Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr.
18 August 1983
|Other names||Mica/Mika Penniman|
|Citizenship||United Kingdom, United States|
After recording his first extended play, Dodgy Holiday, Mika was named the number-one predicted breakthrough act of 2007 in an annual BBC poll of music critics, Sound of 2007. Mika released his first full-length studio album, Life in Cartoon Motion, on Island Records in 2007, which sold more than 5.6 million copies worldwide and helped Mika win a Brit Award—winning Best British Breakthrough act—and receive a Grammy Award nomination. He topped the UK Singles Chart in January 2007 with "Grace Kelly". He has since gone on to record four more studio albums (most recently My Name is Michael Holbrook released in October 2019), as well as serve as judge/mentor on both the French version of The Voice and the Italian version of X Factor. Mika has also starred in his own television variety show in Italy, Stasera Casa Mika, which won the 2017 Rose d'Or Award for Entertainment.
Life and career
1983–2006: Childhood and early career
Mika was born in Beirut, the third of five children (three sisters Yasmine, Paloma and Zuleika and one brother Fortuné), to an American-born Lebanese mother and an Israeli-born American father, Mary Joan "Joannie" (née Mouakad, daughter of John Mouakad and Odette Farah) and Michael Holbrook Penniman (son of William Frederick Penniman III and Dorothy Dyar). His father was a banker and was born in Jerusalem, where his own father – Mika's paternal grandfather William Frederick Penniman III – was a diplomat. Mika's maternal grandfather John Mouakad was Syrian (from Damascus).
When Mika was a year old, his family was forced to leave war-torn Lebanon and moved to Paris, France. The first piano piece he learned to play was "Les Champs-Élysées", by Joe Dassin. At the age of 7, he wrote his first song, a piano instrumental called "Angry", which he describes as "awful". The family moved to London when he was 9 years old. There, he attended the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, where he experienced severe bullying. He also had problems with dyslexia. In response to these experiences Mika was home-schooled by his mother at the age of 12, for six to eight months. He then attended St Philip's School in Kensington, where he was the head of the Schola Cantorum (the St. Philip's Choir). Later he attended Westminster School and the Royal College of Music, which he left to record his first album at Casablanca Records. As a child Mika was trained by Alla Ardakov (Ablaberdyeva), a Russian opera professional.
Mika's first single was a limited 7"/download release called "Relax, Take It Easy" (2006). It was play-listed by UK's BBC Radio 1 and was made Record of the Week by DJ Scott Mills. The Dodgy Holiday EP also became available for download. The song "Billy Brown" was available for free download for a week from the iTunes Store. A song titled 'Over-rated', which was recorded in 2004, was "unofficially" released online. His debut radio appearance was on Dermot O'Leary's BBC Radio 2 show in September 2006.
2007–2008: Life in Cartoon Motion
The comparisons to Freddie Mercury are fine. They started long before I made the record – I've even referred to it in Grace Kelly. A Freddie comparison is a compliment. He's a genius and one of the best there's ever been.
On 19 January 2007, Mika appeared on Later... with Jools Holland, and on The Friday Night Project . That same month, Mika was on the top of the BBC News website's Sound of 2007 poll. His single "Grace Kelly" was released by Universal Music for digital download on 8 January 2007. It reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on 21 January 2007.
Mika toured the United States in June 2007, with support from Sara Bareilles and Natalia Lesz. Mika's début album Life in Cartoon Motion was released on 5 February 2007, and brought comparisons with artists such as Freddie Mercury, Scissor Sisters, Elton John, Prince, Robbie Williams and David Bowie. "Grace Kelly", in fact, references Mercury in the lyrics: "I try to be like Grace Kelly/But all her looks were too sad/So I tried a little Freddie/I've gone identity mad."
Mika was the musical act for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 26 March 2007 and 14 February 2008 and for Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 27 March 2007. He also performed live on So You Think You Can Dance on 26 July 2007.
On 10 October 2007, Mika began his Dodgy Holiday Tour, playing at venues across Europe. On 17 November 2007, Mika started the UK leg of his tour with support from Palladium. The North American leg of his tour began in January 2008 with support from The Midway State and Creature and continued through February with a stop in Los Angeles for the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.
His debut album Life in Cartoon Motion has a coming of age theme and deals with his transition from childhood to the present, though he has stated that not all of the songs are autobiographical. His songs often deal with difficult topics. For instance, in "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" the theme of larger women suffering from discrimination is explored. Mika has said that the fact that his mother was a big woman, and that he had seen the prejudices against her, helped him to write the song. In another example of dealing with more difficult subject matter, in the song "Billy Brown", Mika writes about a married man who has a homosexual affair.
On 20 February 2008, Mika opened the 2008 Brit Awards with a live performance of "Love Today," "Grace Kelly," and a duet, "Standing in the Way of Control", with Beth Ditto. He was later awarded the BRIT Award for Best British Breakthrough Artist.
Mika has reportedly written songs for other musicians, saying "I write songs for other people under different names most of the time. I have a little family of three names. One of them has been discovered – it's Alice."
2009–2010: The Boy Who Knew Too Much
Prior to the release of his second studio album, Mika released a limited-edition extended play titled Songs for Sorrow on 8 June 2009. The EP includes 4 tracks and a 68-page book featuring lyrics and exclusive illustrated interpretations of each song by some of Mika's favourite artists. The song "Blue Eyes" was used to promote the EP, and was A-listed on the BBC Radio 2 playlist.
Mika's second studio album The Boy Who Knew Too Much was released on 21 September 2009. Mika recorded the majority of the album in Los Angeles with producer and musician Greg Wells, who also produced his debut album Life in Cartoon Motion. The album has been described as Mika dealing with his adolescent teenage years and "in a sense is kind of part two" of his first album.
The album was originally titled We Are Golden after the first single from the album, "We Are Golden". On 20 July 2009 in an on-air interview with DJ Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 1, Mika revealed he was considering renaming the album, because he wanted "something a little more ridiculous." On 6 August 2009 it was confirmed that the album's title would change to The Boy Who Knew Too Much.
The first single from the album, "We Are Golden", made its radio debut in the United Kingdom on 20 July 2009, on BBC Radio 2 and was released for download on 6 September 2009, with the physical release following on 7 September 2009. The single debuted at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart on 13 September 2009. Mika's promotional tour of the single included live performances at the iTunes Festival 2009 at The Roundhouse in Camden, London and on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in September 2009. It was reported that Mika spent £25,000 on drinks after inviting fans to join him at his local pub via Twitter on 7 September 2009 to celebrate the release of his single.
"Blame It on the Girls" was released as the second single in the United States and Japan. This was alongside "Rain" being the second single in the United Kingdom which was released on 23 November. "Blame It on the Girls" was released as a single in the United Kingdom on 15 February 2010. His American promotional tour consisted of live performances on Good Morning America in New York City on 25 September 2009 and the Late Show with David Letterman on 14 October 2009.
In November 2009 Mika performed 'Rain' and 'We Are Golden' live at the Sydney Opera House for the Australian Idol Grand Final. He also performed on Sunrise on the Seven Network in Australia. On 30 November 2009, Mika performed "Let It Snow" in a duet with Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada. On 21 March 2010 Mika performed "Gave It All Away" with Boyzone on ITV1 for Boyzone: A Tribute To Stephen Gately.
2010–2014: The Origin of Love, X Factor Italy and Songbook Vol.1
Before the release of his third album, Mika stated in numerous interviews that it would be more simplistic and less layered than the previous one. Mika announced the title of the album, The Origin of Love in a French interview on 17 June. Mika stated he would include a number of French tracks on the album, and that the musical style would include elements of Daft Punk and Fleetwood Mac. He described the album as less childlike and more serious.
The first single released from the album was "Elle me dit", Mika's first French track. It was released online on 1 July 2011. Mika collaborated with a number of artists on various tracks of this album, including Nick Littlemore of Empire of The Sun, Paul Steel, frYars, Doriand, Priscilla Renea, Billboard, Hillary Lindsey, Pharrell Williams, Benny Benassi and Klas Åhlund. Greg Wells was involved in the production of the album. At the time he was working on his own album, MIKA also contributed his vocals to the production of The All-American Rejects' 2012 album Kids in the Street.
On 8 June 2012, the video for "Make You Happy" was released on Vimeo. The song served as a buzz single for the album. On 14 June 2012, "Celebrate", which features Pharrell Williams, was announced as the album's lead single. The album was released internationally on 17 September 2012 and in the UK on 8 October 2012.
On 6 March 2013, Mika announced a new tour and that after taking some time off, he had begun writing his fourth album, as well as songs for other artists. Mika also hinted that new material might be released towards the end of 2013.
On 23 April 2013, Mika was revealed to be the new judge on the seventh season of The X Factor Italy. He was the first international mentor on the Italian edition of the show. Mika returned to the panel for the eighth and ninth series of the show before leaving to focus on other projects.
Also in 2013, Mika and his sister Yasmine designed two watches for Swatch, in honor of the company's 30th anniversary. The watches were unveiled in November 2013 at the Venice Biennale.
On 17 January 2014, Mika took part in the Italian television show Le Invasioni Barbariche on La7, and performed a duet with the Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Dario Fo of the song "Ho visto un Re", written by Fo and played by Enzo Jannacci.
2015–2018: No Place in Heaven
In February 2015, Mika performed a series of three concerts with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal or OSM), under the direction of conductor Simon Leclerc. The concerts featured a selection of Mika's songs scored for a full orchestra by Mika and Leclerc. The concerts met with glowing reviews, with some calling the presentations "memorable" and "a beautiful collaboration between the artist and the orchestra."
Mika's fourth album, No Place in Heaven, was released on 15 June 2015. He described the album as "direct, low-down, open, candid, playful, yet a mature pop album which takes its inspiration from '60s pop music". On 13 November 2015 the album was re-released in the form of a double-disc deluxe edition, containing a number of bonus tracks on Disc 1 as well as a full-length orchestral bonus disc, which includes a performance by Mika with L'Orchestre Symphonique De Montreal.
The following year, Mika began filming for his own television show, called Stasera Casa Mika, in Italy. The variety show featured a number of Italian actors, musicians and other cultural icons, as well as performers from around the world, including Kylie Minogue, Sting, LP and Dita von Teese. In addition to music, the show had comedy sketches and serious looks at life around Italy. The show won the 2017 Rose d'Or as Best Entertainment Series.
In May 2016, Mika and his sister Yasmine unveiled another Swatch watch that they had designed.
Mika released a single, "It's My House," which also served as the theme song for the second series of his show Stasera Casa Mika in October 2017.
Also, at the end of 2017, Mika began a collaboration with Pilot pens. He and his sister Yasmine designed a collection of 24 different pens to help celebrate Pilot's 100th anniversary. As part of the promotion for this collaboration, a newly remixed (by Ryan Riback) version of Mika's song "Celebrate" was released and used in advertisements.
2019–2020: My Name Is Michael Holbrook
In May 2019, Mika released the single "Ice Cream" and announced his fifth studio album, My Name Is Michael Holbrook, for release on 4 October 2019. Several other singles and accompanying videos were released over the next few months leading up to the album release: "Tiny Love," "Dear Jealousy," "Tomorrow," and "Sanremo."
The album was promoted in North America in September 2019 with the Tiny Love Tiny Tour at small venues in New York, Montreal, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Mexico City. In addition, Mika appeared on the American TV show "Late Night with Seth Meyers" on 11 September 2019, performing new song "Tiny Love," along with "Big Girl" from his first album.
In October 2019, Mika was honored with the Music Award at the 2019 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards hosted in London by the UK's Attitude Magazine. The award acknowledged that "after staring down homophobia at the start of his pop career, Mika is now making unapologetically queer music that also processes his past pain." In a related article in Attitude, Mika noted, "If I didn’t have music, I would not have been able to understand or deal with my sexuality in the same way. It’s always been at the centre of my writing."
Mika launched a worldwide tour, known as the Revelation Tour, in London on 10 November 2019. The 2019 leg of the tour included dates in Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium. It continued in 2020 with stops in Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and Italy then went on to several dates in New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately, the Asian leg of the tour, which as to include dates in South Korea and Japan, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.
In between concert stops, Mika made several television appearances, including: a live episode of X Factor Italia (24 October 2019); the finale of France's The Voice Kids (October 2019); and the live finale of Danse Avec les Stars (23 November 2019).
Mika also performed on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of its 130th anniversary celebration in October 2019.
In January 2020, Mika released the album "MIKA Live at Brooklyn Steel," for digital download/streaming only. It is a recording of his September 13, 2019, concert at the venue Brooklyn Steel in New York.
On September 19, 2020, Mika held a streaming concert in aid of Beirut, Lebanon, to help the city's citizens after a devastating explosion hit Beirut in August. The concert, titled "I Love Beirut", featured a number of international performers, including Kylie Minogue, Danna Paola, Louann, Salma Hayek and Rufus Wainwright. The concert went on to raise more than £1 million. In recognition of his efforts for aiding Lebanon, Mika received the Order of Merit (Lebanon) in early 2021.
Mika closed out 2020 by performing several times at the palace of Versailles in Paris. In mid-December he performed an intimate live concert with the Royal Opera of Versailles with a variety of classical and other musicians. Accompanying him at this concert were
- Cellist Gautier Capuçon
- Soprano Ida Falk-Wiland
- Counter-tenor Jakub Józef Orliński
- Guitarist Thibaut Garcia,
- 100 Voices of Gospel Choir
The concert was recorded and subsequently broadcast internationally. In addition, an album of the concert, "Mika a l'Opéra Royal de Versailles" was later offered as a digital download/streaming release in early 2021.
Mika also performed at the New Year's Eve celebration, La Grande Soiree, filmed at Versailles, which aired on France 2 television. Mika performed an 8-minute opening medley of some of his most famous songs. He then closed the program with a countdown to midnight, performing his music set against an amazing pyrotechnic and fireworks display.
With touring and most live performances on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mika turned to other projects in 2021.
Mika's legal name is Michael Holbrook Penniman, Jr., but he was given the nickname Mica by his mother. As he grew older, he changed the 'c' to a 'k'.
Mika has one younger brother and one younger sister along with two older sisters. His oldest sister Yasmine, who works as an artist under the nom de plume DaWack, painted the cartoon art for his two albums Life in Cartoon Motion and The Boy Who Knew Too Much.
In addition to English, Mika speaks French, Spanish and Italian fluently; in an interview on 28 September 2009 with The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 he commented that he had taken Mandarin Chinese lessons for nine years but does not speak it very well; he also mentioned that his three sisters speak it fluently. He also speaks a little Arabic, in a Lebanese dialect. Mika holds dual UK-US citizenship.
Early in his career, many questions about Mika's sexual orientation arose, but he declined to label himself. In a September 2009 interview in Gay & Night Mika commented on his sexuality: "I've never ever labelled myself. But having said that, I've never limited my life, I've never limited who I sleep with ... Call me whatever you want. Call me bisexual, if you need a term for me ..." Later he stated in an interview with This Is London: "I consider myself label-less because I could fall in love with anybody – literally – any type, any body. I'm not picky."
A few years later, in an August 2012 interview with the magazine Instinct, the singer described himself as gay. More recently, Mika has been more open about his family life and his personal relationship with filmmaker Andreas Dermanis, with whom he's been involved for more than 10 years. (Due to the similarity of name and of sexual orientation, in New Zealand there was sometimes confusion with their own singer and entertainer, Mika X, who had often been called just 'Mika'.)
Mika has been involved over the years with the French charitable organization Imagine for Margo / Children without Cancer. In 2014 and 2015, Mika and the late photographer Peter Lindbergh worked together on an advertising campaign for the charity. Mika's image continues to be used in ads for the organization.
In December 2015, Mika visited Lebanon with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and spent time with refugees who had been forced to flee their homes during the ongoing conflict in Syria. Since then, he has made several video messages in support of this organization and in November 2017 was a special guest at a UNHCR charity event held in Milan.
- Life in Cartoon Motion (2007)
- The Boy Who Knew Too Much (2009)
- The Origin of Love (2012)
- Songbook Vol. 1 (2013, compilation)
- No Place in Heaven (2015)
- My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019)
- MIKA Live at Brooklyn Steel (digital/streaming only) (2020)
- Mika a l'Opéra Royal de Versailles (digital/streaming only) (2021)
- Dodgy Holiday Tour (2007–2008)
- Songs for Sorrow Acoustic Tour (2009)
- 1955 Tour (2009)
- Imaginarium Tour (2010)
- The Origin of Love Tour (2012)
- An Intimate Evening (2013)
- No Place Like Heaven Tour (2015–2016)
- Tiny Love Tiny Tour (2019)
- Revelation Tour (2019–2020)
Awards and nominations
|Amadeus Austrian Music Awards||2008||Best International Single||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|
|Attitude Awards||2019||The Music Award||Mika||Won|||
|BBC Sound of...||2007||Sound of 2007||Mika||Won|||
|BT Digital Music Awards||2007||Best Pop Artist||Mika||Nominated|||
|Brit Awards||2008||British Single of the Year||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|||
|British Album of the Year||Life in Cartoon Motion||Nominated|
|British Breakthrough Act||Mika||Won|
|British Male Solo Artist||Nominated|
|Capital FM's Awards||2008||Favorite UK Male Artist||Mika||Won|||
|Favorite UK Album||Life in Cartoon Motion||Won|
|Coca-Cola Onstage Awards||2017||Best International Pop Show||Mika||Won|||
|2020||Best International Artist||Won|||
|Danish Music Awards||2008||Foreign Newcomer of the Year||Mika||Won|||
|ECHO Awards||2008||Best International Newcomer||Mika||Won|||
|Best International Male||Nominated|
|Flaiano Prizes||2018||Best Television Programm||Stasera casa Mika||Won|||
|Denmark Gaffa Awards||2020||Best Foreign Solo Act||Mika||Nominated|||
|Best Foreign Album||My Name Is Michael Holbrook||Nominated|
|GLAAD Media Award||2020||Outstanding Music Artist||Nominated|||
|Gay Music Chart Awards||2015||Best British Music Video||"Good Guys"||Won|||
|Grammy Awards||2008||Best Dance Recording||"Love Today"||Nominated|||
|IFPI Hong Kong Top Sales Music Awards||2007||Top 10 Best Selling Foreign Albums||Life in Cartoon Motion||Won|||
|Ivor Novello Awards||2008||Songwriter of the Year||Mika||Won|||
|Best Selling British Song||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|
|Los Premios 40 Principales||2007||Best International Song||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|
|Best International Artist||Mika||Nominated|
|MTV Asia Awards||2008||Favorite Breakthrough Artist||Mika||Nominated|
|MTV Australia Awards||2008||Video of the Year||"Happy Ending"||Nominated|||
|MTV Europe Music Awards||2007||Most Addictive Track||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|||
|Best Solo Act||Mika||Nominated|
|MTV Italian Music Awards||2008||Man of the Year||Mika||Nominated|||
|2011||Too Much Award||Nominated|||
|MTV Video Music Awards Japan||2008||Best New Artist in a Video||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|||
|NME Awards||2008||Worst Dressed||Mika||Nominated|||
|Worst Album||Life in Cartoon Motion||Nominated|
|NRJ Music Awards||2008||International Song of the Year||"Relax, Take It Easy"||Nominated|||
|Music Video of the Year||Nominated|
|International Album of the Year||Life in Cartoon Motion||Nominated|
|International Revelation of the Year||Mika||Won|
|2010||International Male Artist of the Year||Nominated|||
|International Song of the Year||"Elle me dit"||Nominated|
|Music Video of the Year||Nominated|
|Nickelodeon Australian Kids' Choice Awards||2007||Fave International Singer||Mika||Nominated|||
|Nickelodeon UK Kids' Choice Awards||2007||Best Music Video||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|||
|Best Male Singer||Mika||Nominated|
|Q Awards||2007||Best Breakthrough Act||Mika||Nominated|||
|2009||Best Video||"We Are Golden"||Nominated|||
|Radio Disney Music Awards||2014||Best Musical Collaboration||"Popular Song" (feat. Ariana Grande)||Nominated|||
|Rose d'Or||2017||Best Entertainment Series||Stasera casa Mika||Won|||
|Swiss Music Awards||2008||Best International Newcomer||Mika||Nominated|
|TMF Awards||2008||Best International Pop||Mika||Won|||
|Best International Male||Nominated|
|Best International New||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||2007||Choice Male Breakout Artist||Mika||Nominated|
|The Record of the Year||2007||Record of the Year||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|
|UK Festival Awards||2007||Best Festival Pop Act||Mika||Nominated|||
|UK Music Video Awards||2009||Best Art Direction in a Video||"We Are Golden"||Nominated|||
|Victoires de la Musique||2012||Original Song of the Year||"Elle me dit"||Nominated|||
|Virgin Media Music Awards||2007||Best UK Act||Mika||Nominated|||
|Most Fanciable Male||Nominated|
|Best Track||"Grace Kelly"||Nominated|
|Vodafone Live Music Awards||2007||Best Live Male||Mika||Won|||
|World Music Awards||2007||World's Best Selling New Artist||Mika||Won|
|World's Best Selling Pop/Rock Male Artist||Won|
|World's Best Selling British Artist||Won|
|2014||World's Best Live Act||Nominated|||
|World's Best Male Act||Nominated|
|World's Best Entertainer||Nominated|
|World's Best Song||"Popular Song" (feat. Ariana Grande)||Nominated|
|World's Best Video||Nominated|
|World's Best Song||Nominated|
|World's Best Album||The Origin of Love||Nominated|
|Songbook Vol. 1||Nominated|
|Žebřík Music Awards||2007||Himself||Best International Discovery||Nominated|||
|Best International Male||Nominated|
|"Rain"||Best International Song||Nominated|
|2014||"Boum Boum Boum"||Best International Video||Nominated|||
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La Méditation Transcendantale (...) C'est très utile.
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