I sat down with Frenchie on a ‘double show’ day in sunny Bryant Park in NYC to talk about life, love and living the actor’s life. Davis is warm, effusive in what she loves and believes in and she is “larger than life” - as we would expect! I wanted find out her take on her path she walks this lifetime and as her ‘pearls of wisdom’ tell us …
MW: What made you decide to follow a singing career and why did you choose to go onto Broadway instead of into a studio?
FD: When I was growing up, I always knew that I loved to sing (even before I knew that I was any good, LOL) and I remember all of my favorite movies being the movie musicals like Annie and Little Shop of Horrors... by the time I was in high school I was a complete musical theatre geek, and ended up majoring in theatre when I got to college...I always felt like being onstage and having that personal interaction with your audience every night would be a far more exciting career than sitting in a stuffy recording studio, and it is!!!!
MW: Do you think that there are enough women of color on Broadway? And what role would you love to take over - not based by color - that would be your "next great step" in the theatre role chain? And whom do you admire?
FD: Of course there aren't!!!! There are very few lead roles written for black women in theatre and now they want to give THOSE roles to white women... You know, they are talking about bringing The Wiz back to Broadway, but they don't want Dorothy to be black!!! What concerns me about this, is that they aren't making these kinds of casting choices in the reverse...I mean, Elpheba in Wicked.... she’s green for God's sake!!! And they still won't let a black girl do more than understudy the role...it's really appalling... When actress Phylicia Rashad won her Tony last year, it made her the first black woman to win a Tony for a straight play... It's 2006!!! That speaks volumes on how far we've come and how far we have to go...I am concerned that the white actresses/singers who spend their whole lives trying to sound like the black ones are the ones getting the work... If color weren't an issue it would be interesting to see Hairspray with a black lead...they would have to revere all of the other roles, though...a black Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors would be sexy...and damn it!!!! And of course I wanna see a black Elpheba...in the role...not an understudy!!!!
MW: Have you seen changes in the American Idol contestants as the program grows and what did you think about Simon's apology this past season to Miss M?
FD: Sorry… I don't watch Idol... Too busy.
MW: We talked about college and finishing up your degree from Howard University that was cut short in finishing when you went on to become an American Idol contestant finalist - part 2 - What would you do with that degree different than what you have now and why do you want to finish your degree?
FD: My father once said that education has liberated more people than all of the armies in the world...I believe that to be true.... Don't get me wrong...I don't think that we live in a world where a college degree is a necessity for success anymore, however... education opens all kinds of doors and creates more options...Of course right now I’m happily working as an actress and singer and I don't need a degree to do or be that... But what about 30 years from now?
When I am not going to feel like doing 8 shows a week...I think I would like to teach young people... Maybe even get my doctorate and teach at a performing arts college or a university...who knows? As a woman...particularly as a black woman, I know that many, many people sacrificed so that I could have the opportunity to be educated and I believe that I owe it to them, the kids that I work with, and myself to finish that degree...30 more credits to go!!!
MW: What 'pearls of wisdom' did you learn from doing American Idol and are there any of these thoughts and findings - you would pass onto the readers?
FD: Wow...I learned that you just never know what journey life will take you on...and that everything happens for a reason. That you can't trust everybody, but it's ok to try to find the good in people...that you have to keep the people that love you and those that believe in you close by. That all you have to do is work hard to learn everything that you can from every experience, and always strive to be a better artist, a better you. Always be honest with yourself...try to keep it real with others and believe, believe, believe...and you can really overcome anything and BE anything...and I pass this on to my kids (I call all of the students I work with my kids:-)...because I come from a background not so different from theirs and they know that I speak from experience. I just hope that by sharing my experiences with them, it lets them know how much I care about them, their education, their future...it' s really amazing- the kinds of positive changes you see in a young person once you take an active interest in what their good at and encourage them to focus their energies on that...I have seen it...it wasn't that long ago that I was a teenager and I know that I would not be where I am today if it weren't for some of the people who played active roles in my education...and it is my hope to pass that on...so that is why I do what I do.
MW: Where did you grow up and how many siblings do you have and do you want to pro-create as students you work with? Why do you volunteer with kids, BTW?
FD: I grew up in Los Angeles, CA... In the Inglewood/South Central area...I am the oldest of 6 children...I am not ready YET, but I am really looking forward to being a mom one day...I want at least 4!!!! Maybe adopt one.
MW: What wish do you have for women in the entertainment biz in regards to owning your body and feeling good in your self-esteem in your skin? So you have a 'life changing' moment when you 'got it' for yourself?
FD: I just want everyone to be comfortable with themselves ... and know that beauty doesn't have a size. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that to be comfortable with yourself means that you don't have to take care of yourself. I have learned the importance of being healthy and I have been going to New York Sports Club for the past 2 years, and I take my power walks, and do my yoga poses because I want to live a long and active life, oh and be able to get through 8 shows/ a week without being exhausted...but what can I say? I loooove my curves and my personal life hasn't suffered because of them, LOL!
MW: Do you have favorite design tips or style that you love to rock? What are you still craving? What's your fav stores? Color?
FD: I am loooooving the new brand of Seven Jeans at Lane Bryant! Craving- Coldbusters at Jamba Juice (with Peach juice/instead of OJ, no ice Pls!). Fav Stores- Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Lauren by Ralph Lauren at Bloomies. Favorite Colors- pinks and reds!
MW: If you could TIVO forwards in your life - what do you see accomplishing by you turn 50?
FD: Who knows where I'll be at 50? Still a working actress, maybe a Tony nominee, married, teaching Musical Theatre Tech at a Performing Arts College, with children of my own away at college...tending to my garden and taking yoga in my free time... Hanging out having cocktails with my girlfriends once a week, probably taking care of my mom because she will be much older by then and she probably won't need me to but I would want her close by... And I will just be enjoying my life and all of the blessings...only God knows what they'll be.
MW: What's the best part of being in the musical RENT? The most challenging? The worst part? Do you want to do straight drama as well? Movies?
FD: The best part about being in RENT is how many people have been touched by the show, the music, the story, the message, singing "Seasons of Love”...I guess that's 5 best parts. The most challenging is the schedule. In order to be rested enough to do 8 shows a week you don't really have time for much else, so that can be a little hard. And there really is no worst part! … I am in a show I love, with people I love, and I get paid to sing every day! That is such a blessing!
MW: Any parting thoughts to your 'curvy' amazing sisters?
FD: Dream BIG!!!!!!!
Now this is a role model I love to be able to share with you! She’s a lightening life force we are lucky to have out there representing us: a fabulous curvy, talented ‘Phat’ women!! - Michele