V Collector's Club: Missy Elliott V29
Back in 2004, for the 29th issue of V, hip hop's finest Missy Elliott sat down with Michael Michalsky of Adidas to talk about everything from Elliott's over 3,000 pairs of shoes and her musical influences. To get your hands on the physical copy of V29 that saw Missy on the cover sporting early 2000s Adidas, head over to the V Collector's Club, and catch a glimpse of the issue with the full interview and photos below.
WHEN MISSY MET MICHAEL
The day when Michael Michalsky, Global Creative Director for Adidas, walked through Missy Elliott’s door, she heard angels sing. She would have fallen off her chair—if he hadn’t fallen off his first. For Missy, who owns upwards of three thousand pairs of sneakers, it was a match made in heaven. And this fall, Adidas will launch Respect M.E., a collaboration with Missy Elliott, that embodies all the things she stands for: positivity, empowerment, skills, friendship, respect—and style. Here, Elliott, who is on tour with Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, takes a break to talk shoes, shopping, and how she came to be the Missy we know and love today.
MICHAEL MICHALSKY What was the first pair of Adidas you ever bought—if you can remember?
MISSY ELLIOTT The first pair of Adidas that I ever bought was probably when I was in junior high school. I bought them because the first artist I saw wearing them was Run-DMC, and they used to have the fat shoelaces in them.
MM What is so special about Adidas?
ME They pretty much have a vintage style but still keep up to date. No matter how many years go past, you still keep that kind of vintage look from when it first came out, and yet it still has that twist of right now. That’s what's special about Adidas. They never go out of style.
MM Where did your obsession with sneakers come from?
ME My obsession with sneakers came from when I was a little girl. My mother used to always put me in dress shoes and big lace dresses, and I would always be running out in the park with my little boy cousins. When we would come back, everything would be messed up. All my lace would be off my dress, my shoes would be scuffed up, so my aunt gave my mother the idea, you know “Maybe you should put her in some sneakers, then you don’t have to worry about her messing up her good clothes.” And once I got a feeling for sneakers—I know it sounds messed up—but it was almost like going from maxi pads to tampons. It was like, wow, this is great. I wish someone had warned me about this earlier.
MM How many pairs do you own?
ME I would say—no exaggeration—I own probably over three thousand pairs of sneakers. I have four different places that I stay, and I have tons and tons of sneakers in each place.
MM Have you ever worn high heels?
ME Yeah, I have high-heeled shoes. But I’m not one to wear high-heeled shoes to the club. I like to stand up and dance, and sometimes they can be an uncomfortable fit if you try to get the ones that look real good. Because the ones that look real good hurt real bad.
MM What about this Adidas collaboration? What did you think when I walked in the door for your first Adidas meeting?
ME I was really getting out there and wearing Adidas in everything I did. Even when I didn’t think Adidas was ready to do a deal, I still supported the fact that I loved Adidas and rocked Adidas anyway. And when I first saw you come through the door, it was like heaven’s gates—you just started hearing singing, like, “Hallelujah!”
MM If I ever got married, would you sing at my wedding?
ME I would probably not sing, I would rap "My Adidas" from Run-DMC. I think that would make sense.
MM How do you feel about people emulating your personal style?
ME I don’t have a problem with that. Actually, I think it’s a compliment and shows people that you’re a trendsetter. And it keeps you up on your style, too, because it makes you continuously change your style of dress. So it keeps me focused.
MM What do you think about white people dressing like black people?
ME I don’t have a problem with white people dressing like black people either. It’s not about a color; it’s about how you rock your clothes. I’ve seen Asian people rock their clothes better than most nationalities!
MM What is it that you love most about shopping?
ME What I love most about shopping is being able to go in and put things together that people wouldn’t dare put together, and when I get home I love to try it all on and play dress-up. I always used to play dress-up when I was little, so the biggest thing for me about shopping is getting home to try the stuff on.
MM Did you ever regret any of your purchases? What did you do with it? Do you ever take things back to the store?
ME I have regretted purchases before, and sometimes I keep it because I’m too lazy to take it back, or sometimes I throw them away or give them to the Salvation Army. But the most part, I have a lot of purchases that I got home and was like, “What the hell is this?”
MM What is your most treasured possession?
ME God, my most treasured possession would be my mom’s and my car.
MM If you were an item of clothing, what would you be and why?
ME I would probably be underclothes, because underclothes are always needed. Always.
MM What was the first record album you ever bought?
ME It was a Prince album that had "1999" on it.
MM How did you become the Missy we know and love today? How and where did it all start?
ME How I became the Missy that y'all know today is basically I had a singing group called Sista, and we heard about a group called Jodeci, a male R&B group, that was coming to Virginia to perform. So what we did was we came to their show and followed them after the show and sung for them, and they loved us. They signed us, and basically, to make a long story short, we couldn’t really see eye to eye on things, so I kinda stepped off and got with Puffy, Sean Combs, who put me on a Gina Thompson record. That record became the beginning of Missy Elliott. Everybody started asking for Missy Elliott to get on different eight-bar raps here and there, and before you know it, it was like, okay, let me try an album. Once I did that, everything started taking off.
MM At what point in your career did you finally say, okay, I’ve made it!
ME It was probably when I got my first call from Janet. Then I got a call from Whitney, then I got a call from Mariah, then I got a call from Michael. It was like, wow! And I think what topped it off was getting my first Grammy. This is when I finally thought, This is deep, I’m feeling like I’m close to being where I prayed to be.
MM A star like you has tons of fans, but who were you a fan of when you were growing up?
ME I was the fan of a lot of people growing up. I was the biggest fan of Michael and Janet, I believe. I used to write them everyday, I used to make my mom bring stamps home from work. I even started getting desperate and saying I was a little kid with cancer, I was a little kid in a wheelchair, just to get them to write me back. And they never did! Nothing, never. But the good thing is I’m friends with them now. But I was a big fan of Michael and Janet—and New Edition—back then.
MM How does it feel to be a powerful woman in an industry full of powerful men?
ME It’s beautiful to be a powerful woman in the industry. As we all know, this is a male-dominated world, so as a female, when you can come through and make that mark and have people love and respect what you do, you feel like you’ve conquered something. You feel proud about it, and I do feel proud of my accomplishments, but humble at the same time because I know that it was hard getting here.
MM Do you feel like a role model?
ME I didn’t choose to be a role model. I don’t think any artist chooses to be a role model. But we become that no matter what, once we’re seen on TV and heard on the radio, because somebody out there is listening and somebody out there loves us. I’m not saying I’m perfect. You know, when you say "role model" it doesn’t leave you any room to be wrong or to do anything wrong, because you’re setting an example for the whole world. But I wouldn’t want somebody to be like me; I would want them to be better than me, that’s would I would tell young fans. Instead of trying to be like somebody, you should try to better yourself.
MM What do you listen to when you are not listening to your own music?
ME When I’m not listening to my own music basically I’m listening to old-school records. Salt ’n’ Pepa, MC Lyte, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, I could even go to Men At Work, Hall & Oates, Prince…
MM Which artist would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?
ME Prince, Michael Jackson most definitely. Those pretty much are the two I got on my radar right now.
MM Which song do you wish you had written?
ME “We Can Make Miracles Together.” I don’t know if that’s the exact title, but it’s a Stacy Lattisaw record. She was a young girl who started out years ago, way before a lot of people’s time. But I remember the first line that she says: “You are my best idea the moment I became inspired.” I think that was the hottest line I heard, so that is a song I most definitely wish I had written.
MM What gives you the most satisfaction in your art and work? What makes it all worthwhile?
ME When my fans come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate what I do—when you can do something and you go out and people say, “You’re an inspiration to me, you helped me change this about myself," or, "Just by me watching your life and your career and how you overcame a lot of stereotypes, it made me do this, and now I’m here…” That’s what makes my work all worthwhile.
MM What is one thing you would have done differently if you could?
ME Put out more singles on my Under Construction album, because I put out only two. Anything else I feel like it happened for a reason, I can’t change it, and I should be happy with the way my life has rolled out, so I’m good.
MM If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
ME “I Believe I Could Fly.” We know as humans we can’t fly unless it’s on a plane, but if you believe in something, you can make anything happen. Because I believed that I have something to offer that was different, that if I said I believe, I could take my head off in "Minute Man" and people would be okay and maybe it’d happen, and that’s the way I feel. If I have belief in myself, I can do anything, and with God being most definitely behind me, and helping me in everything I do, anything is possible.
MM What is your idea of perfect happiness?
ME I don’t believe there’s a perfect happiness but I believe that there is a happiness. The idea of being happy is when you wake up and you don’t let negativity in your life. You get up and you brush your shoulders off and you pretty much go about your day and just be happy you are alive. You just feel like you are high on life. That’s happiness.
MM When are you at your most creative? Do you need to be happy? Sad? In harmony with yourself?
ME I am at my most creative when I’m under a lot of pressure. I write best when I’m under a lot of pressure. Pressure, stress, just kind of down—I think my best writing, unfortunately, comes from that.
MM Where do you want to be in five years time?
ME In five years I want to still be here—if not as an artist, then I most definitely want to be somewhere directing a movie or behind a desk where I’m still somehow affiliated with this industry. I just want to be livin’.
MM When am I getting my Bentley?
ME When is Michael getting his Bently? As soon as Michael sells my Adidas sneakers, that’s when he’s getting his Bentley!