The video: “Kiss” by Prince.
The girl-now-woman: Monique Mannen.
In an email: You got me on a roll, all these different great stories are popping up now. My ‘80s vault has been opened. :)
How old were you when you appeared in the “Kiss” video?
Where were you living at the time?
What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?
The Eleo Pomare Dance Company; The George White Dance Ensemble; Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (I still remember the song, seriously; Bebe Neuwirth, who later played Lilith on Cheers, was either in it, too, or she was assistant to the choreographer, Jerry Mitchell—both of them great dancers, by the way); a Sapporo beer commercial for Japan; the Off-Broadway musical Cotton Club Magic Revue; the lead in the show Dancing in the Streets that toured in Israel; the TV show Motown Returns to the Apollo (I did a number with Vanessa Williams, who is the nicest person, and got to hang out backstage with some amazing artists like James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Sarah Vaughan, etc.).
Videos with Cameo and Billy Joel.
Movies: Playing for Keeps, which starred Marisa Tomei and was Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s first movie for Miramax Films; A Chorus Line, starring Michael Douglas. That job was a blast and has so many great stories. One of them was that Michael Jackson (he loved dancers) would come and sneak up to the 2nd balcony and watch us work on the stage (it was shot in a Broadway theater).
Half the cast was from Los Angeles and they encouraged me to move to L.A. They introduced me to my agent, Julie McDonald, who picked me up from the airport and let me stay with her until I found an apartment. Thank you, Julie.
I auditioned for it and was taped on callback so that Prince could choose from tape. Turns out the choreographer was the great, late Louis Falco. I had a scholarship with him in NYC but I only worked with him shortly because I got Chorus Line. I trained my butt off but got comfortable in L.A. and wouldn’t train much because I was working a lot. After the audition, the first thing Louis said to me—with love—was “What happened to you?” I wasn’t dancing on the caliber that he remembered. That was a rude awakening for me.
Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast in “Kiss”?
I was excited and happy. We performers love getting that call from our agent and hearing the words “You booked it.”
Were you a Prince fan?
I liked his music and liked him as a performer but wasn’t a “fan.”
Where was the video filmed?
On a sound stage in Culver City.
How long was the shoot?
Two very long days.
How did you feel making the video?
Proud and excited. I love to work, especially [when it’s] great work, and this one was great.
The hurry-up-and-wait, but that goes for all jobs.
How was it to work with Prince? What was he like? Did he hit on you?
It was great working with him. He’s such a hard worker and such a pro. He was very nice and thoughtful. No, he did not hit on me. When I got introduced to him, we shook hands and looked each other in the eyes; I told him that it was nice to meet him and I was looking forward to working with him. I set the tone to be professional and that’s where it stayed. Because of that I got respect from him and made him feel at ease with me.
Any funny stories from the shoot?
Yes, I was on the phone with a friend of mine, Sharon; she was checking how the shoot was going (she is a huge Prince fan). Prince walked by and I told her; she then [asked] me to put him on the phone. I asked him if he would say hello to my friend and he said okay. He got on the phone but her crazy butt didn’t believe him so she said, “Yeah, right, who is this? Put Monique back on the phone,” which he did.
When she found out it was really him, she begged me to put him back on the phone and he was nice enough to do so and then she put him on hold for another call. Unbelievable! She [again begged] to get him back on the phone and I told her that she blew it and that I wasn’t going to ask him again. Who puts Prince on hold?
Anything go wrong on the shoot?
None that I noticed. I’m sure there’s always something, but the show goes on.
What did you think of the video?
I loved it. It is a beautiful video. Rebecca Blake, the director, did an amazing job.
My mom liked it and I don’t know if my dad knew; I didn’t speak with him at that time, so I didn’t [hear] his reaction.
What did your friends think of it?
Only my close friends knew and they were thrilled.
Did you watch the MTV World Premiere of the video, and if so, where and how did that feel?
No, I did not. I did the job and was doing the next one and had no attachment.
Tell me about being a part of Prince’s 1990 movie Graffiti Bridge.
I was requested to be in the movie by Prince. My ex-boyfriend was the assistant director on the job and later I heard that he tried to talk Prince out of sending for me. I was told (by the ex) that they showed [Prince] pictures and resumés (that were sent to him by the choreographer Otis Salid—thank you, Otis…he hired me quite a few times), and he was choosing from them. When he picked my picture, my ex told him that he already worked with me and all Prince said was “I know. Send for her.”
Prince looked like Prince 24/7. I was in awe of him because he would be on set at 6 a.m., work all day, then go do jam sessions with Sheila E. and all kinds of great musicians. One time he came back the next morning with a new song “Thieves in the Temple.” He lives for this and comes alive when he works, and that’s when I truly got his brilliance.
Prince would communicate with me only when he would give directions and I would tell the other dancers what he wanted. [But] one day he invited us to come to his party that night. We went but the security wouldn’t let us in. The next day he was cold to me and I went to him and asked him what was wrong and he told me that I didn’t show up to his party. I told him that I most definitely did but that his tired security refused us. He gave us a private party that night. That set was filled with some amazing talent besides Prince—Mavis Staples (what a class act, very kind and real) The Time, Sheila E., George Clinton (one of my all-time favorite songs is Parliament’s “Flash Light”), Tevin Campbell, etc.
Were you at the premiere of the movie?
Did the video ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in it)?
No, it did not affect my dating at all. When they found out, it was usually the same reaction: “that was you?”
Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?
Yes, but not from the “Kiss” video because people didn’t know who “the girl” was.
Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?
Not that I know off.
What were you paid?
Were you ever recognized in public?
Yes, but not for “Kiss.” Mostly for Coming to America, or people would come up to me and ask, “Where do I know you from? Did we go to school together?” I was in New Orleans with the TV show Florida Lady, for which I was a series regular; I was walking with a couple of producers of the show and a man came up to me and he was so excited. He was saying, “It’s you, it’s really you.” The producers joked with me and asked me if I had paid him to do that. Turned out he recognized me from a Johnny Kemp video. I couldn’t believe it.
Speaking of, what other music videos did you appear in?
Sting’s “We’ll Be Together,” Peter Cetera and Amy Grant’s “Next Time I Fall,” Mac Band’s “Roses Are Red,” Atlantic Starr’s “Always,” [and videos by] Tina Turner, Taylor Dayne, Pebbles, Georgio, Johnny Kemp, Commodores, Cher (choreographed by Kenny Ortega), Red or Jazzy Red (I remember this one because the producer was Lawrence Bender, who later became a big film producer; we had an unusual but fun salary negotiation—that’s normally done by my agent—in his office), David Lee Roth, Rebbie Jackson [Michael Jackson’s oldest sister].
I did a video that Paula Abdul choreographed, but I can’t remember the name of the artist. She contacted me after she found out that I did “Kiss” and told me that she couldn’t wait to work with me. We became friends but lost touch after she blew up. I did bump into her five years ago and I was happy to see that she was still sweet.
Did you ever meet other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video?
No, I didn’t.
If you went to college, where and what did you study?
My college was scholarships at Alvin Ailey, Joffrey Ballet Academy, Martha Graham School, Jennifer Muller, and Louis Falco.
What are you doing these days?
I’m still in the entertainment business. I produced a short film [27 minutes] All4Charity that was in the 2012 Pan African Film Festival.
Next one on the to-do list is a dance documentary that I’ve wanted to do for 10 years now. I’m now also a part-time distributor for the company LifeVantage, which makes Protandim, an all-natural product that I’m passionate about because of what it does to help people, including myself—it changed and saved my life. It’s your private preventive insurance.
I don’t know his initial reaction because I did not tell him but it probably was the same as most (“that was you?”)
Yes, I have two kids, 17 and 8 years old.
What do they think of the video?
My 17-year-old son thinks it’s “cool” and my daughter thinks it’s “awesome”!
What did you think when you first heard from me?
It made me smile. I was touched that you went to so much trouble to find me. You blew up my Facebook. :)
Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this?
Yes, Dance magazine, immediately after the video first aired.
Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?
No, I have not and I’m not sure if I would do it.
Did you stay in touch with Prince?
I did not but seven years ago, I did bump into Jerome from The Time. It was really nice running into him. We caught up and he told me that he couldn’t wait to tell Prince that he ran into me.
When was the last time you were in touch with Prince?
I stayed in touch with the rapper TC and the Glam Slam dancer Tony (he later rapped on Prince’s song “Get Off,” Kirk [Johnson], and Miko [Weaver] [Graffiti Bridge cast members]. When Prince performed in Holland (I was born in Suriname and raised in Holland), I was home visiting my family and [Tony, Kirk, and Miko] invited me to the show; of course Prince had to approve it.
I went with my friends Debbie and Rudy and we hang out in the green room with Tony, Kirk, and Miko. We had dinner with them and then we saw the show from the sound and light booth smack in the center of the audience—pretty awesome. That’s when I truly got Prince and why people love him so much. He lives to perform and will give the audience his all. I was blown away by his performance.
How do you look back on the experience?
With mixed emotions. It makes me smile—those were great times and [I am] sorry that I was so blasé about working with him and didn’t take pictures with him. It would have been nice to have a scrapbook of my work with Prince, especially for my kids and future grandkids. I have that regret with all my jobs.
Anything you’d like to add?
I hope that my answers will make the Prince fans smile.
Next: Huey Lewis and the News, “Stuck with You” (1986).