Born in Lorerrettville, Quebec in 1970, Mitsou Gelinas followed in her family’s show business footsteps at an early age, as she was the third generation of actors in her family. She began acting herself at age 5, and was earning income as a model by age 12. While she learned the musical aspect of her career by singing at various festivals and fairs whie growing up, she landed bit parts on television in the Montreal studios in both commercials and various locally produced programs, as well as several theatre plays. But while still a teen, it was music that drew her passion. She signed with Canadian Isba Records in 1989 who saw the appeal of a good looking, sexy young lady as a marketing ploy.
Trying to play off to some extent the Madonna fashion statement phenom south of the border, they repackaged her into a French Madonna, and “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy,” written and produced by Jean Pierre Isaac, was released that year on the independent INDIE-CAN ’89 album, a showcase record for acts wanting to gain exposure at a new music conference in New York. She was soon entertaining offers from labels around the world, and after releasing her debut album EL MUNDO that fall, by the end of the decade the song was a hit in Quebec and across Canada, as well as throughout pockets in Europe. French songs dominating the airwaves at home at the time was exceptionally rare, but her success was no doubt in part thanks to the VideoFact produced video which was all the rage on MuchMusic. On the backs of the other singles, “La Corrida” and “Les Chinois.” “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” was also taken back to the drawing board, and a new video accompanied a remixed single. The record went on to sell 100,000 copies and earn her a 1990 Juno nomination for most promising female vocalist.
Her follow-up album was TERRE DES HOMMES, which featured a title track written by Men Without Hats‘ Ivan Doroschuk. The first single “Mademoiselle Anne” did well, but the follow-up “Dis-Moi, Dis Moi” was censored and even banned on some video programs, due to it showing herself naked along with nude models – just as Madonna’s “Justify My Love” had been only a few months earlier. This was just another in a long line of comparisons between the two budding pop stars. In another publicity move, Mitsou changed her image by dyeing her hair reddish-brown instead of her trademark blonde, just as Madonna had done. But the controversy and her natural sensuality au francais filled a void in the clubs. The propoganda machine kept rolling, and after her first English single “A Funny Place (The World Is) cracked the top 40, the album became her second straight gold seller.
Before the end of ’91 she signed a huge deal with Disney’s Hollywood Records. Sticking predominantly with the same dance beats, her first English album was 1993’s HEADING WEST, which featured “Deep Kiss,” co-written by Cyndi Lauper, as well as English rehashings of material from her first two albums and a French version of “Spooky” (Dennis Yost & The Classics IV, Dusty Springfield, Atlanta Rhythm Section and a million others). The record did well in the European markets, but once translated and toned down a bit, she appeared to have lost stride in North America, and the album failed to even go gold in Canada.
After starring in the Quebec made movie “Coyote” a year earlier, she returned with TEMPTED in 1993. The critics didn’t mind the album, generally giving her a B+ for trying to transcend the language and culture barriers, but despite the single “Everybody Say Love,” written by RuPaul, she couldn’t break new ground in the US. This is despite the fact the video again featured her in nude scenes with both men and women. This time the stunt didn’t gain much attention, and losing faith in her, Isba dropped her from their roster by the fall of ’93.
She returned to her roots and released the predominantly French album YA YA in 1994, which mostly contained cover versions of popular Quebec songs from decades past and the single which flopped, “Le Yaya.” A year later came the holiday album simply entitled NOEL, which featured a few standard Yuletide songs along with some Quebec holiday classics. Outside of La Belle Province, no one seemed particularly interested in her anymore and she ducked out of the limelight. The self explanatory LA COLLECTION was released in 1997.
She returned in 1999 with MITSOU (ÉPONYME), a French record heavy on a the hip hop beats and street rock sounds. For the first time, she co-wrote all her own material and also served as producer. Despite the release of four singles, she again failed to gain an audience outside of Quebec. For the most part, she found other projects to keep herself busy, including joining the morning crew at a Montreal radio station Radio Energe 94.3 FM, and earning the station its highest ratings. She also took on the role of editor of Clin d’oeil – a Quebec magazine for young women.
She also made the occasional live appearance, which inspired her to return to her dance club ways with the release of VIBE in 2002. The EP was mostly updated remixes of her previous hits, in French as well as English. The new version of “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” was released as a single, and was followed with three more, “A Toi,” “Money Penny” and “Mon Roi,” but none of them made much waves, and she then pretty much dropped out of music all together.
She’s continued to stay busy, scratching the acting bug again by starring in the Academy Award winning “Les Invasions Barbares (Invasion of the Barbarians).” and guest starring on the tv program “Bliss.” She’s also worked with CBC tv and radio, hosting “Au Courant” – an English program focusing on the hottest fashions, music and trends in French Canada, “Kampaï! À votre santé,” a show on healthy cooking and dining, and “Comment va ta famille?” which portrayed teh state of the typical Quebec family. In 2005, she also became the spokesperson for Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. In 2009, she took the job promoting the cosmetics and skincare lines of Lise Waiter.
In 2008 she struck a deal with Unidisc to have the majority of her catalogue re-released, each containing some bonus remixes. She also released her first DVD, a compilation of videos of her greatest hits called LA COLLECTION.