Elle Varner is not one to settle for a no. This trait has guided the vocalist to a Grammy and a rewarding career as a working entertainer. And so, she has been working with Dr. Beverly Bond for years to spread her message and mentorship to young girls through Black Girls Rock programming.
In fact, she showed them how it’s done live at the Kennedy Center’s inaugural three-day Black Girls Rock Fest held last month in Washington, D.C., with fellow performers Jazzmine Sullivan, Leela James, Rapsody, Nonchalant, masked sensation Leikeli47 and the amazing Be’la Dona Band.
“To be a black woman in music and to continue to feed my culture and be a representation of who we are,” said Varner to Tasty Clips, “That’s such a blessing and a gift.”
The Brooklyn-born, L.A.-raised prodigy, who plays keyboards but prefers the guitar, credits her mother Mikelyn Roderick, a former singer with Barry White, with getting her over the hump.
Said Varner: “With all this college scandal going around, I remember [the school counselor] telling me not to bother applying to NYU because I didn’t have the grades. My mom was like ‘forget that completely. Finish the application. Write your essay and then we’ll at least let them tell you no.’
“I ended up getting in. If it wasn’t for my mom encouraging and pushing me many times in my life, I probably wouldn’t be as strong as I am.”
Her fearlessness is on display in the just-released video for her new single, “Pour Me,” featuring Wale and a massive snake.
The song, co-produced by her father Jimmy Varner, is the follow up to her hit single, “Refill,” and will be featured on her new mixtape project called “Elevation” to be released in May on 4/4 Sound/Entertainment One (eOne).
Asked whether it’s a boon or challenge to work with her dad, she answered both.
“I could only dream of having the experience and accomplishments of my father,” said the 30-year old. “He’s produced Diana Ross, The Temptations and so many people; and he was Tevin Campbell’s musical director. That man just knows music like the back of his hand. It’s a goal of mine to get there. We go back and forth, but ultimately, it’s a blessing to have so much expertise in the camp.”
Varner already experienced her dream collaboration when she was called upon to join Prince on stage.
“He was like an outer worldly being,” she said. “For me to have been invited to perform with him is something I always have to treasure. That I was on the radar of arguably one of the greatest talents to ever walk the earth was incredible.”
With her statuesque natural beauty, acting could be a next step for Varner.
“Everybody says that,” she yelled before admitting a desire to play her major musical influences Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James in a movie fully dedicated to her and not a label like “Cadillac Records.”
“I’ve actually studied a lot of her performances and learned so much from those videos while I could catch them because a lot of them have been taken down actually after she passed away. She was just on another level.”
As for getting to the R&B legend’s buxom figure, Varner says, “Hell yeah, I’ll take that weight on. Give me some pizza. Some cornbread. Gladly. I get to do it in the sake of art so no one can judge me.”
CLIPPETTES: Serayah (Tiana Brown on “Empire”) performs at the Sayers Club April 5; as Eddie Griffin begins a two-night stand at the Ontario Improv Comedy Club …
No word yet on if the producers of the upcoming “Bond 25” have nabbed Lupita Nyong’o to co-star with Daniel Craig, but we do know that they plan to do principal shooting in Jamaica – where the franchise’s first film “Dr. No” was set …
Gerald Clayton and his band will perform a special concert celebrating the exhibition “Charles White: A Retrospective” at LACMA’s Bing Theater April 6 …
The Wu-Tang Clan short film “For The Children: 25 Years of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” is up for a Webby Award where votes may be cast at www.webbyawards.com …
The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour anchors at the Walt Disney Concert Hall April 7 with Cécile McLorin Salvant, Christian Sands, Jamison Ross, SFJazz Collective and more. Also that evening, rising Gullah band Ranky Tanky bring their unique blend of blues and soul to the Broad Stage in Santa Monica …
Pioneering black supermodel Pat Cleveland is recovering from emergency colon cancer surgery following her walk down the runway during Paris Fashion Week. Without insurance, a crowdsourcing page has been set up for the 68-year-old at www.gofundme.com/pat-cleveland-fund …
Universal’s “Little” starring Regina Hall, Marsai Martin and Issa Rae has its red-carpet premiere April 8 at the Regency Village Theatre. Arrive around 5 – 5:30 p.m. to catch the pageantry …
Velvety vocalists WIll Downing and Keith Washington fill the bill of the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center April 11 in a show hosted by impressionist Jammin Jay Lamont.
TASTY QUIP: “What you put out in the world, comes back to you. If you are that person, that you seem to not have nothing nice to say about anybody, if you’re that person in your group that. … Listen, you know everybody’s business but your own. If you’re that person in the family that baby when you call or come around they really want to walk out of the room but they just tolerate you. We’re asking that we pay attention to the lesson. Because universal law, what you put out, is what you get back.” – MO’NIQUE about Wendy Williams
TC ON TV: April 5 – “Unicorn Store” (Netflix): Samuel L. Jackson is featured in his “Captain Marvel” co-star Brie Larson’s directorial debut. “Our Planet” (Netflix): Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek and Sir David Attenborough narrate this six-part docu-series. “Fresh Off The Boat” (ABC): It’s the 100th episode of the ground-breaking Asian-centered sitcom which premiered in February 2015.
April 6 – “Native Son” (HBO): This new version of Richard Wright’s classic novel is adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog/Underdog”) with a cast that includes “If Beale Street Could Talk” star Kiki Layne, David Alan Grier, Sanaa Lathan and Ashton Sanders as Bigger Thomas.
April 7 – “Killing Eve” (AMC/BBCA): Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer are back for a second season of the critically acclaimed cat-and-mouse thriller. “The Real Housewives Of Atlanta” (Bravo): Nene Leakes is hot at being ambushed by “sister” Cynthia Bailey with returning foil Kenya Moore in part one of “The Reunion.” “Unsung” (TV1): Glenn Jones “The Chi” (Showtime): Lena Waithe and Common’s slice-of-life Windy City drama returns to continue the story of a community beautifully played by one of TV’s most compelling casts. “Uncensored” (TV ONE): Ne-Yo
April 8 – “Watch What Happens Live” (Bravo): Tamar Braxton and Lizzo
April 9 – “White Boy” (Starz): The story of 17-year-old alleged Detroit cocaine kingpin Richard Wershe Jr., immortalized on the big screen by the Matthew McConaughey led “White Boy Rick,” gets the doc treatment. Arrested as a teen and sentenced to life without parole, he remains imprisoned 30 years later. “Finding Your Roots” (PBS): Sirius/XM host Joe Madison – “The Black Eagle,” Valerie Jarrett and Ty Burrell learn about their families in the season finale. “Reconstruction: America After The Civil War” (PBS): Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents the history of the nation’s struggle during its transformative years and how African Americans made political, social and economic progress in the face of violence. “Boomerang” (BET): It’s also the season ender for this fine movie spin-off renewed this week by the network. Algee Smith (“The Hate U Give”) should be awards bait for his earnest portrayal of ministerial hopeful David.
April 10 – “Star” (Fox): Kimberly Elise guest stars as the mother of Noah (Luke James).
TASTY QUIP: “First of all, racist people don’t be jumping nobody in the polar vortex. It’s too cold. They say, ‘We’ll be racist in the spring.’ Cause it was like 10 seconds of footage and then [Jussie Smollett] disappeared for like two seconds and then he reappears with the noose around his neck still holding the Subway sandwich. He didn’t let that sandwich go. I think it was pepperoni and cheese, I don’t know.” – TRACY MORGAN on “The Tonight Show”
As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tastyclips.