She’s sold millions of albums with Danity Kane. She was the realest and most outspoken on the DK breakup. She’s fallen in love in front of our eyes on MTV’s Making The Band. But these are all things past. Who exactly is Dawn Richard now?
Rondel Holder, founder of Soul Society 101 & Vitalize Entertainment had a chance to catch up with the sweet starlet recently to discuss the new Dirty Money project, an upgraded look, carving her lane in this industry and all things moving forward.
SS101: Hi Dawn, how are you?
Dawn: I’m good, how are you?
SS101: I’m great, happy to be speaking with you. You’re a great talent that goes so underrated.
Dawn: Thank you, thank you very much!
SS101: No problem! So let’s get to know Dawn. You’ve sold millions of albums with Danity Kane, we’ve seen you on TV laughing, crying and most importantly working on stardom. Do you still feel a sense of grind? Like do you still do the normal things in life -walk the streets, go to the beach, go shopping?
Dawn: Yea! Why would I stop? That’s where I came from. A grind is beautiful. A grind keeps you grounded. That’s all I do, I walk outside by myself everyday. I don’t know anything else. That will never change.
SS101: Your voice seems like a blend of soul and hard rock. Who do you call your musical inspiration?
Dawn: Prince is an all time favorite for me. Of course Michael Jackson. And then going into my rock side, my first concert was Green Day. I love their melodies and how sometimes they have a hip-hop bottom, but the structure is rock, then underneath they had the melody that was crazy. And my second favorite of course is No Doubt. I was a really big fan of them. Then I got into more indie bands like Bif Naked, I don’t know if anybody even knows who that is. K’s Choice – the lead singer, I was so in love with her voice, because it has so much bottom. It wasn’t like a normal woman’s. It was different, it was sultry, and that’s why I loved her because I could relate to her voice the most, you know?
SS101: Cool. So you guys are all hush-hush about the Dirty Money project with you, Diddy and Kalenna. Can you give our readers any dibs on what the project is about?Dawn: Get on the train, or get left behind!SS101: [Laughs] Nothing else you can give us?
Dawn: Go to Lasttraintoparis.com and add @DirtyMoneyCrew on twitter. We’re on Making His Band this season, you can hear the music. We’re gonna let the music speak for itself. We don’t wanna hype it up, we just want people to listen and be ready.
SS101: Gotcha. And why is the title of the album The Last Train To Paris?
Dawn: I’ll let Puff explain that. For the most part, it’s about him being in London and having a rendezvous with this woman. Long story short, he’s trying to get to her, but he can’t take a flight, he can’t go by car, he has to catch the last train to Paris at like 9:40 and it’s already like 9:30. It’s that anticipation of getting to the train and the experience of the train ride from London to Paris to get to her.
SS101: That sounds hot. I didn’t get it when I first heard the title, but I see where you’re going now. Cool. Going back to Making The Band a few years ago when you sang “God Is My All” you killed that song. Have you always had that strong religious faith or is that something that came with age and experience?
Dawn: No I’ve always… I mean my family is very involved. My father was the choir director at church. God has been the biggest part of my life since I was born. I’ve been through so many things. I have testimonies on top of testimonies. It’s just something that’s instilled in me.
SS101: One thing that makes you stand out as an artist is that you have personality. So many artists out there have the cute faces and they dress nice, but we all know that’s the work of makeup artists and stylists. When you see them in interviews it’s like a flatline in the emergency room. But you, you got that thing.
Dawn: [Laughs] Aww thank you!
SS101: So on that note, who are some of your industry buddies besides the Bad Boy camp?
Dawn: You know what’s funny? I’m like the typical non-celebrity girl. I’m the chick who rocks with people who’ve been with me from the beginning. If it aint Day 26 or Bad Boy, I’m rocking with my friends from New Orleans. Forreal. I’m a Leo so I’m a lion, I like to keep my pack small and loyal. There’s too many people out here who use you for the wrong reasons and I’m very aware of that. So I wouldn’t even say I have a lot of industry friends. Too many people just want something from you.
SS101: I hear you and that might even help you strategically because there are some artists who’ve become so industry and just don’t interact with every day people so they don’t know what people want and quite frankly aren’t relatable.
Dawn: See that’s true. I mean there are a couple of people who I’ve befriended… like we don’t roll everyday but we share great moments. Chrisette Michele is brilliant, awesome. Jazmine Sullivan. These are people who even though they’re celebrities, they’re still cool and awesome and don’t change. And Keri Hilson, she’s great. And Brandy. Don’t sleep on that chick.
SS101: I know you mentioned you’re a Leo. Guess what, we have the same birthday – tomorrow, August 5th…
Dawn: Aww well that makes you awesomer! I’m wearing a pink crown right now.
SS101: [Laughs] That’s dope! So, speaking of Leos, you know we have that super confidence and I know that you’ve only recently grown this confidence that you didn’t have before. You’ve mentioned that you didn’t always love yourself. What do you think brought you to that change where you’re completely comfortable in your skin?
Dawn: You know, I think just being a woman. Sometimes it’s really easy to believe the negative and throughout life, coming from New Orleans, Louisiana, being a darker skinned girl – not even dark skinned but just a darker skinned girl, it wasn’t always easy and I think you sometimes believe the negative. But growing up, being in this industry and seeing what it is, I’ve realized you can’t live your life for everybody else. You have to live your life for yourself. I just kinda realized when I got on my knees and prayed about it; when I hit my bottom I prayed about it, and then I chose to start loving myself. I would say a month or two months later, my life began to change. I found love when I wasn’t even looking for it, I found a career when I thought it was over, I bought my family a house, money came. Everything was put in perspective when I realized that no one will love you if you don’t love yourself. I had to realize that because I couldn’t understand why people were so mean, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t right, but the reason why it wasn’t right was because I wasn’t right! And a lot of girls go through that.
SS101: Yeah. My little sister who stalks you on twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen her a million times…
SS101: She completely loves you for that. That you rep for the darker skinned girls because she’s going through…
Dawn: We chocolate city all day baby! I’m telling you, we bringing chocolate back. They think it’s a game, we gon’ be walking with a whole new swagger. Light skinned people gon’ be scared.
SS101: I hear you! So on a different note, tell me about your new look. What was your inspiration behind that?
Dawn: You know, Puff came in and was like “Yo, I think it’d be a good look if we do something short” and I was like “I don’t know Puff. I never had short hair before”. He was like “Let’s play with some stuff”. We played with some things and I was like “Yo, I actually really would like if we do the old school…” you know, like Halle Berry? And I was like “Yo, that kind of cut”. That’s when I got the mushroom cut on the finale of Making The Band. But as far as fashion was concerned, I’ve always been a fan of fashion. Always! My style icons are Kate Moss, Mary-Kate and Ashley, and of course Zoe Kravitz. Those are my favorites. I’ve always been a fan. I always like a good “Hobo-Chic” moment, big fan of that. I just didn’t have the cash so it would be a “Thrift Store” moment for me. The more my pocket got bigger, the more I got a chance to experiment with more things, you know?
SS101: Yeah I know, and I mean. I’ve seen you in the media for a while. Your shoe game has been proper so that ain’t nothing new. I appreciate a woman in a good shoe.
Dawn: Thank you! The crazy thing is, if it’s something that I like then I’ll buy it. I’ll just try things. It ain’t a swagger steal. I ain’t stealing nothing. If I like something, I’ma get it. If I think it works for me, I’ma do it. I don’t go online, I don’t check what people are wearing, I don’t do that. I’ll never do it! I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana, we don’t even really rock like that. It’s a different style, it’s a different grain. People always say you’re swagger jacking because you cut your hair and then other girls cut their hair. Nah man! Maybe I just like my hair short! Or maybe I just like the style. Maybe we were just inspired by the same person. You feel what I’m saying?
SS101: Yeah, they act like you and Rihanna are the only two girls in the world who’ve had the haircut. I mean…
Dawn: – and that’s crazy because I love her, I love her swag, I love her style, but I think I’m totally – I like some of the things she wears, but I have my own little thing – my head is on some other stuff. But, if I like something she’s rocking because I probably saw it, or we all shop at the same store, oh well I’ll bag! [Laughs] It just means we got it at the same store. But, it ain’t even that deep! It’s not even that deep.
SS101: I know you went to college. Your degree was in marketing, right?
Dawn: Marketing, and a minor in marine-biology and marine science.
SS101: Oh! Damn, okay
SS101: So, do you think that has helped you in any way in your music career? Because I have a marketing degree too and I think it would definitely help an artist. I think that more artists should consider getting formal education. It’s only a few years in your youth, but it can help you so much in the industry.
Dawn: Definitely! My finances and everything from accounting to marketing myself as a brand. That was a lot of my whole thing, with my first experience in this industry with my group and even now. I just care – brand is important to me, product placement, all of that stuff. I take that stuff very seriously because I learned it and I try to put it to use in my business. It’s very important and it helped me throughout the way because it kept me here. I care about the business aspect of it because this business is so grimy. You have to know your stuff! This is a brand, you have to protect it. I think some of us don’t look at it like that, but we should.
SS101: For all the aspiring artists out there, I’m not going to ask you the typical question of what advice you would give them. Instead, what do you think your biggest mistake was so far and how would you have handled it differently?
Dawn: No mistakes. I don’t think there was a big mistake. I think everything was planned that way. And I’m serious. Even if it was a bad mistake, it was planned for me to learn about that awful mistake. I never said “I want to take that back” or “I shouldn’t have done that”. I was probably just dumb in that moment and it was meant to be done for me to learn my lesson. [Laughs] I don’t even know if there’s a big mistake that I shouldn’t have made. I know I shouldn’t have put those leggings on that I did yesterday! That was a mistake! But – my weave on Making the Band in the beginning when Katrina happened was a mistake! That blonde was a mistake. That’s a mistake right there [Laughs] I wish I could take that back. I wish knew Pro Activ before the first season!
SS101: That’s real…
Dawn: Right? Those are the things I’d like to revisit. [Laughs] those things!
SS101: Okay, I hear you! Not to dwell on the negative too much but I know your family is from New Orleans and had to deal with Hurricane Katrina. Do you still deal with that emotionally?
Dawn: I don’t, because yo, we were at the bottom when it happened. And somehow we found our way back here to a better place. It hurts to see the city trying to rebuild, but I think everything happens when it’s supposed to happen. I’m more into the people who have lost family members and still have to deal with that moment everyday, I feel for them. As far as my family, we’ve moved past it and we try to look at everything positively. Yea it sucks but life throws you bad cards. It’s all about the rebound and the recovery. If you can recover from the worst thing in your life, then you’re better off for it. You can do anything. I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made and yea we look forward, not to the past.
SS101: That’s a beautiful way to look at it. So besides Dirty Money, I know you’re a hustler, you got the comic book coming out and I think a movie. Let us know what you’re up to.
Dawn: Yea I did a movie called Perfect Combination, it’s coming out in 2010. It’s with Debra Wilson from Mad TV and Christian Keyes, he’s done the Tyler Perry plays like Diary of a Mad Black Woman, he’s in the film. I’m excited about it. It’s my first film of many to come. So I’m excited about that, check me out in 2010!
SS101: Excitement! So last question. When the music is done, there are no more studios and stages and you’ve retired from this game, how do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be?
Dawn: I want people to say I was part of a change in music. You know how Prince and Michael came and changed the way music sounded? They inspired people to want to do better. Michael wrote songs about healing the world, making the world better. That’s what I want to be a part of. I think right now I’m on the road to that.
SS101: Any last words you want to share with our readers?
Dawn: I’m fans of you guys. I thank you so much for your support. Anything you need, let me know. We’re just trying to make the best product for you guys.
SS101: Enjoy your birthday! Dawn: Love youuu! And I will, I’ma have fun!