You might know Antonique Smith best as Faith Evans. Confused? Smith played Evans in the 2009 Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious. The multi-talented entertainer does it all–while she made her big break as an actress, she is launching a career as a singer/songwriter with her debut single, “Hold Up Wait A Minute (Woo Woo).” After transitioning from the Broadway stage, where she became known for starring as Mimi in Jonathan Larson’s rendition of Rent, to the big screen for Notorious, music was a natural transition for Smith. The New Jersey native has pipes that make comparisons to Faith Evans a no-brainer, and Smith’s more than happy to be associated with the R&B legend.
She plans to release her debut album in 2014, so we sat down with Antonique Smith to find out more about what she has in the works, how “Hold Up Wait A Minute” came to be, and some of the struggles she’s overcome to get to where she is today.
Get to know her below!
You’ve been busy working on your debut album. What can we expect to hear?
I’m very excited about the album, it’s been a blessing. I’ve been working with Dr. Dre, Toby Gats who worked with Beyonce, Jukebox, Danja Handz — it’s just been like a dream project and a love project — knowing who I am and loving what I do. It’s really been a blessing, I’ve put my heart and soul into it. When you feel things, other people feel it. If it’s real to me, its real to everyone else. My first single dropped in October. It’s called “Hold Up Wait a Minute,” a liberation song for the ladies.
When you’re home at 8pm and he’s home at 4am, smelling like some perfume that you don’t wear — that’s a big “hold up, wait a minute” moment. When your boss gives you a big stack of papers on a Friday afternoon, it’s like, “Hold up, wait a minute.” It’s a call out against bullying, in support of the LGBT community, any kind of injustice, Trayvon Martin, anything that’s not love. This album is all about love.
We love being all about love! If someone never heard your music or voice how would you describe it to them? How do you describe your sound in a way that’s comfortable to you.
Pop soul, with a hip-hop appeal to it. I was inspired by Whitney Houston as a little girl, I wanted to sound like her and Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin. That shaped the pop sound and how I think. I also grew up listening to Jay Z and Biggie, these are my influences, that’s where I get my hip-hop appeal.
That makes sense, especially with the people you’ve worked with. How important is collaboration to you as an artist?
It’s very important, you know who you are and what you do and they know who they are and what they do. When it comes together it’s great. Dre brought this crazy hard dubstep track that I never would have thought to use. He played it and my manager and I were like, “Okay, this is incredible,” but its not something I would have thought of. Collaborations brings in fresh new ideas.
Absolutely, you’re only as smart as the people you surround yourself with. Do you have any dream collaborations that you would love to see happen? Anyone you’re dying to work with?
Bruno Mars and Celine Dion. I’ve always wanted to work with David Foster, you know, Bodyguard soundtrack. Those are some big dreams right now.
You played Faith Evans in the Biggie biopic, NOTORIOUS. Tell me about the transition from acting to music?
The transition is going great, it worked out perfectly. I played an R&B diva icon, I got so much love for playing Faith. It is kind of who I am to people, the love of me being Faith has definitely turned into Antonique love. Kind of like J-Lo in Celina and Jamie Foxx as Ray, it makes it easier for people to envision you as a singer.
Do you feel like there is pressure to live up to the image of Faith? How do you navigate the expectations of being compared to her with the road towards the artist you want to become?
I think when people hear me, they’re surprised that they’re not hearing Faith, they’re hearing something different. It’s a blessing. They know me for one thing, and now they get to know for something different. I was initially worried about comparisons, but it’s actually not happening.
From the looks of your single art for “Hold Up Wait A Minute,” it seems like you’ve got a knack for style. You’re rocking this beautiful blonde bob — are you into fashion?
I have definitely developed a love for it. I used to want to be super natural with no make up. But man, my fashion icon is J-Lo. I love everything about her. Her make up is always impeccable but she never looks extra made up, which is why I love her, she just has this glow. My make up artist knows I want the J-Lo glow! She is so approachable and relatable but always looks gorgeous, she’s my style icon. I love fashion!
Fashion and style are important for any artist, but specifically for an artist in 2013 visuals seem to have taken on a whole different significance. When you’re creating your visuals how much input do you have?
I have an amazing team behind me. My manager is honestly a visionary. The idea to go back to blonde was his idea. I have an amazing team that gets me and understands me. I grew up in the hood so I have an edge to me that plays a part in it — but I’m also a girl, I like to feel feminine but I’m a bit of a diva. “Fresh — feeling fierce” is what I like to call it. Those elements are what we all work with to make these looks come together.
What are your plans for your first video launch?
Yeah! The first video will be for the single, it’s actually a fashion look. I think the fashionistas are going to enjoy it. It’s just me, performing the song with a beautiful backdrop. It’s funny because when we did the look, my stylist was like “Okay, the fashion people will love this.”
Can you tell us what you’re wearing?
I can’t even remember the brand, that’s terrible, but I’m wearing a diva hat with a cute little tank and a skirt, I think I had Louboutins on.
That sounds about right.
Yeah, which I rep in the song, I buy my own Louboutins!
Did you grow up in a musical family, were you into music as a kid?
I grew up in church, I was always in the choir, I joined when I was about seven. That’s where I got all my practice. Other people in my family wanted to sing, but I was the only one that really pushed myself to get out there and make it happen. I think there are some people coming up behind me, some actresses and singers, I’m really happy for everyone. I’m paving the way! I kind of wish someone had done it before me, but I’m also happy to be the trailblazer.
It was kind of in the blood, I was also an only child for a long time so I had to entertain myself. I would have a radio show and would make everyone sit and listen — I don’t know if they enjoyed but they had to watch. I have a special needs sister that was born later, she is my heart. I love her so much.
Is music a mode of connection for you two?
She is very visual, her condition is kind of like autism, but a little different. She is so visual and she loves music. When I was on Broadway, she would be there all the time. She loved every line and she loves art and watching me do what I do. I feel as though she could be a star if she weren’t so stubborn, I think she could be a star even with her condition.
It seems you have definitely dealt with some struggles in your life — how do your difficult personal experiences contribute to your music?
There were times in my sister’s life where she would drool, her teachers wouldn’t want to deal with her. Like, even adults can’t really get it right. That kind of threw me off, you can expect kids to be a little mean, but with adults it’s worse. Those are definitely some ‘hold up, wait a minute’ moments. I’m very against bullying. I’m all about love.
Tell me about your future plans? What’s coming up?
The song is really opening up some doors! I want to do some shows, I don’t have any dates right now. But shows and tours, I’m sure I will do another movie at some point, but my heart is in this song, its spreading my message to the world. My future is 100 percent “Hold up, Wait a Minute.” I hope you all like it!