Dragilex said:She was in The Time Machine
Thursday, October 13, 2005
^^She started her stage training aged three, had her first TV role at four and had a hit single at 17, but Samantha Mumba's career never went as stellar as many predicted and in the past year all we've heard about her are boyfriend rumours. Now her star may finally be on the rise again, with a role in new Irish movie, Boy Eats Girl. By Colin Murphy
So what happened to Samantha Mumba? Let's check her website, samanthamumba.com. "Samantha is currently visiting Zambia as a special representative of UNICEF Ireland," it says in the News section. In May 2003. Nothing since then.
There's also a Diary section, where you can "click on a highlighted square on the calendar to see what Samantha's up to on that day." It warns that "this section will be updated often, so be sure to check back." Avid fans might be tiring of that. The last entry is for 18 December, 2002, when what Samantha was up to was "France". Maybe her fans can be of help: what about the website's Forum for fans to post their comments? "Critical error", it says. Up to very recently, one might have assumed the same for Mumba's career.
For an extended period over the past year, all that was heard of her were rumours about boyfriends (the current favourite is the British actor Charles Porter), reports of her very trivial court appearance (she was charged with failing to produce a driving licence and insurance disc, but the charges were struck out when she produced them on her second appearance in court), and reports of the not-quite-so-trivial court appearance in the UK of her father. (Up for drunk driving, he claimed in court that he had suffered a brief mental breakdown after hearing she was pregnant â€“ which she wasn't.)
The last couple of months have seen her re-emerge into the spotlight somewhat, though at a more low-key level than on her dÃ©but five years ago. A modelling contract for Dunnes Stores' new Per Amore lingerie range pleased the photographers, but it's not quite the supermodel status for which she was once touted. After three years of quiet on the music front, and being dropped by her record label, she's said she hopes to have an album out in the new year. And she stars in the just-released Irish film, Boy Eats Girl, a zombie flick set in Howth.
If none of that is likely to have her rivalling Britney or Christina for attention, it's still not bad for someone who claims to have been taking a break. "I took a year off," she told Hot Press recently. "I needed to, you know, actually live some of my life. When I was 19, I had been touring for four years and I suddenly decided that I had nothing to show for it. I wasn't even sure what I liked anymore, so I bought a house and domesticated myself and got my head together. I needed that. I needed to grow up."
House bought, domesticated, head together â€“ and she's only 22 (22 and three quarters, to be precise). If her career hasn't quite gone stellar in the way that the media and her manager, Louis Walsh, once predicted it would, it's still pretty impressive.
She may be just 22, but she's still got nearly 20 years of stage training behind her. Her mother had her enrolled in the Billie Barry school aged three; by four she had her first television role, on Gerry Ryan's show Secrets; aged 15 she played the lead in a well-received production of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Hot Mikado, and the same year had the honour of being fired by Twink on the first night of the panto.
According to Samantha, Twink claimed she had discovered her. Samantha said Twink "couldn't discover a fart in a paper bag".
She has said that she knew at age 12 that she wanted to be famous, and told friends then that she'd run naked across a football pitch if she had to.
Clearly, her mother was of a similar mind, and with her then 16-year-old daughter, met Louis Walsh one night in the VIP section of Lillie's Bordello.
Samantha was already being groomed for a musical career, but Walsh convinced her he could make her big. She dropped out of school, and a year later had a number one hit in Ireland her first single, 'Gotta Tell You', which made number two in the UK.
She was billed as a rival to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and though Aguilera beat her to the top of the US Billboard chart, Mumba appeared to have established herself as a star with the potential to crack the elusive American market. But as her music career seemed on the way up, Hollywood came calling, and Mumba was cast in the $80 million remake of The Time Machine. A supporting slot for US boyband 'N Sync kept her on her toes, and on stage, and with The Time Machine out in 2002, it looked like she was on the cusp of the very big time.
And then it went quiet. There was talk of film deals, repeated assurances a second album was on its way, even a "first" single from that album, 'I'm Right Here', which went to number five in the UK in 2002. But nothing materialised. There were rumours she'd split with Louis Walsh, and that her label had dropped her â€“ rumours that were just strung out by Louis Walsh's denials.
In 2002, UNICEF appointed her a Youth Ambassador and she went to Zambia to meet AIDS orphans and promote UNICEF's work there. Though she's done nothing as high-profile with them since, UNICEF say she's still involved, and will soon be supporting a new campaign focussing on HIV/AIDS.
If her career thus far, though short, has been uneven, Mumba herself seems remarkably consistent. Sure, she's been "caught out" for contradicting herself on some things, as her attitudes to fame, family, and her social and love lives have changed as she's grown older. But from the word go she was a smart, sassy operator, both wooing the press with an apparently genuine, almost innocent, charm, and impressing them with her hard-nosed assessments of the music business and her role in it.
She famously fired three stylists early in her career, and refused to be marketed as Sammy â€“ if the music world could take Christina Aguilera, she told Louis Walsh, it could take Samantha Mumba. (Though he's probably just thankful she didn't insist on using her full name â€“ Samantha Tamania Anne Cecilia Mumba.) Her music-publishing deal has written into it that she gets to write at least half of the songs on her albums.
At 17, she told one interviewer, "I see myself as a business woman as well as a singer. I won't take crap from anyone at that level either. This is my career."
And as Mumba negotiates the pitfalls of premature fame, at least one person is finding her experiences useful. Her younger brother Omero found himself sharing the limelight when he travelled with Samantha and their mother to the US for her discussions on The Time Machine, and found himself cast in the film, as her brother. He since appeared briefly in the charts with a single, and was said to be working with So Solid Crew on a rap album â€“ though, like his sister's second album, nothing further appears to have been heard of it.
Her mother was an air hostess, who married a Zambian aircraft engineer. They settled in Ireland, and Samantha grew up in Drumcondra, around the corner, conveniently, from the Billie Barry school (where Westlife's Brian was also a student). The marriage didn't work out; her father was a drinker, and Mumba has said she was relieved when he eventually moved to Britain a few years ago.
She didn't encounter racism, growing up in Ireland: her girlfriends liked to play with her hair, while the boys either fancied or were afraid of her. Working in the States, people initially found it difficult to work her out. "I'm black and I'm from Ireland... It's kinda like, 'uh-oh'", she has said. But she wasn't afraid to stick the boot into her (white) challengers: "There are a lot of female artists my age around at the moment, but they're all American and blonde and blue-eyed and smiley. I'm totally the opposite of that. I want to show a bit more attitude and I have an opinion."
Is her star rising again? It all depends on how you look at it. Her film career has not taken off. The Time Machine, undeniably a big Hollywood film, did not do big Hollywood business. Boy Eats Girl, her latest outing, has received tolerable to poor reviews, though Mumba's performance has been well received by the critics. But as a low-budget, offbeat Irish film, it may not prove much of a calling card for international work. And Mumba's latest corporate outing, endorsing a rather unglamorous premium-rate telephone service, had her in the news for the wrong reasons.
Irish businessman Tom Higgins signed her up to promote his Realm Group's Mobile Mania brand. In the brand's launch press release, Mumba enthuses: "I am really looking forward to working with Tom on the new mobile mania commercial. Imagine, giving away cash and mobile credit for free! It's amazing." Amazing â€“ or too good to be true, even. The premium-rate regulator, Regtel, didn't buy it. Higgins had to "clarify" the quote from Mumba: "The use of the word 'free' in a press release should not be construed as meaning that the service is free," he said.
In the meantime, the media mostly seems content to accept her as a celebrity, irrespective of what she's doing, and just report on who she's with. Many would need a Who's Who guide to pop culture to recognise them all â€“ amongst them Brasco Casey of Jagged Edge, Robbie Williams, Dermot O'Leary, Eminem, the diminutive rapper Sisqo and now British actor Charles Porter.
According to Mumba, it's mostly rubbish â€“ though her credibility on this score isn't helped by the fact that she initially denied the existence of her ex-boyfriend, Mark Henderson, a local lad who she went out with for about five years during her teens.
Despite the internationalism of the list, she has said she'd only ever marry an Irishman. Of her current interest, she said recently the relationship was "at that early, tender stage" but wouldn't confirm with whom. "I think I've found a good one after kissing a lot of frogs," she added.
Her first album was "all boyfriends and crushes", she's said, "like reading a really embarrassing diary". More recently, she's written a song about her father, with whom she says she has a distant, but affectionate relationship (though the press likes to describe them as "estranged"), and said she is trying to work African and Irish influences into her songs.
Her multicultural background fits well with the project behind her new film. A straightforward zombie horror movie, what's remarkable about it is that it's unapologetically set in Ireland.
"What we're trying to do is set it in a world which has less to do with any kind of national characteristics and much more to do with global youth culture,'' said producer Ed Guiney.
"The suburb we set Boy Eats Girl in is like a suburb in America, in Australia, in France, in Germany. It has more in common with all those suburbs than it does with our old images of Ireland. What we've taken are the icons of that world â€“ the high school, the kids driving cars."
Mumba said of the film, "I think that kids in America will be able to relate to it because no matter what country you're in, there's always a good girl, always a bad girl and always a bully." And especially when the good girl gets to kick-box, a trait which was written into the script when Mumba told them that was her hobby. "She's a really good girl, an intelligent sweet girl, but she also gets to kick ass," she said. No wonder she liked the part.
Of course notDragilex said:Anyone actually bother to read that entire thing, I got to about 2 paragraphs before I realised I don't care.