The Marvellous Mimicat! 

She’s the winner of this year’s Festival da Canção and reached the Grand Final of Eurovision, performing to a global audience of 150-million people. In an exclusive Tomorrow interview, we meet the sassy, sexy, and supremely talented, Mimicat. 

What a few months it has been for the marvellous Mimicat. In March, she won RTP’s Festival da Canção, singing her own composition ‘Ai Coração’ (Oh Heart), a rip-roaring and boisterous song she performs with fantastic verve, often accompanied by four highly energetic (and attractive) dancers. It was a win which earned her entry to the semi-finals of Eurovision and ultimately the Grand Final. It’s easy to think this is a story of overnight success but it’s not. It’s a story of hard work, fantastic talent and burning desire. 

The artist we know today as Mimicat, was born in Coimbra and christened Marisa Isabel Lopes Mena. It would be an understatement to say she has always enjoyed music – she recorded her first song when she was just nine years old. Barely eight years later, she reached the semi-finals of the 2001 Festival da Canção, performing under the stage name of Izamena. Little did she know, it was an experience that would stand her in good stead for the years ahead.

In the years that followed, she went on to join the band The Casino Royal, where she was the lead singer and composed most of the songs. The band released five albums and despite finding a welcome home in Portugal and Germany, they never quite broke through to the mainstream. In 2014, she released her first solo album under the new stage name of Mimicat. ‘Where did that name come from?’ is a question she’s often asked. “Mimi is a name we use in my family as a term of endearment for godmothers. I’ve always liked the name but as a stage name, it needed something else. When I added ‘cat’, it sounded right. And I like the word ‘cat’. It reflects the sassy side of my personality. Today, away from the cameras, most people call me Mimi.”

Both the 2014 album, For You, and her 2019 album, Back in Town, were performed in English, a language she speaks exceptionally well. The two albums received critical acclaim and feature many excellent songs (check out the two title tracks and also ‘Saviour’), though neither elevated her to the commercial success she’s enjoying now with ‘Ai Coração and will undoubtedly enjoy in the future. 

The glorious ‘Ai Coração’ was written nearly 10-years ago, initially in a more Fado style than the upbeat song it is today. She believed in the song from day one and had a clear vision of how it should be performed, along with a belief it was the perfect song for the Festival da Canção. It’s a competition that has been running for nearly 60-years and has been something of a closed shop in that artists had to be invited in order to compete. This all changed in 2018 when submissions from the public were considered. COVID19 interrupted things and it was only this year when the planets aligned and Mimi won entry to the televised semi-finals. 

And what an entry it was. The song and her rendition proved a fantastic success, gaining maximum points from both the regional juries and the public vote. She beat off far more established stars to become the first artist to win the Festival da Canção having entered via the public submission process. It has been a long journey but as Mimi rightly said, “Life can be tough. I know that only too well. It can be helpful to assume that something you want to achieve is going to be hard work. When you achieve what you set out to do, it makes it even more rewarding.”

Mimi sailed through the semi-finals of the UK-hosted Eurovision to reach the Grand Final. In a final that was dominated by artists singing in English (eight of the Top-10 sang in English including the winning entry from Sweden), Mimi and her dancers accumulated 59 points and finished in a respectable 23rd place, two places ahead of the UK. The reaction on social media and elsewhere has been overwhelmingly positive, with many Portuguese saying how delighted they are with the song and Mimi’s performance. As Mimi said, “I feel proud to be Portuguese. We received nothing but love and support. It was like the whole country was behind us.”

So, what was Eurovision like? “It was a magical experience”, said Mimi. “There’s a feeling of everyone being in it together. All the contestants were supportive of each other and I made many friends; friends for life I believe. There were 20 of us from Portugal and we shared a hotel in the city centre with two other countries.” After the first rehearsal, Mimi gave a fascinating interview, in which she was quite upfront about the rehearsal not going as well as she wanted, with problems with camera angles and a general feeling it could have been better. This desire to improve and the refreshing honesty is typical of Mimi. She told me that throughout her career, she’s never once lip-synced, despite being offered the chance to do so. And it’s good that she doesn’t because she has the most superb voice – check her out on Instagramto see her singing at home. 

Since returning to Portugal, she’s been in demand, with numerous radio and television appearances, including as the headline act on the prime time The Voice Kids. What does the future hold for Mimi? “I’ll have a new single out very shortly and I’m working on a new album, which will be out later this year. We’re also busy scheduling concerts, both here and abroad. There’ll be at least one date in the Algarve, possibly more.” As for the new single, she was understandably tightlipped but did let us into a little secret, saying “It’s a fitting follow-up to ‘Ai Coração’.”

It was a pleasure speaking with Mimi. She’s worked hard to achieve her success and, as a songwriter and performer, she is most definitely the ‘real deal’. Refreshingly honest, funny, focused and sassy, everyone at Tomorrow will be cheering her on over the next few months and seeing her again when she performs later this year, here in the Algarve.

Photos © Jorge Simão

Instagram: @mimicat_music 


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