“I’ve had seven lives,” says Genie Mickelson, an Eastside resident and multitalented artist known to wear many hats. And even that might be an understatement.
Longtime Bellevue residents might recognize Mickelson, or at least her voice, from her first life as radio personality Genie Goodbody. “I started out on the air with a local guy, Bob Hardwick; I was his sidekick,” Mickelson says. There she rubbed shoulders with the likes of Otto Preminger, Andy Williams and The Hollies.
But Mickelson didn’t get in to the business to make celebrity friends. It was her love of the performing arts that initially drew her to broadcasting. “I got into radio because I wanted to sing,” she says. Mickelson says her time spent in broadcasting taught her a lot about the art form; however, she eventually grew tired of the industry, which she found to be driven by big egos.
So in the early ‘80s, she left broadcasting and decided to go back to school to pursue a second life as a lawyer.
She attended law school at the University of Washington, where she met her husband. The two hit it off both romantically and professionally, and soon she went to work for his firm. “I thought I’d be part-time at my husband’s office,” she says. “But I quickly learned I didn’t want to be a lawyer.”
She did have a knack for being a paralegal though, and worked with him at the firm for 30 years. But in all that time, she never gave up on her artistic endeavors. She sang whenever and wherever she could, including many stints working as a Cher impersonator as well as singing with a local group called the Sam Ramsey Trio.
She also started to paint a great deal, a skill she taught herself as a young girl.
“I started painting when I was very young using paint by number,” Mickelson says. “From there on, I painted anything I saw that I thought was beautiful.”
Many of her paintings are inspired by her travels, which took her “pretty much everywhere but Africa,” she says. She went on to have a few successful private showings and still continues to produce new work all the time. Further capitalizing on her visual arts talents, she also illustrated and wrote two children’s books about skiing and mountain life.
Mickelson says keeping up with her art during that period of time was important because it gave her a sense of self. “You get self-esteem from [art]. You can express yourself so much better. I believe everything—fashion, design, baking—are all expressions of your inner art,” she says. “Without it, you can feel boxed in, frustrated.” And speaking of baking and cooking, Mickelson does lots of this as well and even currently has yet another side career as a caterer.
These days, Mickelson focuses the majority of her time and creative energy on creating her brightly colored paintings, although she’s got at least one more big dream to chase.
“I tried out for ‘America’s Got Talent’ when they were in Portland,” Mickelson says. “And I was told I was too old. ‘The Voice’ is something else though. They will take someone my age. So I haven’t quite given up on that yet.”
But how does Mickelson have the energy for all of this? She says her regimen of tennis and skiing keeps her feeling young. She plays tennis almost every day at the Club and acted as team captain for 18 years. As she talks about her interest in sports, she also casually mentions that when she was in her 20s she competed on the professional water-skiing circuit. “I’m full of surprises,” she says.
Mickelson turns 70 years old this August, and a few years ago had a tough battle against breast cancer, but she says she never stops thinking about her next big dream. “When I’m falling asleep at night, I think to myself, ‘Genie, you’re too old for this. What are you doing?’ But I just can’t stop. I can’t help it.”