Dondria – The (very talented) Girl Next Door
Whether you live in an apartment, brownstone, suite, or house, Dondria, the up-and-coming Texan songstress could possibly be right next door to you. Beneath her pure and natural talent, “Phatfffat,” as her friends call her, is a woman who loves to eat, (specifically Chipotle), and laugh. 25 Youtube videos of her covering songs exploded into 25,000 subscriptions to her page and over 1,000,000 views for her cover of Ciara’s “Promise.” Among many others, Jermaine Dupri took notice. At first, like many of us would, she didn’t reply because she didn’t believe it. After all, it is the internet. But after a month of deliberation she replied, and shortly after was signed to So So Def.
That was 2007.
Fast-forward to 2010, her debut album, Dondria vs. Phatfffat is scheduled to be released on August 17th. Her life went from chillin’ in front of a computer in Dallas to a hotel room in New York City for an interview with Parlé Magazine on the same day she would be debuting her second single, “Shawty Wus Up.” on 106 n Park. Her first single, “You’re The One,” caught our attention and she definitely plans on keeping it for a long time.
In a conversation of many facets, Dondria speaks about her beginnings, love, life, relationships and the state of R&B today.
Parlé: First and foremost, how does it feel to be in NY, opposed to being in Texas? Dondria: Umm, it feels, very different. New York is really fast, I’m not really used to it. I was born in Oklahoma and raised in Dallas, Texas, so it’s a little slower down there, but it’s cool.
Parlé: How is it slower?
Dondria – I don’t know. Even just how people walk; people walk fast and they talk fast. I mean they’re friendly and all but it’s not like the down-home, “Heyyyy, how you doin!” kind of friendly…
Parlé: So it really is totally different?
Parlé: What was it like growing up?
Dondria: Growing up was very easy, I’ve always had supportive parents and friends and family, and I always did music.
Parlé: Your whole life revolved around music when you were growing up?
Dondria: Umm, yeah! I mean because I started singing in choir like when I was three, and then in elementary school; middle school; high school, even in college, and in church, all that time…I’ve always sang.
Parlé: So everyone knew that you had a talent? Or did you know but just never really explored it?
Dondria – (Laughs) Everybody knew BUT me, I guess…
Parlé: How come??
Dondria: I don’t know, I mean I used to have real bad stage fright. I hated to sing in front of people, I don’t know, I mean I would just sing in the choir in the back and I would be fine.
Parlé: I don’t believe that…
Dondria -I don’t know I just, was shy I guess…
Parlé: So you weren’t like one of the more talented people, or were you one of the more talented ones?
Dondria: (Laughs) No I was, people had to make me get up and I would just do my songs, because I just was like *Shrugs*.
Parlé: It didn’t matter?
Parlé: Did you always want to be a singer?
Dondria: Probably… In Middle School; starting in Middle School, I did.
Parlé: Oh ok, so that’s when you realized more of your talent?
Dondria: Yeah, I mean I knew I had it, I always had my little karaoke machine, and I would record on my karaoke machine and stuff like that, but I just wanted to sing to myself I guess…
Parlé: That’s cool! So how’d you get to the point where you were doing the Youtube videos?
Dondria: The point where I was doing Youtube in 2006, I just decided to put videos on Youtube to get an unbiased opinion. You know, I had all these people that were telling me this whole time that I can sing, I didn’t know if–
Parlé: It was the truth?
Dondria – Yeah! I mean I thought they were just saying that because they loved me.
Parlé: So if everybody told you that you couldn’t sing, what would you have done?
Dondria: Uhh, I knew I could sing I just probably would’ve saved myself.
Parlé: Then you would’ve just, not explored the talent and going to see Jermaine Dupri and all that?
Dondria: Yeah, and I might have still put it on Youtube, just to get an opinion, ’cause I knew I mean I. (Pause) I knew I could sing, (laughing). You know, listening to Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, I could sing those songs. I knew that I could do it and it was something that I wanted to do.
Parlé: I can dig it… How did the Jermaine Dupri meeting come about?
Dondria: It came about a year into me putting the videos up on Youtube. I had reached a million views for 1 song, for 1 video, (Ciara’s Promise), and I had 25 videos with 25,000 subscribers-
Dondria: (Laughs) and, people started reaching out to me, saying they wanted to write for me, they wanted to collaborate, they wanted to sign me to more underground labels, and, I guess because I’ve always been–I didn’t know anything about that so I was just like ‘Oh *Shrugs*…Okay.’ And one of those people was JD, and I didn’t think that was him.
Parlé: That’s what I was thinking too; I probably wouldn’t think it was him-
Dondria: I didn’t, I was just like ‘Ok, don’t do that; don’t play around’ So I ended up ignoring him for like a month.
Parlé: What was the initial message, if you remember?
Dondria: (Laughs) Uhh, “Yo, I saw you on Youtube. Hit me up.” Like it wasn’t even like, “I want to work with you” or anything like that. It was just like “I saw your videos, hit me up.” And I was just like, ‘Okayyyy, “Mr. Jermaine Dupri”‘ (laughing).
Parlé: You had no proof that it was him though…
Dondria: None! I probably shouldn’t have taken a whole month and a half to get back to him, but he was very persistent, so I said ‘Ok let me write him back,’ ’cause whatever conversation we’re gonna have on the phone…it’s not like he can sign us over the phone…
Parlé: And it’s not gonna hurt you at this point…
Dondria: Right…So I said ‘Let me just hit him back and make sure it really is or isn’t him. So I did and he just went into more detail, saying “I saw your videos and I want to fly you in,” and I was like ‘*scrunched up face* ‘Really??’ …So he flew my mom and I in just to meet him, not even to audition or anything.
Parlé: Not even sing?
Dondria: Nope. He just flew us in, we met him and talked more about how…”Ok we flew you in because I’m trying to sign you, like I want to work with you.” And I was like “Ohhh, okay!”
Parlé: But he made that known, from jump though?
Dondria: *Shakes head*…
Parlé: He didn’t??
Dondria: Naw, see the plan was, for him to come, with Jagged Edge, to my house in Dallas, and do a Youtube video, which would gain more views for me, and probably a little bit for them, because their album was coming out. So it was like “Oh Jagged Edge is going to this girl’s house.” Annnnnnnd, that’s what I thought. At last minute they changed the plan, and said, well, we’re gonna fly you here instead. And it was Jagged Edge’s listening party that we went to, and that’s where we met JD.
Parlé: You enjoyed it?
Dondria: Yeah it was fun.
Parlé: Alright so, that was it basically, after that he just signed you up?
Dondria: Yeah probably six months after he flew us in, he signed me and we got all the paperwork together and we started working.