This was a big deal for me at the time in another of firsts.. my former group Shalamar had never been featured in a magazine like this. Everything about my solo debut is significant because no one predicted it or expected it.
Looking back, I see a determined, authentic and self-assured young woman no matter those who were against me and expected my demise…I’ve always believed in myself and tenacious about living my own life and being happy as much as I can.
Trendsetting style and attitude, letting black girls know we could be eclectic, ‘weird’, offbeat..whatever box you want to check off too.
Jody Watley 1988 in May’s issue of Harper’s Bazaar photographed by Francesco Scavullo wearing Angel Estrada, hair by Jeff Woodley, make up by John Evans.
I’ve told the story before, but here it is again in a quick snapshot. When my publicist notified that Harper’s Bazaar wanted to feature me in the magazine with photo session in New York by the legendary fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo who has lensed some iconic images over the decades. They had no idea who he was or the additional significance.
this wasn’t a common occurrence in the music business at that time. My label did not agree to fly me to New York for this major opportunity asking me what did being in a fashion magazine have to do with selling records – forget the major exposure, the broadening of the audience, establishing me beyond music as a budding fashion icon and brand or however one wishes to look at things. I didn’t want to miss out and so I paid for my own flights and hotel to do this. Always invest in yourself if you have the means to do so.
Eventually of course major labels embraced the concept and additional prestigious PR and it became commonplace -and of course went even further with black superstar women in music like Rihanna, Beyonce, and more (Ciara, Alicia Keys) gracing the cover of high fashion magazines.
My solo debut was so monumental in a variety of ways beyond the Grammy nominations, winning Best New Artist, the hit singles and more. Always believe in yourself.
Since winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 1988, I remain a voting member (all artists should be involved), have been a part of the GrammyU program serving on the Recording Academy Board of Governors serving on the Los Angeles Chapter for a few years in early 2000’s. Being a part of the academy from that perspective gave me greater understanding of how the process works. I was nominated and put on the ballot initially by a respected music writer and voted in. Later running for LA Chapter President against MC Lyte – Lyte won the vote and was terrific. This took me back to running for Class President in junior high only with less stress, I didn’t win that either, but it was great for my confidence no matter the outcome and as always – you never know unless you try and put yourself out there. It’s the journey!
Invited to return as a presenter (presented Toni Braxton Best New Artist Award in 1993) was cool as well as being a part of the Grammy Award Nominees Announcements that same year with country music star Clint Black. Awards shows are very different now so it’s nice to reflect for a second on this part of my continued journey as an artist and music peer.
Jody Watley will be a guest-of-honor at the posthumous presentation of Jackie Wilson’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame scheduled for September 4, 2019, at 11:30 am PDT. The event will be live-streamed exclusively on www.walkoffame.com
How Jody Watley became the Goddaughter of Jackie Wilson
It was divine intervention, literally! Rev. John E. Watley Jr. was the minister of his church in Chicago, ‘Miracle Temple,’ which drew the “in-crowd” and a who’s who from the world of entertainment. Rev. Watley was also a popular gospel music on-air radio personality and programmer on WVON and later in Kansas City, MO on KPRS. Her father called her “Princess Jody” and so did the church members. He had a theatrical and larger-than-life persona that attracted singers like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cook, and Johnny Taylor.
It was at church that the Reverend Watley met Jackie Wilson. Wilson and Watley became self-proclaimed “brothers” so much so that Jody always called the singer “Uncle Jackie.” Reverand Watley and his wife, also a singer in the church who gave up a professional career to raise Jody and her brother, considered Jackie part of the family. He joyously accepted his honor of being named Jody Watley’s Godfather, although Jody always called him “Uncle Jackie.”
The family relocated from Chicago to Durham, NC and it was there one evening, the family went to see Jackie Wilson perform. Rev. Watley knew his daughter was gifted and that she was preordained to become the talent that she is today. “My father passed away way too soon at age 49, but he told me from a young age I would be a star. He called me Princess,” Jody said.
When Jackie asked me to come on stage with him, at around age 8. “It was so exciting. I was dressed in the style of the day – – – a pretty skirt, Go-Go boots, and a chic mod ponytail” Jody recalled. “I think the song we did was “ Baby Work Out” and I remember singing and dancing with Jackie Wilson! I knew how to do the mashed potato and the twist!”
“Even at such a young age, I recognized Uncle Jackie’s charisma. He truly was truly someone special, definitely ‘Mr. Excitement!’ Another remembrance that stays with me is visceral — Jackie smelled so good, he really did smell amazing!”
“Jackie was truly Mr. Excitement in every way. When I was with him, I had that feeling I was in the presence of greatness. He embodied all of the talent and musicality and style that came before him. The star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a wonderful honor for my Godfather Jackie Wilson. I wish he could have gotten the recognition and his due before he died, but I am so glad his story is being revealed.”
It was an cool to be a part of the “People Magazine 50 Most Beautiful Summer 1990” issue needless to say (actress Michelle Pfeiffer was on the cover). I believe true beauty radiates from the inside out and honestly having smarts is higher on my list though being in the entertainment industry there is a level of superficial so I get it. In my interviews it’s always been key to get that across, not just being a ‘pretty face.’ The feature makes mention of my godfather music legend Jackie Wilson who will finally be honored with a Star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood September 4, 2019.
In this opportunity it’s noted that I was ok with my crooked bottom teeth..they are still crooked though I could easily have them straightened. Perhaps I will before all is said and done but they don’t bother me and are a part of being distinctly me. Imperfections are a part of who we are, it’s also what I replied recently to someone trolling me on Facebook who mocked me for my bottom teeth ‘you have enough money – why don’t you get your teeth fixed, people are talking about you behind your back..” Sure, we are all works in progress and if definitely fix or work on what needs improvement if it makes you feel better about yourself – go for it but don’t let society or certain standards make you feel less than or inferior in any way. You decide – I decide.
Going with short hair was also a statement in itself and somewhat rebellious in it’s own way..it’s not about my hair but my artistry and quest to always be what and who I want to be at any given time – not who and what other’s want to define or box me into. The short hair was not received well at the time with fans, or my record label. As an artist and a human being most of all, it’s often challenging to hold on and fight to be who you are and want to be while others may only see you one way and try to keep you marginalized to their vision.
This was also around the time I was photographed by legendary Herb Ritts for the GAP groundbreaking ‘celebrity’ ad campaign ‘Individuals Of Style’ – loved this session. Herb Ritts was so kind and easy going. Any intimidation I may have felt going into the session melted away as soon as I met him. We shot in natural light on the rooftop of his Hollywood studio, I wore my own denim jeans and Doc Martens, customizing the white GAP t-shirt to suit me, just a simple snipping off of the sleeves. Peter Savic, another legend in the fashion and celebrity hairstylist..actually he’s a master of hair, an artist not just a stylist worked with Herb Ritts often but it was a first for us. Wanting to do something fresh, modern and bold but not sure what – Peter suggested short and so we agreed on the pixie cut and he knocked it out of the park! An image from this session was also used for my “Precious Love” single…as well it was around this time I was nearly booed off the stage and received heavy backlash after by my only performance on the Soul Train Awards…that’s another post entirely. I do touch upon being black and forward thinking as an artist back then, the politics of the music business .. in my work in progress memoir.
Be bold if you feel like it – be you – live your life!! Wattage!
Sony Hall New York, August 16, 2019 was phenomenal. New York is always a special place, my Mom is from Harlem,my son graduated college there and lives there. It’s also extra special to see him when I go there to work too.
I won my Best New Artist Grammy in New York’s legendary Radio City Music Hall, been inspired to write songs from the vibes of New York, filmed my ‘Friends’ video there to capture that real authentic vibe with Eric B & Rakim, club kids and beyond, trendsetting fashion shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, Saks – cover of Essence Magazine back in the day..you name it. I’ve performed in the Big Apple countless times over the span of my over 3 decade solo career and counting..this ranks as the best.
There are so many rave reviews pics and video on social media (especially Instagram) – here are two that really say it all!
Via Twitter. Love!
Jody Watley. Photography by Trudy Giordano
Jody Watley. Photography by Trudy Giordano
Jody Watley. Photography: Dara Seans
Jody Watley and John ‘Havic’ Gregory – SRL.
Jody Watley – A Music Journey, performing a few of my Shalamar classics with SRL.
Fan photo capturing a moment, Sony Hall 2019.
Real Love. Striking a pose.
I had not planned to do ‘Still A Thrill’ in this show. The setlist included rare gems like ‘Nightlife’ Soulpersonal Classic Soul mix, Saturday Night Experience, the current SRL hits, ‘Precious Love’ soul mix, ‘Skin Deep’ from ‘Midnight Lounge’ a piano and vocal only ‘Everything’, the jazz bossa nova of ‘Waiting In Vain’ and more along with classic hit staples. I ended up taking a few spontaneous requests resulting in a spirited a cappella section. Video capture by Trudy Giordano.
Jody Watley and Nate Allen Smith. Photography Trudy Giordano. Sony Hall 8.16.19
Multi-talented Nate Allen Smith, male lead – SRL. Singer, songwriter, dancer, model.
The soul collective. Jody Watley & SRL.
Jody Watley. Wattage!
Thank you to the wattage crew and everyone who came, sold-out the venue (this means so much) and made it truly a magical night of music – a night to remember full of precious love.
After New York, we were off to Atlanta for the concert with Jeffrey Osborne.
Beautiful outdoor setting. Older more reserved crowd than I’m accustomed to and as the case with older R&B audiences – there’s always an initial sense of sitting in judgment maybe skeptical of what Jody Watley was going to bring to the evening. My perception is this age demo are more of the upset I’m not longer with Shalamar though it’s been nearly 4 decades and I’ve been successfully putting it down solo for over three decades and counting – always evolving and getting better with time.
The skeptics always learn..I bring a first class, high quality soulful show with lots of style, heart and my brand of soul, full of positive messages and hits – including a couple from my Shalamar days.
Jody Watley. Photo by Bill Coker.
Photography: Norman ‘NV’ Johnson
Jody Watley – Photography: Norman ‘NV’ Johnson
Jody Watley & SRL. Mable House Barnes Amphitheater.
Up next and closing out summer 2019:
Saturday August 24, 2019 – Groove 99.3 and Pacific Concert Group Present – Summer Bash, Bakersfield, CA Stramler Park (multiple acts) – Tickets
August 31, 2019 – WorldOne Concerts Presents Rewind Funk & Soul – Thunder Valley Outdoor Amphitheater – Tickets (Multiple acts)
September 7, 2019 – Blue Note Hawaii – Jody Watley ‘UnPlugged’ – Tickets
Breaking barriers as first black woman on Japanese fashion magazine, there were billboards across Japan and I also filmed a television commercial that aired through the country – such an honor. Photography: Philip Dixon. Makeup: Paul Starr. Wardrobe: Martin Sitbon
1990 Rolling Stone Magazine Fall Fashion Issue (outtake Polaroid) – Versace Jacket paired with personal denim Levi 501’s and white #tees and earrings by Erickson Beamon – photography by William Laxton, styled by Patti O’Brien and Jody Watley, Hair by Sam McKnight, Make up by Brigitte Reiss Anderson.
“I think it’s more embraced by the public, fans, media when artists change their style from hair to wardrobe in today’s era. I received a lot of backlash when I went short initially for the first GAP celebrity ad campaign as well as People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful Issue.. nearly booed offstage at Soul Train Awards it’s a lasting memory will never forgetting the gasps, evil looks and chilly reception later met with rumblings of questioning my sexuality because I’d cut my hair short…then came Toni Braxton and Halle Berry making short cuts on black women all the rage and ‘acceptable’ ..for me it was ‘we like her with lots of hair’.. when for me I was making a statement I’m more than my hairstyles –never be afraid to go against the landscape or sacrifice what’s in your heart for popular opinion.” -Jody Watley