The first time I witnessed Antonique Smith’s enormous talent was on the Great White Way in Jonathan Larson’s Rent. Not only did the rock opera define a generation of dreamers, it was also Broadway’s hottest commodity and this New Jersey native was a part of it. Halfway through my viewing experience , a raven haired Antonique belted and danced her way down a fictional fire escape as Mimi, the show’s central female character–powerful, sexy and a preview of what to expect in the future. Years later, we’d come to know her as the blonde R&B diva–Faith Evans— in Notorious.
Today, Antonique has yet to miss a beat. The singer/actress is finally embarking on her own musical journey with “Hold Up Wait A Minute,” a song for every woman who’s gotten less than she deserved from a man. Sassy, loud and confident, Antonique’s self-penned track is an accurate preview of what to expect from the blonde baddie in 2014.
During our Spahh Day at the Julien Farel Salon at Langham Place, Fifth Avenue in New York City, she dished on balancing acting with music, reaching a low point and her ideal man.
*We officially ‘Vixen Verify’ the Julien Farel Salon for their hospitality. Visit their full site–www.julienfarel.com–to book your appointment today!
Photo Credits: Stacy-Ann Ellis
VIBE Vixen: You’ve been on the entertainment scene for a minute now. What has the transition from music to acting and back again been like?
Antonique: Honestly, it’s been a blessing. I thought I would be singing sooner than this. When I was a teenager, it was my dream to be an artist, so acting kind of just came to me and fell in my lap. Early on I was like, “This is cool, but I want to sing.” And at some point I decided that maybe God is trying to get me through this right now. So I finally did Rent on Broadway.
Do you think playing Faith Evans in Notorious helped or hurt the transition?
Faith helped the transition. You know like Jaime Foxx playing Ray, Jennifer Lopez playing Selena, Jennifer Hudson playing Effie–when you see an actor play a singer and it’s believable, it helps them transition and it helps people see them in that light. That’s what happened to me. I always want to make sure I sang first because I thought the transition would be weird, but because I played an R&B icon, y’all got to see me act and I know I can sing. I turned that Faith love into Antonique love.
Was it your idea to keep the blonde hair after the movie wrapped?
Yea, that was actually Darryl’s idea–I told you he was a visionary. Also, a lot of the fans were like I look better as a blonde.
Are you going to keep it?
I don’t know. I’ve been playing with it for now.
Most people don’t know that you actually sang in the movie. Was that Faith’s decision or something you suggested?
That was just because I could sing. They were auditioning people who would’ve had to lip sing and I got it and they knew I could sing, so it was kind of a no brainer. And it was so weird because back in that day, I would be in my bedroom practicing Faith’s eerie tone because one of the things that separated her from everybody else vocally was that tone. I practiced it in my bedroom as a teenager, so when I was able to audition, I was like “Man, I’ve done this.”
Do you guys keep in touch at all?
We’re friends. She’s amazing. Actually, she had a show Grammy week at the House of Blues and she was out of this world. She’s given me advice.
“Hold Up Wait a Minute” has a loud and soulful sound. Is that reflective of the rest of your upcoming music?
The EP is definitely going to be like soul. I like to call my sound as soul with a hip hop appeal to it. Whitney was my first inspiration. She’s my hometown hero–we’re both from East Orange, NJ. I wanted to sound like her. I taught myself to sing by listening to Whitney. Selena, Mariah; those are the people who shaped my voice. I was listening to Mary, but I was too young. That My Life album- oh, my God. Still to this day—oh, my God. Between that, Biggie, Jay Z–those things together– that’s me; that’s the stuff that I love. . With “Hold up Wait a Minute,” it has hip hop appeal to it, but we’re going to go a little bit more soul. “Seeing You Again” is more classic soul.
Did you write the song?
I wrote it with my manager [Darryl Farmer] and apart from everything, he is the visionary. He is kind of the brains behind a lot of what you see of Antonique Smith.
Who’s your favorite artist at the moment?
Man, Pharrell is killing. I am so impressed with him. After all these years to still be innovative and to still be making stuff that just moves you. Like when I don’t feel good and I put “Happy” on, it makes me feel good. And so does “Get Lucky” even though it’s not my message (laughs), but it still makes you feel good. For him to just be doing stuff at such a high level at this point in his career–it’s incredible.
What’s the key to your longevity?
It’s a combination of faith and perseverance. Trying to continue to keep it fresh. Not to get comfortable with anything you’ve done. Look at Pharrell. He could’ve been like, “Man look at all the hits that I’ve done.” Even Meryl Streep says she still studies and she’s like the best actress ever. If you never get comfortable and you always feel like you have to be better than you were yesterday, then that’s what keeps you going. That’s what keeps you here. Like, look at Beyoncé– she’s like “I don’t know what y’all are doing, but…”
What or who inspires you to keep going on a daily basis?
My family. I have a special needs sister—she’s like my whole heart. I love her so much. Her name is Antonia. And my parents–they’ve sacrificed a lot. They support me and my whole career.
Do you think you’ve reached a low point yet?
In life?—yea, absolutely. Look at Philip Seymour Hoffman–you can reach a low point at your high point. When Notorious came out, a month later– my grandfather died. So I reached my highest high and a month later, I was brought down to my lowest low of my life. You can have your highest high and lowest low at the very same time because what you show the public or what’s going on in front of everybody isn’t necessarily what’s going on inside. But that’s when you got to pray, that’s when you have to be with the family, talking to people and keeping people around you that are going to lift you up and encourage you. Sometimes you have “yes men” around you. They make you feel good. That’s why people have them. Just saying “you’re amazing, girl,” just saying that all day. But you also need to have somebody that’s there to be real with you and say, “Yes, you are amazing, but this you need to work on” and that’s how you stay grounded.
We just celebrated Valentine’s Day. What are your qualifications for a significant other?
You know, my favorite kind of guy is confident, [has a] pretty smile, funny, intelligent, has integrity and ambitious.
Is there a celebrity that is close to that?
Girl, I love Denzel Washington. I know him and his wife, so it’s not like that at all. I love her. In fact, we’re supposed to go to church together, but we haven’t made that happen.
Tell us something about Denzel that we don’t know.
He’s funny. He needs to be in a comedy.
Are they the prototype of the kind of relationship you want?
They’re a beautiful couple. They love God and they’ve been together all these years in this crazy industry. That’s a huge testament.
Check out the rest of our “Spahh Day” on the following pages!