Oh god I need help. :D
(should not throw stones)
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, but you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" asked Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
~ Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland" ~
This is the option laid before one Elaine Leighton St. Clare. An unemployed veterinarian married to a doormat general practitioner, Elaine has discovered that her life is going nowhere fast and she doesn’t know what to do about it. One misguided lie borne of desperation is all that is left to her – and that is when the unhappy and peculiar Miranda Mayet steps boldly into her disintegrating life. One lie propels her through the looking-glass and to the strange houses on the other side of it; one truth might not be enough to bring any of them back.
IN RECENT YEARS NEW ZEALAND has begun to see an increase in the number of talented individuals stepping forward to take their place on the stage in our little corner of the world. Yet no matter how many new-born stars step forward, there’s still always room for another. Is it our infamous tall poppy syndrome that has this effect, or it is simply that our down-to-earth natures allow our home-grown artistes to share our hearts equally? This article is the third in our current series exploring the lives of some of our brightest stars; we examine today the Cinderella-story of Miranda Mayet, better known to her friends and family now simply as Andi Dieudonne.
Miranda Mayet, seated cross-legged on a loveseat in the front room of her husband’s Queenstown home, is quick to admit that she has always loved fairytales. She is even quicker to deny the romantic notion that she herself is living one. Even as she flicks a loose strand of her hair behind one shoulder with a hand weighed down by gold rings, dressed impeccably in a light t-shirt and designer jeans that probably cost the equivalent of a four-person family’s weekly shopping bill, Miranda denies her rags-to-riches history. In fact, one of her first comments is: “I know I’ve changed a lot from the girl I was in high school, but isn’t that what happens when you grow up?”
In the five years that Miranda has been an all-pervasive presence in New Zealand’s music industry, she certainly has grown up. Originally an introverted though captivating songstress playing to the “teenybopper” contingent, five years on the twenty-two year old Miranda is a confident ballad queen – or at least, that is what she wishes to be. With her new single topping the charts, it seems the Cinderella Girl will get her wish after all. Her daring change of styles between her first and second albums – from pop princess to alternative rock “prince” – has apparently given her the confidence to change once more. In the words of one of her own lyrical heroes, Miranda says to me “My image and song-style changes are inspired by people like Billy Corgan…you know: ‘the more you change the less you feel.’” An enigmatic comment, perhaps, but then the girl who would now be a ballad queen is an enigma in herself.
Born in April of 1980, it would seem that Miranda Mayet was not destined for what she would eventually become. The middle child of a family of seven children, Miranda grew up in the Wellington suburb of Porirua. She willingly describes her home as “New Zealand’s closest thing to a ghetto,” though little else is said about her earliest years. Her mother was a cleaner in an unremarkable office building and her father was the janitor at her decile ten high school; the family struggled to make ends meet, with Miranda often staying out late with friends from school to avoid the fights that would arise over money. Yet, Miranda is cavalier about her past as she describes it to me. “It wasn’t unusual,” she points out pragmatically. “My parents loved each other. But like everyone else, they loved comfort. They couldn’t have it, and they blamed themselves as much as they blamed each other. All the kids I used to hang around with had parents like mine. To us, it wasn’t like we were living in dysfunctional homes or anything. My family was a normal family, just like everyone else’s.”
Miranda, for a moment, seems far away as she glances out the window, over the startling view of Lake Wakatipu that encompasses the picture window of this living room. Perhaps she is really that far removed; her old life does not resemble her new at all. Even as I think this, she turns back to me with a wry smile that it hard to equate with the nervous seventeen year old she was the year she released her first album.
“It bugs me, how people say over and over I’m the Kiwi Cinderella,” she says eventually. There is a hardness in her eyes that speaks of a long resentment of this fact. “Just because I grew up in what everyone else calls poverty, it doesn’t mean that the changes in my life are anything like Cinderella’s. It’s not like I had a fairy godmother or anything. And besides, I hate pumpkins. Absolutely hate hate HATE them!”
Some might disagree with Miranda’s insistence that no magic was involved in the building of her career; certainly, it was no ordinary rise. But when this is put to her, Miranda simply laughs. “Fame’s a stupid thing,” she insists. “It’s not something that can happen to just anybody…and because of that, they think that anyone who becomes famous has to have some remarkable story. I think it’s to make those ‘ordinary’ people feel better about the fact that it’s never happened to them. People call me Cinderella just because it makes them feel like I actually deserve my success.”
Though those comments might sound harsh to anyone who has not heard Miranda in a characteristic interview, they are more wry than conceited. Miranda has always had trouble equating her success with her own talents, or her own luck in being discovered when she was in her sixth form year. When I mention this, she laughs out loud, reaching out one small hand to stroke the Burmese cat who comes to rub against her chair. “I know it’s luck; that’s what I tell everyone. It was luck and not magic…because really, unless my job at the hairdressers hadn’t fallen through, I never would have made it to the sixth form. And I never would have entered that talent show, and then I would never have made it to Rock Quest with my ex-boyfriend’s band.”
Rock Quest, an annual get together held nationally for high school students who are particularly musically inclined, was not something Miranda’s school usually had much to do with. Yet in 1997 they entered a band in the regional trials and won – spectacularly. Miranda is nostalgic about Twine, the band she joined at the last minute, propelling them to the national finals in Wellington. “I miss them, really. It was their success, not mine. It’s just because I was a pretty girl with a pretty voice that I got singled out.”
And singled out she was; the talent scout from the New Zealand born-and-bred record company Amiri found the slight girl who won Best Female Vocalist irresistible. Miranda, however, stringently objects to Caleb St. Clare being stereotyped as her fairy godmother, or her original band being reduced to nothing more than a bunch of mice. “How many times do I have to tell people that if I wanted my image to be some fairytale, I wouldn’t bitch about it as much as I do?” she complains. “Besides, I don’t think Caleb would look good singing ‘Bippity-boppity-boo.’” But whatever Miranda herself has to say about the subject, the parallels are there.
Twine – now long since disbanded, at least to the best of Miranda’s knowledge – was Miranda’s carriage to the ball, disguised as a small garage band rather than a despised pumpkin. Though the school had no funding and limited teaching capacities, a small healthy music class existed after hours with the unpaid help of an enthusiastic teacher. Yet, Miranda herself had no interest in music. “Lots of people think I’ve been singing all my life. That’s crap.” Miranda is smiling as she says this, apparently as amused by this misconception as she is annoyed by the Cinderella story. “I might have ‘natural talent,’ but after Caleb nabbed me I had months of intense music lessons, because I’d never wanted to sing before in my life. I know people compare my story to that of people like Mariah Carey…I remember reading that she used to ‘sing under the covers with her radio’ all the time while she was growing up. I never did that. I used to sing the national anthem at school, and that was it.” She pauses, and then adds smartly: “Even that was only done what, once a year?”
Her talent was untutored but remarkable; videos taken of both the regional and the national finals show that. Even though her performances lack the obvious polish of her current offerings, it is easy to see what Caleb St. Clare saw that night. Miranda is dismissive of the tapes herself. “I quite often ask Caleb what happy smack he was doing that night,” she admits easily. “I was completely off-key sixty percent of the time and I forgot half the lyrics. Tane – who wrote the songs – bitched me out after all our performances because I just made up new ones or harmonised when I couldn’t be bothered doing even that.” Her next smile is wistful. “You know, he never ever apologised to me for that. Not after we went to the finals, not even after I won. But then, he was probably pissed about that, considering that Caleb only wanted to adopt me.”
The difficulties of leaving her band – and indeed, her home – for the bright lights of Auckland is not something Miranda has ever felt comfortable discussing, as past interviews have shown. It is unlikely anyone in the media business remotely interested in Miranda has forgotten her infamous Breakfast interview late last year. Indeed, most of the public will clearly remember Miranda finally standing up and shouting at Mike Hoskings to: ‘Shut the fuck up about my band!’ Miranda often blushes to remember this. “I was just on edge,” she explains, digging her toes into the thick rug at her feet. “I’ve lost contact with all of them, and I just feel bad. I only got here riding on their wave.”
It often seems to escape Miranda’s notice that the band would most likely have never been recognised if it had not been for her raw talent and clever improvisation. Her unique lyrics have often been applauded by her large fanbase, the general public and critics alike. She passes this off as simply being a result of her erratic nature. “I mean, I started out with really mainstream stuff,” she points out. “Poppy junk, the usual crap. Now they say I was like Britney Spears, but I personally hope that I was never that bad.” Her smile indicates only that she may be joking; like her outburst on Breakfast, Miranda’s ‘jokes’ are well known in the media industry. “To be honest, I never really liked doing that stuff, which is why I went back to my roots and tried some alternative rock.”
Though Miranda herself says such things regularly, the public loved her fresh sound even if she personally did not. Her first album Only This sold phenomenal amounts in not only New Zealand; she enjoyed success in Australia and England, even being invited to appear on the popular Brit chart show Top Of The Pops. Her most popular single – the third released – was the pop sensation Bus Stop, but she buries her head in her hands and groans when I mention it.
“Does no-one realise how much I hate that song?” She is smiling as she says this, but there’s something amiss in her eyes. “It was over-played and over-analysed, in my not-so-humble opinion. I’m actually glad the critics lambasted it!” However, despite the fact that the critics ripped her most popular song to shreds, they did seem to enjoy her first and second singles, the melancholy You Are and the upbeat Afterglow. When asked to name her favourite song, Miranda actually indicates a song never released as a single, and one that is considered to be the anthem of her fanclub. “I always loved Firefly best. I guess it is just…I don’t know. There’s a lot of me in that song, I think.”
It took nearly three years after the release of Only You in 1997 for Miranda to bring out her famous second album, released in New Zealand in February of 2000, and then near world-wide in May. “That was my real moment in the sun,” she muses. “Though I didn’t get to be a tall poppy for long. I’m too much of a Kiwi for that, and sooner or later we all get our wings clipped!” Despite her words, she doesn’t appear bitter about it. “It’s better to have your feet on the earth,” she explains. “I think I’d get caught up in the insanity of it all too easily if I didn’t have people pulling me to ground every day, telling me ‘You have to actually do work now, Andi! You know, like a normal person?’”
Anyone could see how it might be hard for Miranda Mayet to be a normal person after her stunning success in the year 2000, however. Her first single from Stardust Come Unto Me, the hard rock anthem The Eternal Depressant, shocked all her old fans and won her a whole lot more. “It was so different,” she says with a shrug. “People liked that. Most of the public at that point saw me as a flash in the pan; a pretty vapid blonde who’d fade back into obscurity soon enough. That song was just to prove a point, you know?” She taps her head with a silly grin. “I don’t hear any echoes. Do you?”
Her startling image change – she moved from jeans and middy tops to Wiccan-like gowns and a brief flirtation with raven black hair – and her fresh sound snatched the attention of the world at large. While her second single, the slightly more conventional Silver Moon Rose, rocketed up the charts in New Zealand and Australia, North America wondered at this beautiful New Zealander who was on all the English charts. Soon enough the release of her album was brought about in America, Canada, and much of Europe; the following singles The Last Of What’s New, Stardust Is Mine, Sonoma Wine (the stardust reprise) and Angelikarma sealed her popularity. Yet Miranda is very nearly blasé about the whole thing. “It just means that my next album better be bloody good, otherwise my producers and my managers are going to have me burned at the stake,” she admits.
In between work on her next album, the as-yet unreleased Serefinize, and the extensive touring she did throughout Australaisia, Europe, America and Canada, Miranda did an unfortunate thing – she truly cinched her hated Cinderella comparison. She did this by meeting, falling in love with and marrying her handsome Prince Charming.
“Oh, so now we’re onto D’Arcy, are we?” Miranda asks with a raised eyebrow as I bring this up. “I’m sure he’d love to hold court with you, but he’s in Montreal this week.” Indeed, D’Arcy Dieudonne is rarely in the country of his famous wife’s birth and residence; while Miranda whiles away her songwriting time in the Queenstown Lakes District of New Zealand, one would be more likely to find her equally famous husband in London, Paris, New York or his “native” Montreal. Indeed, they did not even meet in New Zealand; Miranda and D’Arcy met thanks to the serendipity of a song played on a friend’s radio the same day as Miranda’s Paris concert.
“The way D’Arcy tells it is that he was stuck in an elevator with some worker drone of his,” Miranda explains carefully. “This guy – I think his name was Etienne – offered D’Arcy his minidisc player when D’Arcy bitched about elevator music. As the ‘legend’ goes, Etienne was listening to Silver Moon Rose, and D’Arcy liked it so much he asked who I was. Etienne said that I was playing that night and he was dying to go…and D’Arcy, being D’Arcy, suddenly decided that Etienne should go to the concert to listen to the ‘siren,’ and that he just HAD to go too.”
It is not unusual for Miranda to appear nearly bored by her stunning courtship with one of Europe’s most powerful businessmen, but she is dismissive of his fame and reach. “I never knew who he was until he told me himself,” she admits, not at all embarrassed by her ignorance. “When this guy came backstage, I figured that he was another producer looking to sign me on; I ran into several in the States, all wanting me to move to LA or New York or Chicago and be their prize pony. Little did I know this was just a brand new fan of mine…and one with the money to talk himself into meeting me the very first day he’d even heard of me.”
As the story goes, Miranda was not at all taken aback by D’Arcy Dieudonne, the wealthy CEO of a business conglomerate most well known for the ownership of the pharmaceutical and biochemical giant Dacryon. “When he said he was very high up in the company – hence his ability to get backstage – I figured he was just a poor little rich boy. I wasn’t much interested, to be honest.”
And yet despite this, a tumultuous romance (which Miranda admits freely was initiated and maintained mostly by D’Arcy) of six weeks ended with a wedding at the close of Miranda’s whirlwind world tour, Soma Somatos. D’Arcy and Miranda then honeymooned in relative peace and seclusion in Queenstown, simply because Miranda “wanted to go bungy jumping. I’d never done it before, and up until then I’d never had the time. Besides, I’d just got home from a round-world trip; I needed some good Kiwi air again.” This honeymoon then resulted in Miranda’s permanent move from her apartment in the Auckland CBD to D’Arcy’s belated wedding present to her: a startling Elizabethan country manor known to the locals for over a hundred years as Avernus.
Sitting in the front parlour of Avernus, Miranda makes an incongruous sight. The house is decorated and furnished to match the period it was designed to recreate, and yet she is barefoot in her jeans and a t-shirt decorated with a glittering neon pink pineapple. “It’s an unusual house,” she says offhandedly, “and something of a legend around here. I like it for that reason…I only mentioned buying it as a joke to D’Arcy, but he takes a lot of things way too seriously. I’m glad he got it into his head to buy it, though. It’s a gorgeous place, what with the old gardens and the lake view. I moved here because it lets me write…in fact, I wrote all of my next album here…well, I wrote what I’m capable of writing, anyway.”
Miranda, as it has been said, never showed much interest in music as a child, though she points out she did like poetry. English always was her best subject at school, though she inevitably adds: “That’s not actually saying that much.” She does write her lyrics and since she has taken up both piano and guitar with her professional voice training, she is able to have a hand in the creation of the music. “I’m too much of a klutz to play live,” she admits, “but I do play a bit of bass on all my newest songs, and I managed simple lead guitar on two of my new songs, Dismembrance Of Things Past and Echoes of Transcendence.” She then laughs wryly, stretching her short, small fingers before her. “But I’ll never pick up the complicated piano piece Karl wrote for Ouroboros.”
So, with these interesting new tidbits, we move on to the fact that Miranda’s new album is in fact due out early next week, and Muse has had a sneak preview even further than what the public has. Two weeks ago the ballad-reprise of her hit single Angelikarma was released to nation-wide praise…and the international praise for the watery-paradise music video and the fluid rearrangement of lyrics and music has been pouring in despite the fact no-one outside of the country should have seen it. “It was supposed to be a New Zealand-only thing,” Miranda sighs. “Sometimes I really hate the ‘net, but I know it’s done a lot for my exposure in the end.”
All of the songs are in fact new, save for the reprise of Angelikarma, and this reporter, having listened to the entire CD, is most impressed. Despite her misgivings to the contrary, Miranda’s guitar work is fluid and graceful – much like the singer herself – and the tracks themselves are remarkable. As our cover no doubt demonstrates (see the title page of this article), she has taken on an older, more sophisticated look with her hair newly bobbed and her dresses long and slinky. “Sometimes I think I’m going for the cocktail lounge jazz ballad feel,” she says happily, and indeed, her new music video brings up images of late night bar performances…that is to say, if the bar she played in was at the bottom of the ocean.
“The legend of Atlantis always did intrigue me,” she says spontaneously when I mention the watery theme of her ever-more famous music video. “Maybe I’ll get into a theme later.” She is, after all, currently working on a new album as she tries to set a possible date for another tour. “I’m not a big fan of live performances,” is her latest confession. “It reminds me too much of Rock Quest. And yeah, I have new songs to work on, among other things.”
One of those “other things” may in fact be a shot at an acting career. Amid rumours of her possible appearance on New Zealand’s favourite hospital soap Shortland Street, Miranda is both tight-lipped. “You know, that show used to keep me sane when I was a kid,” she tells me, avoiding the question; though she still smiles her flinty hazel eyes warn me to take a step back. “Well, it did when we had a television, at least.”
That is the “Cinderella” story of Miranda Mayet – the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who went to a ball, sang to make the stones weep, and finally married her Prince Charming. As I stand to leave, Miranda looks at me suspiciously, and I am reminded why she has a reputation for being short with people she considers foolish. “I suppose you’re going to pontificate on the Cinderella theme,” she says shortly, reminding one that no matter what her roots, she is an articulate and intelligent woman now that she’s, as she says “all grown up these days.” She’s a down to earth and realistic superstar who wouldn’t mind going back to a more ordinary life.
“Maybe you should change my legend to that of the Pinnochio Girl,” she decides. “The singer who just wanted to be a real girl.”
But despite her rather incidental fame, Miranda is pleased to make her mark with her newfound talents. She has moved from Pop Princess to Rock Prince to Ballad Queen. What does she plan after this? “Maybe I’ll be the Techno King next,” she muses. “But then, we all know that Elvis will always be the once and future king of anything!” she adds then, revealing her true rock music idol.
Miranda is quiet as our interview concludes; the sky is darkening outside. “You know,” she muses, “perhaps being a fairytale princess would not be really so bad. One does have to hope for a happy ending, after all.”
Still, with all that she has – her looks, her fame, her Prince Charming and her siren voice, one must suspect that New Zealand’s latest export is well on her way to that much searched for conclusion to her fairytale story.
Lizzie Oppenheimer, Muse, October 2002
track 01: chanson de geste
track 02: aubade
track 03: colloquy
track 04: mise-en-scène
track 05: incunabula
track 06: troubadour
track 07: madrigal
track 08: marginalia
track 09: entr’acte
track 10: periphrasis
track 11: synecdoche
track 12: roman à clef
track 13: minnesinger
the bridge song: monody
track 14: palimpsest
track 15: peripeteia
track 16: tautology
track 17: rodomontade
track 18: apocrypha
track 19: pleonasm
track 20: jeremiad
track 21: scène-en-faire
track 22: threnody
track 23: onomatopoeia
track 24: aposiopesis
~ short stories ~
To Savour The Sweetest Taste
Behold! The Night Mare
The Bridge Song
How Soon Is Now
The Pale Princess Of A Palace Cracked
Drive You Home
That Game With The Black Bitch
I’m Waking Up To Us
Muffling The Sound
But It’s Such A Perfect Place To Start
Castle Street Burning
Glad Tidings Of Comfort And Joy
Listening For The Weather
The Heart Asks Pleasure First
At Least That Is What We Say We Are Doing
Promise Me Maybes
We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are
Mosaic In Pieces
~ soundtrack ~
Lonely Lola Cherry Cola Girl – Bic Runga
Open Arms – Mariah Carey
The Ballad Of Sleeping Beauty – Sophie B. Hawkins
Viva Forever – The Spice Girls
In Command – Tina Arena
Nobody Loves You – Garbage
Wintertime Love – The Doors
Evening Falls – Enya
Merman – Tori Amos
Leonora – Emma Shapplin
…said sadly – James Iha and Nina Gordon
Appels + Oranjes – The Smashing Pumpkins
Somewhere In Between – Lifehouse
Hold On – Sarah McLachlan
Hauling You Around – Fur Patrol
Tenderhook – Stellar*
These Are The Days Of Our Lives – Queen
How Soon Is Now – The Smiths
Run - Snow Patrol
Papercuts - Anika Moa
It's Too Late - Evermore
Out Of Tune - Hooverphonic
Better Be Home Soon - Crowded House
Oh My God - Kaiser Chiefs
Between - Vienna Teng
Talk Down The Girl - The Veils
Hate This And I'll Love You - Muse
Cry Wolf - Lisa Germano
Auf Achse - Franz Ferdinand
What Katie Did - The Libertines
Pigeon Song - Patrick Wolf
~ Lewis Carroll, "Through The Looking-Glass” ~