Looking back on her life, Jennifer Holliday knows that she has much to take pride in and celebrate. She originated the role of Effie White in the classic Broadway musical Dreamgirls, is a Tony and two-time Grammy Award winner and has persevered though the challenges of depression and living with multiple sclerosis. Still, she's not ashamed to admit that she has a few life regrets.
Jennifer Holiday/credit: Lou Freeman
My greatest regret is that I've been a loner and led a reclusive life. In one way, you think you're protecting yourself, but on the other hand, you're unable to grow and receive love and explore new possibilities in life...I've had lots of problems with depression, and I stayed in darkness too long. I was afraid to live, and afraid to love and let people help me or trust. I think that was a big mistake.
Holliday is now casting off the darkness to head back into the spotlight with her first solo album in 19 years, The Song Is You. The album includes covers of jazz standards and R&B classics with romantic and passionate vocals. It's a bittersweet return for Holliday, considering that so many of her peers are no longer around. "Unfortunately a lot of them are dead now, like Vesta Williams, Luther Vandross, Nick Ashford, Whitney Houston and Teena Marie. I haven't had a chance to meet anyone new at this point or reconnect. I don't have a lot of people right now," she stated matter-of-factly.
What she does have is her fans, and she is hoping that she can count on them and new ones to make this album a success and lead the way for a possible tour.
In this new era, my chances are slim, because unless you're a big name you won't sell a lot of CDs anymore. But maybe this will help in terms of getting more performances or concerts. I would love to tour even with somebody. So I have to see what will happen.
Noel Gourdin/credit: Aric Thompson -- Dream Photography, ATL
As Holliday looks to reestablish her career momentum, labelmate Noel Gourdin is just getting started, by comparison. After receiving acclaim in 2008 with his single "The River," Gourdin is preparing to release his third album City Heart, Southern Soul on February 18. This time around, Gourdin feels as if he has more creative freedom than ever before.
It seems like with each of my albums after Sony [Music], I've had increasingly more creative freedom. I really had the ties cut on this album. As an artist, you want that creative freedom to work with who you want and it felt good to have that control.
While Gourdin takes the lead in his career, he has learned to share power when it comes to romantic relationships. It's a theme that he said is explored on the album and most notably in the lead single, "Heaven Knows."
That single is about when you truly love someone, you give them respect. That's what it means to be truly ready to love that person and not be so selfish in a relationship. I've learned that when you're in a partnership, you must be able to compromise.
Nas/courtesy: Cohn & Wolfe
If your name wasn't on the guestlist there was no negotiating your way into the February 2, Hennessy celebration for year three of their "Never stop. Never settle," campaign. The hot ticket bash included performances by brand spokesperson and rapper Nas and Kelly Rowland. DJ Mark Ronson and DJ White Shadow provided the rest of the night's soundtrack for celebrity guests including Jay Z and Beyonce, Jermaine Dupri, R&B singer/songwriter Luke James, singer Estelle and more. In the VIP section guests enjoyed Hennessy mixed drinks including Nas' signature drink, The Hennessy Big Apple.
The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.