Discusses The Downside Of Rising Artistry Discusses The Downside Of Rising Artistry
Atlanta Ga. Avery Sunshine Dana Johnson

Vixen Initiation: Avery Sunshine Discusses The Downside of Rising Artistry And The Double-Edged Sword Of Soul

Aptly named Avery Sunshine, this soul singing diva (in all positive senses of the word) is a ball of good-hearted warmth and energy. The singer/songwriter juggled a lot during our hour-long interview that ended up being more of a girl-talk than a business-oriented chat, and VIBE Vixen was able to get a taste of what rising soul artists deal with on a day-to-day basis. A world-traveler, a mother of two and a Pennsylvania native, Ms. Sunshine is passport pimpin' and providing relatable storylines set to soulful tunes for the music lovers and, of course, the women who've "been there, done that." -Niki McGloster(@missjournalism)

Explain how you’re feeling about the tour and fans’ reactions to the album.

It’s incredible, especially when you set out to do this, and you don’t know whether people are going to like your music. I always tell people that you either have to be completely led by God or crazy to do this kind of stuff. [Laughs] This is not for the weak at heart at all. We did the Jools Holland show in the UK. It’s kind of like a late night show, but, instead of having actors on it or whomever, it’s all about musicians. What they do is have a bunch of artists from all over, and we sit around in this circle and one-by-one do tunes. So, we did the show and we looked on Twitter and one kid says, ‘The only reason Avery Sunshine is on there because they needed to make their racial quota.’ [Long pause] Deep. This thing is deep. People are like, ‘Oh, you’re great,’ and then you get a sting like that.

Wow. That kind of thing jolted you.

It does, but I know that we still got a long way to go with race relations, and you can’t let everything you hear bother you. I do understand how a lot of entertainers say, ‘This is too much for me,’ or say, ‘I won’t get on Facebook or Twitter.’ The pendulum swings both ways. As bad as it can be and as good as it can be.

Would you say those comments are the worst part of the business for you?

You know what? The worst part of the business for me right now is this in-between stage where nobody really knows you and having to keep a real job. You know what I mean? That is hard. It is hard to do your regular gig and then go on the road. It’s the balancing [that’s] really, really hard. ‘Cause you know the children have to eat! It’s rough, but it’s getting better. If we want to see the fruits of our labor, we have to hang in here, through this rough period. But what’s so ironic about it is I’m having the best time of my life right now!

Do you have plans of signing to a major label?

I enjoy being indie, but I can’t say. I have learned to not say never because I know what we like right now, but I can’t say that if a major said, ‘Hey, we got a great deal for you,’ that we wouldn’t check it out. There are pros and cons to everything.

With the international and domestic audiences that you’ve encountered, have you seen a difference in appreciation for music?

Absolutely. Here, we’re inundated. You can go to Anywhere, USA and find somebody who sings likes me or better, and it’s just not the same thing in other countries. With that being said, of course when they hear Aretha Franklin sing, ain’t nobody gettin’ it over there like that. In no way am I saying there are a million Aretha Franklin’s in the world because there are not, but there are a lot of people that can sing. There’s Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker [and] Chaka Khan. There’s a wealth of singers here.

What do you feel about R&B and soul singers nowadays becoming these pop artists or changing their sounds to fit a mainstream audience?

Soul singers will always have a place in music. We are that voice, that real voice, that comes from a genuine, natural place. Hence the name “soul,” you know what I mean? If we don’t sellout trying to make ends meet sometimes or trying to be famous, we won’t lose it. But on behalf of soul singers trying to make it, we are competing with the folk with the radio hits. We’re competing with that, and the issue with that is, if you’re not making any bread, how can you even eat to make music?

…Such a double-edge sword.

Yes, it is! It’s like, gosh, I don’t really want to sellout, but the only way that I can sellout is to do this tune that they’ll play on the radio. That’s not really, really who I am, but in order for me to get out here and get gigs, I’m gonna have to do this so people can hear me. Please believe, I’ve had a couple of stations that told me I don’t have anything on my album that they can play on the radio. But if we let that get to us, we’d be out knocking people’s doors down! [Laughs]

When soul singers do take that leap of faith, it seems like they’re losing what their fanbase loves about them.

It’s hard because, in addition to having to sellout a little bit, there’s the evolution thing as an artist. For me, the struggle is the new songs [coming out] in July. Use the same formula? Is that going to be boring? Maybe I should reinvent myself?


It seems like such a battle, but you seem to be moving along quite nicely. You’ve been touring with singer Rahsaan Patterson and have upcoming tour dates with B.B. King!

First of all, meeting Rahsaan was a dream come true. I’m serious. To get the call, ‘I want you to do these dates with Rahsaan Patterson,’ I mean… We’ve done four shows together, and we have another one coming up in July. It works; people like our show together, and Rahsaan is amazing. At the end of his set, he always calls me onstage. And if he never does it again, it’s fine! It is such a compliment.

That’s awesome. Are you equally looking forward to performing with B.B. King?

I adore B.B. King for a different reason. I adore him because he was one of those who paved the way for the rest of us. He got to perform for people years ago, but he had to go through the back door! What? And [he’s] still playing well into his eighties. We got the call in November, and the president of our label in the UK, Peter Robinson, set it all up. I’ll be opening up for thee B.B. King at Royal Albert Hall in London. So, not only am I opening up for a legend, but I’m opening for him in a 5,000-seat venue; a place where The Beatles have performed.

Dope. Now, let’s switch gears a bit. “All In My Head” is a hot record about a woman dreaming up these realities that aren’t actually taking place in her relationship. What made you write that song?

The point of writing a tune like that is to poke fun at how silly we can be. They not all cheating. They don’t all not love you. You don’t look terrible. Stop it! We have to tell ourselves that. I realized our baggage and the stuff we’ve dealt with prior to [our current situation], and dwelling on that stuff keeps us from enjoying healthy relationships. I have to give it up to Erykah Badu; she’s a prophet! A prophet! [Laughs] When she said, ‘Bag lady…’

What do you think it’s going to take for women to get those thoughts out of their heads and believe that they’re beautiful the way they are and that they deserve love?

Sometimes, we want to point the finger at [men] after we’ve been hurt, so we’ve got to get right. We just have to decide that we’re not going to live that way. And it’s really not as hard as we think it is, you know? Change your mind immediately.

I totally agree with you. And along with the other things black women are dealing with, there’s always a constant battle of beauty and what’s fashionable. Tell me why did you decide to rock such a low fade.

This is the second time I did it. I did it in college, and this time I did it because I have a daughter who has a lot of hair. Between doing my hair and hers, I was getting stressed out, so I cut mine off.

Do you think it’s foolish for women to put such an emphasis on their hair?

I used to, but I know it’s deep for us. I wish that it didn’t, but hair does, to an extent, define them.

Lastly, what do you want fans to learn, through your album, about Avery Sunshine?

I want them to feel better. I want them to know that it’s okay to talk about how you feel.


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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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