All Photos: Alan Mercer
Mary Wilson still performs with the same passion as she did singing with the original Supremes, but the world renowned celebrity is now using her fame and flair to promote humanitarian efforts to end hunger, raise AIDS awareness and encourage world peace.
While Ms. Wilson is best known as a founding member of the world’s most famous female trio – they recorded 12 No.1 hits from 1964 to 1969 – the legendary singer’s career did not stop there, and she continues to soar to untold heights.
Ms. Wilson is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, the recipient of an Associate Degree from New York University in 2001, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. In 2007, Ms. Wilson was named international spokeswoman for the Humpty Dumpty Institute, a platform she uses to condemn the death and destruction caused by hidden landmines and unexploded ordnances in less developed countries.
Ms. Wilson’s “Dare to Dream” lecture, which she gives to young people, emphasizes the need for personal perseverance to achieve their goals, despite obstacles and adversities in their lives. The topic is the foundation of her best-selling autobiography “Dreamgirl - My Life as a Supreme.” Ms. Wilson later authored its sequel, “Supreme Faith - Someday We’ll Be Together.” In 2000, these two books, along with updated chapters, were combined to complete her third book. She is currently working on a fourth book, which will be a coffee table hardcover featuring the gowns, history and legacy of the Supremes.
Moreover, she has spread the Supremes’ legacy from the world stage to international museums with a touring exhibit entitled, “The Story of the Supremes from the Mary Wilson Gown Collection,” featuring their show-stopping gowns and coveted memorabilia. The gowns were on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and will be touring The United Kingdom before going on to Europe for another two years.
Over the years, Ms. Wilson has been highly recognized as the consummate humanitarian. She continues to devote her time and talent to assisting a diverse group of non-profit organizations, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Po Leung Kuk schools of Hong Kung, UNICEF, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Figure Skaters of Harlem, a youth organization committed to helping children realize their dreams o compete in the Olympics. She has been active with Child Research, supporting a child around the world for the past 20 years.
In 1988, Mary Wilson accepted the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Supremes when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, the Supremes received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1998, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
As a mother and a grandmother, Ms. Wilson’s personal desire is to be involved in worthy causes around the world that improve the lives of individuals, families and all humanity. Ms. Wilson’s experience as a Supreme and cultural ambassador broadened her horizons and afforded her the opportunity to be an advocate for social and economic challenges in the United States and abroad.
AM: Mary, you have this great new music out now. How did that happen?
MW: It’s nice to have a new disco song out. I have some other songs that are getting ready to be released as well. They are all pending at the moment.
AM: I’m also liking the song, ‘Johnny Mae’ about your mother.
MW: I LOVE that song. It was written for me.
AM: How did that come to you?
MW: It’s part of a project I’ve been working on for twelve years. It was produced by the Holland, Dosier, Holland people. This is an independent release. They came up with an idea to ask me questions and then they wrote all the songs for me. I was a part of the writing in terms of giving them topics for me to sing about. They wrote the songs based on my thoughts. I was very pleased with all of it.
AM: I know you have been doing a tribute show to Lena Horne. Are you enjoying that?
MW: Yes, very much. I sing ten of her most famous songs. I have always loved jazz music.
AM: How have you kept yourself relevant for so long Mary?
MW: Well, I really enjoy it and I haven’t reached the end of what I want to do so I guess I just keep going.
AM: Are you writing any more books?
MW: I am working on a coffee table book right now. It’s about the gowns we wore as Supremes.
AM: Like the ones on display at the Grammy Museum.
MW: Yes. That’s it.
AM: Did you ever imagine the gowns would have a life of their own?
MW: At first we bought our gowns off the rack, but we all loved glamour and playing dress up. Thank goodness Motown realized we should be glamorous. They didn’t make us dress that way. We told them this is who we are and they agreed.
AM: How did you end up with the gowns?
MW: I’m the only one who stayed with the group so I inherited them.
AM: Are you surprised that you have such a large and long lasting fan base?
MW: I don’t know if surprised is the word but it has been a long time. The Supremes were pretty well admired.
AM: When you left the group were you excited at the thought of being alone on stage?
MW: Well, I knew it was time to leave when I did but I didn’t know how well prepared I was as a solo singer. I didn’t know if people would like me or if my voice was even strong enough.
AM: What year did you officially leave the Supremes?
MW: We had our last performance in 1977.
AM: You never considered doing anything else?
MW: No, I have always known that I love being on stage. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.
AM: What makes you happy these days?
MW: Being with my grandchildren. Also I enjoy being my age and doing what I want to do.
AM: Is there anything left for you to do?
MW: Yes, I’m taking acting classes now with every intention of going into that. I’m still writing books.
AM: Your books are really good!
MW: Thank you, I love to write.
To learn more about Mary Wilson visit her web site: http://www.marywilson.com/