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SPMG Media’s Exclusive Interview with Singer Rhonda Ross
Some people know Rhonda Ross as the only child of singing legend, Diana Ross and Motown-Founder, Berry Gordy, but there is much more to Rhonda Ross than that...
Rhonda is a singer, songwriter, actress, writer, and an innovative parent, pioneering multilingualism in children. She is in a constant state of growth and discovery, ever-changing and expanding into a force to be reckoned with.
There is simply no limit to what this multi-faceted, talented woman can and will accomplish in 2013 and beyond.
RG: At 8-years-old, you sang with your mother, the legendary Diana Ross. Do you recollect that experience at that young age? Tell us about it.
I was singing with her long before that! I say that to say, the video that you are referring to was a regular occurrence for our family. During “Reach Out and Touch” my mother would typically go out into the audience and ask people to sing. Many of those nights, she came to our table. (We always had a table! We wouldn’t miss one of her shows! We loved them and still do!) She would ask each of us to sing. Many nights my sisters were too shy, but I LOVED it! And still do!
RG: You received a Daytime Emmy award for your role in ANOTHER WORLD. Tell us about your entry into the world of acting.
I have been acting ever since I can remember. Pretending. Imagining. (My son does a lot of that now! I guess that’s where he gets it from). I was in school plays throughout middle school and started writing and directing plays in high school. I chose to go to Brown University because of its amazing Theater Program and though I ended up with a degree in African-American Studies with honors. I acted in many shows at Brown. After graduation, becoming a professional actress was an easy transition for me. Soon, I was hired as a contract player on Another World where I received the Daytime Emmy nomination. It was an amazing time in my life.
RG: You married the great jazz pianist Rodney Kendrick back in September of 1997. How did you both meet, and how has he influenced your music?
Rodney has had the most influence on my music of any one. We met at the Blue Note. I was there to see the late-great Abbey Lincoln and Rodney was her pianist/musical director. Rodney taught me about the history of Black American classical music, its origins and its purpose. He taught me about storytelling and introduced me to Abbey and Shirley Horn and Betty Carter and pianists, Barry Harris and Randy Weston. My mother gave me the sound, but Rodney helped me sculpt my style.
RG: You both are the proud parents of a son, Raif-Henok Emmanuel Kendrick. Break down for us the origin of his unique name, and also share with us how motherhood has changed you as both a person and an artist.
We wanted a meaningful name that spanned the breadth of spirituality. Raif is Arabic for “merciful and forgiving”. Henok is the Ethiopian translation of Enoch (from the old testament) and Emmanuel means “God is with us” from the New Testament. And to the 2nd part of your question, there are simply too many ways in which motherhood has changed me. It’s the biggest most delicious love I’ve ever experienced. It’s remarkable.
RG: Your dad, the legendary Berry Gordy, will debut the much-anticipated stageplay 'Motown: The Musical' in April 2013. This play is based on his book 'To Be Loved.' Tell us about your father's vision, and his involvement in the project.
My father is involved 100% on this play. It is his voice and his vision. He wrote the book, choose the director and cast the actors. He’s at rehearsal every day. This is the real deal!
RG: 'Motown: The Musical' tells the story of your parents story. What things have you learned about their story that you didn't know?
Haha! Well, it’s not that I’ve learned new facts, but I love watching Brandon Dixon and Valisia LeKae playing my paretns – it’s like being a fly on the wall. They are spectacular!
RG: You began performing again in the past year, and we are happy about that! What are your touring plans?
Yes!! We’ve been playing a lot in NYC this year and will appear at The Sugar Bar and The Cutting Room Our show is fun. I come out of jazz, but have been working with Damien Sneed, who comes out of gospel so it’s a wonderful merging of the two great American genres. With a significant helping of R&B in there too! It’s a lot of fun! On top of that, my show is full mostly of my original compositions. The songs I write are reminders – reminders to myself and the audience about life and how to best live it! We all need reminders! I hope my show is inspiring. I hope it leaves you feeling uplifted and encouraged and excited about life.
RG: When can your fans expect to see you on the West Coast?
This summer! We are planning a West Coast tour including Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Then in the fall, we’re hoping to tour the North East (Connecticut, Providence, Boston) I can’t wait!
RG: Where can your fans get more information on your upcoming tour dates and other events?