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Motown legend Mary Wilson's 'musical daughters' remember her as encouraging, kind

Posted at 7:12 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 22:28:54-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — For musical artists Michelle Johnson and Skye Dee Miles, the Supreme Mary Wilson was a star they idolized from afar.

"I just remember playing their albums front-to-back, back-to-back every day," said Johnson of listening to The Supremes at six years old.

"I just knew there were three women that were gorgeous and I wanted to be every last one of them," said Miles.

That was until their stars crossed with Mary Wilson's in the nightlife of Las Vegas.

"To then meet one of them and become a friend is crazy," said Johnson, of meeting Wilson in Las Vegas.

Johnson remembers the first time she spoke to Wilson was at an audition.

"The thing I was auditioning for was not right for me at all and she was really nice about it," said Johnson.

"[Mary Wilson] pulled me aside and said, 'You've got a lot of talent but this isn't the right show for you.' And, 'keep going,'" said Johnson. "This was a long time ago and I just remember thinking, who does that?"

Johnson and Miles said Wilson was remarkably down to earth and accessible.

Wilson called both women her "musical daughters" and offered a kind of mentorship and encouragement they say was unique and touching. Miles remembers Wilson calling her after she'd faced a career setback, losing two great gigs in as many days.

"She was worried about me," Miles said. "She called me from out of state and said, 'When I get back, we're going out to lunch.' And during that lunch she just told me, 'You can't stay in this rejection. You can't stay there. Recognize it. Take whatever you can from it. And you keep moving forward and keep being your best.'"

"She was always about being your best and not standing still," Miles added.

Through her 60s and into her 70s, Wilson was not one to stand still. She was still traveling, working and showing up for artists in Las Vegas.

"I would always give like, 'just in case you don't know,' that's the legendary Ms. Mary Wilson. And she would stand up and give her little wave," said Miles.

Miles said Wilson loved it and her presence was felt in every room she graced. But both women said it was her kindness, to everyone, that was as legendary as her talent.

"If she did any kind of project, she became friends with the people that a lot of artists don't like, the people who wrote the charts, the sound engineer, the crew, she just had that way of recognizing that no matter what your position was or how famous you were in the business, she made herself friendly and accessible and kind," Johnson said.

Wilson died at her home in the Las Vegas valley on Feb. 8 at the age of 76.