Known for her portrayal of Faith Evans in the Hip-Hop legend, Christopher Wallace’s biopic, Notorious, Antonique Smith gave an outstanding performance of the R&B diva that turned a few heads. What you didn’t know that Antonique has a powerful voice in her own right, and did vocals on Notorious as Faith Evans. Having starred as Mimi in the legendary theatre production Rent, and as FBI agent Sandra Burns in the John Singleton film, Abduction, Smith has touched virtually every stage of visual performance. Antonique is breaking from her acting mode with ambitions to become a musical force, recently launching a successful , cloud-sourced funding campaign for her debut album.
She recently, sat down with Planet Ill to speak about raising funds for her independent album on Kickstarter (a funding platform for creative projects), her iconic role in Notorious, her YouTube videos showcasing her beautiful voice, her upcoming projects, and what it means to be Antonique Smith.
Planet Ill: What inspired you raise funds for your upcoming album independently versus a major label?
Antonique Smith: It was just a different option – you know there was always an option to go to the majors. But, this was just a different option. I thought it would be really cool to get the funding and the support. It is also like a litmus test –it shows you who really has your back and what you are like in the market; And to have people to believe in me that much and love the one song that I let everyone hear so much, that they trusted me that I would have a great album. Which is really incredibly—I t allowed me to do it this way because it allowed me to have more creative freedom; it allowed me to have a control of my image; and how I come across. You know labels spend millions of dollars on people – when you are spending that much money on people, you are going to do it this way, you’re going to sing this kind of music, you’re going to look like this, and you’re going to act like this because we are spending millions of dollars.
So, this allowed me to be Antonique because – I feel like because I am an actress, people have already seen me in different ways, in a different light by being different characters and types; and that I really want people to get me in my music. Like, my experiences and the things that hurt me or make me happy—to see Antonique’s heart. Even image wise, I just wanted to be myself – just want to be Anotinque. This allows me to do that because it is the people saying, we believe in Antonique and who she is and who she wants to be; and I get to continue to do that. It keeps you pure. That is why I really did this way.
Planet Ill: Kickstater has a unique catch to their online donations where if the artist does not reach their goal within a certain time frame, they would have to return all of the money back to their investors. Was there a time where you were nervous that you would not reach your goal of 50,000?
Antonique Smith: Always nervous – Statistically on Kickstarter, they will let you know that in the beginning there is a big sure, and then there is a low in the middle where it is not where nothing is going on but there is just less; and there is a big push at the end. So, if you haven’t already reached your goal before the big push at the end, it’s like “Okay, are we going to get there?!” That push at the end was crazy, people rallied behind me and that’s what made it so exciting because at the end there was this super push and I felt all of this extra love. It was really an amazing moment.
Planet Ill: From the extra love that you have receive, I had notice that your twitter followers went up, has this happened because you were featured in Rick Ross new music video, Amsterdam, playing his wife?
Antonique Smith: Absolutely, that’s exactly what it was. He was tweeting every time he was tweeted the video, he said staring @AnotinqueSmith – so everybody seeing my name [being associated with Rick Ross] — and the video had staring Antonique Smith. So, they knew who exactly, who I was able to hit that follow button, which was cool.
Planet Ill: With the new surge of followers, and new potential fans from Rick Ross tweeting you, did you see your YouTube videos numbers go up?
Antonique Smith: Yes! My YouTube videos went up and the comments were like, “Wow, I did not know you could sing” and “This is a breath of fresh air”. All of this was really great – It was a great month. All of this happened in one month!
Planet Ill: You have done a lot of renditions on your YouTube channels, where you are being the singer Antonique, were you are introducing us [the public] on who you are as a vocalist, because you are multitalented. You had recently released a remake of Frank Ocean’s, “Thinking Bout You”, directed by Darryl Farmer. Which was a dope concept, what inspired you to remake the song?
Antonique Smith: Apparently, I did not realize how many people remade the song already. Funny—I guess I was in a black hole, but I loved the song, and like I said, I did not realize how many covers there were. There were people tweeting like, “I know there were a bunch of covers but you guys have to look at this one”. Which is so sweet, because I did not know there were so many [covers]? But I am glad people are saying, “Yes there has been a bunch but watch this one.” That is a blessing.
Planet Ill: You recently released a remake of Frank Ocean’s hit, “Thinking Bout You.” What is it about this song that speaks to you as a singer because it is so emotional?
Antonique Smith: It is! I am kind of emotional –I guess that is why I am an actress too. I have felt that. I have been thinking about forever—you almost don’t even know, if you are on the same page, you know – we are on the same page. Which is, having that feeling about that person, it feels good but at the same time, it is a little fear involved. I knew exactly what the words were about, and when I heard it, I was like, “Oh my god, I love this song.” It was my manager, Darryl, idea to cut the song.
Planet Ill: By being an actor and singer, in your opinion, is there a difference between a signer and an entertainer and if so what are they and what do you consider yourself?
Antonique Smith: That’s a good question. I think that you could be a singer and not necessarily be an entertainer. Some people can sing really great, but they want to close their eyes and be in their own world. Then, some do not want to know that you’re there, so you’re like a voyeur. Whereas, an entertainer is like I am here for you. (Snaps fingers) Watch. Observe. Feel. It is more of a give and take, there this eye contact between the entertainer and the audience.
I am definitely an entertainer. I had gotten my start in church. Whitney Houston is the voice that I heard when I was a kid –that made me want to sing. I heard her voice and said, “I want to sound like that.” My parents had got her records, and I learned how to sing by singing to her. She was my first vocal teacher. She’s from East Orange, New Jersey. Same as me –that was the beginning, and I got practice from church. My first big job was from Rent on Broadway. That is where I had really gotten the instant gratification from getting a response right away from the audience – when you’re doing a movie it is totally different, because it takes sometime years before the movies comes out for you to get a response from the audience. From singing, by doing a live show, it is right there. You know exactly if they [audience] are feeling it or not. With Rent, I had gotten to see people laugh and cry; it was great.
I wanted to do this since I was three. I have always been on it. I was making people sit down as a kid, to watch my puppet shows, make you listen to me sing before I was really good at it. So, I was always an entertainer.
Planet Ill: You had mentioned Whitney Houston, one of the greatest singers, with the purest tones. What song from her had spoken to you?
Antonique Smith: The first song I had remembered hearing, “You Give Good Love”. But, the song I had ended up for doing my edition for Broadway was, “The Greatest Love of All”. The song that spoke to me with Kickstart was, “I Believe in You and Me”. Because it was a journey that we’re taking together, and I wanted people to be a part of it with me – “I Believe in You and Me” it had become the theme song of the Kickstart [campaign]. So, when I had performed during that month [of the Kickstart campaign] I had sung that song. I just love the way she [Whitney Houston] sing that song. My favorite Whitney Houston song is, “I Have Nothing”.
Planet Ill: You recently stated you were bridging the gap with your fans by singing the theme, “I Believe in You and Me”, through Kickstart with your fans with many social networks like Facebook and Twitter. How does a social medium like Facebook, Twitter, and Kickstart work for Antonique?
Antonique Smith: People remember me from Rent, Broadway, friends who “like” me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. Then, new people from other countries – I have never been to Japan, Finland, Australia, and these people not only follow me on Twitter but help fund my Kickstart. From around the world, that is really amazing.
Planet Ill: You received a $10,000 donation from an investor on Kickstarter. When you had saw that, how did that make you feel as an independent artist?
Antonique Smith: Wow, who’s that? It was a great feeling because it was somebody who felt that strongly that they would want to put that much money into something that I was doing. You could also think about that they are doing it for the reward, but I think, that even with the reward, it got to be something you believe it to put that kind of money into it.
Antonique Smith: I always felt like that. It’s funny that I always felt like I needed to sing first. Because it seems like traditionally and historically, it was easy to be a singer and then move into acting; than it was for an actor to be a singer. You hear a lot of actors saying, “I’m making an album”, then it’s like, “Okay, such and such from whatever movie is making an album” and you don’t necessarily don’t look forward to hearing it because you think it’s probably is not going to be good. Because actors, not all of them, cannot sing, they are actors. Then you see them as actors. I was always deathly afraid of that—so I was like, I need to sing first and I was going to sing first; then acting just feel into my lap.
I am spiritual. So, I was like, “God must be giving me this. So, I am not just not going to fight it, I am just going to follow”. That’s when Rent, then Notorious, which is an exception to the rules of singers, [similar to] actors becoming singers like: J.Lo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, all became singers after they played a singer. So, it was like, “Okay, thank you God. I see what you are doing!” You got me going on this path, then boom, I play a singer, an iconic R&B singer, who grew up in Newark Baptist church, just like me. It just—you know, it gave me the opportunity to have the same like, Jamie and those, to have played a singer, make it easier to make it easier for me to transition in my music.
Planet Ill: In the movie, Notorious, you were able to sing some parts of Faith in the movie. How was it to embody Faith Evans in the movie?
Antonique Smith: We are friends now, then [before the movie was released] we were only able to talk on the telephone. I had looked at all of the videos I could find to get a feeling for her. She had interviews; I just watched anything I could find. Articles – then she had given me the memoirs to her book, which gave a backstory that was a lot more than it was in the movie. All of that really had helped and I was able to talk to her as much as I wanted too. She is a sweetheart. We are friends now. That was a great experience. It was great playing her. I am now a part of Biggie’s legacy. I have the best time, I learned a lot. The first time I had really done a movie. I had a small role, a cameo in “Yelling to the Sky”. No, not “Yelling to the Sky”—that is actually coming out this year. It is crazy drama; ya’ll ain’t seen nothing like that, that I am doing in this. But “Across the Universe” The Beatles movie, it was the first time on a movie set. So, that when I was like, “What!? I got to do more of this. I love it!”
Notorious, was the first time I was actually shooting a movie – a whole movie. Faith, I loved everybody in that movie. I loved Puff, Kim, Big, and Pac; I was fans of all of them. Faith had that airy tone, and I am a belter – I am big, you know. She had that soft beautiful airy falsetto that I used to practice to [the records]. Like, I would play her records, “Soon as I Get Home”, stuff like that; I would practice like mimicking that to get that feel for her voice. When they had me audition, I was like, “Pfft! I used to do this in my bedroom. I know how to do this!” So, it was good. It was like perfect. It was my role, it was meant to be [for me].
Planet Ill: Touching on “Yelling to the Sky,” they [the producers] had teased us back in February 2011, with movie trailer teaser. Do you know the anticipation date?
Antonique Smith: I don’t know the actual date; they were saying November or December of this year. So, I don’t know if that’s still, I gotta actually hit the director. Matter of fact, she hit me; I need to hit her back. I don’t know what the actual date is.
Planet Ill: What made you go into such a controversial role in, “Yelling to the Sky” because they have the bullying, “lightskin v. darkskin” dynamic, “big girl v. skinny girl” dynamic with Gabby Sibide, you can tell she’s a bully but she’s [her character] very insecure, and we have a young girl which is you…
Antonique Smith: You got all of this from the trailer?
Planet Ill: Girl, yes! (Both laughs)
Antonique Smith: Wow! Yup, Zoë is my little sister. We have a black, chocolate black mom and a white Irish dad; and they both crazy. So, we’re – you know trying to figure thing out, figure life out. She’s seventeen and I’m twenty. It’s crazy.
Planet Ill: What made you pick that role [in “Yelling to the Sky”]?
Antonique Smith: I just thought it was so cool. I thought all of it was cool. I like to do things, I never done before. I don’t like to –not that I am trying not to get typecast. I just like to have—you know, to be able to do some different things; I like to challenge myself. So, umm –she was cool, tough, and violent. But, she was not like me. You know, I’m cool a lil bit, East Orange (laughs). But, umm– not like her. It definitely gave me a whole different; I had to go into a different place to play her. This is so much fun—so much fun; so that’s why I did it. The script was cool; it had an artistic, poetic feel to it. I loved the people that were already attached to it. I was just like, “This is cool”. You know—it just spoke to me.
Our last question, who is Antonique?
Antonique Smith: Antonique is a girl from East Orange, New Jersey, who has been dreaming of things since she was a little. Who God has gifted and who understands that these are God’s gift; and that’s not something that I did. I am just looking forward with sharing with the world. I have a big heart, and I am generous. I’m sensitive—(moves her fingers to indicate a little) I’m a little sensitive. I love people, I love God, and I really want to touch the world; and I want to make the world feel. That’s just my whole thing. I just want to make them feel things, whether if it’s some sadness that I am singing about, or a sad scene, or some joy that just so happy, or some shoot’em up scene with give some that anxiety feeling, yea that too. I just want to make you feel.
I want to touch people. I want to help people too, I really do. Now, I am not in a place where I can help too many people, but we’re getting there. I looked forward to really help; I want to help with education. My sister especially, she has a condition called agenesis of the corpus colosum [which is known as ACC], the fiber that connects the two sides of the brain. I’m super grounded. I think she keeps me super grounded. I know, I never—I don’t think I’ll ever going to be Hollywood. This is my family, so like their good people. My special needs sister, so, you know, kids– people with disabilities like, I’m going, that’s going to be something that I really want to help with. Umm—you know, I’m just a girl (laughs); just a girl from Jersey (Looks up with soft eyes). Yea. Yea.