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Written by Jessica Jabroux. All photos by Olivier Rieu for Style Quotidien. Clothing by Marc-Antoine Barrois. Hair & make-up by Aiko Sato.
 

French singer and actress Melissa Mars was born in Marseille, France. While most little girls spend their childhood playing with their dolls, young Melissa was making career plans – she had her sights on acting. Part of her desire to be an actress stems from the fact that she is an only child who grew up in a universe created by her vivid imagination. “When I was nine years old, I decided that I wanted to be an actress,” she says. “I was a lonely child, but I always had my imagination. I was inventing characters, creating stories and living in an imaginary world,” she says. Her first theater performance was at the tender age of thirteen, an experience that convinced the young Melissa that she was on the right career path. Singing, however, would prove to be a harder sell for the ambitious teenager. “I didn’t want to be a singer at all,” she confesses. Even the school’s music teacher tried to foment her natural talent, but young Melissa refused.

It seems odd that despite her undeniable talent, Mars never wanted to be a singer. Ironically, it was several fateful experiences that would have a hand in making her a French pop star despite her reluctance. The first came about when she was a teenager. Performing in various theater productions, Mars was unhappy with the quiet and childlike qualities of her voice. Encouraged by her mother, she began to take singing lessons to strengthen and gain control of her voice in order to improve its projection from the theater stage. From the very first session, her instructor saw her potential as a singer. “He told me ‘I’m sure you’re going to earn your living as a singer,’” she recalls. But Melissa was not convinced. “At the end of the year, he asked me to open his concerts for him and I turned it down. I absolutely did not want to be a singer,” she says adamantly. “But music wanted to be in my life.”

Years later, the dark eyed beauty had a chance meeting that would solidify her destiny as a singer. She had an important dinner meeting with French director André Téchiné to talk about appearing in one of his films, but the two didn’t hit it off. Luckily she made an impression on a fellow dinner guest, acclaimed songwriter François Bernheim. Bernheim wanted to hear Melissa sing, so he contacted her agent. Her agent convinced her to sing for Bernheim, and this informal audition led to her first single called “Papa m’aime pas” (“Daddy Doesn’t Love Me”), written by Melissa’s mother and released in 2003. Ironically, the childlike quality of her voice that she hated so much growing up was a major selling point for Bernheim. To date, Mars has released five studio albums, each one with a different theme and sound. Starting with her second album, Melissa became involved in the recording process, from concept to lyrics to musical composition. She has also been involved with the concepts of all of her music videos, and Mars even directed the video for her single “Love machine” which takes place in the desert. “The record company trusted me enough, because I had been filming since I was sixteen years old,” she explains. “My reference for that video was Mad Max. I love the desert and the armor.” These concept albums and videos have helped Mars to carve a niche in the music industry that has given her staying power, something that cannot be said for many singers who have come and gone over the years.

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Exclusive Interview with Singer and Actress Melissa Mars

This special niche has also helped her amass a large and loyal fan base, a group she calls her “Army of Love” – also the name of one of her singles. Melissa is very grateful for their support. “The goal is to be appreciated and to offer things that people like. Even if we can’t be liked by everybody, it’s important to connect with the ones who identify with you as an artist,” she explains. The Army of Love is an indomitable force in social media. The fans are faithful and active in their support, and have created a special “Street Team” to help publicize Melissa’s events and accomplishments. In addition to her solo albums, Mars has also had duets with hit makers Lara Fabian and Pascal Obispo, as well as a recent collaboration with the French underground group Riot in Paris. Her single with Obispo, called 1980, shot to #5 on the French music charts, and led to a music video and many television appearances. Melissa is currently working on her next solo album, which will be released later in the year. The first single called “Tweet n’ Roll” is available now on iTunes and Amazon.

But despite her growing music career, Mars never gave up on her dream of becoming an actress. Over the years, she has landed roles in several short films and appearances in various television series. She even had a part in the action film From Paris with Love, acting alongside John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, an experience she describes as being “like a dream”. That same year she was chosen for a role that would allow her to combine her love for acting with her singing talent – that of Aloysia in the acclaimed musical Mozart l’opera rock about the life of prodigious composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Once again, it was a chance meeting that opened the door. “I went to a party at Universal with a friend, and on the way we went to pick up his friend Dove Attia. And when we arrived, Dove told us ‘Oh you have to listen to my new musical!’ and I after the very first song I fell in love,” she recalls.

“Two weeks later my voice coach called me and told me that she was thinking of me for a project – Mozart l’opera rock. At this point she had no idea that I had met Dove or listened to the songs,” she says incredulously. “I auditioned the next day, and I wanted the role of Constance because I thought my voice fit her profile better. Aloysia is a lyrical performance and I had never done lyrical before,” she confessed. She had five days before the final audition to prepare for a lyrical performance. Despite waking up the morning of the auditions with laryngitis, her passion and talent propelled her into the leading role of Aloysia. Mozart, directed by Olivier Dahan who helmed the Oscar winning film Ma Vie en Rose, went on to gross $100 million in two years and toured in more than twenty European cities. Touring and performing alongside an incredibly talented cast, Mars gave a standout performance in the hit rock musical. This past February the ensemble cast did a mini-tour in Kiev, Saint Petersburg and Moscow where the show was transformed into a symphonic concert with 60 musicians and a 40-member choir. This October they will reprise their tour in Russia and Ukraine.

Recently, Melissa decided to spend time in Los Angeles to test the waters in the Hollywood film industry, and she has already completed two American films set for release this year. The Cabining is a campy horror flick set in a serene artist’s retreat. My Cage is a drama by French actor and director Guillaume Campanacci about two roommates struggling with love, money and addiction. Mars also recently completed filming an action movie called Terms & Conditions, due out in 2014. Starring with veteran actors Tom Sizemore, Vivica A. Fox and Bai Ling, Melissa shows her talent by playing a tough girl from Los Angeles named Ruby. She’s currently in Texas filming the Millie Loredo thriller Sorrow, where she plays investigating Detective Salinas. Given Mars’ determination to be an actress, there is no doubt that she will take Hollywood by storm. Watch this space.

Click here to see Melissa in the new SQ Editorial called “Recycled Beauty”!