Following her muse to the rainbow’s end.
I recently met Michelle Monet via Medium here and in some ways saw a reflection of myself. Michelle is a creative spirit who expresses herself through a variety of channels. Musician, performer, artist, writer… What hat will she wear tomorrow?
Monet’s career began as a singer/songwriter and guitarist in lounges around the Denver area, taking requests and working for tips. She progressed to performing her original music in cabaret clubs and concert halls around the US. In 1989 she landed the role as Barbra Streisand in the hit show Legends in Concert. Her critically acclaimed impersonation took her to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Atlantic City, and from there around the world from Russia to Japan to South Africa.
In 1996, she had the starring role in a production in Sun City, South Africa when she suddenly had a passion to switch callings from music to visual art. Since then she has sold her art in her gallery/studio and at art shows and festivals around the country and continues to make and sell her unique creations for happy customers and collectors. Currently she is working on her Memoir about her life in show business including her surviving domestic violence, panic disorder and a dependency on prescribed medication. These days you can find Michelle typing away in between making art and chilling with her 5 cats in the Smoky Mountains.
EN: You’ve clearly had a fascinating life. Author, blogger, poet, performer, musician, artist. Let’s begin with the writing. When did you go from someone who likes to write for personal enjoyment to someone serious about writing? What were your trigger events?
Michelle Monet: Great question! Well, the real answers will be in my upcoming memoir, but for now I’ll say I got far MORE serious about writing when my ex-husband, who travelled with me around the world, became more violent. He almost took my life and stole all my money. We were like Ike and Tina Turner. While we were at a gig in Sun City, South Africa at the Palace Resort, he took all our money and left me stranded in Cape Town. It was a complete shock to my system. I literally and figuratively flipped my wig. At that time I had my first nervous breakdown/breakthrough! The pen was my constant friend. That was 1996.
EN: I assume that the Barbara Streisand impersonation began in part because several people commented, “Has anyone ever told you that you looked like Barbara Streisand?”
MM: Yep! That’s how it began! I randomly got up on stage once in a Vegas Casino lounge and sang two songs. One song was an original. The other happened to be a Streisand song. A woman ran up to me afterwards who ended up being a talent scout and asked me to come audition for the role of Streisand in the show “Legends in Concert’ in Vegas. At the time I had NO DESIRE to be Streisand. It actually freaked me out. I wanted to continue singing my own original songs and play my guitar! (I’m writing more about this in my memoir also.)
EN: The critical reviews for your Streisand impersonation were pretty heady. “Possibly the most talented young lady in America,” wrote Don Wilson, and someone who saw your Vegas show said they would stay to see you even if Streisand herself were down the street. How did you keep all the adulation from going to your head?
MM: Honestly I was very freaked out about critics usually. I did get some bad reviews, too. I had a very volatile performing life. Sometimes I did powerful shows. Other times when I was anxious and panicked I would freeze and NOT do well. My panic attacks became more severe when my husband’s abuse became more prevalent which affected my performances. I even ran off a stage one night after throwing my wig off into the audience. That was when I knew I was DONE with Streisand… DONE with being inauthentic. I’d had enough! (My memoir will tell the full story.)
EN: You’re also a visual artist. Did that begin early in life as well and then emerge later? Did you take art in college? What did your career path as an artist look like?
MM: I took no art lessons. The moment I threw my wig off stage in 1996 it seems I immediately ‘switched passions’ from music to visual art. It was odd. I just picked up a pen/pencil and began to sketch. I was sitting in a café in Cape Town, South Africa and began doodling stuff from the menu. That was the beginning of the visual art days.
EN: It seems you could live anywhere. How did you come to choose the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee?
MM: That’s a long story, too! I moved here to Gatlinburg to open a small art studio/gallery. There was a popular 8-mile ‘loop’ of galleries here so I figured I’d try it. In 2008 I closed my gallery but by that time my boyfriend had established a successful career as a photographer here so I ended up staying.
EN: Like you, I write every day. Like you, also, I have interviewed a lot of artists and creative people. Tell us about your book Creative People and What Makes Them Tick.
MM: That book was inspired by my curiosity about the lives of other creative people. I interviewed 28 people for it. It was a nice change of pace from my other (poetry) books which were focused on me and my emotions! Haha. It got me out of myself, which was sweeeet! Too much in my head sometimes. I do like writing about others a lot. I’ve noticed on Medium, for instance, that I write about others some of the time. I like to mix in the personal stories and essays with stories about others, mainly other people who inspire me. Right now I’m fascinated by ‘late bloomers,’ people who do their best work later in life, so I’m researching that subject now.
EN: What makes you tick?
MM: OMG!! Following my muse!! Right now I have two muses:
1. Writing articles (because every time I construct a new story I get better at writing — and I eventually want to finish my Memoir. 2. Writing a MUSICAL based on my life. This one might take longer. I have 3 songs done now. I’m on my way! Thanks for asking.
EN: Thanks for your time and insights.
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Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com on December 1, 2018.