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THE SUN

Bizarre

'Always been a camp show-off'

By GORDON SMART

Deputy Showbiz Editor

January 23, 2007

 

MIKA is Britain’s biggest new chart star, yet he cannot read music, has crippling dyslexia and was relentlessly bullied at school.

 

But he has overcome all the odds and is set for huge success.

 

The 23-year-old pop sensation from London has landed an unprecedented No1 with debut single Grace Kelly  from music downloads ALONE.

 

The recent change in chart rules paved the way for his huge online following to propel him to the top of the charts without selling even a single copy in record stores.

 

There hasn’t been a buzz about an artist on the same scale since Lily Allen exploded on to the scene last year with an army of fans built up on her page on website MySpace.

 

And much like Lily, who has four Brit Award nominations to her name, most music industry pundits are predicting the same overwhelming success for Mika, who was born in the Lebanon.

 

He is already drawing comparisons with legends such as Freddie Mercury, Elton John, David Bowie and Robbie Williams.

 

But the flamboyant, ultra-camp musician is unlike any other act on the music scene now, proudly boasting about being his own man.

 

He refuses to say whether he is gay or straight, claiming his sexuality is of no consequence to his career.

 

He said: “I never talk about anything to do with my sexuality.

 

“I just don’t think I need to. People ask me all the time. But I just don’t see the point.

 

“In order to survive I’ve kind of shut up different parts of my life, and that’s one of them, especially this early in my career.

 

“I don’t really feel that it’s necessary to know in terms of my music.

 

“Some people make records that are defined by their sexuality but mine really are not.

 

“It does play a lot with campness. It has a theatricality to it. Why not? It’s pop music!

 

“If you’re 14 years old and you’re gay, well, just do whatever you want. I’m not confused and I don’t have any barriers about the way I live my life. That’s why I don’t want to put it under the microscope.â€Â

 

His camp personality and music tick all the boxes for UK chart success.

 

He has tapped into Britain’s obsession with high-glam pop, much like Scissor Sisters, the Pet Shop Boys and The Feeling before him.

 

And he is incredibly good-looking, pulling off the androgynous appeal of David Bowie which has already earned him a megabucks deal with leading British designer Paul Smith as the face of a new global advertising campaign.

 

And his success isn’t confined to the UK.

 

He is already earmarked for megastardom in the US after being picked up by music guru Tommy Mottola, the former mentor to Mariah Carey and one of the most respected figures in music.

 

His resounding appraisal of Mika’s potential couldn’t be more glowing.

 

He said: “In greatness he could achieve what Bowie or Robbie or Elton has achieved. He’s in the league of those gentlemen.â€Â

 

But behind Mika, real name Mica Penniman, is a torrid tale of bullying and an incredibly peculiar upbringing.

 

He was born in Beirut to an American father and Lebanese mother.

 

He spent most of his early years in Paris before moving to plush Kensington in London.

 

And the severe dyslexia he suffered as a child caused chaos in his education as he skipped from Lebanon to France, then Britain.

 

He attended the incredibly posh Westminster School then the Royal College of Music before dropping out to mix pop music with classical training.

 

His parents believed all their five children should be privately educated. It cost them a fortune and they were once forced to sell their home when Mika’s banker father hit hard times.

 

Mika was an eccentric child with a strange taste in fashion from an early age  which he has carried into his adult life.

 

But the odd look resulted in perfect material for the school bullies.

 

Mika explained: “I was bullied throughout school. It was verbal bullying. I was a strange kid.

 

“I would go to school in strange clothes  bow ties, funny-coloured shorts. Otherwise, I don’t know why I got bullied. Some kids just get bullied, don’t they? I was called the typical fag and all those other homophobic, horrible little comments that kids throw at one another.

 

“If I’d known the reason, perhaps I wouldn’t have got bullied. I was a show-off as a kid. A bit weird. I had that beaten out of me at school.

 

“I tried to form bands at school but because all the other kids hated me they wouldn’t play with me.

 

“The only people I could get to be in my bands were the kids who got rejected from everyone else’s bands. But soon they didn’t want to play with me either because I was very dominating.â€Â

 

When he was 11 he was pulled out of classes for seven months after a particularly bad spell of bullying. He describes having “a little breakdown†and was educated at home by his mother in the meantime.

 

While he was off, his mother hired a Russian singing teacher who helped him discover his incredible, five-octave singing range.

 

The boy soprano emerged and, before long, he graduated to perform in the chorus line of a Strauss opera at the Royal Opera House.

 

He soon learned he had a talent for songwriting and started to sing jingles.

 

He said: “When I was 14 I recorded one for an Orbit chewing gum advert. It went, ‘Orbit Chewing Gum  and it’s good for your teeth too!’

 

“I didn’t write the words myself, I just sang it.

 

“This studio hired me to do it because I was very cheap and had no idea what I should be charging for doing this kind of work  and the studio weren’t keen to educate me about that.

 

“For the Orbit jingle, I sent in a bill for £45.

 

“Apparently, you can actually charge a lot more for doing adverts.

 

“By the age of 15 I had £2,000 in my savings account, from doing jingles and stuff like that. I thought that was loads.â€Â

 

He provided the catchy bits of music for food producer Kuwaiti Danish Dairy Company and created muzak too, some of which was taken up by British Airways.

 

He added: “I’ll never forget calling up British Airways to get a ticket, only to be placed in a line listening to my own voice.

 

“That was a painful eight minutes.â€Â

 

Whether you love Mika or hate him, he demands your attention.

 

His songs really are irritatingly catchy and outrageously colourful.

 

But if you want to become a fully-fledged member of the Mika fan club, it will take a brave move to join the new dressing-up trend that has started appearing at his gigs.

 

He said: “I have a cool set of fans who come to my live shows dressed up as the characters in my songs and the cartoons on my website.

 

“There’s Billy Brown, a married man who discovers he’s gay, and Lollipop Girl, who wears a pink frock and licks a lollipop.

 

“And Chew Chew is a monkey who’s always trying to steal Lollipop Girl’s lollipop.

 

“It’s really fun and makes people feel they’re part of the project.â€Â

 

And if Mika continues on the path of his meteoric success, he will have a lot more animated fans.

 

ON this week's Bizarre podcast, Mika talks about his celeb pals and how being “a dyslexic kid who couldn’t really speak English†led him to music.

 

Podcast HERE

Transcript HERE

 

CW.

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