Brian Beacom

MICA Paris is certainly the lady to speak to about fame.

Set to star in the stage musical of the same name, the South Londoner is perfectly placed to discuss the impact of success, how it can reward – and reduce the recipient to a wreck of a human.

Soul singer Paris, who stars in Fame as the very formidable Performing Arts teacher Miss Sherman, found fame to be at the very least, a fickle friend.

The lady who sang with Prince on stage and had a platinum album by the age of 19 later found herself bankrupt - and abandoned by the record company. Paris also experienced close up what fame can do to those who allowed their heads to be turned by it.

“I remember when my first record blew up in the States I went to live in New York, and in my apartment block was Ernest Hemingway’s daughter, Margaux, who later committed suicide.

“I was also really close friends with Natalie Cole and losing her was really tough. Natalie had been my champion. She was so special for me and pushed me onto so many shows.

“The thing was, she’d been clean for 20 years but her kidneys had been so destroyed by the drugs, She said to me three years ago , ‘You know girl, this dialysis machine is killing me’. And it was the last time I would see her. It was so sad because she was such a fighter.”

Paris had to cope too with the death of Prince, who been a huge fan of the then teenage star, who first met him at Camden Palace.

“I hadn’t see him for 10 years when I was invited to his after-show party, again in Camden, but I was shocked when I saw him.

“He was so thin and going off stage all the time, which wasn’t like him at all. A couple of months later he was dead.”

She adds; “The really dark side of fame is the secrecy. Prince, for example, gave the impression of being together. In all the years I hung out with that man I never saw him take a drug. He’d have a little glass of brandy and that was it. But this consummate showman was wearing a mask. It was the same with Whitney. I knew her from Day One. She was a tomboy, not the demure person the image suggested. She was a Home Girl. Her life was a façade, and reality wasn’t allowed in the business.

“And when people live an illusion they become a casualty.”

Paris survived the music industry and the mum-of-two has reinvented herself as a musical theatre star.

“Working in theatre can be a bit touch and go for me, it’s all about choosing the right role but oh, baby, this one really works for me.

“This musical is a little bit dark. And in a time when everything is so friggin’ PC that’s a good thing. People come to this show and they cry. It’s that powerful, man.”

She loves her character. “She’s hardcore. She’s me.” She adds, laughing; “Well, not quite. You know people look at me and because I’m five ten they think I’m going to knock ‘em out. But it’s rubbish. I’m completely the opposite. I’m soft as s***.

So how does she find the toughness? “Well, there are a lot of teachers in my family. My older sister is a teacher and she’s only five four and she’s really scary. It’s not hard for me to channel her.”

She adds; “Teaching is really parenting and I believe Miss Sherman really wants her students to do well, even if it means kicking their a**** to make it happen. It’s about caring.

“Sadly, we don’t get so many teachers who practise all of this these days.”

Paris would loved to have learned about fame via a fame school.

“I thought it to be insane that working class people could go to such a place to learn their art,” she says, smiling. “My parents couldn’t have done that so I went to a local comprehensive and dreamed of going to a school like that. It was such an aspirational film.”

Perhaps if she had been taught what to expect from the industry, being given bodyguards to go for a pint of milk, encouraged by the excesses, it may have been different?

“Sometimes you’ve got learn from your mistakes,” she says smiling. “But as a female it was really tough then.

“However, I can see change come about. My 12 year-old daughter is part of the generation that will change things. These girls won’t take any nonsense.”

Fame - The Musical, the King’s Theatre Glasgow, until Saturday.