While it might surprise some to learn Kwanza Jones was once on the path to becoming an attorney, the Princeton-educated dance music singer’s eloquence gives her away. Whether speaking passionately about her upcoming album Supercharged or growing LGBT fanbase, the former Baltimore beauty queen’s way with words betrays her Ivy League background.
Just goes to show that whatever judgments one might draw about Jones based on her physical appearance or musical choices, you might want to “Think Again.” Of course, that’s also the title of the budding diva’s debut single, which cracked the Top 25 on international dance charts last fall and gave the world its first taste of what’s to come from the sexy siren.
In this interview, Jones sits with GuideToGay.com celebrity correspondent Pollo Del Mar for an in-depth chat about her music, renewed interest in “Think Again” and why she feels people can learn great lessons from the LGBT community!
How has such an unique name affected you?
I’ll take it a step further and say “How has having the name ‘Kwanza’ affected me?” Kwanzaa is a celebration! It’s a holiday created in the ‘60s, way before I was born, but it’s about celebration, joyousness and community. Technically, “kwanza” is a Swahili word that means “first fruits of the harvest.” I was born on Thanksgiving so it’s a perfect fit. It’s also a form of currency in Angola, so my name means, “I’m money, baby!” Having a unique name shapes who you are as a person. When you took your drag name, you had to ask yourself, “What do I want to represent?” In my case, although my parents named me, I’ve still asked that question. When I think about it, everything I do embodies all the meanings of “kwanza.” My music is about celebrating what makes you, you. I bring my non-stop energy and joy to the community, and, if you stick with me, it’s money!
Last year, “Think Again” hit Billboard’s Dance/Club chart Top 25. Why renew interest in the track?
Quite frankly, I wanted to work with additional DJs. Revisiting this track was a great way to do that, and I love what they’ve done. Of the original remixes, which I also loved, San Francisco’s DJ Jamie J. Sanchez created a version that was my favorite. The fact is, we [the label and I] weren’t ready to let this song go. Not just yet. The video wasn’t even shot until after the song had charted, so our promo efforts weren’t really in sync. That’s when we decided, “Let’s extend this a little bit longer while we get ready for the next release.” ‘Time to Go” will be out in the next month or two. I am happy with our decision, because it’s completely in line with what “Think Again” is about. You know, it’s about not always doing what people expect you to do. Anyone who thinks we can’t extend this single, you better “Think Again.” (Laughs.)
So, “Time to Go” is slated for early-October release?
Yes, and I’m very excited! We’re working on remixes for that now. “Time to Go” is a great follow-up, both lyrically and musically. It’ll definitely get you ready to go out; it’ll keep you moving. Ultimately, all roads lead to the Supercharged album release. I love creating music that moves people. Maybe at first it makes them want to dance or just tap their toe. Then, later, they go back and listen to the lyrics a little more. Perhaps people want to find a way to “supercharge” their lives. My music has the kind of power to help people feel that charge. That’s the vibe that I bring to my performances too. The whole album is about letting people know who Kwanza Jones is and spreading my philosophy of living confidently and being fierce and fearless!
I know who I think Kwanza Jones is, but…
Go ahead and ask it, “Who do you think you are?!?”
(Laughs.) We all think of ourselves in certain ways, and we unquestionably want others to think of us in a certain way, but…
Sometimes others don’t see us the way we see ourselves. That’s why I love when people come to my shows and share video on YouTube or my website. It helps me to see whether the things I hoped to convey or thought people were seeing actually come across. That’s important, because I’m on a mission to move you. So who do I think Kwanza Jones is? Well, I’m about positive energy, empowering people and inspiring them. My performances are full of that energy. I want people to experience my shows, hear my music and leave feeling like they are unstoppable -- like they’re “Supercharged.”
Is Supercharged all the dance-oriented sound of “Think Again”? It’s your third album, and the previous two weren’t exactly “dance.”
Even though this is my third album, in many ways, it feels like my first. I released the first two independently and, although I performed a lot of shows, I didn’t really do much to market and promote the albums. It was more like my “A&R” period where I explored what kind of music I like to make, how I like to perform and what people I connect with. Supercharged will have a fusion of dance, pop and rock. What’s wonderful about music is that sometimes the main difference between one type of performance and another is instrumentation. If I’m performing at more of a rock venue, playing with my live band, I bring the guitar player. If I’m doing a dance club, I’ll perform to the track or bring the keyboard player.
At all of these shows, have you noticed you’re beginning to amass a gay and lesbian following?
Especially with some of the club shows I’m doing, yes, definitely. Because of how I “bring it,” I think some people come to see what I’m wearing in my live shows or how my hair is styled. I’m happy to see my gay and lesbian fanbase growing, because the GLBT community really understands me and my music. Overall, I’m a fan of all “people,” and I don’t think there’s a need to set people apart from one-another. So whether you’re gay, straight, young, old, fat, skinny, black, white, purple or blue, come to my shows! And to my gay and lesbian fans, I love you! Your enthusiasm energizes me.
Before your music career, did you have connections to the gay community? I know you did beauty pageants, and, honey, those things are crawling with gays!
(Laughing hard.) Yes, I know you know the pageant scene… Aside from that, there are so many key people in my life – close friends, family and even my architect -- who also was the architect for the producer of Sex and the City. I have several family members who are gay, lesbian or trans. You know, I think people can learn quite a bit from gay, lesbian, and transgender communities in terms of tolerance, acceptance and appreciating others. I have always found myself drawn toward communities of people where those qualities exist and are celebrated. Gay, lesbian and trans communities are some of the most open and accepting you will find. I’m really grateful that these club appearances and my music are bringing me closer to the family. I hope it’ll build more over time and with the release of Supercharged. It’s a mutual love affair!
For Additional Information, Visit: http://www.KwanzaJones.com
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