Best New Artist 1987: Jody Watley

My GRAMMY experience as a nominee began with an early morning call from my publicist back in 1987. I couldn't believe it; I was nominated for two awards, including the prestigious "Best New Artist" category. Needless to say I was ecstatic. As a child I would pretend I was nominated, and now so many years later here I was, living my dream.

Once the joy settled in, I went on to convince myself that I didn't stand a chance. In my mind Terence Trent D'Arby, who was the hands-down critical favorite, would win. The fact the he was asked to perform on the show and I wasn't also made me believe D'Arby was a shoo-in.

Add to the mix the modern jazz stylings of Swing Out Sister, considered second favorites. I was the long shot on many levels.

I was followed during GRAMMY Week by "Entertainment Tonight," and attended all of the parties. I felt like Cinderella in many ways. The awards being held at Radio City Music Hall in New York that year also made my experience special.

The legendary Little Richard gave my GRAMMY moment even more intrigue by dragging out the process. He let people know that he'd never won anything, though he was "the architect of rock and roll"…"and the winner is...'me!'" he kept joking, as I trembled from nerves. 

Adding to the drama of this moment: I was backstage, having been a presenter, standing next to fellow nominee Terence Trent D'Arby, who had just performed. Close-ups on both; talk about awkward.

"And the winner is...JODY WATLEY." I nearly fainted from shock. I remember trying to catch my breath, as my heart raced as if I'd just run a marathon. I ended up in tears, having no idea what I was saying, having not prepared anything. I was so thankful and knew no one expected it, most of all me. I felt vindicated because a lot of people tried to make me believe I would fail. To say it was a surreal moment would be an understatement.

The night was made even more magical when I was greeted by one of my music heroes, Michael Jackson. I was being escorted to the press room from the stage, and there he was. "I'm so happy for you," he said, as he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. "I was just kissed by Michael Jackson!!" I thought.

You can see me in the audience, at the end of his performance of "Man In The Mirror/The Way You Make Me Feel," giving him a standing ovation. I loved Michael.

To all of this year's nominees, congratulations! You will forever be members of a very prestigious club: A "GRAMMY-nominated" or "GRAMMY Award-winning" artist.

We all travel different paths to get here. If you've been nominated, it means you have made a noticeable impact on music right now and your peers respect what you've done. Take advantage of the technology and share this experience with your fans. Most of all, be in the moment and stay humble.

No matter what happens, get on with being the best artist you can and don't be afraid to grow!

Bio: Jody Watley won the Best New Artist GRAMMY in 1987. She began her career as a dancer on “Soul Train” before becoming a member of the hit R&B group Shalamar. After leaving the group, she spent time in London, where she appeared on the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in 1986, before launching her solo career with a smash self-titled album in 1987. Watley continues to record and also serves as a Governor of The Recording Academy’s Los Angeles Chapter.

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