Road to Perdition
Life Of An Icon
by Jane Smith
Irene Veloudakis, better known by her stage name Rene Velvet, is an American singer and songwriter. The offspring of a mid-class family of Greek immigrants, Velvet was born and raised in Astoria, leaving her hometown shortly after graduating from high school, to study to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She began performing in the rock music scene of Manhattan’s Lower East Side piano bars, while waiting tables to make a living. It was during such a performance that her vocal abilities captured the attention of eccentric media persona and businessman Alexander Blake, who went on to become her manager and mentor, introducing her to Streamline Records.
Rene Velvet came to prominence as a recording artist following the release of her debut album The Beast Inside (2003), which was a critical and commercial success that topped charts around the world and included the international number-one singles “Thirsty For You” and “Automatic Lover”. Contemporary critics lauded the album, describing it as an exploration of her obsession with the occult and the intricacies of the underground goth-vamp lifestyle, noting its combination of various genres from synthpop to 80’s glam rock. After embarking on the The Beast Ball Tour, she released her second album, Heartbeat (2006), which spawned the worldwide hit singles “Red Romance”, “Howlin’” and “I Monster”. Described as a marriage of electronic music with metal, rock ‘n’ roll and pop with sledge-hammering dance beats and referred to as an album “about what keeps us up at night and what makes us afraid,” Velvet characterized it as her “best work to date”. Her 2010 album Eternal topped the charts of most major markets and generated more international chart-topping singles, including “Die and Let Live”, “Kain” and “Smokey Eyes”. Critics complimented the albums controversial ideas and dark nature but the Catholic League attacked Velvet for her alleged use of blasphemy.
Influenced by such acts as David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Queen, Rene Velvet is recognized for her flamboyant, diverse and outré contributions to the music industry through fashion, performance and music videos. Although public reception of Velvet’s music, fashion sense and persona are mixed, due to their dark and provocative nature, she insists that her songwriting has been misinterpreted, explaining that she simply uses metaphors to express her emotional and intellectual inquiries on fundamental issues, such as love, freedom, betrayal, life and death.
As a powerful public icon, Velvet has been the tabloids’ favorite subject for the most of her career, circulated by countless rumors that have been puzzling fans and critics for nearly a decade. Her impeccably good looks and physical state have frequently risen implies of excessive plastic surgery, and her eccentric lifestyle and habits, such as the fact that she has never publicly appeared in daylight, have contributed to perplexed internet theories, such as suspicions of various chronic health conditions, and going as far as portraying her as a modern day vampire. A lot of controversy has also surrounded her close relationship with her loyal bodyguard, Mo Darren, who reportedly never leaves her side, even in her most private moments.
In late 2011, Rene Velvet cancelled her forthcoming MTV Music Awards performance and refrained from the public scene due to “personal reasons concerning family affairs”, according to her record company’s official press statement, raising countless new rumors on her current whereabouts. Despite the frequent tabloid covers on drug addiction and rehabilitation institutions, it is most commonly presumed that Velvet is just pulling a new commercial stunt to boost her upcoming album’s release.