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A conversation with Felipe Rose

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Felipe Rose, Lakota Sioux, is a famous 70s disco era icon and musician that has transgressed several decades along with his legendary group, The Village People. Since being part of the group and releasing hugely popular hits such as “Macho Man” and “Y.M.C.A.” Rose has continued to please audiences worldwide to the tune of selling 100 million albums in his career.

In addition to receiving a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 2008, several nods from the Nammy’s and a number of roles on television and on the main stage in New York, Rose took a break from his busy schedule, which included a concert in Virginia Beach and a month-long tour in Australia to let his fans know about several upcoming projects to the benefit of the world, and more specifically Indian country.

Indian Country Today: You recently performed in Virginia Beach at the American Music Festival. Now you are heading off to Australia on a month-long tour – that is quite a schedule.

Felipe Rose: It’s not easy being me. The older you get the harder it is to maintain yourself. Being on stage, that is the true test, you really can’t let yourself go.

I am trying to stay in the mix and stay relevant. When the group broke up in ’87, I began hitting the scene in New York. I did an episode of ‘Fame.’ I was on a soap opera, and made some appearances on TV shows. I got to play the other half of my heritage, Puerto Rican, in ‘West Side Story’ as the character Bernardo. I want to dabble back into acting again.

ICT: You have an album coming out, which includes ‘We’re still here.’ You let me listen to a preview and it is amazing.

FR: I am putting the finishing touches on my new full-length album, ‘Soul of a Man.’ I hope to release it on my birthday, Jan. 12, 2011. It will include ‘We’re still here’ a nine minute Native American contemporary remix dance song which won a Nammy in 2005. This is our remix.

We’ve got another approximately 8,700 DJs across North America and Canada and Australia and Europe to send it out to. We are getting a lot of positive feedback.

ICT: You also mentioned another song, ‘Lost Bird at Wounded Knee.’

FR: Lost Bird was a survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre – I researched and read her story of how she grew up and how her life tragically ended. Several artists that have worked on ‘Lost Bird at Wounded Knee’ include, Wind walker, Eddie Three Eagles, Jan Michael Looking Wolf and myself.

‘Soul of a Man’ is going to have old stuff, remixed stuff, the new stuff, and a Spanish song. This 12 song CD will be the blueprint of who I am today.

ICT: What is the status of your cooking show?

FR: We started two pilots of ‘No Feathers in the Kitchen,’ but I wasn’t happy. Robert Risko, a top illustrator in New York suggested, ‘Why don’t I do another pilot?’

My sponsor, Valley Sun, Sun Dried Tomatoes, suggested Lou Petrozza their spokesperson (and Hell’s Kitchen runner-up) become the chef. Lou and I hit it off. Risko created a logo that said ‘Rose and Petrozza, the Art of Food and Music’ and we shot an episode at Gloria Gaynor’s home that we are now editing.

I look at this concept of the fusion of food and music; I want to bring Native artists to my show to share some of the cooking dishes that have been handed down through the generations. My attorney is going to take it to the cooking networks. Wish me luck.

ICT: You are also soon to be a superhero in a comic book.

FR: My spirit name is Swift Arrow and the comic book is ‘The Adventures of Swift Arrow, A True Native American Hero.’ The first comic book addresses the Gulf Spill in Native wetlands. In this venue I will be able to address such topics as uranium mining in South Dakota, the slaying of dolphins, and other situations. Swift Arrow is a shape shifter.

The artwork is done by Morgan Lawson, who is the daughter of my producer Frosty Lawson. She is a junior in college right now.

Hopefully we can give some vision to younger Natives and address situations that are happening on reservations and off reservations.

Every year I send coats to Pine Ridge to the schools and I donate a stove here or there, I would love to include a batch of these comic books to the kids so that they can look at this and see themselves.

It is a positive outlook and a positive message and a positive role model – these are things that young Native kids at home could be reading and find themselves in the storyline. They could believe themselves that they could grow up one day to be a true Native American hero.

ICT: You have raised millions of dollars for charity.

FR: Yes, millions. All kinds of charities, between breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, pediatric AIDS and homelessness, and for me, that is still an open wound. I can’t fathom why this is going on and why in this country. We have many of our people, freezing on reservations.

I help (Nammy winning artist) Michael Bucher do the annual coat drive every Christmas. It is never a dull moment the plate is always full. But that is what makes my life rich, and what puts me in a position now to make a difference and give back.

“We’re still here” is available on www.cdbaby.org and www.feliperose.com.