Naturi Naughton "Fame" Interview with Kam Williams
By Kam Williams
Naturi by Nature
Fresh on the heels of her steamy screen debut earlier this year in Notorious as Lil' Kim, Naturi Naughton is back with Fame, a remake of the 1980 Academy Award-winner for Best Score and Best Song. Now, the New Jersey native is enjoying a starring role showcasing an array of her considerable talents, including solo performances of a couple of hits from the original, the title track "Fame" as well as "Out Here on My Own."
Fans of 3LW (ala 3 Little Women) will remember the curvaceous cutie as a founder of that popular singing sensation. Since then, Naturi has studied Political Science at Seton Hall University and has appeared as Little Inez in the Broadway production of Hairspray.
Here's she reflects on being a member of the ensemble of Fame, a music-driven drama revolving around the aspirations of students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts.
Kam Williams: Hi, Naturi, thanks for another interview.
Naturi Naughton: Thank you.
KW: What interested you in doing Fame?
NN: You know what's so great about Fame is that it's one of those classic re-inventions, one of those movies everybody wants to see come to life because it's about young people fighting and striving for their dreams. Plus, I've been there. I was a young person who had a dream and wanted to be successful, and that's kinda what Fame is all about. So, I think I was just attracted to the struggle and the realness of the story.
KW: You play Denise, but I don't remember there being a Denise in the original.
NN: She's similar to Coco, but not really the same personality, because we revamped the characters and changed some of the main storyline. However, I do feel very honored that I get to sing some of the original songs first done by Irene Cara. It was really exciting to bring those classics back to life in a new way. Even though I'm not playing exactly the same character, I feel like I've had a chance to recreate Coco in a fresh way.
KW: You've met with tremendous success as both a singer and an actress. Which is your preference?
NN: I'll always love singing no matter what, but I'm very attracted to acting because it gives me a chance to show my range and to transform into a totally different character.
KW: What was it like working alongside veteran actors like Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton, Debbie Allen and Bebe Neuwirth?
NN: I loved the fact that I got to work with so many well-respected actors. It was both an honor and a learning experience watching how smoothly they do their job. I also learned from the other young people in the cast, and we really supported each other. But the veterans truly inspired me to believe that if they can have a long career, I can have a long career. So, it was great!
KW: And how was director Kevin Tancharoen? After all, this is his directorial debut.
NN: He had this wonderful vision, yet he was very open-minded, letting us all innovate and kinda create our characters. It was great having a young director, because he didn't shut our opinions out. He wanted our input to make sure that it was a team effort, which made it fun. I loved that!
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NN: I wish they would ask me about what I was like growing up or what kind of student I was in high school and college, because most people don't know that I was actually very, very focused on my academics, and that I am a big advocate of that. I think a lot of people don't realize that I'm not just an entertainer, but an entertainer who loves Political Science.
KW: What is your favorite meal to cook?
NN: I don't have the time to do much cooking, but I do the best that I can in the kitchen. I like making fried chicken and mashed potatoes, but I would like to learn to cook some new dishes.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
NN: Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, a great book.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who's at the top of your hero list?
NN: My parents, Ezra and Brenda, because of the way they raised and supported me. Even though we didn't have a lot when I was coming up, they still made sure I had the same opportunities as everybody else.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
NN: When I look inside myself, I see a passionate, young, woman who really is beautiful and deserving of her success because she's so hardworking.
KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
NN: I have to think that over, because I've been through some tough times... I think I usually rely on my faith. I started out singing in church. So, I go back to my roots, and believe that God will give me the strength to get through those tough times. Also, I lean on my family and other people who are a part of my life for advice and encouragement.
KW: I see you that the next movie you'll be making is Lottery Ticket, a comedy where you'll be starring opposite Ice Cube.
NN: I'm very excited about that film. It's very funny and has a great moral. I've loved Ice Cube's work for so long, and I know it's going to be great to have the opportunity to work with him.
KW: What is the secret of your success?
NN: My faith in God for giving me the talent... my parents support ... and my friends pushing me not to give up on my dreams. I don't think I could do what I do, if I didn't have all of these working together to make it happen.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
NN: I laugh every day, but I had a really good laugh with Asher Book who is also in Fame. He cracked me up with the great British accent he fooled everybody with while we were doing a promo tour for the movie in London.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
NN: Well, right now, all I listen to all day long on my iPod is Miss Whitney. Whitney Houston was my inspiration growing up. "I Look to You" is an absolutely amazing CD. I've listened to it every day since it came out. I'm very happy and proud and glad that she's back, because I grew up wanting to be the next Whitney Houston. From the time I was six years-old, I used to sing her songs at every event, wedding and talent show. B001AQTWF2
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
NN: It probably would be going through the break up of my girl group [3LW]. Dealing with the entertainment business in general is pretty hard, just jumping over those hurdles and trying to stay alive in the industry.
KW: What would you say is the message of Fame?
NN: To work extremely hard for your dream. You cannot expect to achieve success overnight. It's not easy and all about the glamour.
KW: Can you still go the mall or the movie theater like a normal person?
NN: Sure, but I get spotted all the time. Fans come up to me and ask to take a picture, but it's never anything threatening. They've been so supportive. I've been getting nothing but love everywhere I go. It's all good.
KW: Thanks again, Naturi, and best of luck with Fame and your upcoming projects.
NN: Thank you.
Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.
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