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Renée Elise Goldsberry Talks Channeling Destiny's Child On “Girls5Eva,” Surprise Of Winning GRAMMY For "Hamilton" & More

Renée Elise Goldsberry in "Girls5Eva"

Photo: Pari Dukovic

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Renée Elise Goldsberry Talks Channeling Destiny's Child On “Girls5Eva,” Surprise Of Winning GRAMMY For "Hamilton" & More

Taking a break from working on her long-awaited solo debut album, Renée Elise Goldsberry sat for a few laughs with GRAMMY.com about “Girls5Eva,” how musical theater helped her survive the pandemic, and more

GRAMMYs/Jun 8, 2021 - 11:58 pm

What started out as eavesdropping on a 15-minute chit-chat between the members of Destiny’s Child at a television show soundcheck in the early 2000s quickly morphed into Renée Elise Goldsberry becoming a sponge of the music business. The then-background singer for the show’s house band closed her eyes and daydreamed about what it would be like to have success traveling the world as a successful musician.

It’s been two decades since then, and that dream to join a timeless all-female musical act has come true. The GRAMMY- and Tony-winning singer/songwriter and actress that ignited the Broadway stage as Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton” currently co-stars as the over-the-top prima donna Wickie Roy on the Peacock TV serial mockumentary "Girls5Eva."

The eight-episode satire executive produced by Tina Fey chronicles a '90s girl group that attempts to reunite, relive their glory days, and heal old wounds after being sampled on a megahit by a young rapper. "Girls5Eva"'s irreverent jabs split with the comedy’s catchy musical numbers affords Goldsberry yet another vehicle to showcase her knack for using musical theater to transport her audience into the past and celebrate nostalgia.

The imaginative, multi-talented thespian racked up more Broadway credits in "The Color Purple," "The Lion King," "Rent" and "Good People." Coming-of-age between Houston and Detroit, Goldsberry, who co-starred in the feature films Waves and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took on the small screen with memorable roles on "Ally McBeal," "One Life to Live," "The Good Wife," "Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist" and "Altered Carbon."

Goldsberry recently narrated the PBS documentary on singer Marian Anderson, Voice of Freedom, and lent her voice to Fast & Furious Spy Racers. The Emmy-nominated mother of two is set to join the cast of the upcoming Disney Jr. musical animated series "Eureka!" along with Marvel’s Disney+ series "She-Hulk."

Taking a break from putting the finishing touches on her long-awaited solo debut LP (due out later this year), Goldsberry sat for a few laughs with GRAMMY.com about "Girls5Eva," winning a GRAMMY for "Hamilton," and how musical theater helped her survive the pandemic.

What attracted you to portraying Wickie Roy on “Girls5Eva?”

I’ve been trying to get into that role since the ‘90s. I was trying to be in a group, get signed to a label, and have my Destiny’s Child dreams come true. Everything that happened in 2020 made it really clear that I will accept anything positive—with laughter, music or anything that’s about a second chance.

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Are there any ‘90s-era artists you looked to that helped you mold the character?

What’s interesting is we talk about “Girls5Eva” being a failed pop group because they had one hit but couldn’t back it up. I’ve long stopped looking at one-hit wonders as failures because I ain’t had one hit yet. That’s young people saying one-hit wonder like they’re a joke. One-hit wonders won the lottery and beat all of the odds.

I was Wickie except I didn’t get into a girl group that got signed, had a hit song, and all of my dreams come true. I didn’t have the opportunity to blow it like Wickie did. It made me envious but more understanding to root for her. I learned from Wickie the audacity to believe that it isn’t too late to have that satisfaction that you made it if you can still dream it and put yourself out there.

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Did you create playlists? If so, what’s on there?

Oh gosh: all of the ‘90s rap for sure, but definitely Mary J. Blige, En Vogue, Destiny’s Child, TLC, and every Janet Jackson hit of that time because she was a style and choreography icon along with those videos and her ability to redefine herself. I looked at the groups because they looked like they were having so much fun.

How was the chemistry on-set?

We had a great style team. The first thing I asked while they were still excited about me was about my hair. Wickie is fabulous, and whatever other mistakes she makes in life, she don’t mess up on her hair. She’s the real thing, and I had this vision that she was really bravely reinventing herself all the time like Madonna, so I asked if we could get [hair stylist] Takisha Sturdivant-Drew.

They had this really great wardrobe stylist and music from Jeff Richmond. The last piece of the puzzle were the three women I got to do this with: Sara Bareilles, Paula Peel and Busy Phillips. The chemistry we immediately had with each other was so electric; there’s so much love, we were those girls like Destiny’s Child. We were so excited that somebody was gonna dress us up together, give us some great songs and choreography, and let us do that and live that dream.

"Theater helps me in everything that I do… We dream really big in theater."

How do your experiences on Broadway reflect through “Girls5Eva?”

Theater helps me in everything that I do. It helps me know how to rely on the people that I’m working with because you can’t do any piece in the theater without being completely dependent on not only the people onstage with you but the people that are running the lights, behind-the-scenes, and mixing. It is truly a village of people that make you good. We dream really big in theater.

It seems like a limited set of tools we have because we’re not traveling all over the world; we’re in this one little black box, but we pull it off letting our imaginations run wild and make the groups of people that come into this box believe they’re in these places we’re taking them. It develops that muscle so that you’ll take really big risks in film and television because you’ve pulled it off in that little, dark space.

What qualities do you think Black women bring to Broadway?

We bring no apologies; that’s the most important thing. Knowing the more different that I am, the better I am. Believing the things that I grew up being told were subcultural are actually the most interesting, flavorful, spicy and exciting things that exist in the world.

In theater, I’ve studied the great people that came before me, and one thing I love about reading about so many of those people is how hard it was to be recognized and how hard they had to work to be able to tell all kinds of stories. That’s what I love about the time we’re living in, especially uniquely right now with COVID-19, where we’ve not been able to do what we do, but we’ve taken advantage of this break to really think about how we’re gonna come back stronger.

We’ve really spent a lot of time looking at ourselves in the mirror, saying as artists, we do a lot of pointing our finger at what’s wrong in other industries. We haven’t been responsible for the ways that we’re failing, and we’re not gonna do that when we get back. I’m excited as a Black woman and woman of color with any profile in theater whatsoever to be part of that revamp.

How did you and the cast of "Hamilton" react to the GRAMMY win for Best Musical Theater Album in 2016?

It was a surreal moment of complete ignorance. The crazy thing about the GRAMMY is when I was standing onstage and we won it, which was the most amazing moment for anybody ever in the theater, the GRAMMYs did this amazing thing. We couldn’t come to L.A., and because this was a unique situation, they actually allowed us to be on our stage on Broadway because we had to do a show.

I’m standing onstage with my cast, and they announced Hamilton wins this GRAMMY. I’m screaming with excitement, crying, jumping up and down because I’m thinking Lin-Manuel Miranda had just won. I did not know that I had won one, too; I didn’t know that if you’re on a cast album, then you actually win a GRAMMY as well. When it shows up to the house, it’s one of the most beautiful awards that you can have; it’s heavy, beautiful and shiny. I felt like I won it all over again.

Could you share some details about your upcoming role in Marvel’s "She-Hulk?"

It’s so cool. I’m actually in this really strange situation where I’m not officially allowed to talk about anything Marvel, and I don’t know much to talk about except for that I’m the biggest Marvel fan in the world. I’ve spent the pandemic watching any Marvel show that I missed; there’s some clairvoyance behind a lot of the plots, and I’m always getting chills behind some of that storytelling and character development.

I look at friends of mine like Teyonah Parris and Anthony Mackie just killing it, and I can’t imagine how many amazing actors down the pike are gonna have an opportunity to join that universe. They just do a really good job at dreaming for really wonderful actors. It would be amazing if I had an opportunity to have even the slightest bit of that world, but until that time, I’ll happily be watching that on television.

What satisfaction do you get from doing voiceover work?

It’s such a godsend. It’s another one of those things I couldn’t seem to break into, just like landing a record deal. It’s the most talented people in the world—the greatest writers and actors—really doing amazing things with their voices. You look at “The Simpsons,” and they can all play about a hundred different roles.

When I was coming up, there was the challenge of being typecast; if you’re Black, you had to sound like this type of McDonald’s commercial. That was frustrating to me when my voice type could be anything. The most important thing I could sound like is myself. The beauty of “Hamilton” is that I get a lot of really wonderful opportunities like “Eureka!” I have a son about to turn 12 and a daughter who’s eight, and they love watching television and reading books written by and featuring people of color. Now to be able to voice some of those characters has been awesome because my kids think I’m cool.

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Is there anything else “Girls5Eva” is allowing you to explore creatively that you haven’t before?

I’m writing an album. It’s exciting to be able to come through COVID with something artistic to show for that time, that I actually created. I was really stressed when we went into this because everybody kept saying learn a language, start a podcast, do a cooking show. I was just trying to stay alive and pay my bills. COVID lasted a lot longer than I hoped, but I had the opportunity to collaborate with some really wonderful producers to make a solo album that I’m really really proud of. It’s pop/R&B, my own voice, my own words, great tracks, great music. “Girls5Eva” inspired me to do this unapologetically; I just can’t wait.

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

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Ariana Grande Donates Proceeds From Atlanta Show To Planned Parenthood

Ariana Grande

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

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Ariana Grande Donates Proceeds From Atlanta Show To Planned Parenthood

"Ariana Grande's generous donation comes at a critical time—in Georgia and across the country, anti-women's health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement

GRAMMYs/Jun 12, 2019 - 10:56 pm

Today, Planned Parenthood confirmed that GRAMMY winner Ariana Grande has donated the proceeds from her June 8 concert in Atlanta, around $250,000, to the reproductive health non-profit. The contribution follows several Southern states, including Georgia, passing restrictive anti-abortion bills in May.

"Ariana Grande's generous donation comes at a critical time—in Georgia and across the country, anti-women's health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement to People, who broke the news. 

Wen, who is a medical doctor and the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, spoke to the critical timing of Grande's donation, at a time when lawmakers are rolling back years of women's rights legislation:

"This is not what the American people want, nor is it something they'll stand for. Thanks to inspiring support like hers, Planned Parenthood can continue to fight back—in the courts, in Congress, in state houses, and in the streets—against these dangerous attacks on people's health and lives. We are so grateful to Ariana for her longstanding commitment to supporting women's rights and standing with Planned Parenthood to defend access to reproductive health care. We won't stop fighting—no matter what."

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As People and other outlets point out, the donation follows the singer's response to hate speech made outside of the Atlanta concert. Ari fans tweeted a video of a protester outside of the venue making homophobic, sexist and racist comments over a P.A. system to the young women. Grande commented on the post, writing: "man... saddened but not surprised by this one bit. I'm so sorry any of my fans had to encounter this. we will do our best to ensure this doesn't happen again. proud of u all for not fighting / engaging violently. never worth it. wishing him peace & a healed heart cause girl yikes."

The Atlanta show was one of the stops on the pop star's Sweetener World Tour, which continues across North America until mid-July, after which she'll headline Lollapalooza on Aug. 4, then take the tour across the pond to London on Aug. 17 for its European leg.

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Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry

Janet Jackson

Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

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Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry

Selections by Albert King, Labelle, Connie Smith, Nas, Jackson Browne, Pat Metheny, Kermit the Frog and others have also been marked for federal preservation

GRAMMYs/Mar 25, 2021 - 02:37 am

The Librarian of Congress Carla Haden has named 25 new inductees into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. They include Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814,” Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Nas’ “Illmatic,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection” and more.

“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Hayden said in a statement. “We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public’s input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture.”

The National Recording Preservation Board is an advisory board consisting of professional organizations and experts who aim to preserve important recorded sounds. The Recording Academy is involved on a voting level. The 25 new entries bring the number of musical titles on the registry to 575; the entire sound collection includes nearly 3 million titles. Check out the full list of new inductees below:

National Recording Registry Selections for 2020

  1. Edison’s “St. Louis tinfoil” recording (1878)

  2. “Nikolina” — Hjalmar Peterson (1917) (single)

  3. “Smyrneikos Balos” — Marika Papagika (1928) (single)

  4. “When the Saints Go Marching In” — Louis Armstrong & his Orchestra (1938) (single)

  5. Christmas Eve Broadcast--Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (December 24, 1941)

  6. “The Guiding Light” — Nov. 22, 1945

  7. “Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues” — Odetta (1957) (album)

  8. “Lord, Keep Me Day by Day” — Albertina Walker and the Caravans (1959) (single)  

  9. Roger Maris hits his 61st homerun (October 1, 1961)

  10. “Aida” — Leontyne Price, et.al. (1962) (album)

  11. “Once a Day” — Connie Smith (1964) (single)

  12. “Born Under a Bad Sign” — Albert King (1967) (album)

  13. “Free to Be…You & Me” — Marlo Thomas and Friends (1972) (album)

  14. “The Harder They Come” — Jimmy Cliff (1972) (album)

  15. “Lady Marmalade” — Labelle (1974) (single)

  16. “Late for the Sky” — Jackson Browne (1974) (album)

  17. “Bright Size Life” — Pat Metheny (1976) (album)

  18. “The Rainbow Connection” — Kermit the Frog (1979) (single)

  19. “Celebration” — Kool & the Gang (1980) (single)

  20. “Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs” — Jessye Norman (1983) (album)

  21. “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” — Janet Jackson (1989) (album)

  22. “Partners” — Flaco Jiménez (1992) (album)

  23. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/”What A Wonderful World” — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) (single)

  24. “Illmatic” — Nas (1994) (album)

  25. “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money” (May 9, 2008)

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Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

Nipsey Hussle

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Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

The Recording Academy celebrates the life of Nipsey Hussle, the late Los Angeles rapper, who earned two posthumous GRAMMY Awards this year

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2020 - 11:49 pm

Since the tragic loss of Los Angeles rapper, entrepreneur and activist Nipsey Hussle on March 31, 2019, his motivational music and inspiring message of investing in your community are continued by the many lives he touched. Here in L.A, you see countless murals painted in his likeness, his inspirational words reminding us greatness and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

Nipsey Hussle, Beloved L.A. Rapper And Activist, Lived As A Patron To His Community

In 2018, after a decade of perfecting his storytelling and flow with hard-hitting mixtapes, Hussle released his victorious debut album Victory Lap. It earned him his first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Rap Album, at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The week following the show, he released his final single during his lifetime, "Racks in the Middle," featuring rising L.A. rapper Roddy Ricch and powerhouse producer Hit-Boy.

At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards this year, he posthumously earned three more nominations and took home two wins. "Racks in the Middle" won Best Rap Performance and "Higher," a track he was working on with DJ Khaled before he died, won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher." Khaled released the uplifting track, which also features John Legend, in Hussle's memory on May 17, 2019.

How Nipsey Hussle Transcended Hip-Hop, Starting In The Los Angeles Streets

Hussle's family, including his grandmother and his partner Lauren London, took the GRAMMY stage to accept his awards in two tearful yet celebratory moments. Khaled, Legend, Ricch, Meek MillKirk Franklin and YG also celebrated the rap hero with a moving tribute performance during the show.

"The biggest thing that he left behind in his legacy is to go the extra mile for other people and be aware of your community," singer Tinashe said in a recent interview. "That spirit is really important. It's important to bring people together. I think that's part of his message. It's looking out for one another."

Meek Mill And Justin Timberlake Deliver Uplifting Message, Honor Nipsey Hussle In Powerful "Believe" Music Video

That message of hope and community is echoed in so many others' words about Hussle; his positive impact is immense and immeasurable. It is reflected in a message from none other than former President Barack Obama. Hussle's longtime friend and marketing manager Karen Civil read Obama's powerful words about him during his moving memorial service:

"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it—to build a skills training center and coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow—is a legacy worthy of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it."

The Marathon Continues.

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