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Meet The Real “Ms. Jackson” Erykah Badu’s Mother Speaks On Andre 3000 + Stankonia, 15 Years Later

Meet The Real “Ms. Jackson” Erykah Badu’s Mother Speaks On Andre 3000 + Stankonia, 15 Years Later

Ms. Kolleen Maria Wright

Meet The Real "Ms. Jackson" Erykah Badu's Mother Kolleen "Queeny" Wright Speaks On Stankonia's 15th Anniversary
Andre & Seven Benjamin, photographed at Governor’s Ball 2014 by Pip Cowley

KMW: I don’t know if there was a lot of singing but more reading. Oh, when I was pregnant with her? Oh wow, what songs did I sing…mostly Stevie Wonder, who I knew that, in another life, had to have been my husband. A lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot Smokey Robinson and those guys, a lot of that.

OKP: Amazing…and you said a lot of reading, do you remember what you read to her?

KMW: Yeah, well after she was born of course. A smart girlfriend of mine who is still one of my best friends gave me an almost complete volume of the Dr. Suess books and I was so fascinated with those because of the singsong, rhyme type lyrics of Dr. Suess. That’s what we did all the time, just the Dr. Suess and they fell in love with those as I did. It was always Dr. Suess

OKP: Beautiful. What kind of music was she exposed to generally? like throughout her childhood…

KMW: Soul music–well, I like all music. I like good music. Anything that was country & western that was good, anything that was jazz that was good. Of course Miles [Davis] and those guys. They were introduced to everything that I liked during that time. Everything that I liked, they listened to.

OKP: We understand you are an actress yourself. Can you tell us a bit about how you were drawn to the arts and what role creative expression played in your life?

KMW: Well I have always been artsy because I’ve always liked fashion. That kind of morphed into something else because I always thought I could sing but I wasn’t a very good singer, I learned [laughs] but I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. As a little girl I would talk to myself and I had these imaginary friends and played with these dolls and had to create characters and roles for them. Like I said it kind of morphed into that other acting thing. It was short-lived but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot what was going on because after that I had to put that down because I had little girls to think about.

OKP: Yes, we were told that Erykah actually joined you onstage as young as 4 years old. Did you have any reservations about encouraging your kids to follow in your artistic footsteps…or was that something you embraced?

KMW: No, no, no, that was wonderful. Because one of the things that we talked about every morning when we played “beat the bell”–I don’t know if you know what beat the bell is?

OKP: No…

KMW: It’s when you get up in the morning, rushing and you get in the car and you are running all the lights and you are cursing out all the people, you know, because you are trying to beat the late bell at school. While playing “beat the bell” every morning to school, I was also explaining to them that this is not what you want to do. This is not the way you want to live your life. What you want to do is find something that you enjoy. You find your passion and you make sure you can make money doing that. Anything that they did that was artistic, whether it was singing or dancing or even being a cheerleader or writing or whatever, I encouraged that–because I just didn’t see them with 9 to 5 jobs. Although there is nothing wrong with it, because that’s how we ate. But I just saw something different for them.

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OKP: That’s beautiful and that’s rare I think, for people to teach their children to think that way. Do you have any advice for parents who are grooming their children to be a star because you did it in such a spectacular way?

KMW: There was no book, there was no anything. You just know people who have stars and who have raised stars, I guess will say the same thing, it is just something that you know. If you have 5 children, we want all 5 of them to be stars but we know that 2 at best–but if you can get one good one! (laughs) you know that one that has that “it” factor. Mind you, all of them are going to be special at something. You are going to pull a doctor or bartender or a chef, a great mechanic, a great telephone operator out of your bunch but then you also are going to find one who is a Grammy award-winning singer. You see it and you’ll know it and the best thing to do is to nourish it, find out if this is really what they want to do and just stand behind them. Sometimes you have to stand in front of them and pull them, but stand behind them and push them.

OKP: What does Badu-izm mean to you?

KMW: Badu-sim to me, it’s a type of religion. It is a type of way of being or thinking or behaving or living, existing. That’s baduizm.

OKP: So, now back to the song about you, where YOU are the star. What was your first reaction when you heard that “Ms Jackson” won the Grammy?

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