Before Gaga, even before Peaches, there was Princess Superstar. Having begun her musical career at the age of 17 after moving to New York City to study drama at NYU (sound oddly familiar to you Gaga fanatics?), Princess Superstar recorded a demo tape entitled Mitch Better Get My Bunny. She soon signed to Dark Beloved Cloud Records and released her first song, Im White, in 1994. A Jewish female rapper in an otherwise male dominated sphere, she coined the term "flip-flop" to describe her electronic, dance, and hip-hop sound. Sixteen years later, she is still the LES Spandex queen.
A performer and a DJ, Princess Superstars iconic platinum hair and lingerie-inspired wardrobe got the attention of audiences worldwide. In Europe she became a sensation, in the U.S. she became a gay icon. Her musical collaborations are unfaltering, combining forces with the likes of Grandmaster Flash, the Prodigy, Armand Van Helden, and Moby. In recent years Princess Superstar has transformed her demeanor -- though maintaining her ostentatious style -- focusing on yoga and mind-body awareness.
Preparing for the yoga-music festival Wanderlust in Tahoe this weekend, Out chit-chatted with Princess Superstar about her move away from drugs and into Jivamukti.
Out: I want to chat about your dedication to mind and body health. When did you first start combining the world of music and the world of yoga?
Princess Superstar: I have an interesting story because I started out in the traditional sex, drugs, and rock n roll school of thinking. I was on that path for a long time and basically collapsed. About six years ago I discovered yoga and gave up drugs and alcohol. I really have been on a journey through yoga. I chase the spiritual instead of chasing drugs. It really saved my live.
When you perform, do you want your audience members to have the same sort of mind/body awareness?
Its interesting because I have two sets of fans -- one more in the party zone and one is more conscious (also in the party zone, but a different party zone).
And youre from a Jewish background. Do you find it difficult to combine the New Age with classic Jewish teachings? Do you prescribe to both the spiritual and physical?
I had the fortune with working with some incredible spiritual teachers here in New York that run the Jivamukti Yoga Center -- David and Sharon -- and basically Im totally into the spiritual side. Ive meditated for a long time and I just think its the only thing worthwhile. It doesnt matter what religion you are. I have found that truth is truth.
And your yoga practice?
Actually Jivamukti is becoming really famous in New York and other parts of the world as well. It is a vinyasa form or flow. There are teachers in San Francisco. Its a really beautiful form of yoga and youll really love it.
How did you become involved with your many charitable interests?
Im really into animal rights. Im a vegan. I am working with Farm Sanctuary, which takes in abused animals from the farming system, and I did a fun naked ad for PETA Germany. I have a big following in Europe, so Ive worked a lot with stuff all over the world. Ive always acted with Big Brothers Big Sisters, which helps inner city children. Rather than just throwing money at stuff I think it important to denote your time and be in the experience of giving.
Have you ever done a yoga/music festival like Wanderlust?
I have never done a festival like Wanderlust before. This is definitely something new for me. Ive done tons of festivals but they are part-eee festivals in Europe. This is a first so I super excited for it.
In a lot of interviews I have read with you, I hear the term underground thrown around a lot. I know you are based in NYC, so you would probably know best: Is there such a thing as underground?
I think theres always going to be a place for the underground. I get your point, with the Internet and all that. I have a very interesting career because Ive had two top hits in Europe, so people over there will consider me a pop star. I also walk this underground line as well. What underground means in my case is that I dont really fit in and I push boundaries, or try to. Its not generally mainstream music but sometimes I cross into mainstream. I just play the music and other people can label it. I cant get caught up in labeling because its too confusing.
You obviously have a huge gay following here.
Does that transcend overseas?
Oh yeah. I love my gay following. They get me. They get the camp. They get the fun, but also the depth too. Its the love of playing and dressing and being fierce.
How do you perform? How do you get your audience to dance?
Im not quite sure what configuration I am bringing to Wanderlust but I am a DJ as well as a performer. Either I am going to DJ and do a couple of my tracks live or I am going to bring a band or do a combination of both. I am not quite sure what Im going to do yet because I am still making my new record. I am not in full-on band mode. In any case, I love performing. I make them dance by going crazy myself. Whether I am with the band or DJing -- it doesnt matter -- I just go completely nuts. I just have the best time ever and make people want to join it. I give people permission to be crazy and loose and free.
You cant ask for much more. When does your new album drop?
Not quite sure because I havent finished it yet, but I am hoping this fall.
All your music videos are so spectacularly colorful. Do you think music videos are still relevant?
I do think so because I think now more than ever people need that because everything is so visual. No one is caring about getting on MTV because MTV doesnt play videos anymore. In this computer age, people need something to sink their eyes into. What else is interesting is that some people get famous just off their video. You never know what is going to hit.
You released your single Ground Control for free last year online. Do you think going that route helps to promote your music?
Its so interesting, I was talking to my friend about this and he gave away something like a whole record for free. When I asked him why he did that he said it was all about promotion these days, and getting hits, and getting fans. You play for those fans and they will hopefully buy something else from you. This is the new model. People arent making money by selling albums anymore. Of course you have your Beyoncs, but for the most part we are making money touring, selling merchandise and getting your music on movies or TV. Its more of a marketing thing. Its really weird.
So do you think that, free singles aside, your music is changing culture in any way -- either in terms of your style or your overt sexuality?
I do think so. I know that Ive influenced people like Peaches and Lady Gaga. I hate saying things like that because it makes me sound arrogant but many people have pointed it out to me. I see it. Its OK because I have been influenced by many people from Madonna to Lil' Kim and on and on. I am not trying to be arrogant. I do see my influence particularly with Lady Gagas last performance at The Grammys, which was an old thing I had already done for my old album My Machine, which was all science fiction related. I dont know if she directly took that from me or it was in the universe. To answer your question: yes. Especially my new album is more or less informed by all the big changes I told you about at the start of our conversation. I feel like I am making more conscious music now but still in the vain of Princess Superstar. Its never too literal.
Have you met Peaches or Lady Gaga or anyone else in this lineage that you have inspired?
Peaches used to come to my shows.
Do you have any ideal collaborators?
I like the offbeat. Im not interested in collaborating with Lady Gaga. I would much rather collaborate with Grace Jones.
That would be incredible!
Im not into the typical thing. Having said that, the typical collaboration I would like to make happen is Missy Elliott because I just love her.
Videos and tour dates for Princess Superstar can be found at her official website.Send a letter to the editor about this article.