Lila Downs

Reflections on Reality

Jessica Betts, crowned by Missy Elliott as the next big Hip-Hop/R&B star, is paving her own road to stardom.
The burning question surrounding Jessica Betts has been, well, what happened? As winner of Missy Elliott’s 2005 UPN reality show, The Road to Stardom, Betts was awarded an album, the release of a single and $100,000. She got the cash, but her tracks have yet to drop, leaving fans—of the show and her music—in a state of wonder.
 
Betts is first to admit the value of the experience—living with Missy Elliott at her home studio in New Jersey for two years and touring with her internationally, recording with Lauryn Hill, rubbing elbows with Timbaland—but all in all, she says it’s been bittersweet.

The singer, rapper and businesswoman, who’s still signed to Elliott’s label The Goldmind, Inc., opens up to GO about her relationship with Elliott, her reality TV stint and what’s next for the Chicago native.

You come off as having a lot of heart and integrity on The Road to Stardom. What was it like to see yourself on air? Do you feel like you were represented well?

Yeah, I do. It was a real reality show. Most of these shows are worded down and scripted, but I can honestly say, everything that you saw was real, there were no second takes.

How has Missy Elliott influenced you personally and professionally?

Missy has always been my mentor. I’ve always looked at her as somebody I could relate to in terms of image and self and music. She inspired me. After meeting her, I learned a lot, actually. I was self-taught in a lot of areas of the music business. It’s a bittersweet situation. There was [supposed to be] money, a record deal and a released single. A couple of those things didn’t happen, [but] she has always been a mentor. I think she’s a genius and she probably will always be.
 
Tell me about the new single you’re working on. Is it recorded?

It’s recorded, along with ten or eleven other songs, what I call “unreleased bombs.” These are songs that I want to introduce to the world when the time is right about my life, who I am, love, conviction, passion, sex, all the things that everybody experiences.

Will you have put an album out in the coming year?

 
Yeah. Even if I have to put it out myself.

What have you been up to lately?

I have my own studio [in Manhattan]. I just rock out. It’s a preproduction setup, and that’s one of the things I’ve learned as an artist in the last two years. I’ve learned how to master the pro tools, raise my own vocals and support myself. I don’t need any engineers, I don’t need any writers, I don’t need any producers. I create my own space in terms of creativity and I go for it. Now I have to take some time out, maybe a couple of years, and figure out how to transition that into the business end well.
 
So you’re an entrepreneur; what can you tell us about the company you’re starting?
 
It’s still under construction so I don’t want to be too specific. I’m focusing on T.V. and film. I love writing and producing for other artists. Right now I just want to focus on the production side and then later on I want to have my own label.

What do you want people to know about you?  What’s your bottom line?
 
I want people to know that I keep God first and that I have faith beyond belief. I believe in magic and things really do fall out of the sky for me, nothing is scripted. I want to be a face for those who feel left out or like you have to be a certain way to get attention. Being a woman, there are numerous ways of being sexy, it doesn’t have to be provocative or what everybody else wants. It can be however you feel on the inside—that’s what beauty is, it comes from the inside out, never from the outside in. I just want people to love themselves more. 

Listen to Betts’ singles, watch her videos and catch up on all her latest news at myspace.com/jessicabetts57.
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