there would be no hope, but they are brought up different, they are very gracious, very calm and know when to do and when not to do because that's how they roll. It's four years now and it's good and he's a really good cook as well, but he can't do Jamaican food (laughs).
How do you feel about Whitney Houston's death?
I'm devastated. Whitney and I did shows in the beginning of our careers. When I came out, she had just come out with her first single. We did the same TV shows in Germany and London. You think the girl was gorgeous in pictures, she was stunning in real life... beautiful! The sweetest, kindest, generous to everybody... good, good people! It breaks my heart, I was devastated when I found out. I can't tell you the pain. She is a good person and I'm not just saying that because people will say 'she was lovely' and it's all crap, but she really was. She had time for everybody, she was always down-to-earth, even when her record sales were going through the roof. But what I noticed with her was the pressure of trying to be America's sweetheart was too much, because she really is a home-girl. She wasn't the gowns and all that type. She was jeans and a tee shirt, that's who she really was, and that's why she went with Bobby.
Did you cross paths with her after appearing on TV shows together in the 1980s?
Yeah, at Wembley! I went backstage to see her at Wembley in the 1990s. Her mum Cissy, who is great, was there and so was Robyn, who was lovely, and used to look after Whitney. I knew Bobby really well too, and it's really sad...Bobby must feel pretty awful because it all went downhill when he came in the picture. When I knew Bobby, he was fine and great; two years after he and I hung out in London, he got married to her and you know what happened after that. In two years, everything changes, you are at the top of your game, the vultures come in, they offer you all these things. I have been in the business a long time and it happened to me where you sit there and they come in with a plate of drugs and they are like 'C'mon, let's get busy' and you have to say to them, 'Look man, that ain't me'.
How pervasive really are hard drugs in the entertainment biz?
It's everywhere, don't get it twisted. People try to say 'She was just an addict'. People don't understand the music business. When you are in the music biz, everything is drugs. A lot of times, drugs are given to the artist by the record label to keep them in control, there is a lot of it going on, you have to be a strong person within yourself. I come from a very heavy family. My grandparents basically said to me, "We are expecting you to be a junkie and a harlot at 16" but my thing was I wanted to prove to them they were wrong, which is why I didn't do it. I was like "I'm not going to prove them right, I'm going to show you I'm one of the few ones who don't go down that road".
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
If you stick around long enough, you'll be hip again.
Where will Mica be 10 years from now?
Ten years from now, I'll probably be the same — still cooking and singing and hopefully God willing, in Vegas. That would be nice. A couple of months in Vegas, you don't move, everybody comes to you, that would be cool.