The ‘Biggest Night in Music’ is headed to Brooklyn for a special three-day event with the Inaugural Grammy Park Festival this weekend (May 5-8) with lauded acts like three-time Grammy winner Ne-Yo, seven-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton, and 11-time Grammy nominee Jazmine Sullivan taking center stage.
With over 30 additional performers like The Commodores, Andra Day, Robin Thicke, Aloe Blacc and BeBe Winans, festival-goers will experience a range of sounds from emerging artists to all-star jazz musicians to big band and gospel acts.
VIBE caught up with Sullivan, who alongside collaborator Ne-Yo, will serve as the artist spotlight for day one of the festival. The Reality Show songstress discussed her excitement for the big event, her hope to instill confidence in plus-sized women across the country, and how she won’t rest until she wins a golden Grammy statue.
VIBE: What does it feel like to be include in a lineup of such celebrated musicians for the Grammy Park Festival?
Jazmine Sullivan: I’m definitely honored. You know, anything that has to do with the Grammys is top-notch, so I feel honored that I was included.
Are we going to be getting newer songs at the festival, or mainly material that we’ve come to love from you?
It’ll be a mixture. I’ll probably do my new single, “Let It Burn,” and then some of my classics from my older albums.
You’re going to be the opening night feature entertainment with Ne-Yo, who you’ve collaborated with in the past. What’s it like to work with him?
It’s amazing. Ne-Yo is a fellow artist and writer, so we vibe really well. We actually did a movie together [Red Tails], and started recording during that filming. I also opened up for him years ago, so it’ll be exciting to kind of reconnect with him again. Also, he’s a great performer, so I’m looking forward to seeing him live as well.
Watching Ne-Yo perform and working with him, is there anything the’s taught you about the industry and performing?
As a performer, he’s very engaging, and he gives his all every performance. I respect that. But, just as a writer, he didn’t close himself in to being just a performer, so I look up to him as well for that reason.
You recently made waves on the cover of EBONY, and you also released a really intimate video for your song “Masterpiece” not too long ago. What message are you hoping to send with these representations of confidence in fuller figured women that we don’t often see in the media?
Just to love yourself the way you are. As a plus-sized woman in the industry, I don’t see a lot of women that look like me, that are my size. I feel like I want to represent real women, curvy women, and just overall for people just to love and embrace themselves.
What was that cover shoot like? Were you nervous or insecure at all, and what helped you kind of get the nerves out?
I was everything any regular woman would be if they had to wear a leotard [laughs]! It was going to be seen in front of thousands of people, so I was definitely nervous. I definitely felt self-conscious at first, but the energy on the set was so great. Everybody was so positive, so you kind of just had to rock out! I had to really live the words that I say in some of my songs, which is to be confident and love the skin you’re in. I definitely was tested that day.
It’s kind of like performing in a way, too. If you’re not too confident in how you think you’ll do, to get the nerves out you just have to put on a performance face and let them know! And then once you do it and it’s over with, it feels good. The response that we got from the shoot was all love. To see women who could see themselves on the cover and know that it made them feel good about themselves, it made me feel good. It was all just very positive.
And you all looked really great on it! Going back to your music, what does making soul music and R&B music mean to you personally?
It’s just about telling my story and speaking from the heart. I’m blessed to be able to do that and to say that that is my job. Really, I’m just singing about my life and writing about it, and people are being affected by that, so it’s amazing that I get to do that.
Do you still stand by your statements that you made a couple of months ago about black soul singers facing “injustice” in the industry?
I think injustice was a strong word [laughs]. It was a strong word, but I do feel like black people and minorities, not just in music, in all aspects of life, we have a tough time. That’s just the reality of things. What I didn’t want was for people to think that I was complaining, because like I said, I’m blessed to be able to do what I love, and I respect so many artists. So, I didn’t want it to seem like I was talking about anyone in particular, because I respect so many artists. It was just about the fact that minorities and black people in particular struggle in all areas of life to kind of get the same respect as other people. When I was first starting out with writing, I was at a primarily white company, and it was difficult for me to kind of prove to them that I was good enough.
I can completely understand where you’re coming from.
It does come from all aspects and all industries. I think what we want is for that [the unbalance] to be acknowledged, so that we can move on. But that first has to be acknowledged!
So, when you do win your first Grammy, what do you think your initial reaction will be? Because it’s honestly been such a long time coming.
I will probably cry, because it’s honestly been that big of a deal at this point. It’s taken a long time [laughs] for this to happen, so I’m really, probably going to be very emotional. And I’ll just be happy and proud that I stuck it through and made something that won. It’s been hard to get over that hurdle, but I’m hoping to one day win a Grammy.