It was so surreal, having my parents hear the President and First Lady saying to me, ‘Good to see you again! We’re so proud of you. We watched you on the Grammys and were like, ‘That’s our girl!”
Soul music is true to its name. It’s music that connects to your soul, your spirit. When music resonates with people’s spirit like that, when people can emotionally connect with something or it helps to heal them, transform them, that never goes out of style. People will always need something to relate to.
I was always inundated with music, whether it be my mother’s favorites like Fleetwood Mac and Carole King and the Carpenters, or my dad’s jazz music.
As a singer, if I’m in a room that is too cold, I kind of freak out, so I actually like the humidity, and I love the heat.
I gleaned different style ideas over the years. In Southern California, there is a big rockabilly sub-culture. So when I would go to car shows, I would see women dressed like this. I had a teacher in high school that always had her Bette Paige bangs.
I like things that are over the top and subtle at the same time.
I like very, very dramatic eyeliner: I take it all the way out to my eyebrows.
I tell people all the time – I’m a very spiritual person, so I pray over everything that I do including creating music, a new song.
I’m not going to put myself in a box.
Whichever chord progressions move me, whether it’s rock, jazz, doo-wop or soul, I’m going to put it together and not be worried about whether people can put it in a lane or not.
I always felt more comfortable with a full face of makeup.
As my face got cleaner, my relationships got cleaner.
I style my hair so frequently that I need a really good conditioner to keep it moisturized.
I try to avoid hairspray, gel, and heat as much as I can – I will use a pomade or a very heavy conditioner to style it the way that I want it.
I play with doing a forehead bun a lot, just a bantu knot right in front of the forehead and keep it in with a clip. And I like doing real pinup styles but based on my natural hair.
I use this GPB glycogen protein balancing conditioner by Aubrey Organics that I love.
I was actually discovered by Kai Millard and Stevie Wonder.
I really like jazz and soul, but I also love so many other types of music, and I didn’t want to be afraid to blend and experiment.
I was a dancer for about 20 years. It didn’t really help me transition into music.
I danced for a while, and I knew I could sing, so I just began singing in a praise band at church and doing musical theater and jazz vocal performance in school. One didn’t really lead to another; I was just always interested in the performance arts.
My style icons are Lucille Ball for her bouffant hair and all the updos, James Dean for his rockabilly style – the denim and rolled-up T-shirt thing. And I am also inspired by Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefani. Their style is retro, but it’s still very feminine at the same time.
A pompadour is actually pretty easy for me; it takes me about five minutes.
I decided to see how my voice sounds on different type of records. So I did Eminem and the Biggie, Florence and the Machine, and Muse covers. A couple of them just came from some jam sessions between me and my sister in her bedroom at my father’s house in San Diego.
For the record, I am not Stevie Wonder’s wife, and no, I am not his child.
I like the Victory rolls, beehive, pompadour – all of that stuff. It’s just cool. And actually, with ethnic hair, oddly enough, it works so well because I don’t have to tease my hair to get body.
I went to a performing arts school, and we studied musical theater, jazz vocal performance, and they kind of start you out on those things because they feel like it is a good foundation, and it was.
When I heard Billie Holiday’s voice, Nina Simone’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s – there was something about their voices to me that was such a different texture than what I was used to listening to at the time. Hearing those jazz voices were so different, and I think I just gravitated toward it.
Tony Bennett is an iconic jazz legend.
I always knew I wanted to be a performance artist.
At a young age, I wanted to be a prima ballerina and had these grand ideas that I would go study at Juilliard. It’s something I laugh about now.
I was heavily influenced by big voices when I was younger. People like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Patti Labelle really spoke to me. When I got older, I was into Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and Lauryn Hill, but it wasn’t until I started working with a voice coach that I really dove into jazz music.
The reach of Coke and McDonald’s is undeniable, and I’m thrilled these iconic brands are joining forces to inspire local communities through messages of peace and motivation in unique ways. It’s an added bonus that they are using the lyrics to ‘Rise Up’ as a part of those messages.
My prayers are being answered for my career. These are prayers I’ve been praying for as a kid.
I want people to… not be afraid of their truth.
No matter how dark or precarious it may seem, continue to pursue your truth.
I think gratitude is a big thing. It puts you in a place where you’re humble.
I give credit to my team. I have dedicated people from my label, my fans, and people at these companies that believe in me.
I do devotion in the morning. I pray and I read the word.
When I was 20, I wanted to be famous and win a Grammy and have people respect and love me.
I’m very obsessed with pop culture of the mid-century and it goes hand-in-hand with the music that I studied in school.
I actually like the sort of industrial, working-class woman like Rosie the Riveter, so I’m kind of like the sort of street style of the ’50s.
I think fashion and artistry go hand in hand.
The visuals are equally as important as the music. It’s all a complete experience.
It’s hard to remember my childhood without remembering music.
I established early what I was and wasn’t willing to accept. People tried to say what I had to do, whether it be pop or R&B, to be successful. Even when I was in the girl group, they would try to make our voices sound very radio-friendly and fit that mold. But even before I got signed, I knew who I was and who I wanted to be.
Once you see how powerful music is and how it can affect people, then you want to use it to impact the world.
I feel like fear is a very real thing, a very ubiquitous thing, and it can be very subtle.
The album ‘Cheers to the Fall’ is really kind of me breaking out and being like, ‘Listen, I don’t care about criticism, and I don’t care about possibility of failure. I’m going to do it. And if I do fail, well then, here’s to it.’
When I graduated, everyone was like, ‘You got to do pop and R&B to make it,’ like very contemporary pop and R&B. I tried for a little while, but I just realized my voice wasn’t quite fitting some of the records that I was doing.
I love the Black Keys because I love that guy’s voice.
I love different eclectic bands. I love Phoenix and Kimber.
My sister and I – she’s a musician – we jam all the time. We always play around for giggles with stuff that seem unconventional or stuff that seems funny. A lot of the stuff sometimes is just a response from jam sessions in her room, so she’ll be on the guitar or the keyboard, and we’ll just start singing and doing stuff.
I struggled academically in high school because it was hard to focus. It was hard to focus on those things that were other than artistic stuff.
I try to not go, ‘I’m writing a pop song.’ Music is inherently genre-bending.
I’m inherently a chameleon… to not evolve is to not live.
Throughout my life, I’ve had consistent DNA.
Performing at the TMCF Awards Gala is so exciting.
The most amazing thing is being onstage and watching the audience sing every song lyric for lyric.
My idols are singers like Billie Holiday and Erykah Badu because there’s no gloss on what they do.
I’ve always wanted to be a woman who isn’t afraid to tell her story.
I’m very particular but very thrifty at the same time.
I didn’t want to box it in or say this show caters to this type of person… I think the tide of music is changing. We don’t have to worry about rules. We should just do what feels good.
I’m a huge Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu fan, so working with those two in any capacity would be a dream.
I’m grateful and enjoying the ride.
If it looks like your grandma’s bedsheets, I’ll put it on my body.
What I wear onstage is so stylized and bold.
When I’m not working, I still love bright colors and patterns, but I choose pieces that are much more casual – I call it my lazy pinup look.
I search for items that have history, like vintage finds – I love fur kitten-heel house slippers from the 1950s – and pieces from fashion houses that have been around for a long time, like Chanel and Dior.
I consider each performance to be an intimate conversation between me and the audience members.
I’m excited for the audiences to hear the title track, ‘Cheers to the Fall,’ plus ‘Red Flags’ and ‘Rearview.’
I want people to know my truth. Unconditional love of God and each other.
My family wasn’t in the music business, but they loved music.
My father loved music. He loved Motown and R&B, and my mother loved Journey and Fleetwood Mac, so they were always listening to it and playing it.
Musically, I try not to box things in. I try to just play around this spectrum of influences: soul, jazz, and hip-hop.
I pray, read the word, and then creative stuff happens here. Problem-solving and all of that comes into that space. So ‘Da Box’ actually represents my sanctuary and that time. I might look trapped in a box, but I’m actually more free in that box than anyone on the outside looking in or in any other space in my life.
I always loved music and was drawn to it and affected by it. But it wasn’t until I got to San Diego that I started exploring music more.
The elementary school I went to, Valencia Park, was focused on the arts.
I was living with my mom in a tiny apartment in Chula Vista, near Third and H Street behind the 7-Eleven. It was crazy to be on the phone with Stevie Wonder. I felt like a meteor hit our apartment!
I was a dancer for long time. And you always hear that ballet is the core of dance, and that – once you have that down – you can do everything else. For me, jazz is like that for music.
I knew that I could sing when I was young. I would listen to a lot of jazz; I’m a big jazz fan. When I first got to high school and studied musical theater, I could sing. But I added certain things to my voice, and I realized after graduating high school that this is the kind of voice I had. It’s not very nimble, but it’s heavy.
That’s why I loved Dinah Washington. She sung jazz, but they called her the Queen of the Blues. She had the control and sophistication of jazz in her note selection and how to attack a song or certain lines, but then attacked it with a painful force of blues behind it. That’s why I admired her so much, because of that versatility.
I love hip-hop, and everybody knows that.
I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities and so many amazing things throughout this process. But all the while, I remember that the reason that I’m here and the reason that I do music and tell these stories is that people come to know the love, the God that I know.
Foreknowledge is a wonderful thing.
It would have been so awesome to be born in the Thirties and be in your prime in the Fifties. Except for the whole being black thing, obviously!
My style was established in the Forties and Fifties, then got dragged through the decades and picked up a couple more things on the way.
My band and I are even closer. They’ve grown with me over four years, so we’re closer and closer and closer.
I’m grateful for the fans who’ve been there from the beginning and am excited about how we’ve grown and how we’ve evolved now.
‘Rise Up’ is definitely my baby. I think it was a gift because, you know, it’s like God just spoke to me and wrote that song. It’s very powerful.
My faith was eventually what helped me face myself, tell the truth about everything I had done, face criticism, cope with guilt, pain, and grow from all of it.
At my shows, I like everyone to have a good time… but, I like for us to be real because there’s freedom in that.
Actors and singers share common ground in that they both express something.
I am happy that I can challenge myself in various fields.
I get people today who say, ‘I first heard about you through the Stevie Wonder commercial.’ The power of advertising in that way is incredible.
When you walk in the front of the White House, the pictures on the walls, they change out pretty frequently. They’re all very cool and historical, with pictures from the current term and past terms.
Listening to the stories told in jazz music and how those artists expressed their truths about the times and what they were dealing with is what struck me the most.
I loved Lauryn Hill; I loved the Fugees.
I’m a hip-hop fan, and I’m a Southern Cali girl.