What are you going to order?
A whiskey sour. People are always surprised. They say, “You drink whiskey?” But yes, I’m a Texas girl. We like whiskey. Actually, B [Beyoncé] introduced me to whiskey and she was drinking whiskey straight. I thought flames were rolling down my esophagus. Then the light came back hours later.
Your show, “Chasing Destiny,” is a search for the next girl group and just premiered on BET. I love that the show captures real moments among women with real talent.
Thank you. That makes me so happy. I feel like the girl-group culture is just lost right now. When I was coming up there were so many different girl groups– En Vogue, TLC, Spice Girls, Jade. Now I’m thinking about how many girls groups we have and it’s like two: Little Mix, who are overseas – and by the way, I put them together when I did “X-Factor” with Simon [Cowell] – and Fifth Harmony. So, I feel like there’s a void in the marketplace. Girl groups are just such a great part of history and they showcase camaraderie among women and females. It’s really important for the next generation to see that.
You’ve said that Frank [Gatson Jr.], who is the show’s creative director and choreographer, has a knack for pulling greatness out of people. What’s the key to exposing that talent?
I think that it’s just paying attention to who they are – to their body language, to their voice, to the way they move – and seeing the potential in them. You can’t expect someone to just start off great. We all need work. Nobody’s perfect. When I look at these girls, I’m thinking, “I like her voice and it could be something different and unique to contribute to a group.” Then I’ll ask the girls, “Do you know how talented you are? Do you know what you bring to the table?” If they give me the “yes,” then perfect, we’re going to perfect it even more. If they say “no,” then you really have to get in there and pull it out. It can happen; there’s greatness in us all. We just have to really pull it out and bring people around to make sure they pull it out. I’m so keen on girlfriends having great friends and that’s what I want this group to feel.
What is something that you had to learn the hard way that you’re able to pass along to the girls on the show?
Listen to your intuition, and be smart. I know it’s easier said than done, but be smart. Being smart and listening go hand-in-hand, because if you listen to your intuition it’s usually telling you something that you feel deep down inside. To me it’s a higher power telling you, “This is what we need to be happy. This is what we need to be comfortable. This is what we need to push ourselves.” I think that listening to your intuition gets you where you need to be.
When was the last time your intuition was telling you something?
I think mine talks to me every day. My higher power speaks to me every day– at all times of the day, and night. I listen, but for a long time I didn’t. When I didn’t, I went through a lot of heartache. I went through a lot of unnecessary stress. When you tap into it, it’s more stress-free. You look younger, you feel younger, and everything just feels right.
What advice from others has stuck with you?
I’ve gotten such good advice over the years. The best advice I’ve ever gotten was actually from a friend of mine back home. She told me, “You’re smarter than you think and you’re much braver than you think.” It’s really a blessing to have people around you that see the best in you when you can’t. I feel like I have great women around me. I am so blessed to have a circle of awesome women. I can’t say that enough! When I can’t see the best in me, they see it and they remind me of it. Just seeing them be strong reminds me of why I chose them. The more we band together as women, the more we are a powerhouse. We are a force to be reckoned with. We bring life into the world, for God’s sakes!
In the show you tell the girls to seize the moment. Is there a moment that stood out in your life where you did just that?
I had one of the best performances of my life at the BET Awards and I remember working so hard in rehearsal and downloading all of the movements. All I had to do was put the next level into it. The next level is usually what happens to me like at the Super Bowl. I don’t remember what happened I just remember my feet and looking down at my feet. It’s an out-of-body experience. You mix the out-of-body experience with preparation and anything can happen.
What’s your pre-performance ritual?
Prayer and meditation– just being quiet. I don’t like people to do my hair or makeup [during that time]. I just want to be still and quiet. You have to center yourself because once you get out on stage all of your senses are heightened to a gazillion percent. It’s something that no one can prepare you for. As soon as you put the mic out, or hear the hum of the mic, it vibrates in the rest of your body and it makes you sing louder, dance harder. Everything is heightened so you have to calm it down so you’re not out of breath, so you’re not singing off-key.
What do you think makes a star?
Not being afraid of being unique. Not being afraid of taking the risk. I think that’s what we love so much about Lady Gaga. It’s what we love so much about Rihanna. It’s what we love so much about David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson– they weren’t afraid to be themselves. It was probably the wildest them that they could think of, but they wouldn’t tone it down for anybody. They just knew what they wanted to sound like, what the music wanted to make them feel like, what they knew they wanted to express, what message they wanted to send to their fans and their audience. I think it’s important to know that too.
When was the last time you were nervous?
I’m [always] so nervous. That’s why I need to calm down. I think that if I didn’t [get nervous], I would worry. That means that the passion that was once there is not alive anymore.
Did anyone tell you that you couldn’t along the way?
Absolutely. Some people closest to me told me that I couldn’t. But I did. I remember somebody told me that [a certain] song wasn’t going to work. As soon as it did, it was such a great feeling for me because I believed in myself enough to not be around that person. They didn’t do me any good anymore. Some people are in your life for a season. I didn’t get that. I was like, “That’s so cliché,” but I get it now. I didn’t want to be one of those mid-30-year-olds saying clichés, but it really is true. You appreciate them when they’re there and you appreciate them when they’re gone. In my 20s that was super tough. I circled so many mountains for years with the wrong people around me. At that time I couldn’t let that weight go, but as soon as I was about to turn 30, people were dropping like flies. I was like, “I’m about to be 30, I need to prioritize. Do I want a family? Do I want to get married? Girl, what is your life going to be like? What do you want to do? What dreams do you have?” There were so many questions. There were questions that I presented to myself and I had to give myself answers. When I gave myself the answers, I made some moves. The floodgates opened.
With all of your experience talking to the press, can you share any tips on how to redirect a question?
I find a story that has something to do with [the question I don’t want to answer], but doesn’t quite answer it, but still adds humor. Be witty. My husband is witty and I had to learn to be witty. When I lived in London, everybody has quick wit there. I had to learn wit very quickly.
When did you know your husband was the one?
We had a conversation on the phone. We developed this weird friendship because Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child knew Tim [Witherspoon] since she was a kid. When she came into the group, Tim started to come around and I asked her, “Who is that guy with you?” And she was like, “Oh, Tim, we grew up when we were kids.” So I asked her why she wasn’t dating him because I just thought he was so cute. She said, “Tim, no, oh God no. He’s family. I would never.” So Tim and I became just friends, because I was super shallow back then. “Oh, he’s bald. We’re the same height. I don’t like his shoes.” I was really bugging out. We talked on the phone one day and I never wanted to stop talking to him. I was dating this loser guy at the time and I was asking Tim for relationship advice. I told him, “You know what? I’m not going to date. I’m over this guy. I’m just going to take a break for a year. I’m going to wait for God to send me a man.” He said, “Well, what if God sent you a dude and you waited your year and that dude was me?” I hung up the phone. Our conversations were just so deep and I knew then and there. I was like, “Oh man, is this my husband? Right now, God? This is too early.” We just became friends and friends turned into lovers and lovers turned into marriage. I don’t want to be without him. I don’t want life without him. He is just the best guy ever. I don’t know what I did or who said a prayer, but man, I hit the lotto. And so did he. I’ll drink to that.
Do you think the key was being friends first?
It’s so funny because he always says that women usually get in their own way when it comes to dating. He says that women look for all of these perfect things that guys are supposed to do and be and say and that we’re hopeless romantics. There’s nothing wrong with us being hopeless romantics– we’re supposed to be. We’re emotional creatures, naturally. But he says that our expectations can get really out of hand, and he’s right. I feel like you should set the bar high because you should think highly of yourself, but I also think that you should play fair.
What has been one of the most surprising things about parenthood?
It’s actually really fun. Every day waking up to Titan is the same fond memory and nostalgia of Christmas. Every day is like Christmas with him. I wake up before him to see when he’s going to wake up. I’m looking at the monitor and when he doesn’t wake up I’m just twirling my fingers. He’s going to give me hell on the plane ride later. He wants to walk around like the plane is his. I’ll walk up and down the aisle with him sometimes, but people in first class just can’t stand us. So, in advance, I’m sorry. He’s a kid; I don’t know what they want me to do. If he’s getting too out of hand and he thinks the seat is an amusement park, then we have to calm down. I don’t want him to be that kid that kicks the back of someone’s chair. That’s someone else’s space.
Titan’s wardrobe is on point.
That’s the thing! I love dressing him. It is one of my favorite things to do. It’s very meticulous for me. I literally look at fabrics and I like to find new street artists to do stuff. I have all of these ideas. I’d like to be able to do a children’s line.
What’s the very first thing you do in the morning?
What is the best drink you’ve had?
Jolly Ranchers, tequila and ice in a blender. You completely lose your way, but it’s really fun getting there.
Who did you drink that with?
I don’t remember! I used to have these parties when I lived in Miami every New Years. A friend of mine said I had to try this drink so we bought a specific blender to really crack down on the Jolly Ranchers. Everybody asked for that drink and the next morning I woke up with a piece of paper on the side of my face. It was like out of a movie. I’m looking and people are all over my floor. I used to have a stripper pole in my living room. We had some fun times. We should call that drink “The Pole.”
First thing you splurged once you started making money?
Braces. I needed braces so badly. It’s like somebody threw my teeth in my mouth. I didn’t want to be the only one in the group with bad teeth.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
If I could have a drink with anyone it would be Frank Sinatra. I would know what drink he drank, I would try it, and then it would probably be my drink of choice. I really like him.
Last but not least, can you even pick a favorite Destiny’s Child music video?
Probably “Say My Name.” It was so cool how that whole video came about with us having two new members and them not really knowing the steps. We knew that poses would work [instead]. How that came about was nothing but magic, because then when people saw us at the concerts they’d be posing. It was such a moment. It was such a beautiful mistake.
SEE MORE OF THE ACTION AT VIRGIN HOTELS ON “THE VIRGIN VOICE”
KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY / A DRINK WITH at CERISE
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