…Something I learned at 16 through the amazing voice of Valarie Pettiford. I didn’t know her then. But I had seen her and listened to her and knew her through the revival of Bob Fosse through the show, Fosse. What I didn’t know was that I was about 2 degrees away from her as she was a client of a hairstylist in my mom’s salon. But I fell in love with the Voice and the talent that she shared with the world. And then about two years later I met her in the salon…but I didn’t know who she was. We had a very pleasant conversation and that was that. Then again about a year later, my mother joined the crew for the sitcom, Half & Half and I spent some time on the set, before I myself joined the crew. But before I did, I was visiting and Valarie started to sing. I didn’t know that Valarie of Half & Half could sing. And the weird thing was she sounded like the Valarie from my Fosse soundtrack CD that I choreographed & danced to in Highschool. It was very weird. Then about six months later I joined Half & Half and Valarie performed a one woman show at Pepperdine. And I was honored to be invited by her and her husband Tony. I sat front row stage right. The lights went down, and she began and I was blown away. Then a very familiar song from Cabaret came on and she began to sing. And sing she did. She sang exactly like that woman on my soundtrack! I mean exactly. And then she stopped singing and she spoke. And she spoke about being that woman on my Fosse soundtrack. My Valarie, that I had grown to love and admire on set, was the Valarie I had been singing along with for so long. She was the woman I saw on stage and thought, I wish I could be like her. She’s beautiful, and talented and powerful. And now I knew that woman…and she was so much more than just a pair of amazing legs and show stopping voice on stage. She had a heart and a soul and damned good one at that.
After that show, Valarie and I became close. We had a lot more in common than our love for all things Fosse & Chita Rivera! She listened to me like my mommy listened to me. She got my intentions, my passions and my talent…she pushed for those things to shine through. When I went away to school and worked on my own films, Valarie took time to go to the studio to record a small snippet of a song for me to use in my documentary. She didn’t have to, but she did. I had a Tony nominated, sitcom star singing her face off on my little 3 minute documentary. Needless to say I got an ‘A’ on my soundtrack for that film. Valarie floated through my hospital room the day after I gave birth and put Jax in a newborn trance with her voice. She spreads goodness and love to everyone she encounters. She reminds me a lot of President Bill Clinton. When you are in her presence, she makes you feel like she’s known you forever, she cares about all that is happening with you and that you are all that matters right then. And it’s genuine.
Artists like that who give and give in their personal, give and give in their art. Watching her last night on stage was once again a magical experience. She brings you, and then blows you with this voice that comes out of this little body and you are left breathless. There are very few celebrities/artists that have touched my life in a very significant way (artistically, philanthropically, spiritually and personally) and I’ve been privileged to meet quite a few of them. People like, Ruby Dee, Oprah, Sydney Poitier, Michael Jackson, Chita Rivera… and Valarie Pettiford is one of those people. She is.
If you missed last night, I feel bad for you! The next time I say that Ms. Pettiford is performing, you might want to pay attention and buy your freakin’ tickets as soon as I post the info! It is a great great experience! It’s just one of those shows that stays with you. I’ve seen some really AMAZING performances in my life and I’ve been a really blessed person to have experienced them. And Valarie’s shows stay with me! So I encourage you to just pay attention to when she’s gonna be performing and I would seriously grab a hold of her new CD Velvet Sky! It’s a lullaby album that will blow you away. Jax LOVES Val’s voice. I mean yes, he’s grown up listening to her and her old CD of standards, but her voice soothes him. And she sang a couple of songs from the lullaby album last night and the emotion that it provoked, as a mommy…incredible. It’s something that Jax and I can share and bond over for the rest of our lives! Go Get It! It Drops OCTOBER 9th!
So, it might have sounded like I’m just shooting free publicity for my friend, which in part I am. But more than that I’m just really proud of her and honored to know her both as a woman and an artist. And I feel, as an artist and someone who worked in Black Hollywood, and obligation to support and uplift my sister in the arts and cheer on her longstanding amazing career. She is the type of person that you want your little girls to look up to. She is a hero, survivor, giver, lover, artist, person that isn’t being portrayed on the screen, but that you need to seek out. We need more people like Valarie sharing their gifts with us. We need more people like Valarie inspiring young men and women to live out their dreams! I love ya VP!