Last week, season three 'American Idol' winner Fantasia appeared at The Kennedy Center, where she was on-hand to join the producers of 'The Color Purple' to officially announce her return to the Broadway musical's tour stint at the famed theater complex in the Nation's Capital.
BV Buzz broke the news on Feb. 3 (see: 'Fantasia's Follow-up: 'American Idol' Winner Will Return To 'The Color Purple') that the R&B star would take on the role of Celie again.
A who's who list of theater, entertainment and media types from Washington, DC packed the elegant Roof Terrace Restaurant at The Kennedy Center for the big reveal.
After 'The Color Purple's' lead producer Scott Sanders shared his story of fighting for 11 years to turn Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize winning novel into a stage production, Fantasia took to the stage and invigorated the room with a dynamic performance of the song 'I'm Here' from the play.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room!
Afterwards, I caught up with the 24-year-old High Point, North Carolina native who was tremendously forthcoming about everything from the rumors that she missing 50 shows on Broadway to the advice Oprah Winfrey gave her about having longevity in the business.
So you have a reality show in the works about completing your education?
Everything that I wrote in the book and I did in my movie kept speaking about me not going back to school. I had been talking about it for so long and I now have a 7-year-old daughter and school is big with me. I go with my 15-year-old brother and I want to show people in my household and every other child that school is important. Fantasia is a 24-year-old young lady that's out doing her thing and can take the time out to go back and it's very important because you need that education. I'm gonna do it even it takes two hours out of my day to sit down with a teacher. I know that I can't go to [an actual] school because they'll probably have a riot in school, but I'm gonna gets my diploma.
Raphael Saadiq told people in recent interviews that this new album is your best work yet. Tell me about this CD.
It's gonna be a very personal album for me. All of my albums are very personal including the first one. I just put it all out there. I went through a lot of different things and it taught me a lot. I want that in my album. I don't ever hold back and I don't ever beat around the bush. I have been listening to a lot of old school music like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and of course a lot of Patti LaBelle. I'm such a soulful singer that I don't ever want to lose that. A lot of times the record company or the music industry will tell you to do some pop or something funky and dance around a little bit, but I can't help who I am. People accept me for who I am which is a flat-footed, soul singing sista'.
You do a medley of cover songs from Chaka Khan to Prince in your live show; will there be any covers on the CD?
'I'm Here' might be on the album. Everywhere I go, people always want to hear 'I'm Here.' It's a song that inspires a lot of people so you might get that one. People have been asking me if I'm gonna do 'Purple Rain,' which is something that I do I my live show. We don't know. Everything gets churchy for me at the end, but it's a very personal album for me and it's my third album so I'm not rushing into it. I'm just coming out a brand new woman with a brand new testimony. I will always have a testimony.
On stage you said: "I've been through some things in '08, but I'll take some things from Celie to get me through '09." You really draw strength from this character, huh?
When I was playing the part of Celie, I didn't realize any of this until it was over, but she's a young lady who went through a lot of stuff, but in the end she came out a winner. That goes back to me saying that I've been through a lot of stuff; people trying to take things from me or trying to sue me. I had to have the surgery because I had two tumors in my throat, but look at me now. I'm still winning and I still haven't given up. That's what I took from her. She had her kids taken away from her, was called ugly every day and had people walking in and out of her life, but she still came out a winner.
There was an episode of 'Making the Band 4' recently where Day 26 member Que was battling with the dilemma of not being able to provide for his family. As a 24-year-old, what type of pressure is it for you to be the bread winner for your family?
I watched that same episode of 'Making the Band' and I understood exactly where he was coming from. I watched the other guys' reaction, but I am very big on family. I'm very family-oriented and I want my family to be taken care of. I just know where we came from. You don't have to be the richest, you don't have to drive around in all of these fancy cars, but I want to be able to put food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof for them to lay their head under. It's just hard and when I watched that show I said that if I ever got to run into him I would tell him to keep the faith in spite of all that stuff. That's what I did and I could have easily packed up and said, 'I quit, leave me alone because I'm done with this!' You just gotta keep the faith.
You've had some of your personal business affairs publicized in the media recently. Can you say now that things are better and with your new team in place, can you account for every penny earned?
When I first started out I was new to the game and I needed people to help and show me things. In this business, you have to watch as well as learn. You have to learn it and get it for yourself so you won't end up in certain situations. Everybody that is saying they love you doesn't love you. Everybody that says they got your back doesn't have your back. It's a lesson learned. I like to speak on my brother who has been singing with me since I started. Now he's starting his own things and he's going on the road on his own. I could easily go to him and try and shelter him, but he has to see and learn this for himself so that when things like that come around, he'll know what to do and what not to do. It's our careers and our lives and we have to be all up in it. If we don't then things will happen like what tried to happen to me in the beginning of '08. Now I know and I've been through it all and I won't allow myself to go through that again.
Listening to you sing today, your voice sounds like it did the day we first saw you on 'American Idol.' The range and everything was there! Have you been with a vocal coach or anything?
When I first came to 'The Color Purple' I did not know better. When we were training, the guy told me, 'You sing beautiful, but you sing wrong.' I said, 'What do you mean by that?' He said that a lot of people who grew up in the church are sangers, but they sing wrong. Doing 'The Color Purple' taught me a lot. It taught me how to preserve because I did that for a year and as you can see 'I'm Here' ain't no joke. Doing that every night can make you go hoarse and you can lose your voice. I've never lost my voice because I had somebody to sit me down and show me how to use it and how to preserve it. I'm not working with a vocal coach right now, but I will be again when I start 'The Color Purple' and I'm trying to find a good person.
And you had your surgery. No complications or anything since?
The surgery could have taken everything away or I could have not had it vocally, but when I came out it was much better. I had six weeks of rest with no singing, no talking and that was the hardest part because I like to talk. God sure is in the blessing business and that's all I can say! He has got favor over my life.
Now the infamous New York Post had a story that accused you of missing 50 shows on Broadway, though reps for 'The Color Purple' have always said that the story was bogus.
If I would have missed 50 shows, I never would have been there so that was exaggerated. I got an apology behind closed doors so nobody really got to see that. It's grueling and it ain't no joke. This is our instrument right here and it goes hoarse, it gets sick because every night you're on the stage. Every night you have to give 150%. You can't go out half-stepping because you have a new crowd every night so it's a premiere every night. I went around asking those questions like, 'Do y'all get sick?' Most of those people on Broadway study that and prepare themselves for that. I'm not a Broadway star so I just got thrown in, did a little rehearsal and had to get out there and do the job. When I hit the stage, it was no joke. We're all human and I heard the rumors, but every since I've gotten started in this business there's always been a rumor about me so I tend to not let that get to me. I just let it push me harder.
Before I let you go, 'The Color Purple' is presented by Oprah Winfrey and you appeared on her show to talk about it. Share your Oprah experience with me.
She is cool. She invited me to her room and we did the interview for O Magazine. After the interview was over she said, 'Okay, cut everything off and let's talk.' She gave me advice and she didn't have to do that. She gave me family advice, money advice, how to carry myself as a lady in this industry. She told me how being humbled will take me far. She gave me my own little private meeting and I took everything that she said and I'm running with it.
Fantasia's third album is expected to drop sometime in late fall. For details, visit Fantasia's homepage.