Ashanti On Her Impact on R&B, Saying ‘No’ to Drama, and What Keeps Her Driven for Success
It’s been 21 years since Grammy Award-winning singer Ashanti released her self-titled debut. It not only topped the charts but cemented her status, making the proud Glen Cove, New York, a Guinness World Record holder. With more than 500,000 first-week sales, the album was the fastest-selling debut ever for a female artist.
More than two decades later, Ashanti’s dominance in the industry is still a leading force, and the songstress is no longer playing by the rules. Instead, she is setting the bar for all to follow. With an ever-growing resume, expansive fan base, and long-lasting classic hits to her name, the triple threat is gearing up for a whirlwind year ahead.
BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with the platinum-selling recording artist about her film in the works, No Address, two international tours, new music, and latest business ventures, but most importantly, leaving any drama or negativity from the past in the rearview (exactly where it belongs).
BLACK ENTERPRISE: How has playing Violet in your movie No Address challenged you as an actor as opposed to previous roles?
Ashanti: This character is extremely different from anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never been in a position to be homeless or displaced. Seeing Violet fighting her struggle and coming from her background to cope with her environment and where she is now, it’s been a very dramatic thing.
For me to tap into that when I first read it, I said, “This is really very deep and very different for me.” It was something so creative and so far left from who I am. I wanted the challenge, and I’m excited about it.
In your opinion, what are some common misconceptions about veterans and people living with PTSD you hope your character helps shed light on?
I hope to dispel the stigma that not everyone displaced or homeless is lazy, doesn’t want to work, or just not trying. My character Violet received a less honorable discharge, and she got hurt, became addicted to pain meds, and found herself in an unfortunate circumstance. I want this character to shed light that it’s not always a bad choice that someone is making; sometimes, life happens to that person.
With so many accolades to your name and achieving major success throughout your career, I’m curious, outside of the charts and the number-one hits, how do you personally define success?
I think success is super-succeeding and living out your dreams, being happy, and being rich at heart. Success is about setting your goals and attaining them or going past what you ever thought you would do. I’m super humbled and grateful for all my success in music and film, and it’s a blessing.
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Let’s talk about your Marc Jacobs campaign. What was the most exciting aspect of bringing this campaign to life?
Creating that vibe reminiscent of the vintage 2000s and bringing back an era that so many people can relate to. It brought me back to when my first album dropped and the nostalgia of it all. It embodied women’s empowerment; for me, the fashion was just Marc Jacobs. With those shoes, I have an extra two feet on me! (laughs) I loved it. It felt bossy, it felt fun, and it was a vibe. I love Marc.
You mentioned your first album. What do you feel its impact was on the R&B landscape when it was released 21 years ago?
I never knew the album would be a staple for R&B music, especially with women. I wrote from my heart about what was going on in my life. The beauty is so many people could relate, and that’s what transcended so much.
I’m in a position now where I understand the business. The passion, creativity, and reaching the people is a totally different feeling. I’m rerecording the first album, so now, as a business owner, going into it owning my master’s and understanding all of the business sides that come with it is a beautiful thing, too—especially for women to understand and take ownership of their own.
You brought up a good point when you mentioned writing from the heart. That makes a difference, and that’s why you resonate with so many people.
It is surreal! Back then, with me being so young and writing about real life, it was the authenticity I believe people appreciate, and that is the difference. That is what allows me to stay in this industry and where longevity comes from. Also, that’s the difference between classic records and hit records.
Absolutely! So from your entire catalog, what song best describes who Ashanti is right now at this very moment?
My gosh, that’s a hard question. A few songs pop into my mind, but I say “Living My Life” from the album Chapter II. The words are super deep, and that record talks about the struggles of going through things, making it, and then just living my life. Right now, it’s between “Living My Life” and “Happy” from my debut album.
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Now that we’re a few months into 2023, what’s something you promised yourself you were leaving behind in 2022?
People with negative energy and baggage who are always down. If I can’t help you out of that funk, I will support you from afar. I’m in a space where I’m good, and I will always want to help you. Whatever you need from me and whatever I can do for you, I’m there to help. But sometimes, if that’s not enough, I’m going to pray for you, and I’m going to wish everything is amazing.
Sometimes that’s all you can do.
Some people like drama, and I had my fair share last year. So that energy, I’m cool on that, and you can’t allow that to let you get upset and take you out of character. You have to let it be.
For sure. And you have a lot of upcoming projects. Can you give us a rundown of your year ahead?
So many things going on. I’ve already spoken about the rerecording, which I’m very excited about. In addition, I’m dropping new music. We’re still talking about my children’s book, My Name Is a Story, which I released last year, and I have several events coinciding with it, such as partnering with the school districts. I have two tours set up, one in Australia and the other in the U.K. A lot of good stuff is happening.