When Mica Paris, 20-year-old British pop-soul singer rolls her eyes in exasperation, you know what she's thinking: "Here come those dreaded racial questions."
She doesn't even try to hide her irritation.
"Why do I have to be a black singer?" asks Paris, whose first name is pronounced MEE-sha. "Why can't I be just a singer?"
Touted as one of the better young singers in the business, Paris sounds quite a bit like Anita Baker, with a slightly jazz style and a mildly husky tone.
Don't tell her she sounds like anybody. "They say I sound like Anita Baker or Aretha (Franklin) or this one or that one," she says. "I don't sound like any of them. I sound like me."
Though well-known in Britain, Paris is just beginning to establish a reputation in the United States. Her debut album, "So Good"--just out on Island Records--features a single, "My One Temptation," that is climbing the black charts. Opening for Ashford and Simpson on their current tour has helped her visibility in this country.
Raised by her grandparents in London, Paris has been singing nearly all her life. Because her grandfather was a pastor, she had a strict church upbringing and started as a youngster singing gospel music--her strongest influence. In her teens she became a session singer. Once she started composing and making demo tapes, all the record companies--she reports matter-of-factly--were eager to sign her.
"Why not?" she asks coolly. "I'm a very good singer. I have my own original style. I signed with Island because they didn't want to change me or turn me into a copy of some other singer."
Her goal? It's not at all modest.
"To be the best singer in the business," she replies, without hesitation. "I know I'm capable of it."