Cautionary Wife Posted January 29, 2007 Share Posted January 29, 2007 The Press are catching up... slowly. - oOo - THE MIRROR 29 January 2007 EXCLUSIVE HOW MILLIONAIRE'S SON WENT FROM SOPRANO TO NUMBER ONE CHART STAR By Julie Mccaffrey And Adam Luck WITH his soaring falsetto and flamboyant appearance, Mika is tipped to be the pop sensation of 2007. Currently at the top of the charts with his single Grace Kelly, it's easy to see why the camp performer is already being hailed as the new Freddie Mercury. But the 23-year-old Lebanese-born musician started his career in a far more sedate fashion - as an opera singer. Britain's answer to the Scissor Sisters was a boy soprano with the Royal Opera House where, at 15, he showcased his five-octave vocal range in a landmark 1998 production of The Pilgrim's Progress by Vaughan Williams. Laurie Lewis, a music photographer for more than 25 years, was transfixed by the young man's performance. "He was a very sparky fellow and was definitely tipped for great things," he recalls. "It was as if he found his home on the stage - he was a born performer. I've heard his No.1 Grace Kelly and think it's great. "Moving into pop was a shrewd move because when a boy soprano's voice breaks they're often dumped on the scrapheap. "He has obvious talent - but it was still a surprise to see the wisp of a lad I saw back then riding high in the charts." Opera offered young misfit Mika everything he was looking for - an escape into a world of colour, fantasy and music. The singer says: "It opened my eyes to a world where people work all day long, for weeks, to create an illusion. "Most people's jobs are rooted in reality. But I always wanted to do pop music. It was just a question of getting there my way." Born Michael Holbrook Penniman in Beirut during the Lebanese war, Mika was evacuated to Paris as a baby before settling in London 16 years ago. HE was six when his father, a high-powered American banker, gave in to his precocious demands for loud, tailor-made outfits. "I was a show-off as a kid," Mika admits. "I was wearing bow ties and matching coloured trousers. "In France that made me the really special kid that everyone loved. When I came to London, I had that beaten out of me by everyone I was at school with." He was bullied so incessantly that for almost a year his mum Mary taught him at home. "I kind of broke down," he says. "I stopped reading, stopped writing and that's when my dyslexia really set in for me." Shunned by children his own age, and with only his four siblings for company, music became Mika's refuge. He wrote his first song, an "awful" piano instrumental called Angry, aged seven. At 11, a Russian music teacher discovered his awesome voice and by 12 he was bombarding record companies with demo tapes. "They'd take my calls because I was so young - 'Aw, we'd better talk to him or it would break his little heart'," he says. At 14, or so the Mika legend goes, he gatecrashed a party thrown by record giants RCA, ran to the piano and belted out five songs. Record executives were impressed but didn't know what to do with the teen who brimmed with talent but refused to be pigeon-holed. By then, he was getting used to wowing audiences. At Westminster School, where past pupils include Dido, Shane MacGowan and Lord Lloyd Webber, he often took lead roles in productions. He was acclaimed as "outstanding" in Benjamin Britten's opera Curlew River in 2001 and then, just months later, his performance in Cabaret was described as "strongly sung and wittily acted". He also used his "huge voice" to full effect by fronting a jazz band. At the posh public school - where he was known as Mica - he founded irreverent magazine Pink but was soon ousted by young readers who found it "dull and lacking that vital spark". Now using a "k" Mika capitalised on his classical training to compose jingles for adverts, including British Airways. BUT at 19, he decided to knuckle down and enrolled in a geography degree course at the London School of Economics. "I thought, 'I'm a nutcase. What am I doing thinking I can write funny little songs for a living?'" His bid to conform was shortlived and he quit on the first morning of term ever more convinced that music would be his vocation. The handsome lad had many doors slammed in his face before finally securing a deal. And Grace Kelly gives a lyrical two-fingered salute to all the executives who tried to mould him into the new Craig David. "Should I look older, just to be left on the shelf?" he trills. Despite Mika's coyness about his sexuality, the gay press has hailed the chart-topper as one of their own. And he's equally mysterious on the subject of his childhood as the son of a millionaire businessman. The biography on his official website notes: "When his father was subsequently taken hostage and held at the American embassy in Kuwait the family eventually settled in London." But when the Daily Mirror contacted the US Embassy in Kuwait a spokesman told us: "No one seems to have any such recollection. I have asked people who have worked here for more than 20 years and no one has heard of this." These days, visitors can't miss Mika's plush flat, below his parents' Ã‚Â£3million townhouse in London's South Kensington because he has painted the door and railings pink. But no one should expect to be invited in for a cuppa anytime soon. The singer is obsessive about how his tea is made. "You've got to have a precise level of water in the pot and make sure the cup is in exactly the right place," he says. But for all his eccentricity, Mika is incredibly savvy. He has set up his own company, Dodgy Holiday Tours, which is apparently connected with an Irish accountancy firm that counts Noel Gallagher among its clients. And so it seems that his refusal to fit in - that once caused him to be friendless and isolated - now makes him the perfect celebrity. At last, being an oddball is finally paying off for Mika. email@example.com CW. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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