LA Daily News 1994

One name, but many talents
by Fred Shuster

In the pop world, artists with optional last names can be counted on one hand. There are Cher, Madonna, Bjork and...Milla.

But Milla, the 18-year-old Ukrainian-born diva whose debut album, "The Divine Comedy," is an exotic and soulful surprise, claims a good reason for dropping her surname.

"It's just that people have such a hard time with it," Milla Jovovich (pronounced Joe-voe-vich) said last week from a tour stop in Denver. "It's a real tongue twister and people have always had problems with it."

Either way, Milla, whose parents moved her from the then Soviet Union to California when she was 5, has been followed by a lucky star from a tender age. Her resume includes the cover of an Italian fashion magazine when she was 11, top billing in the (awful) film "Return to the Blue Lagoon" at 14, and now, at 18, a debut album of original material that drew rave reviews in Rolling Stone and Time magazine.

"It took a while to finally let myself go and really feel my music on stage," she said. "These days, I love feeling that emotion and passing it on to the audience."

From someone with mediocre songs, those sentiments would ring hollow. However, in tracks like "Gentleman Who Fell," "It's Your Life" and "Charlie," Milla reveals an intelligent way with lyrics and the musical acumen of a younger Kate Bush. She concedes the Bush influence.

"I listened to so much Kate Bush when I was younger, I can't listen to her anymore." said Milla, who appears today at LunaPark in West Hollywood with her drummerless four-piece band.

Born in Kiev to a Ukrainian actress and a Yugoslavian doctor, Milla, an only child, spent her first five years traveling between the grim atmosphere of what was then the Soviet Union and London, where her father attended medical school.

As a new immigrant to Sacremento, and later Los Angeles (she attended Laurel Hall School in North Hollywood at one point), Milla was constantly teased by schoolmates for two obvious reasons: her name and her background.

"They used to call me a Commie and a Russian spy," she recalled. "I was never part of the cool crowd. So, I learned to be by myself and cherish the time spent in my own world."

The introspection is evident in "The Divine Comedy" (ERG). Both alternative rock KROQ-FM (106.7) and adult album alternative KLIT-FM (101.9 have played selected tracks.

After a few years spent modeling and acting (she also landed brief appearances in "Chaplin" and "Dazed and Confused"), Milla was asked by a major record label in 1990 to cover a 50s hit, figuring that her worldwide movie exposure and obvious good looks would be a marketable cocept. She refused.

"I didn't want to be packaged and I didn't want to do other people's music," Milla said. "I wanted to express my thoughts and my feelings. Finally I got together with producers who wanted to develop my skills as a writer."

Those producers--Rupert Hine in London and Richard Feldman in Los Angeles--helped put 11 of Milla's often dark poems (all written when she was 16) to striking musical backround. The resulting album is an ethereal, breathy blend of romantic European strings-driven folk and pop.

Currently just three weeks into her first-ever concert tour, Milla, who is based in New York, is playing to packed club audiences.

The picture is the standard one from the cd booklet (same page as "Clock") with the caption, "Milla-introspection is evident."