Jazmine Sullivan needs no introduction. If you’re tapped into music in the slightest, you already know the breathtaking vocals she’s equipped with. The Philadelphia native has been singing since she was a baby, and she sang the national anthem at the most recent Superbowl LV.
Exploding onto the scene with her debut album Fearless in 2008, which boasted smash singles “Need U Bad” and “Bust Your Windows,” Jazmine has been blessing fans with music for over a decade most recently releasing her critically-acclaimed Heaux Tales album. The project reels in honest, vulnerable stories from various women about sex and relationships, catching the attention of everyone from Cardi B to Issa Rae to Summer Walker.
To date, Jazmine boasts 12 Grammy nominations, and recently received her first #1 record with “Pick Up Your Feelings.” Baller Alert caught up with Jazmine via phone to discuss her recent performance with Pandora LIVE for Women’s History Month, female empowerment, missing the stage, getting her first #1 record, her Super Bowl performance, the inspo behind Heaux Tales, collaborating with H.E.R., why she went vegan, her take on Instagram, and more!
You’re doing a special virtual performance with Pandora in celebration of Women’s History Month. What are you most excited for?
I’m always excited to perform really, especially with my band. I’ve been doing a lot of virtual shows and this is really my first time stepping outside my house. I’ve been in the privacy of my home, this is the first time I actually went to a venue and got on a stage. It’s really, really exciting to be back on stage, it felt like old times a little bit. That was cool.
What are old times to you?
Really being able to tour, see the people and feel them. Sing the songs with everybody and be up on the stage, it’s something special that happens when you get up on stage and you’re close to your fans. This is a step towards that for me, at least being on a stage.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
Of all time, period? That’s hard because I do 95% of my writing, so they’re all my babies. It depends on the day, what mood I’m in and what I’m feeling. Some days I connect more to a song, depending on what I’m going through. It changes. Lately, I’ve enjoyed doing “Pick Up Your Feelings.” It’s an anthem, a lot of attitude with the song so that’s fun to do.
How’s it feel to get your first #1 record with “Pick Up Your Feelings”? That’s wild!
Yeah, I didn’t even know that because I don’t follow the charts. I’ve never followed charts since I’ve started. This is my first #1 on R&B radio, I’m super excited about what’s been happening lately. I’m glad I have a platform for people who still want to hear what I do, it’s cool to hear that.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
Female empowerment means being strong through all obstacles, but still being vulnerable enough to know you need help. Definitely being strong. As women, we go through so much. There’s always somebody trying to put us down and tell us what we can’t do, what we aren’t man enough to achieve. We have to fight through that and we do fight through it, come out on top.
Favorite female empowerment songs?
I can’t think of one specifically, but anything Beyonce. She’s the perfect example of a woman that stands up for us. She’s been the soundtrack through my whole life really, of believing in myself and being strong.
How was your experience performing the National Anthem at Super Bowl LV?
That’s another place where I had to be strong. It was very nerve-racking, obviously. I didn’t even realize I was nervous until I sang my first note. “Oh my god, I’m singing in front of millions of people at the Super Bowl.” But it was amazing, I wasn’t expecting to get that call ever. I never even dreamed of singing at the Super Bowl. I consider myself a realist so my career in my eyes, would never lead me there. Not in a way where I feel I was losing out on anything, I just never thought that was a part of my life. I was very shocked to get the phone call, but very happy. I got a chance to bring my family, that’s really the first time we’d been out together since the pandemic had started. That’s the most important thing, that they’re there. My family and friends were calling me. Everything that mattered to me was about my family and the people that love me.
What do you do to get over the nerves?
I pray, firstly. I have to pray before I sing. I don’t know if you ever really get over them, you gotta go out there and sing through it. You never quite get over being scared, you gotta push your way through it.
How was it linking with H.E.R. on “Girl Like Me”?
H.E.R. is amazing. I’ve been following her career really since I had took my break. She came up on the scene and I was very, very, very impressed with her as an artist. The song came up, I was writing the song and I wanted to get somebody on it. She really was the first person that came to my mind. I didn’t know if she’d want to do it though, but I sent it out anyway. She responded super quickly and absolutely killed her verse, made it her own. I was so happy with the collaboration, we both shined. We both represent strong women, but two different ages. I’m in my 30’s, she’s in her 20’s. She caters to more younger women growing up, but we all can relate to the song: feeling unworthy and trying to push our way past it. Try to love ourselves in a world that constantly beats on us and tells us not to. That’s where our connection came in with the song.
Who or what inspired Heaux Tales?
Heaux Tales was inspired by my life, my friends’ lives, the lives of women, especially black women. It was a collection of stories we’ve experienced in our lives that I felt was important to tell. Rarely do you ever get a really good glimpse of black women and their stories, we’re portrayed a certain way and I don’t like that. We’re so much more than one stereotypical way that society likes to see us. I wanted to tell different stories from different women to show us somewhat in the totality. Obviously I can’t tell all the stories, but to show different sides and elements to a woman and her life experiences.
How did you get women to open up?
Well they’re my best friends and family members, my mom and aunts. It was easy, these are conversations I’ve had with them all my life. It was a matter of meeting up with some of them, having dinner and talking about conversations we had anyway. I did have to ask them if they were okay with me putting this on my record. I know some of them felt nervous, felt a little bit exposed, but also they trust me and they love me so much. They know I’d never put them in a position where they’d look bad. It’s about trust at that point, I’m so glad they did because the stories really help every woman feel seen in their experiences. That’s really all people want, they feel like they’re not the only person going through something. These stories help other women see themselves.
Did you think something about sex would be so openly received?
I really didn’t. I didn’t know how people were going to receive it. I’ve always been open with my music but I’ve never quite been open in this way. Especially sexually, so I didn’t know how people would receive it coming from me. I do realize that there’s a movement going on where women in general are becoming more free, owning who they are and standing in their power period. At the end of the day, I’m a grown woman. I’ve been through grown things, this is my story at this point in my life and I have to be true to myself.
What relationship advice do you have to give to younger females?
Don’t ask that ‘cause I’ll say “don’t be in a relationship.” [laughs] If you’re asking me seriously, it’s so much time you have to be in a relationship and be connected to somebody in a major way. If you’re young, that’s the time where you should really focus on yourself. Figure out who you are. Figure out what you want to do or be in life, and go full force with that. Once you do that, the person you’re supposed to be with will naturally come to you. You won’t even need advice: it’ll naturally be there because you’ll have worked on yourself, they’ll have worked on themselves. It’ll come together naturally.
How toxic is Instagram? I know you had that one line in “Heaux Tales.”
Instagram is as toxic as the things that you follow. You have the power to decide what you want to see on Instagram, for the most part. It can be as toxic as you want it to be, or as fulfilling as you want it to be. If you’re following all people with positive energy, giving you some stuff that feeds you and you could live by, then it’s a great space for you. But if you’re following things that aren’t doing that for you, it can be toxic. Regardless of that, if you’re following accounts really good for you, you can get in a space where you start to judge yourself based off those things. Good or great, but you start judging yourself based off of it, feeling like you fall short. In that moment, you need to take a break. Put it to the side and take time for yourself, get back to who you are without it. Go back on when you feel like you should or can.
What led to you going vegan?
My mom was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer two years ago now. We went to a holistic doctor as well as her normal doctor, she’s based in New York. She told us my mom would need to get rid of all dairy, butter products, meat, pretty much change her whole diet. Everything we’re used to eating, she’ld have to get rid of. My mom struggled with the idea of changing her lifestyle and I wanted to help her, obviously because she’s my mom and I want her to live as long as she possibly can. The only way I can think to do that was to give it up myself and show her that it could be done. I gave all that stuff up and she did as well, so we’ve been doing it together. It was for her, but it really changed my life. #1, I never thought I could go without meat. I learned so much in the process. I learned so much about self-discipline. I learned the things you think you need, you really don’t. Loving yourself the best way you can by treating your body right, it’s really been amazing for me as well.
What’s your favorite vegan meal?
My favorite vegan meal right now is an alfredo sauce, but it’s cashew-based with nutritional yeast of a cheese flavor in some pasta. That’s always a favorite. That’s definitely if I want to cheat. Just vegetables, I learned how to love vegetables. I never was a big vegetable person and that’s all I could eat. You get a taste for it.
How’s your mom holding up?
She’s doing really good. She’s back like she never left, bossing me around and everything.
What are you most excited for this year, as the world starts to open up?
I’m excited for everything everybody’s excited for, I want to get back to life. I can’t wait to be able to walk around and see people without masks. I know we’re not at that point yet, but getting back to normal life and not having to worry. That’s what I’m most excited about, when we get to a point when we don’t have to worry about this pandemic or Corona, being sick from this specific thing anymore. So many other things to worry about; I can’t wait until we don’t have to worry about this particular thing.