Rocketing to the Top With Jordin Sparks
Rocketing to the Top With Jordin Sparks
By Eugene S. Robinson
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it's one thing to become great and something else entirely to be that way forever.
By Eugene S. Robinson
Singer Jordin Sparks joined The Carlos Watson Show for a revealing discussion about fame, family and more. Here are some of the best cuts from the full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.
Winning It All
Carlos Watson: When you think about why you won [American Idol], why do you think you won?
Jordin Sparks: I don’t think anybody has ever asked me why I think I won. I usually get the question, “Did you know you were going to win?” And I didn’t. But this is a very good question. Looking back on my journey on Idol, I think a big part of why I won was because each week I grew, each week I was trying to top myself from the last week personally. I wasn’t really in competition with anybody else on the stage. I was in terms of the show, but my heart was not competing with them. I loved them all. We still talk, we still get together. We are tight. We’re very close, and we definitely became a family on that show. So for me each week, I just wanted to figure out a way to top myself and to make myself better.
I think that I was able to do that, and I think everybody got to see my growth from Hollywood Week to the finale. I wasn’t the same person. I was, I was still the bubbly girl that walked into the audition room and I still am, but I grew each week, and I feel as well during the time we got to do different genres each week and I love everything. So to me, I grew up listening to everything. So when they threw Country Week at me, it was like, “I got it. I got this.” When they threw Bon Jovi Week, I was like, “Definitely got this. Me and my mom sang this in the car forever, my whole life.” Latin Week, it was Diana Ross Week, Tony Bennett, all of those things I grew up with.
So none of those things were a curve ball to me and I was like, “I got this, I can do this.” I also think as a 17-year-old, I wasn’t really thinking about what the other contestants were thinking about. I feel like at 17, I didn’t have like, “Oh, is he super judging me?” Or, “Does this look crazy?” Or all the other things you think of in your 20s, because everybody else was in their 20s at the time. I just was like, “Well, I can’t wait to get onstage again,” because it was my favorite show. So I wasn’t overthinking things, you know?
I think that helped as well, just in terms of how I was performing. There was never anything here that I was projecting. Does that make sense? I don’t know if that makes sense, but yeah, I think it was because of my growth and because of how I handled it.
CW: What was it like afterward? What happens after you win something like that?
JS: It’s definitely crazy. From my experience, I was on the stage. I was singing the song, the finale song after I won, and all this stuff was coming down and it was awesome and all the contestants came up and hugged me. The cameras shut off and then I walked on the side of the stage, I ran into my brother and my brother’s best friend — he’s like another younger brother to me. Ran into their arms, I was hugging them, was crying, and all of a sudden I feel a tap on my shoulder, and it was like, “Press in five minutes.”
And that’s how my life has been ever since. It’s just been so insane, one crazy thing after another. I mean, there are so many amazing things that have happened, but the day after I won, I had flown to New York to do all the morning shows, right?
This is how crazy things can be. So I had just one of the biggest show on TV, OK? I just won the biggest show on TV and I go to New York and it’s three o’clock in the afternoon, and we stop at Olive Garden.
I was like, “I just need something to eat and somewhere to rest my head,” because I had all this press to do. So we’re trying to hide and be low-key, and I’m on the table like this, with my head down, I was so tired, and this woman walks up to me with her young daughter. I think it was a little girl and she probably had to be maybe 6, and she walks up and she is like, “Hi, I would love to take a picture with you,” and starts talking. And I’m kind of disoriented, and the gentleman who was with me at the time was like, “We would love to take a picture, but do you mind waiting until we’re done eating?” Because I literally had that short amount of time to get it done and go.
He said that and she went off on me. She went off. “I can’t believe we voted for you. We’re never going to buy your music,” all of these things. I’m sitting there trying not to cry because I’m so tired. I don’t know who this woman is. It’s a stranger. It was just this crazy thing, and that was the day after I won. I was like, “Is this what it’s going to be like? I’m not sure if I want to do this.”
But I love what I’ve been able to do … but I had no idea. I just knew I wanted to sing. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t read the fine print, and my family didn’t either because we had just done … sang at church and I did America’s Most Talented Kids, but that was not like American Idol. So there were a lot of things that happened, but it’s crazy. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I get to sing for my job. I love it. I love being able to sing for my job and it’s my passion too, so it’s a double whammy.
And Magically Married …
CW: Why do you think you guys work so well together? I mean, was it truly love at first sight? You guys are kind of a … When Harry Met Sally is before your time, but there was a great movie. You guys sound like a When Dana Met Jordin.
JS: You know what? That’s a great idea. Maybe we should make a documentary or a movie or something. But it’s really crazy because I have a lot of people and friends that I know who, whether it’s their parents or them, where love at first sight happened with them, where it was like we met, we knew, and it just happened. And we got married, and now they’ve been together for 30 years or something like that. But I didn’t know or think it would happen to me.
And we actually talked for a month prior to meeting. And when we met, we hung out that first day. And then the second day I slept on it, and I woke up, and I knew. I was just like, “Oh, my gosh, wait a minute. No, this is not what I was looking for. It was strictly platonic when we were talking.” I just was like, “No,” because I didn’t want to ruin the friendship because we had such a great friendship at the time.
Then we kind of just talked about it. And we were like, “What are we doing? Where is this going?” And then now, here we are, three and a half years later with our awesome son, and it’s amazing. But I think, for us, our core beliefs we agree on and we’re the same. So we both love music. We love our family. We have our faith. We have our compassion for other people, giving back, “one hand to help ourself, one hand to help others” mentality. But also just in our drive and our ambition as well. We’re both very driven and focused, and giving up is not in our vocabulary.
So on those main things, we’re eye to eye on. Then it’s all the detail stuff — that it’s like ,he likes soft cookies. I like crunchy cookies. He likes this. I like that. I want to sleep with a soft pillow. He needs a hard pillow. There’s all those different things, but we agree on the main thing. And then I look at him, and I’m like, “I cannot believe my best friend is the man I married.” We are like this. If we weren’t together, we were already on the track of having an incredible friendship. And so either way, I think we would have still been in each other’s lives, but I’m grateful that it turned out this way.
Guiding Lights and Fellow Travelers
CW: You have been able to meet so many interesting people in this world. Who’s the most interesting or the most memorable person you’ve ever met? Use any definition you want.
JS: Two people that come to mind, I would have to say Whitney, of course, Whitney Houston. Being able to work with her and see how she was as a person was really, really incredible. And she really proved to me that timing doesn’t matter. You can know somebody for six years or two months, and they can still impact your life immensely in that amount of time.
That’s what she did for me. Being able to be around her and get to know her was absolutely incredible. And then I just had a conversation pop up in my head from a few years ago. This was a minute ago, like maybe eight years ago. will.i.am. He is such an interesting man. will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. He is so interesting, and the way his brain works, and what he thinks about, and what his interests are and his hobbies are so interesting to me.
It was a random conversation at a recording studio here over a break when we both ended up being in the kitchen at the same time in this multiple studio location. And I was like, “Hey, how are you?” And we started talking and he started talking about Tesla currents and all of these things and I was like, “Tell me more.” I love learning, and I love hearing different things and getting knowledge from wherever I can. He’s a very interesting cat. And I would love to be able to sit down with him now and pick his brain because I wasn’t thinking about it then. But now I’m just like, I would love to hear more about what he’s got in there. What’s going on up there.
CW: But yeah, he is, as you said, such a creative thinker, and he’s allowed himself to be creative. And he draws from so many different wells in his life, whether it’s family, whether it’s friends he grew up with, whether it’s his neighborhood in Boyle Heights in LA, where he grew up. He just has so many interesting and different parts of his experience. And he’s very global too, the way he thinks. He draws on South Africa and Japan. And yeah, I admire, like you, I admire his ability to maybe … It feels like he sees more of the world than most of us, which I like.
JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. And I feel like, especially now, I’m like, “There’s not enough space. My head is not big enough for all the things that I want to think of.” And so when I meet someone like will.i.am, I’m like, “How did you delete those files that you don’t need?” Like, “How did you empty your trash up in here?” Because I need some help. I want to be able to expand and talk, you know? But yeah, he’s awesome. So I really hope that … I know that he’s doing well, but I hope that he’s, in here, is doing well too.