Charisse Mills Spills on Sexiness, Success, and Secrets!
Popra (opera + pop) creator Charisse Mills joined Carolyn Conte to discuss feminism, champagne, and her secret business. Read the ending to make sure you don’t miss out on a chance to win $500!
Q1: You recently released the music video for your epic single, Champagne. How did the concept come to be, and can you explain the setting, or story, a little to readers and listeners?
“Champagne is my life style. That’s mainly my drink that I drink. I don’t drink hard liquor, and my life is always fabulous and happy, and when you think of champagne — you know, when you drink champagne it’s like a celebration. I wanted to make a record about celebrating life and being happy and partying like life is champagne. You know, when you walk into a club and you just want to be free, that’s really how it came about. You know when you’re a beautiful woman and you walk in of course a lot of people are looking at you! The lyrics speak for themselves.
Q2: Watching some of your opera singing, I can’t help but be in awe of your voice. I would expect you to pursue opera, but instead you made this creative mix of pop and opera (”popra”). What inspired the brave blend?
I wanted to be unique. I realize the business needs something fresh, new. So I just started to create my own lane. I wanted to look like my voice and also sing like my voice. Whenever I’d get booked for a show, you know, I’d walk in and they’d look at me like ‘Wait a minute? This is the opera singer?’ I don’t look like an opera singer! But I feel like, I don’t want to give up my god-given talent, which was singing opera. I don’t want to just do pop, because there’s so many pop singers. I want to stand out in society, knowing that I created my own genre called popera.
Q3: Can you talk about how you met big names like Neyo and French Montana, and maybe what your first impressions were?
Definitely, well how I met Neyo — we were actually at an event four years ago. I literally didn’t even know it was him! He always wears his hat and he didn’t wear his hat, so I’m like “who is this guy!?” He said Shaffer, but I didn’t even know his real name at the time. So we were at a table and there were people right next to us. Neyo was like ‘so what do you do’ and I told him ‘I’m a singer’ and he said ‘oh really that’s great! We should keep in contact!’ and I’m like ‘nooo that’s ok’ …I said no! I was heading to the bathroom with my girlfriends and they said ‘girl! do you know who that was!’ that’s Neyo!’ So as I’m getting ready to leave I bumped into him again! I was like, ‘You know what, I am so sorry. To be honest, I did not know who you were. Of course you can have my number.
Wow, I would not have the courage to approach him again!
But you know what, he was flattered and knew I wasn’t trying to be a groupie or anything like that. So we went to the studio and from then on our friendship was so organic. He was like ‘You’re so innocent’ and he was teaching me about writing, I would just go to the studio and watch him write. We wrote this record “Integrity” because of how I kept my integrity with him. So the record is a true story.
In regards to meeting French Montana, we met off of just business. I contacted his management, I felt he was the best fit for the record. I wanted somebody authentic…I researched and was like ok he’s hot, single, has a good image, he’s working on a new album. I’m gonna contact French Montana’s management. He signed the paperwork, got into the studio, and everything else is history.
That really shows where ambition can get you.
Yes. One thing I’ve learned in this business is not asking favors. If you’re asking favors you’re at someone’s mercy. I make sure to do everything the right way, you’ve really go to pay your way in this business. It’s not only about talent, it’s about hard work and it’s about really putting out your money and doing it the right way. You can’t ask for favors. It’s unfortunate how the business works, nobody puts out their hands to help you. I’ve been in the business for 13 years professionally, I changed my genre three and a half years ago — I was doing opera straight. I wanted to make something that would put me on the map. I went to a few friends in the business; they couldn’t understand it. They’re like ‘Pop opera!? What is that? You know. There’s no way. Create it and then come back.’ So I’m like ‘Really? You want me to develop it myself and then come back to you? After I do all the hard work?’ You know what, if I’m going to go all the way and create my own work, I’m going to go all the way and go independent. There’s no way, I’ve already invested a quarter million dollars into my business. For me to invest that much money in myself, I have to believe in myself. If you can’t believe in yourself and invest in yourself, how do you expect others to do that for you?
You have to show your work. Show people why you belong in the music society.
Q4: You also performed for Jesse Jackson! What was that like?
That was amazing! Because he’s such a positive person and he speaks people’s rights and on doing to the right thing and that’s why I wanted to be a part of that event and give homage to him, especially on such a special day — it was actually his birthday and I sang two opera artists and everybody was so happy about it. They were like “Give us a call, whatever you’re doing we’ll give you support. And it’s so amazing to see the support that people have been continuously giving me. I just hope the whole world will get to see all the hard work that I’ve done.
Q5: Tell me about a time you realized your music could really empower women.
I do. I am just so grateful that my first major debut was on such a powerful record called “Integrity”. The meaning of the word itself is so powerful. It should give women something to look forward to. That’s why I started a campaign called Your Integrity, and it’s just to bring awareness to how keeping integrity in your life — not just in the business, but in everything.
Q6: You also have a clothing line, C. Moi, that sponsored the Princess Project, which made prom dresses available for underprivileged youth. Why is it important for girls to have that moment, like dancing at prom or maybe just when they hear a great feminist song, to feel pretty or special?
It’s that moment where you’re grown up! You know, prom is where you’re able to do something that your parents wouldn’t allow to your hair or — well, back in the day! Back in the day, it was a moment of becoming an adult. Dress in a beautiful gown, do your hair, drive in a limo, it’s that special day. Back when I was younger, I was grateful to have a mother that could make me a dress — a custom dress. We didn’t have all the luxuries in life, she was a single parent with three kids. But you know what? She not one day let us look like we were under privileged. Just because you are doesn’t mean you have to look like it, so I wanted to give back that special moment where you don’t have to spend a thousand or even a hundred dollars on a dress. I gave them all of the inventory we had.
Q7: Wonderful. So, last feminist question! I hear a lot of people in our culture imply that women sexualizing themselves is working against feminism. What would you say to people to explain why women need to support women being sexual OR modest?
You have to know your worth. A woman’s worth is everything. No matter if it’s being sexy. A woman is a sexual being. If you look back in the eighteenth century, whether they were big or small they were painted naked. It’s just nature. Look at the bible days! People were naked. People point their views and make things negative. You shouldn’t take it as negative, it’s actually empowering. Women have something men don’t; that beautiful aura that men don’t. If they want to wear something that shows off their body — why not? If you got it, flaunt it!
Q8: Amen! So, what have been your biggest challenges career wise so far?
My biggest challenge… being acknowledged for my talent, and not just another singer. I’ve worked so hard, I’ve studied six languages, I’ve went to music school, all these things people don’t know. I want them to know, I’m not just another singer who just one day said they wanted to be a singer just ‘coz’. This is something God has given to me. It came out of nowhere. I just took up chorus as a hobby, and one day that changed my life I started singing along and my teacher, Steven Chaplin, was like ‘Oh my gosh, do you know you just sang the Aria perfect? That’s one of the hardest pieces to sing. I need to introduce you to someone, this can’t be ironic.
He introduced me to a woman named Anita Darian. If it wasn’t for Steven Chaplin and Anita Darian I wouldn’t be where I am today. She went to one of the top conservatories in the year; Curtis Institute. She was like in her 70s when I met her, and she wasn’t taking on any students, and she said to me after she heard me sing, ‘I want to train you!’ And just like that, that night changed my life. By 11th grade year, I changed my major, my whole entire life changed. I did what most people do in ten years within one year: training for a conservatory school. I worked my butt of, I even read ‘Opera for Dummies’. I went all over with minister choir, I got accepted into every school except Curtis — Juliard, Manhattan, Westminister, and I chose Manhattan because of the teacher. She was one of the only black urban women in the business, and all of her sopranos make it. On top of that, she does not select many freshman, but she chose me. I had to pay like 40 grand a year, it was a very expensive school. People don’t realize all of the hard work that I do, why I’m not giving up opera. It’s something that was meant for me to do.
Whether I touch one heart or a million hearts, at least I know I did what I’m supposed to do.
Q9: That’s what matters. Is that the most common misconception of you then? That you didn’t work for this? Or what is the most common misconception?
Mhm. Even now, my record with French, people think it was a favor, or we must have slept together. I’m like, you’re kidding me right? They don’t know that you work hard for this. I hope the world will be able to see that I did put my heart and hard work and time into this.
Q10: They better! So, who would you love to collaborate with? Any role models?
Man, I wish I could have collaborated with Whitney, and Michael! Those are my idols. But today, Celine Dion. She’s one of my idols too. In regards to music related to what I’m doing, I love Drake, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. Those are my three top — I would say hey, it would work well with my project, come on board!
Q11: Awesome. Now getting down to the serious questions…What is your go-to comfort food?!
Don’t talk about food! Let me tell you, my mom is the food police. I love food so much, that’s why I have the big booty — I’m trying to lose it and everybody’s trying to gain it! But let’s see..I love seafood, good mac n cheese, with like sea bass — it has to have flavor. And I love crab legs! I’m a real island girl!
Q12: Yum! Ok, last question: What does the future look like for Charisse Mills?
Man, I have so much — it’s just about timing. I’m trying to put things out that are relevant, and at the right time. My future’s pretty good. I have two businesses that I run, one is a silent business that someday I’ll reveal possibly once my career takes off, which helps fund what I do. All of this is coming from me, I work extremely hard. The future I see as being really bright and big because I work hard for it. I have a really good team that helps backs me and supports me. That’s it.
Beautiful, I think everyone can agree that is important to success. Thank you so much for talking with me. If there’s anything you want to add,
I’m actually putting together a DJ remix competition. I want their best remix version of “Champagne” and “Gypsy Woman”. I’m giving away awesome prizes They can submit their best remix to BookCharisse@gmail.com. If those remixes make it, we’ll work them to make Billboard! That’s the plan.
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