Who is Michelle Koopman?
I am this plat op die grond* girl from Atlantis who had to start working straight after high school as my granny’s pension could no longer sustain both of us. I grew up knowing that I would be different and that I have been given many gifts, but most of all the gift to LOVE all people equally.
*Down to earth
As far as we know, you sing and act. What else do you do?
At night I’m writing my memoirs/story about my life. I also have my own blog on Facebook called MY SISTER where I share my mistakes and experiences with women in order to empower them to overcome. I love animals and spend a lot of time taking care of my own as well as some stray’s. I also love to nurse people back to health with my concoctions. I have a pharmacy inside my bag!
What or who got you into the arts?
I started singing from a very young age, people used to think that it’s the radio playing when they walked pass our house. My uncles were my musical influences and Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, Randy Crawford, Peabo Bryson, James Ingram etc. became my mentors. They all had to chip in to raise me after my parents decided to divorce and leave me behind with my granny. My grandparents adopted me and made sure that I went to school where I sang in the choir and did drama as well. I also sang in the All Saints Anglican Church choir and I believe that was a good foundation for me.
Since when have you been writing music?
I was standing in the bathroom in Mosselbay about 10 years ago when I heard a song with all its musical background and I recorded it on my phone. From there I got songs in my dreams and wherever else I would find myself. I’m not a lyricist and is still eagerly praying for the right people to come my way so that we can work on my songs and then record them.
Please tell us about your experience being part of Heroes, The Musical.
It’s really strange how it all came to pass. The casting for Heroes; the musical was already done and the cast was already rehearsing when I stepped into the director, Sean Dryden’s home one night after work. The guy who gives me a lift daily, my best friend, asked me if he could please just go rehearse for this thing he is part of and if I could possibly just wait for him. Me, being the supportive friend said, “NATUURLIK my maatjie.”* So whilst sitting in the lounge I was invited inside to sit with all of them and that is when Sean, the director, recognized me from my stint in the Passion play that was on at ArtsCape Theatre a few years ago. He immediately invited me to come and join rehearsals and that’s how it began.
*Of course, my friend
When you’re not gracing the stages, what work do you do?
I’m a client liaison officer for Route Quest (Pty) Ltd where I assist and attend to matters relating to financial analyses for transporters and private clients.
What would you like to achieve in the next 3 years?
I would like to become an advocate and volunteer at the SPCA/Animal Cruelty and come up with ideas and interventions to educate our young people on animal needs and care.
I would love to complete some of my songs and collaborate with other local spoken word artists to do outreach at various institutions where our young people are being rehabilitated for drug abuse etc.
I want to complete my book.
What is the best part of your job?
My colleagues, Pieter and Daleen, they’re the most caring people I have ever met.
Oh yes, and the fact that I do things that I never ever thought possible for someone without a degree!
Do you think that artists have a social responsibility or should they just go on and create their art?
I completely think so, yes!!!
From a young age I knew that I am a fighter for people’s rights and at one stage I became really dark and sick because of not having a platform to express myself and help others, but I realized soon after that I needed to create that platform. In 2018 I am creating that platform.
If you could change one thing in Cape Town, what would it be?
The inequality between rich and poor. The crime on our streets. The rape of our women and children. The stigma and colored mentality that most of us still adhere to and practice on a daily basis.
Do you think that it is easy for new artists to get their things on the radio?
This industry is ruthless so unless you know people, have lots of money/influence you will have to GRAFFFFFF to get somewhere, let alone on radio.
What is your least favorite thing about the music scene?
Jealousy and spitefulness among artist. When music is no longer the passion, but money is.
What is your opinion on the current water situation in Cape Town?
Water is a basic need and a right, according to our constitution, right? I’m honestly caught up between facts and conspiracy theories right now. hahahaha!
But in all seriousness, I think we can learn from this, work together and practice saving water every second of the day. This is making us more appreciative of the source of LIFE.
If you could work with any artist/producer, who would it be?
I just love Nasty C and his realness about where he comes from, it’s all there in his music. I would love a collaboration with him.
I think as a singer/mentor, definitely Karen Kortje, the best singer of my life. She would be able to guide me through this industry because of what she has already faced.
Song writer: Craig Lucas, most definitely! He is a genius!!!
Theatre: definitely Sean Dryden and Christo Davids.
You’re a very confident, big bodied woman. Any advice for young women struggling with weight issues?
I used to hide under huge T-shirts and long skirts or pants for many years as a child. I was so depressed and cried myself to sleep until one day I realized that THIS WORLD IS MY RUN WAY. This body is MINE!!! I need to love it and be proud of it! I’m still very conservative in some ways and do not wear short skirts, but BODYCON is my thing y’all! Curvy, big booty, classy woman! There was no stopping me from there on. Now I wear bikinis at the beach and I live my life to the fullest, flip the rest!
What was your highlight for 2017?
Sjoe!* I think being part of a Body positive photo shoot was just the cherry on my cake!!! I was so honored and proud to be representing fuller figured women. And obviously Heroes; the Musical.
Please give us your opinion on talent competitions like SA Idols, The Voice etc.
I think it’s great for ordinary people to have opportunities like these shows, however I myself feel that I would not want to go for these shows because it’s not ALL REAL with regards to the vetting process etc. I do like THE VOICE though and would perhaps go for it one day.
What was the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since you started singing?
Trust your gut. Sing with your heart and soul, listen to your band and blend in with them. Be open to new things and most importantly, BELIEVE IN YOUR TALENT.
During the time you were working on Heroes; The Musical, how did you balance family life, work and the demands of the show?
I am a multi-tasker, so it was really not that hectic doing dance rehearsal on Monday and Theatre and song rehearsal on Thursdays. Plus, we were all like a family who supported each other through thick and thin.
What can we expect from Michelle Koopman in 2018?
I want to uplift my people. I want to start at least 2 of my projects and use local talent and creatives to assist me. I want to be more REAL than ever and fight injustice, abuse, stigma, body shaming and so many other trials we face in this world.
What advice would you give to young people from communities like where you’re from who want to make it in the art world?
Your now is not your tomorrow. Do not stop dreaming, I still day dream and set goals even if its just in my mind. Educate yourself, my sisters and brothers. Be HUMBLE and ask for help. DO NOT carry grudges. BE YOUR TRUE SELF AT ALL TIMES, if not, then find that person within.
Instagram: @mimilovekoopman | Facebook: Michelle Mimi Koopman