Michelle Antoinette Wallen, MBE (born 27 April 1969), known professionally as Mica Paris, is a British singer, presenter, broadcaster and actor. She was born in Islington in North London, and moved to Brockley, South London, when she was nine.
Mica grew up singing in her grandparents' church, and by her mid-teens was making regular appearances with The Spirit Of Watts gospel choir, with whom she featured on the 1985 EP Gospel Joy. At the age of seventeen, she became a backing vocalist with the UK band Hollywood Beyond. Mica appeared on their album, “If” in 1985.
Mica Paris is one of the UK’s finest and most respected singers with a long career of hit singles and albums marking her out as the undisputed British Queen Of Soul.
Signed to the 4th & Broadway label on Island Records at the age of eighteen, the range, power, soul and deep emotion in Mica’s singing voice made an immediate impact on the UK music scene in August 1988 when she released her debut album, the platinum selling “So Good”. The album included her first Top 10 hit “My One Temptation” which peaked at #7 in the UK charts as well as a collaboration with jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine on “Like Dreamers Do” and “Breathe Life into Me”, both Top 30 UK hits. This was followed by a duet with US soul singer Will Downing on the classic Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway song “Where Is The Love” which broke the UK Top 20.
The follow up album ”Contribution” was released in October 1990, again on the 4th & Broadway label. This extended Mica’s soul and gospel influences to bring in hip-hop and house music and featured the track "If I Love U 2 Nite”, written by Prince and recorded at his Paisley Park studios. With Omar, a classically trained musician, Mica recorded "I Should've Known Better" in 1990. It was issued on the B side to "South Of The River" and later re-recorded for inclusion on 1998’s “Black Angel” album.
Mica performed “Blowin’ In The Wind” with Anita Baker, Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Cole at the ‘Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute For A Free South Africa’ event at Wembley Stadium on 16th April 1990, held two months after Mandela’s release from prison in South Africa. Mica provided the title track to Isaac Julien’s “Young Soul Rebels” film soundtrack the following year. She also worked with the saxophonist Courtney Pine again on "Redemption Song" (1992); the Stereo MC’s on "Don't Let Up" (1992; and Bobby Womack on "I Wish I'd Never Met You" (1991).
Before the release of her third album in 1993, Mica took to the theatre stage for the first time starring in two West End shows, ‘Mama I Want To Sing’ and ‘Sweet Lorraine’.
Mica’s third album “Whisper A Prayer” was released in June 1993 on 4th & Broadway and included the singles "I Never Felt Like This Before" and "I Wanna Hold On To You", as well as "You Put A Move On My Heart" which was later recorded by Tamia in 1995 on Quincy Jones’s “Q Jook Joint” album. This was followed by further collaboration work on music with Guru on his “Jazzmatazz: The New Reality” album ("Looking Through Darkness", 1995); Mark Morrison ("Tears For You", 1996) and Maxwell ("Mantra", 1996).
Mica released her fourth album “Black Angel” on EMI’s Chrysalis label in August 1998. It contained a cover version of U2’s “One", and a duet with James Ingram, “Love’s Gone”. “Black Angel” produced two more singles in "Stay" and 'Carefree". More collaborations followed with Omar ("Confection", 1994); Max Beesley ("High Vibes", 1994); Dubversive ("Police & Thieves",1998); the “Mobo All Stars” compilation album in 1998; Mister Exe ("One Million Smiles", 1998); Prince ("Just My Imagination", 2000); and Boy George ("I Could Be Someone", 2000). A collaboration with David Gilmour and Jools Holland on the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins track "I Put A Spell On You” followed in 2001. The trio have regrouped on several occasions to perform the song.
Two years later, Mica performed on the title track of the Walt Disney / Touchstone Pictures soundtrack for High Heels And Low Lifes, which was later included on the soundtrack compilation album in 2001. In 2003, Mica released the Moby sampling "Heart" with Seraphim Suite. She contributed vocals to the track "I Don't Understand" on Milk & Sugar’s album “Housemusic.De”. 2004 saw Mica feature as a guest on The New Inspirational Choir's album “Inspirations” along with Keisha White and Jocelyn Brown. In October 2004, Mica also took part in the UK tour of the stage play ‘The Vagina Monologues’.
In 2005, Mica released the album “If You Could Love Me” on Wounded Bird Records, featuring backing from the Brecker Brothers on the title track, with executive producer Andreas Neumann and producer Bernard Grobman. Also in 2005, she released the album “Soul Classics”, with executive producers Rick Blaskey and Andreas Neumann. Mica collaborated with Lemar on the track "Can't You See" on his album “The Truth About Love” in 2006, and in February 2008, she released the duet "Secret Lovers" with Alexander O’Neal. This was followed by a residency at the Indigo 02.
In June 2009, she released her sixth studio album “Born Again” as an independently distributed artist. She embarked on a nationwide tour, which included dates at the Jazz Cafe in February 2009, to showcase the material. The album was produced by Brian Rawling with James Morrison contributing Mica’s first single "Baby Come Back Now". The second single, "The Hardest Thing", was remixed by Stonebridge, Almighty and 2Darc. The title track "Born Again" was the final single released from the album.
At this point in her career, Mica turned her talents back to London’s West End. An incredible live performer, she stole the show at the Royal Albert Hall’s All Star Tribute to Dusty Springfield concert in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support on 5th May 2011. This was followed by two long runs in theatre shows with the UK tour of the musical ‘Love Me Tender’ in the summer of 2015 and more recently for eighteen months through to 2020, the lead role of Miss Sherman in the London West End production of ‘Fame’ to great acclaim and rave reviews.
In between these two runs in the theatre Mica recorded a two-track single featuring “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and “Imagine My Frustration” in honour of Ella Fitzgerald with the Guy Barker Orchestra in 2017 followed by a series of sell out concerts later that year.
In August 2020, BBC4 broadcast a special one-off documentary titled ‘Gospel According To Mica – The Story Of Gospel Music In Six Songs’. Straight from completing her run in ‘Fame’ at the Peacock Theatre, Mica had flown out to the US to film the documentary earlier that year. Presented by Mica as her own personal journey, the programme charted the history of gospel music through ground-breaking songs from “Amazing Grace” to Stormzy’s “Blinded By Your Grace Part II” going back and revisiting the origins of the songs and finding out why some of her contemporaries have returned to their gospel roots. The documentary inspired Mica to record her first album in over ten years once signed to Warner Music’s eastwest label and was recorded within a few weeks, with production by Brian Rawlings at his studio and the British Grove Studios where the contribution of the Soul Sanctuary Choir was recorded. Preceded by the new original song “Mamma Said”, inspired by Mica’s grandmother who first encouraged her to sing in church, and the Labi Siffre song “(Something Inside) So Strong”, the album titled “Gospel” was released on 4th December 2020 to critical acclaim across the board and #1 in the UK R&B Album charts. The album also features another new original song “The Struggle”, telling the story of Mica’s meeting with Gladys Knight, as well as spellbinding versions of Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s “Human”; John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace”; Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”; and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.
In 2021 Mica teamed up with Guy Chambers, Jamie Cullum, James Bay and Tom Fletcher as part of Gary Barlow’s supergroup for the TV project ‘I’m With The Band’, the pilot transmission for which included Mica’s stunning solo performance on “Somebody Else’s Guy”. After completing four shows in two days at Ronnie Scott’s in June, Mica will be touring through the rest of the year across the country.
Alongside her recording, live and theatre career Mica has also extended her talents into broadcasting and acting.
In 2002, Mica hosted a programme on BBC Radio 2 titled ‘Soul Solutions’, attaining an average of one million listeners to become the most successful soul and R&B show in the UK. She also narrated several music documentaries for the station. Later that year Mica presented the 2002 Channel 4 television documentary ‘The Gospel Of Gospel’ which revealed the influence of the black American church tradition on pop music. Produced and directed by David Upshal, it featured contributions from Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, BB King, Al Green, Chaka Khan, Alexander O’Neal, Edwin Hawkins, The Blind Boys Of Alabama and Mary Mary. She also broadcast a two-part show, ‘Purple Reign: The Prince Story’, on BBC Radio 2 which covered the entirety of the artist's unique career and featured interviews with George Clinton, Chaka Khan and Jimmy Jam. She appeared as a narrator on an award-winning documentary featuring Diana Ross focusing on her European and international success rather than her megastar status in the US.
In 2005, Mica appeared in reality TV series ‘Hit Me, Baby, One More Time’ and ‘Come Dine With Me’. From 2007, she was a co-host for two seasons of the popular consumer style programme ‘What Not To Wear’ for the BBC. Whilst presenting ‘What Not To Wear’, Mica encountered many women whose stories touched her. She began to examine her own life and choices, and was compelled to tell her story in a bid to inspire confidence and self-esteem to those women and others. Her book ‘Beautiful Within: Finding Happiness And Confidence In Your Own Skin’ was published by Simon & Schuster UK in 2008. Other television presenting followed with Mica being an expert judge on Gok Wan’s ‘Miss Naked Beauty’ for Channel 4 and ITV's ‘CelebAir’.
In 2007, she played the part of Amelia Walker, a fictitious American jazz singer, in ‘At Bertram’s Hotel’, an episode of the ITV series ‘Marple’. During the drama the character gives a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and also sings with Louis Armstrong’s band rehearsing in the hotel dining room whilst both were guests at the hotel. On 8th July 2008, Mica, her mother, father and sister appeared as The Paris Brigade on an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s ‘The F Word’ as part of the celebrity brigades series. Mica has continued to appear on a variety of television programmes from Channel 5’s news talk show ‘The Wright Stuff’; ITV’s all-female panel talk show ‘Loose Women’; ‘The Michael Ball Show’ and the BBC’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
In 2008, Mica partnered with BBC Radio 2 on her own series ‘Mica Meets…’. With her thirty years in the music industry and a black book to be reckoned with, Mica invited all her favourite female artists to chat to her about their careers, the challenges they faced whilst playing their incredible music. The series included a remarkable interview with Gladys Knight, recorded in Asheville, North Carolina which provided a fascinating insight into the life of the legendary singer.
During 2013, Paris became a regular guest on ITV show ‘This Morning’. In February 2017, she stood in for Craig Charles on his Saturday night ‘House Party’ on BBC Radio 2 for two weeks. She later stood in for Trevor Nelson on his Saturday night ‘Rhythm Nation’ at the same station in April 2017. In October 2017, she performed a medley of 1980s classics on the BBC's ‘Children In Need Rocks The 80s’. In 2020, Paris was cast in the BBC soap opera ‘EastEnders’ as Ellie Nixon.
Whilst promoting the “Gospel” album she has appeared on ‘BBC1’s Festival Of Remembrance’; ‘Songs Of Praise’; ’Late With Jools Holland’; ‘The One Show’; ‘BBC Breakfast’; ITV’s ‘This Morning’; ‘Lorraine’; ‘Sunday Brunch’; and ‘Saturday Kitchen Live’ as well as radio spots with Zoe Ball, Steve Wright, Trevor Nelson, Robert Elms and the ‘Good Morning Sunday’ show. On Christmas Day morning Mica presented and broadcast ‘The Christmas Day Gospel Show’ on BBC Radio 2.
Mica is the official Ambassador for Centrepoint and is spearheading the latest new Independent Living Programme initiative. She is also an Ambassador for the Amy Winehouse Foundation and has sung at many special fundraising events for the charity Additionally Mica is the Music Ambassador for The Willow Foundation. More recently she has been preparing to get involved in the United Nations’ World Peace Day campaign and the forthcoming Global Citizen 2021 event.
Previous charity work has included raiding funds for the National Children’s Home by designing a pillowcase for their ByteNight charity event; working with the Space For Music project to help renovate and relaunch Band On The Wall, a venue in Manchester owned and operated by the Inner City Music charity.
2003 saw Mica being presented with the Gold Badge Award by the British Academy Of Composers and Songwriters for her special contribution to the British entertainment industry.
Mica Paris was appointed Member Of The Order Of The British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to music, entertainment and charity.