Sassy, sexy and so, so scrumptious sums up my afternoon interview with the VH1 star Po Johnson. What might have been a normal New York minute for some, was an extraordinary midday delight for me as I sat and heard the wild and crazy adventure of this eccentric star's journey to the top. Notorious for her free spirit and humbling persona, Po has made it clear that life has no limitations, and within the right company, anything is possible. Casual and cool, we sat in the corner of a downtown eatery, and with a glass of wine in her left and spoon of soup in her right, we dove right into the chronicles of Louisiana's hometown rising rebel.
Walking through the door, her energy was already electrifying; she was fresh out the studio and ready for her moment in the spotlight. Starting with the basics, she expressed her love for music and how she used lyrics as a retreat from her strict childhood and religious upbringing. "I used to write on the walls of my bedroom and hypnotize myself before going to bed. I thought maybe if I read my own words enough I would start believing in myself," she said.
Revisiting her youth, she recalled her parents capping her creativity by banning dancing and popular music. Benefitting as the daughter of a teacher, her over-the-top personality was complimented by her incredibly high GPA. Even with the transition from the eclectic surroundings of Baton Rouge to the reserved city of Houston, Po still felt limited in her surroundings. "I wanted to take the handcuffs off and finally fit in somewhere," she said, recalling why she left the capital city. "Baton Rouge didn't offer what my soul wanted," she continued. Finding herself miserable and emotionally empty, she asked God to get her out of there, vowing to do anything in order to be true to her natural talent and personality. Till this day, that feeling resonates within her as she reflects on that moment in time, and salutes her achievement to overcome the odds.
Succeeding to abandon all those restricting her, Po decided to pay a visit to her older brother and mentor while he attended school in "Hot-lanta." "My parents were busy raising kids, so I left," she said. Originally having no interest in attending college, Po's experience on campus -- or, more accurately -- a certain lady changed her mind. Applying for financial aid for a school that she hadn't formally attended, or even applied for, was the beginning of this tenacious singer's academic voyage. Pleading with a financial aid rep, and finding opportunity helped pave the next few years of Po's career, and introduced her to a whole other world of acceptance and diversity. With a twisted love affair, and emotionally still identifying with her sexuality, new love steered Po to new a friend, Spree Wilson. Continuing to place ink on a page, writing served as her ultimate refuge. Hustling with Spree in a downtown t-shirt shop, Po had plotted to win over owner Dallas/Austin's attention. After their failed attempt, Po was ready for her next challenge.
New York City was booming with up-and-coming talent, and after a quick trip with her then boyfriend, she decided to make the move. Lies and deceit between her boyfriend and roommate opened the floodgates for hurt and pain. Rockland County served as a temporary home as Po manipulated, yet again, for a position on the BET channel. Securing an overnight editing job, and then hustling at an internship at MTV kept her focused. Still, never considering the spotlight for herself, she acknowledged that this still was not her passion, and left to pursue Po. Before her final move to La-La Land, California, Po was offered to crash on a friend's couch until finding a place of her own. Minutes away from the city, Po woke up in a friend's Hoboken apartment to a fuming Lala Vasquez.
Without proper notice or permission, Lala had an uninvited visitor on her sofa, accompanied by a garbage bag of belongings. Much of this has now been aired, and long story short, the friend who initially invited Po to move in was a roommate, and just so happened to unofficially introduce the now famed best friends. Having left BET and MTV behind, Po moved to Los Angeles and started writing for other artist. She struggled for twelve years until she cracked and recorded "Robot Girl," featuring herself. Lala, now a household name due to the success of MTV's afternoon TRL show, was also in a public relationship with NBA's Carmelo Anthony, and a new reality show developed featuring our favorite extremist and her new side kick Dice Dixon.
Finally accepting that the attention she was receiving was in fact what she had been chasing all along, Po had to admit to herself that it was okay to crave the spotlight: "I was a real musician transitioning into a reality show." In between tapings, Po stayed true to her craft and worked feverishly in the studio. Gaining popularity from the show helped her creatively, and created her own fan base of people relating to her unique style. Episodes filled with her laughter, emotional struggles and those expressing her sexuality helped expose the topic of lesbianism to a new generation. Viewers watched as Po & Dice discovered their sexuality and limitations.
Crediting Vh1 for tastefully utilizing their relationships to help shine a light on the topic, Po expressed: "I am very much a woman in love with women! I'm extremely proud of VH1 for not exploiting Dice and me." An alternative lifestyle should not be exploited or abused to promote ratings, nor should the popularity of this issue be used for network gain. "I take my sexuality very serious, just like I take my craft. At the end of the day I'm grateful to hit on a girl," she said. Po explained how lying about her sexuality would have been more work trying to keep up with the lie: "I tell myself: 'You fucking rock,' and keep it moving."
As an endless amount of energy filled Po, she prepared to flee to the studio and continue working on her album: "The Diary of a Love Drunken Monkey," which is expected to release in 2014. Fans should expect a larger and louder presence from this exceptional performer, since she is now represented by popular urban publicist, Francoise Blanchette. Scheduling her to appear in fan-packed venues, walk down Fashion week runways, and appear as herself rather than a reality show sidekick is the first step to marketing her to a new audience. With her witty smile, Po revisits her journey and embraces her testimony: "Reality TV exceeds, but also fails. Don't be persuaded by images."
She reflected on her childhood and how much she has grown, not only by identifying herself as a massive hurricane, but by embracing the culture she was born to be a part of. Through the words of inspiring authors such as Maya Angelou, she corrected a childhood speech impediment and engrained motivation and value. Favoring Langston Hughes' autobiography is not coincidental; it's an empowered soul connecting with greatness. As a child who had no creative outlets, or source to help express her ambition, financial assistance or physical acceptance, she stuck to who she knew was her truest form, stating: "I held my head up high and owned who I was."
Her advice to today's generation? "Do not perpetuate the cycle. Own who YOU really are, be that and take responsibility for it." Without excuses, Po is who she has always been, except on a much larger platform, meanwhile acceptance is now the least of her worries. She is making her struggle relevant, and helping revolutionize stereotypes while delivering chart banging music -- eons from the little girl who was locked in a Louisiana bedroom. Writing helped her release what society had been waiting for, and what will help make this reality show star's hustle all worth it.
Experience has shown, and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of the truth arises from the seemingly irrelevant.
-Edgar Allan Poe
Check out Po on Vh1's "Full Court Life" on MTV2.
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