By: George “Fable” Robinson
There are very few people that can attain this level of achievement in our entertainment industry but for a woman whose name is synonymous with topping the music charts of the 90’s dance era this should be somewhat easy. Multi-talented and as equally interesting the powerhouse vocalist known as CeCe Penniston captivated the dance scene with her 1992 single Finally and rose straight to the top. Having been requested to perform for the likes of President Bill Clinton, Aretha Franklin, & Pope John Paul II as well as a number of stage shows and appearances it apparent the world recognizes her talent. Now after a decade of experimenting in the entertainment industry she’s ready to come back to mainstream music and as I’d like to put it, regain her crown as the Dance Music Queen.
N’Digo: CeCe, you’ve been in the entertaining industry now for more than a decade and continue to strive forward. What would you say helps you progress?
CeCe Penniston: Honestly, I just love music that much. I knew from the age of 13 that this was what I was supposed to do. Singing in talent competitions and school shows I realized that the stage was my home. It was the biggest high ever.
N’Digo: And how long would you say that you have been on stage?
CeCe Penniston: I think since I was in sixth grade? I remember then doing my first play and loving it. Funny thing was my mom didn’t even know I could sing at the time. She was so caught off guard but proud.
N’Digo: She must be extremely proud and happy for you seeing as you’ve since went on to have an amazing career.
CeCe Penniston: Yeah she is and we are really close and she’s very involved in my career. She manages me now so which is great because she knows me better than anyone else. She knows how I’ll answer things and is not afraid to tell me the truth and is my best friend so I love having her involved in my career.
N’Digo: Has she been your manager always?
CeCe Penniston: Not the whole time. She has been more involved towards the middle of my career. I’ve had a couple different people involved but they changed until I could find the right people. The ones who will be honest and tell you the truth.
N’Digo: I imagine you definitely needed that guidance to get started back then, how old were you when you first entered the music business and needed to pursue management and a team?
CeCe Penniston: Well professionally I started between 1990 and 1991 when I was about 19 but to me my career started when I was singing as a sixth grader (laughs).
N’Digo: Starting a career in that area must have awe inspiring having so many huge artist working at that time. Was there anyone you looked up to career wise or vocally?
CeCe Penniston: Absolutely. Patti Labelle, Chaka Kahn, Billie Holliday, and Luther Vandross the list goes on. (laughs) They were all great and as a singer I think when you listen to different people you take a little piece of them and it becomes you. So I took all those little pieces plus what I already naturally have and that’s how “CeCe” was created.
N’Digo: Now I’ve often heard that as a new artist that there are many trials and tribulations when you first get started. How did the newly created “CeCe” deal with that? What kept her going?
CeCe Penniston : It really is my love of music. If you don’t truly love music then you don’t want to be in this industry.(Laughs) It’s really hard especially when you’re young and a lot of it is because of social media. People can say anything about you they want to and you have to deal with it. For example my Wikipedia page is incorrect. There so many untruths written about me and I can’t even get in touch with people to get them fixed so it’s just out there. And it’s gotten a lot harder now with things being downloadable and social commentators being able to say what they want about you. Luckily I love a good challenge and to prove people wrong so I stuck to it.
N’Digo: I understand some of the criticism you’ve overcome from the public has also been in regards to your weight, how have you overcome that issue?
CeCe Penniston : It’s not an issue any longer because I decided not to make it an issue. Once I realized what the issues were then I could deal with them and now I’m happy with myself. I learned how to eat correctly, I take cross-fit a couple times a week and went to naturopathic doctor to get help and lost 30lbs naturally. I have had some plastic surgery in areas but not extensively and overall I just learned to live my life for me!
N’Digo: And given the troubles you went through as a youth in the industry how do you feel about record labels imposing the same criticism of young artist today?
CeCe Penniston : You know the record labels are the same way since I came out and they are never going to change. A part of it is due to fashion as well. Designers create sample sizes for artist that they and society think should fit and if you don’t then your overweight. It won’t change. And I think now we’ve gotten away from what actually matters which is the music.
Would you be able to give an advice to any new artist coming into the industry?
CeCe Penniston : The only thing I could say is to know what you’re getting into and what will be demanded of you. That you’re a commodity and a product and if you are not comfortable with that then this isn’t the industry for you. It’s not my truth but it’s the record label truth.
N’Digo: Having experienced that with record industry leaders are you still planning to work with major labels to produce more music?
CeCe Penniston : Yes, I actually put out a couple songs last year. One was 16bars (a snippet), and another called Like You’ve Never Seen, an electro pop track with the EC twins and also a dance single called Celebrate. I have a lot of music that I’ve been working on but haven’t put anything out due to either the people I was working on the deal with or not completely happy with the sound and timing. But now I’m in the process of working out a major deal. We’re working out all the kinks and how we want it to go and then we will release music.
N’Digo: Music tend to cycle in terms of sound and current music has resumed a dance/ R&B feel, do you think now is the time for you to get back into mainstream music given that was your niche?
CeCe Penniston : Oh Absolutely! The music that I’m working on now is kind of a mixture of the Finally album with dance and pop mixed with some R&B kind of like trending music today.
N’Digo: And what can your fans expect to be different from the finally album?
I think for one the tracks will be 2013. The sound is very current but the vocals are still the same and you still get a little bit of old school music infused in there. Those are the things I think people look for and you don’t want to go too far away from what your known for or it might not be received well. SO I think this is a good blend that will give people what they want.
On the horizon of her return to the music scene, CeCe is touring and promoting her new music most recently in Chicago’s urban music venue The Shrine June 7th 2013. Aside from music she’s also been performing in various stage plays and on television. She’s also started a non-profit organization called Lifting Others To Succeed to empower artistic youth and experimenting with expanding her career into voice over for animation. Never stopping Ms. Penniston is pushing forward striving to grow her career in all aspects of her life and her fans can see her later this year in an episode of TV One’s Unsung series.