American Singer Jazmine Sullivan Opens up about being abused by a former lover, Across the world, it’s the coldest November 18th in decades, but outside of the Gramercy Theater in New York City, a line of bubble-coat wrapped bodies seems not to care, which could be described as clinically insane considering the temperature is hovering around -3 degrees. Patiently waiting on 23rd Street and spilling down Lexington Avenue are hundreds of Jazmine Sullivan fans. Her unceremonious departure from music three years ago has left them so desperate for her return that they are willing to bear this hour-long door situation in the midst of a polar vortex.
Inside, Sullivan is unaware of the line. Technical difficulties have created some last minute pre-show drama and she is determined to make sure, if nothing else, the sound quality tonight is perfect, even if that means her fans may have to applaud with frost bitten hands.
For most artists, this is a routine type of promotional performance— a required part of a new album release schedule— but for Sullivan, the stakes are higher. It’s her first New York show in over three years; it’s the first time she will perform tracks from her new album “Reality Show” live; and this latest album isn’t just a new piece of art—it’s also the beginning of her comeback story.
The day before, I met a much quieter and reserved Sullivan. When she arrived at the small wine bar in Harlem where we decided to hold our photo shoot, she seemed nervous. She and her team had driven up from Philadelphia and somehow Google led them to a Malcolm X Boulevard in Brooklyn. Between traffic and the steadily falling rain, everyone was tense when she arrives almost two hours behind.
But as the shoot began, Sullivan loosened up. She’s not particularly chatty when interviewed, but she loves the camera. She angles, smizes, and kisses the photographer’s lens, moving slowly through poses in a way that is both surprising and impressive. Despite rumors Sullivan has previously shied away from the press due to discomfort with her image, the girl in front of us seemed absolutely sure of herself – that is, until we’re in between takes and she’s questioning the next look, worrying about the angle of her chin and asking for her hair to fall below her shoulders because she doesn’t really like that part of her body.
As her Momager and stylist scurried about primping, fixing and fretting about earrings, Sullivan’s demeanor made me wonder if, despite her desire to reclaim her place in the spotlight, she’s as terrified as she’s ever been. She credits her ease in front of the camera to “taking a million selfies a day.” It’s a reminder that Sullivan is only 27 years old and when we met her in 2008 on her Missy Elliott produced breakthrough record “Need U Bad” she was barely 21.
The musical charts of 2008 were dominated by a handful of ladies: Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Beyonce (as usual) and most notably, the newly coronated queen of pop, Taylor Swift. To call Jazmine Sullivan a breath of fresh air amongst that pop culture landscape would be as insufficient as saying Brooklyn has “changed.” Audiences loved her full-bodied textured voice, raw vocals and painfully honest lyrics. Lauryn Hill comparisons were abundant and her first three singles “Need U Bad”, “Lions, Tigers and Bears”, and “Bust Your Windows” propelled her debut album “Fearless” to the number one spot on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart and an impressive number six spot on the Billboard 200.
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