[INTERVIEW] A One-On-One Conversation With La’Porsha Renae
La’Porsha Renae Talks Debut Album, Social Stigmas, & Living Life Unapologetically
Only a little over a year after departing from American Idol’s fifteenth and final season, La’Porsha Renae is ‘already’ owning her spotlight. The 23-year-old is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the vocals, giving off a unique sound of both old school and new school music, unified in a way like no other. From the Southern grounds of McComb, Mississippi to Hollywood’s center stage, La’Porsha Renae has been diligently working her way to the pinnacle of the music industry, manifesting herself as a rising vocal powerhouse. The Mississippi-born singer just recently debuted her very first album, titled Already All Ready. The breakout release holds thirteen La’Porsha Renae originals, illustrating the singer’s versatility as a genre-blending artist.
With hit songs like “What Is Love” and her acclaimed single, “Good Woman”, Already All Ready celebrates the liberating evolution of La’Porsha Renae and every woman around the world who has been broken, battered, or belittled. Creating a personable connection with her listeners, through her music, Renae is now living by her own rules and setting new norms with this album. Through the good, the bad, the ugly, she continues to rise above, overcoming and overachieving in every way possible.
A Southern girl with a whole lot of Southern soul, Renae began singing at the tender age of six years old. Not knowing that her hobby would soon turn into her haven, she would casually sing in front of her mother’s beauty salon clients, from time to time. However, umpteen years later, Renae actually found solace in music, singing her way to the American Idol stage. A domestic violence survivor and a single mother, whose only focus was to provide for her child, the singer vowed to attain a better life for her and her daughter. With many trials and tribulations in her life, Renae learned to embrace her insecurities, finding the strength to become secure, and stepping out on faith.
She won the golden ticket to Hollywood and managed to finish up American Idol as a runner-up. Though her stint on the show came to a sudden end, it definitely wasn’t the end for Ms. La’Porsha Renae. Her new album, Already All Ready, proves just that.
Using her platform as a way to inspire and be a voice for the voiceless, Renae strives to keep fulfilling her destiny and living in God’s purpose. La’Porsha Renae is proof that life can really take you places, only if you’d just sit back and let God drive.
Your past does not define your present. There is definitely sunshine after the storm. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for the clouds to clear, but once they do, you’ll see something more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
Check out our exclusive interview with the beautiful La’Porsha Renae….
Parlé Mag: You were first introduced to the world through season fifteen of American Idol. However, I want to rewind back to the beginning. Were you pursuing a music career before the show?
La’Porsha Renae: No, I wasn’t. Not at all. I was a substitute teacher.
Parlé Mag: Wow, I had no idea.
La’Porsha Renae: Yeah! I subbed for kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Parlé Mag: Okay, so, how did it come to you actually auditioning for American Idol?
La’Porsha Renae: Well, I always sang. I just never pursued it as a career, but I sang to myself. I wasn’t the type who was performing everywhere. So, I did a little church and talent shows and stuff like that at my school. I always sang, and I knew that was something I could do. Once I left my husband, I knew I needed to do something that would sustain me and my daughter and be able to give us a comfortable life. So, that’s kind of how my thought process was in auditioning for Idol.
Parlé Mag: What would you say you learned from being on American Idol and experiencing everything that came with it? How did it help prep you for the life you have now?
La’Porsha Renae: I think I learned perseverance. I learned how to stand my ground. I learned how to stay true to myself, as an artist. I learned the business and all the hard work that goes into it. I learned a lot on Idol. So, I’m very thankful to Idol for giving me that platform, that opportunity to pursue my dreams.
Parlé Mag: Let’s talk about your debut album, Already All Ready. I love the title, by the way!
La’Porsha Renae: Thank you!
Parlé Mag: You’re welcome! You spoke about how this album represents how you’ve embraced your own insecurities and everything that you stand for. So, was this an emotional project for you? Did you learn new things about yourself in the process?
La’Porsha Renae: I did! It was kind of therapeutic for me! A few of the songs were very emotional, but a lot of the songs were showing the side of myself that I couldn’t show on Idol. Idol focused a lot on my story, my past, and what I’ve been through, and I’m grateful to them for that because it helped a lot of people, in the end. But, I always wanted people to know how bubbly and fun and exciting I was. I never wanted to be defined by what I had been through. So, this album gave me the opportunity to show people a fun side of me, a funky side. You know, a side of me who actually looks forward to love. My idea of love is not tainted by what I have been through. I get to show that side, a little bit more, through this album.
Parlé Mag: Musically, what did you want to achieve with the sound and direction Already All Ready?
La’Porsha Renae: I wanted to be very old school. Music back in the day just did something to my soul! It’s not like the music of today. So, I wanted to bring that back. I wanted to remind people of just how powerful that kind of music was. A lot of my influences came through the album. Some of them, without me even knowing it. Like, I’ll record a song—‘What Is Love’ is one of them, and by the time we finish, me and Harm [Harmony Samuels], we’re looking at each other like, “This sounds a little bit like Tina Turner!” [laughs] She was definitely one of my big influences. Some of the songs on there, they get compared to Beyoncé. I’ve listened to–when I was younger, a lot of her old stuff. Destiny’s Child and, like, early Beyoncé. I listen to a lot of that. So, that shows through. Michael Jackson, Prince. You’ll hear a little bit of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion—all of my influences through this project. I’m very excited about that.
Parlé Mag: Nice! So, being that this is your first album, are you nervous on how the public will perceive it? Any anxiety?
La’Porsha Renae: I am very nervous! [laughs] I had a naive moment, and while I’m wheeling these songs out in the studio, on the mic, it never occurred to me that I would have to, someday, do these songs live. I can do them live and I do them live, but doing them live, back to back, to back, to back, it’s a struggle trying to keep my voice. All of the songs are like a hundred and twenty, a hundred and fifty percent of myself. I’m very excited and nervous because it’s art, and it’s subject to criticism. Everybody may not understand it or may not like it. For the most part, I’m fine with that. It’s just a timid thing, especially with it being my first album. I hope you guys like it!
Parlé Mag: Love it! Your single, “Good Woman”, hit Billboard at number six on the Adult Contemporary Chart! What was your initial reaction when you found out?
La’Porsha Renae: I was just blown away! Just to be in the top ten, period. I was like, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ [laughs] I was so excited and honored. It was really something looking at who was in front of me and who was behind me. That’s where it really resonated with me that, ‘Hey! You’re in the circle now; you’re in the industry.’ I think, at one point, Leela James was in front of me, like right at number five, and then right behind me was Eric Benét’s “Insane”. I was like, ‘What?!’ Seeing the sandwich, so to speak, on the charts, was the most exciting part, for me. I wasn’t even really concerned with, ‘Hey! You’re number six now!’ I was like, ‘Oh my God! I’m in between these two people!’
Parlé Mag: Right!
La’Porsha Renae: I’m in between my idols! So, that was an experience.
Parlé Mag: You advocate a lot for full-figured women, as well as the natural hair community. I think that is amazing because we don’t see enough of people actually taking the initiative to offer that sense of comfort to others who may not be so comfortable in accepting who they are and showing that. What would you say to women out there who are still constantly fighting the battle of the stereotypes and stigmas placed upon them?
La’Porsha Renae: You know what? I tell people all the time. This is how I feel about that; if you’re a full-figured woman and you’re healthy, so be it. It’s beautiful; you’re beautiful, just the way you are. A lot of times, the reason we don’t embrace ourselves is because we look for validation in people. Anybody who’s putting you down or trying to pull you down is already below you. So, I say, love yourself; accept yourself for who you are. If you do want to lose weight, it’s okay to lose weight, but not for the sake of appearance. Lose weight for the sake of health. All shapes, sizes, and colors are beautiful.
Parlé Mag: I agree!
La’Porsha Renae: That is something that I definitely wanted to emphasize on because we don’t see enough of our type in mainstream or in society, on magazines. Society just has this blindfold and stigma that everybody can be the same and everybody should be small. I was looking at a chart; it was a medical chart. It said, for my height—which I am five feet, that I should be one hundred and fifteen pounds. Okay, I looked at my pictures; I looked super skinny and I was like one hundred and forty pounds. So, one hundred and fifteen, for me, I would look anorexic. No thank you! I just say, be the best you that you could be and that’s it. If you’re still thick and you’re healthy—because health is the main part I’m concerned with, then so be it. Just be content with that, be okay with that. You are beautiful.
Parlé Mag: Exactly! Most of the time, I’ve noticed that people generally think that just because you’re a bigger woman, you’re unhealthy.
La’Porsha Renae: Right! That’s not always the case!
Parlé Mag: It’s not! In what way do you hope this new album will kind of be a voice for those two
things that you’re passionate about?
La’Porsha Renae: I hope that the album makes people feel good about themselves and makes people realize that I relate to them. I don’t know if it is because of how I was raised or where I grew up or whatever, but I never want to be one of those artists who’s out of touch. You can admire me and even look up to me, but I never want to be idolized. I always want people to see me as their equal and just see me as an inspiration more so than an idol. So, that’s what I’m getting through the album. A lot of the songs on there, I did dedications for and personalized them. I want people to know that there are certain things that I struggle with, that people don’t know I struggle with—the severe anxiety, PTSD, brain trauma. All of those things, I did a dedication on the album because I wanted people to know, ‘Hey, it’s not just you.’ Your status doesn’t make you immune to these kinds of things. So, there are some things on there that are not really talked about or are kind of, I guess you could say, blown off. You know, when people say, “She suffers from depression/anxiety.” A lot of people are like, “Yeah, no. She just needs to stop being lazy” or “She needs to do this,” They don’t really think of it as a real thing. So, I wanted to definitely hit on that with the album and kind of be a voice for those people who are misunderstood.
Parlé Mag: Being a survivor of domestic violence, as well as being a single mother, what do you want to teach your daughter and other young girls in the world about the importance of self-love, self-respect, and self-worth?
La’Porsha Renae: I want to teach her her value, because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to play into whether or not she puts up with BS. If she knows her self-worth and her value, she’ll be less likely to come to that kind of situation. So, I want to teach her that she is a Queen, that she demands respect and not ask for it, that she carries herself the way that a Queen carries herself. It’s kind of hard because women are very, very, very sexualized in this society.
Parlé Mag: Yes!
La’Porsha Renae: So, it’s kind of hard, but, at the end of the day, a child is going to follow their mother. Their mother is the strongest influence in their lives. All I could do is just, with the help of God, be the type of woman who I would want her to grow up to surpass.
Parlé Mag: Along with all of the success, have you ever had those low moments where you felt like too much was coming at you too fast? If so, how did you overcome that?
La’Porsha Renae: Yeah! I have. Social media is a female dog! [laughs]
Parlé Mag: Haha!
La’Porsha Renae: Before Idol, I had forty friends on Facebook and I had about seven pictures up.
Parlé Mag: Wait, forty friends?
La’Porsha Renae: Forty friends! I didn’t accept a lot of friends—even some of my family; I rejected the friend requests. I’m just a super private person. Now, I have 287,000 followers–almost 300,000 followers.
Parlé Mag: Wow!
La’Porsha Renae: Yeah! It’s crazy! It’s something to get used to. Starting off, I did have a very, very low moment because I’m very open and honest, so when people ask me questions about my life, I openly and honestly answer it. My answers are then twisted and perceived certain ways, and, all of a sudden, you see yourself in headlines with something that you didn’t say at all. But, they take it and make it seem like that’s what you said. It was really frustrating because I’m like, you want to scream out and you want to say, ‘No! That’s not what I meant.’ or ‘That’s not what I said.’ or whatever, but it’s social media. So, I did have a low moment, but, in those low times, the way I got through it was that I did have a very strong support system. It pushed me to become even more comfortable with who I am. The only time people’s acceptance or non-acceptance of you bothers you is when you haven’t accepted yourself. If I’m validated in who I am, then other people’s opinions about me don’t matter. I am what I answer to. I’ve been called so many things; it’s ridiculous. I think the only time that it really gets to me is when they start talking about my daughter, saying, “She should die”, “She’s a bastard child”, “How could you have a child out of wedlock?”
Parlé Mag: That’s awful!
La’Porsha Renae: I get a lot of things like that, even though I was married for five years! But, you know, it comes with the territory. So, what you then have to realize is, these are most likely people who have absolutely nothing better to do with their time than sitting behind a computer desk, eating Cheetos, and looking for something to talk about on the internet. [laughs] I’ve learned to not take it personal. I will say, my spirituality really helped out with that. At the end of the day, all I do is pray for the hate to die down amongst our people, in this country, in this world.
Parlé Mag: What do you want people to understand about La’Porsha Renae, the artist and the woman, instead of just La’Porsha Renae from American Idol?
La’Porsha Renae: I want people to know that I’m real and know that I love everyone. I want people to understand that I am an overcomer; I am a strong woman. Better yet, they don’t even have to acknowledge that about me, but I want them to, somehow, be inspired through me to see that in themselves. So, that’s my goal. I’ve never been big on having a lot of money; I actually liked being broke. I’ll explain that because that’ll be the new headline, ‘La’Porsha likes being broke!’ So, I’ll explain that. What I mean by that is, when I had no money, I had to completely rely on God to make ways for me and just to see the love through different people and different situations. To be at rock bottom and then have a complete stranger come up to you and say, “Hey, I feel like you need this and that,” it just kept me inspired. It let me know that there are good people in the world. I’ve never been a materialistic person or anything like that. My main focus, that I want people to take away, is inspiration from me.
Parlé Mag: Can we expect a tour for this new album? Catch us up on what you have planned in the future months?
La’Porsha Renae: So, I have a lot of natural hair expos coming up! I am doing the Memphis Symphony Garden, May 27th, the Mississippi Legislative Conference, August 1st. I am doing Essence [Fest]. Not sure about BET yet, but that’s in the works. It’s a lot of things that are coming up. We are also trying to put together a tour. So, I don’t want to speak too much on that because I don’t know the details, but that is something that’s in the works.
Parlé Mag: Awesome!
La’Porsha Renae: Oh, and I’m writing a book, and I’m talking with a bunch of execs and producers about a television series! So, I’ve been working a lot.
Parlé Mag: Okay! So, are there any details that we can know about that right now?
La’Porsha Renae: [laughs] Well, of course, I will have an autobiography out. So, that’s definitely going to tell my story, in-depth. I think, once that book comes out, a lot of people will know a little bit more about why I say the things I say or some decisions that I make, as an artist, as a mother, as a person. It’s just a way to get to know me. I’m also writing a fiction series; it’s been pitched and they love it. So, I’m excited! Look, I just have so much in this big head of mine that I need to get out!
Keep up with La’Porsha Renae on social media:
Photo Credits: Jason Clark Fotos
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