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SEX AND DRUGS & SHOCK'N' soul; Singer Macy Gray lifts the lid on her highs and lows.

Byline: GAVIN MARTIN

MACY Gary, the troubled multi-million-selling soul giantess, slouches into the lobby of a West London hotel and several heads automatically turn in her direction.

In the past Macy has wandered down to hotel receptions stark naked, simply because she found the experience liberating. She has also boasted of stealing hotel property just because she enjoys the challenge.

But today, accompanied by her manager and PR, she is modestly attired in tracksuit bottoms, running shoes and a bowling jacket. No souvenirs appear to be secreted about her person and it is her afro hairdo, a wonderfully outlandish mass of corkscrew curls, that causes all the attention.

"It is true that I have the biggest and most beautiful afro in all of America," she laughs. "But the fact is that my hair is like this because I hate having to do anything with it. I believe in washing it but that's really about all. I just leave it to dry and this is what happens."No one looks - or sounds - anything quite like MacyGray. Born Natalie McIntyre in Canton, Ohio, 33 years ago, she took her stage name from a friend of her father. "It's not a way of hiding myself or fabricating anything.Everybody I know has at least five or six personalities. Macy Gray is just one of mine."She speaks in a slow drawl and yawns several times while we speak, blaming it on jet lag. Dark rumours have circulated about her drug use, fuelled by her often erratic behaviour. On her last visit to London, she arrived on stage over an hour late and slurred her way through her set. Quietly, but vehemently, she denies rumours of heroin use. She does, however, freely admit that drugs continue to play an important part in her creativity. "I think everybody needs a little oblivion. It is important to get out of your mind sometimes so you meet a different sideof yourself. I have had some really incredible revelations on drugs but at the same time they can do horrible things to you, like make you have to spend a lotof money on rehab. "I'm all for not messing yourself up but you can't deny that a lot of the really great songs were written on drugs. It is the way I have written some of my best songs too but if I was a hopeless junkie I wouldn't be able to write any songs at all." Released in 1999, Macy's seven million-selling debut album, On How Life Is,introduced an extraordinary talent. Unlike other soul divas, she was only too willing to use her songs to tackle personal neuroses and demons. When the album was recorded, Macy was already a mother of three children. She had served time in jail for stealing petrol and gonethrough a painful divorce from New York mortgage broker Michael Hines. Her sometimes violent relationship with Hines provided the inspiration for many of her early songs. BUTthe self-exposure and bizarre fantasies of her latest album, The Trouble With Being Myself, suggest that fame has made her life even more hectic. "Fame looked real fine when I watched TV as a kid," she reflects. "Stars always looked real happy, they seemed to be the people that had a lot of fun and got married to great people. "That hasn't exactly happened to me but I am happy for most of the time. You still have your ups and downs. The best thing about being rich is being rich - you can have lobster, ice cream, holidays wherever you like. "The best thing about being famous is being famous. I guess it is like a drug - once you've been famous you never really want to be any other way. I highly recommend it if you've never tried it. But it is really tough because I am trying to juggle a lot of things. My family always comes first." Her stepfather, whom she calls her real father, died from cancer just as the new album was finished. The loss affected her deeply. "It's really hard watching someone deteriorate like that gradually every day. He was a reallypowerful, in-control, happy guy who liked to party until he got sick. I think you're better falling off a cliff. Watching him every day getting weaker was really hard." Her ex-husband still has access to the children but Macy says relations between her and their father are non-existent. Her affair with band member DJ Killu has also ended but she denies being heartbroken. "He got married, he's still around but his wife is with him now. That's cool, it was only a passing thing betweenus. No big sweat." Another advantage of being famous is that your sex appeal rockets sky-high, apparently. "I'm in a lot of relationships, tons of them. It's complicated because I'm a very odd person, so most things are complicated with me but I'm always attracted to people who I connect with. "Fame has definitely made my love life better. The guys are banging on my door every day, my sexual appeal has rocketed." Does she find it odd that many of the things that caused her to be picked on at school - her height, unconventional beauty and unique singing and speaking voice - are now the things that make her an icon. "I wouldn't say it was weird, ironic or even amusing to me. The thing is, guys were always easy to me. You know the way guys say girls are easy? To me guys were easy, easy to get into bed." It was less easy for her to follow her childhood dream and make it as a famous rock'n'soul star. She struggled for several years as an aspiring movie scriptwriter and lounge bar singer. "There are a lot of obstacles when you are black and a female in America. I didthis all by myself and I'm proud of myself but of course it was harder. "It's like being in a race where everybody else has four legs and you only have one. I do think that the black race is a really incredible, beautiful and superior race. As soon as the rest of the world realises that we'll all be better off." She laughs when she says this, looking for a reaction. Clearly Macy craves attention, as you'd expect from someone who has written such songs as I Committed Murder and Relating To A Psychopath - the latter dedicated to her fans. ON the new album her three kids - daughters Aanisah and Happy and her son Tahmel - sing on the chorus of Happiness. "My kids are really smart and worldly. They are a little spoilt. My ultimate hero is Diana Ross - she had that rock-star diva thing down to a T. "But I don't like that word being used to describe me. If there is a diva in my family it's my little girl." Even so, when Macy is back at her home in LA after recording or being on tour, the children do have to get used to some of their mum's unusual habits. "I am a big flasher. I like to walk around the house naked. Everybody is used to it," she assures me. Nor should her young family ever expect any tasty treats from the Macy cookbook. "I don't cook, that's for the housekeeper. I once burned a pot of water just trying to make macaroni noodles." Instead, she'd rather spend her time at the local shooting range firing off a few rounds at the nearest target. "Its fun. I definitely think they should not ban handguns; they should just stop the wrong people from having them."There's nothing dangerous about a handgun - it's the people that use them the wrong way who are the problem." "When the interview ends Macy signs a copy of the new album for me and includes a message that says: "Write an incredible story about me or I'll kill you." But with a cartoon series and a film based on her family in the planning perhaps she'll soon be able to tell her own incredible story. "A lot of my mother's side of the family are gangsters, that's what it will be concentrating on. It's going to be a great movie." Perhaps Macy will even get the chance to sing Soprano.THE Trouble With Being Myself is released on Monday.

CAPTION(S):

STYLE: There's nobody else quite like Macy; SPOILT: Macy and son Tahmel; LOSS: Macy's mum and her late stepdad
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2003
Words:1412
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