Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott has been one of the most significant female rappers on the scene since the mid- to late '90s, when she began making guest appearances on songs by 702, MC Lyte, and SWV. Since then, Missy has stayed far ahead of the competition--a credit to her wildly distinctive rap style flooded with comical onomatopoeia that glides effortlessly over pummeling tracks from Timbaland, her longtime beat partner. The duo have established themselves as a noteworthy production team, penning songs for some of the aforementioned acts as well as for Aaliyah, New Edition, Ginuwine, and Total. When Missy made her solo debut with 1997's Supa Dupa Fly, she proved her viability as not only a talented rapper, but also as a musical video icon. The Hype Williams-directed video for "The Rain," the first single from Supa Dupa Fly, perfectly captured Missy's colorful animated personality and raised the creative bar for hip-hop music videos. With the success of Supa Dupa Fly, Missy's résumé grew between 1997 and 1999 with credits for Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lil' Kim, and Spice Girl Mel B. She also executive-produced the soundtrack for the film Why Do Fools Fall In Love?, starring Halle Berry and Larenz Tate. Missy's 1999 sophomore record, Da Real World, teamed her with hip-hop's elite--Eminem, OutKast's Big Boi, Redman--for a bold new album boasting a controversial lead track, "She's A Bitch." Her third album, 2001's Miss E...So Addictive, showcased more of her illustrious R&B vocals. While her trademark rap releases "Get Ur Freak On" and "One Minute Man" won praise, she also scored a hit with the ballad "Take Away," a duet with Ginuwine. Hidden on the album was a bonus gospel song with luminaries Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Kim Burrell, Karen Clark Sheard, and Dorinda Clark Cole. Instead of waiting her usual two years to release a new album, Missy's fourth full-length effort, Under Construction, hit retailers in 2002. The album was loaded with old school hip-hop elements captured in the album artwork and song titles, including "Funky Fresh Dressed," "Bring The Pain" (featuring Method Man), "Back In The Day," and "Play That Beat."
As Missy Elliott gets ready to drop her fifth incredible album in six years, This Is Not A Test, there's no doubt that she's become one of hip hop's cultural magnets in 2003, turning up in one of the most talked about TV commercials of the year a Gap ad featuring Madonna, no less and turning it out in this year's most infamous chorus line with Christina, Britney, and, of course, Madonna.
True school hip hop fans know, however, that Missy's amazing story really begins and ends with the music. And Missy wouldn't have it any other way. Missy Elliott has courageously been willing to stake her reputation on every beat, every scorching R&B groove, on every one of her albums, This Is Not A Test included. She's been willing to up the ante time and time again for countless other cultural 'touchstone' moments where the charismatic superstar has blown our minds. You could sense her adventurousness from her very first video in 1997 for The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), which featured a fearless Missy greeting the world in a hefty bag. Hailed as a masterpiece to this day, MTV even crowned it the 15th greatest video of all time.
And then there are the stats: 17 MTV Award nominations winner of the prestigious Video Of The Year in 2003, 2 Grammy awards, 2 BET awards, and 5 Lady Of Soul/Soul Train Awards. Twice within the past five years Rolling Stone has named her Best Female Hip Hop Artist of the Year, and twice she has ranked as Billboard's #1 year-end female hip hop star. Most recently she's been awarded a 2003 American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Female. The list goes on and on and on, an unprecedented rap/R&B resume capped by the 2X platinum-and-counting 2002 release, Under Construction, which made Missy the best selling female hip hop star of all time (closing in on 12 million units worldwide) and one of the most influential writer/producer/artists in the music business. Add to this her star-studded production credits Whitney, Janet, Christina, Justin Timberlake, and Destiny's Child, among others, and her own executive moniker as CEO of Goldmind Inc., which launched gold-selling R&B star Tweet and you realize Missy Elliott is truly in a league of her own.
What makes her accomplishments truly amazing is that Missy Elliott the superstar is, at the heart of it all, still just the shy little girl from Portsmouth, VA - a survivor of a childhood of domestic violence. Particularly, her father was abusive towards her mother. Missy has not shied away from talking about those painful memories. In fact, she was named spokesperson for Break The Cycle in 2003, an organization dedicated to helping young people break the chain of domestic abuse.
For Missy, music was the escape hatch, her path to achieving the kind of dreams not even she imagined. Ironically, the approach to her fifth album, This Is Not A Test, was to set aside all prior achievements, and free herself of any pre-conceived notions as to what the album should sound like. Her goal, as always, was to make a 'home' in the only place where, as she says, all those trophies and accolades don't matter: the recording studio. I'm grateful for every award I have received. They really are like a dream. But the studio is where I feel most comfortable. I realized you can't worry about what you did last year. I said to Timbaland 'Let's just do it.' You have to get in the mind frame where you're not trying to out-do yourself. But I really felt most comfortable approaching this album. The studio is where I find my peace.
And where, of course, along with her longtime-production partner Timbaland she can wreak the most havoc. This Is Not A Test is no exception. A tightrope walking exclamation point to her first four groundbreaking albums, the disk adds some new moves to Missy's game, including a nod to the kind of '60's black activism (check out the artwork) that paved the way for most of rap's trailblazers. Missy offers up a hip hop remix to the black power movement, threading some socially conscious food-for-thought amongst the album's 14 songs. On the primal anthem Wake Up, for example, featuring Jay-Z, you're witnessing an empowered Missy doing the talking here, floating her message to the masses with her usual flair for deft beats and an incomparable knack for subverting the hip hop grind.
Hip hop better wake up, she spits over the sparest of drum cadences. I got the Martin Luther King fever, she continues, outing hip hop's over-ripe code of material one-upmanship: If you don't got a gun it's all right/If you make legal money it's all right/If your wheels don't spin if you got to wear them same jeans again/ It's all right/MC's stop the beef let's sell. Missy says she just might also be indicting herself on the song. There's so many different messages in that song. I believe that for black people it was so hard for us to have for so long myself included that when we finally got it we OD'd on it. It was like 'get me that car, get me that chain get me a chain that can cover the whole stage. Oh, you want a car with rims give me rims that spin even when I'm sleeping.' What we forget is that when we leave here we can't take any of that with us. I'm not trying to be Reverend Elliott or something, but I do believe when you reach a certain status in this business, you got to be positive. You have to remember you are a role model.
Missy also keeps it heartfelt on the album's intro, vibing with Mary J Blige on Baby Girl Interlude. That one is so crazy. I actually did it on 9-11. I felt like I was coming out of my character. When I listen to it I think 'that doesn't even sound like me.' 'My eyes have watered like a preacher who's sinned' declares Missy. I didn't stop to think what I was saying. I just wrote. Some pain there. I speak about how people put entertainers on a pedestal but sometimes they can't wait to knock us down. Missy also invokes her legendary toughness: 'Like a brick wall I'm too hard to break,' adding: 'I'm the realest from the fake.' I got some issues with those have copied the formula. Hip hop took from people who rapped about what they saw in the hood. But then there were artists who just came along and masked that. They found out what the formula was and just went with it. It became a game where artists just learned the formula. So now everybody's trying to find out who is real and who's fake. Right now it's all kind of blurry. But the real street cats out there know game when they see it.
Make no mistake - Missy can still bring the game that brought her to such a pinnacle. Her trademark ciphering an instinctual ability to build characters out of the strangest sounds and atmospherics is in full display on the album. Whether it's the wigged out Pass That Dutch complete with a Bootsy Collins reference and a hyper-surreal timeout, or the staccato roll of Keep It Movin, featuring Jamaican legend Elephant Man, Missy doesn't forget the kind of loose-hinged interplay that made her hip hop's most ingenious sonic maestro. I said to myself 'Pass The Dutch' is my hip hop Riverdance. And the Bootsy-voice, well, everybody knows Bootsy and what he meant to our music. As far as Elephant Man goes, well, you can feel what that track was all about. He has a great presence, a great energy.
It's also no secret that Missy has paid a considerable amount of homage in her career to the 'old school' hip hop that she feels has sometimes been neglected by the younger generation. The new disk also lovingly reflects some past nuggets, particularly on the combustible track Let It Bump. It kind of started with that beat from back in the day. She laughs. Let It Bump captures a real simple way to rhyme. Almost like those little balls that would bounce along the songs when you watched cartoons as a kid. It's just that old school feel. Even when I think I get it out of my system I can't stay away. If you got in my car right now there'd probably be some Big Daddy Kane going. Maybe some Salt n' Pepa. I love it.
A soonto-be Missy R&B standard, Dats What I'm Talkin' About, featuring R. Kelly brings Missy back to the future with both stars contributing the CD's sultriest vocal performances. Missy also lays out a crunching duet with label mate Fabolous. That was fun to do. Just some old school R&B. We're not trying to set any new kind of standard. We're just doing music we hope people will love. You can clean your house to that, maybe make a baby.
Missy closes the album with the gospel tinged I'm Not Perfect featuring the Clark sisters, ending the 14 song opus on a humbling but uplifting coda. Every album I try to do something gospel oriented. I was honored to be in the same room with the Clark Sisters. And the great thing about them is they always bring something to the table.
One of the main reasons Missy has remained compelling all these years is that she's brave enough to keep her audience guessing. A process that begins with an unspoken pact between her and Timbaland to not worry too much about what each of them is bringing to the table. Another reason I called the album 'This Is Not A Test' is because I'm saying 'don't be alarmed' but this record is as real as you can get for a Missy album. Some new treats Timbaland and me pulled out of the hat. We love making music. We realize how fortunate we are to be doing this. We always want to hear something fresh.
Missy Elliott was born on July 1, 1971in Portsmouth, Virginia. Her Sign is Cancer. Her Awards are Three Grammy Awards. Her Cause: Break the Cycle
In Her Words: "The first thing I can remember [as a child] is my father stomping my mother in the face with a combat boot."
In a royal faceoff, Denmark's queen makes hip-hop's Missy Elliott pull back
Clothing maker adidas-Salomon AG has withdrawn its Missy Elliott street wear collection from Danish stores after the royal court claimed the logo infringed on the copyright of the country's queen.
"We were kindly asked by the royal court to remove the clothes because they felt the logo looked like Queen Margrethe's" said spokeswoman Margaret Sap from the company's headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
"We removed it immediately because we didn't mean any harm and any similarities are purely a coincidence," she added.
The shoes, bags and shirts in the collection carry a logo that consist of a crown on top of the words Respect and Missy Elliott's initials 'M.E.' Queen Margrethe II's logo consists of a crown on top of the letters 'M-2-R,' with the 'R' standing for the Latin word for queen, Regina.
"It came as a surprise to us, the logo merely had the crown to signal that Missy Elliott is the queen of hip-hop," Sap said of the three-time Grammy Award winner.
Missy Elliott is one of the world's leading hip-hop producers and rappers.
The royal palace confirmed that the Royal Keeper of Public Records, which is in charge of protecting the royals' trademarks and logos, had filed the complaint to adidas but had no further comment.
The collection was launched in September last year in the U.S. and in Asia and Europe, including Denmark, two months later.
The clothes were sold from three Copenhagen stores before being taken off the shelves two weeks ago.
Even though copyright laws are global, adidas doesn't plan to remove the collection from shelves outside Denmark.
"It's really a Danish topic, we don't think it will offend anyone anywhere else," Sap said.
Adidas will meet with Missy Elliott in a few weeks to discuss the sales performance of the collection and tell her about the complaint, Sap said.
Missy Elliott has long road to success
Born Melissa Elliott, 1 July 1971, Portsmouth, Virginia, USA. Hip-hop/R&B songwriter Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott has become one of the most esteemed figures in contemporary American music, providing material for artists including MC Lyte, Adina Howard, Jodeci, Aaliyah and Busta Rhymes, as well as working as an arranger, producer, talent scout and record boss.
Elliott first performed as part of a neighbourhood singing group, Sista, who were signed up by DeVante from Jodeci in 1992. Elliott was already writing with her long-time collaborator, Tim Mosley aka Timbaland, and with Sista's career terminally stalled (DeVante would not release any of their recordings) she concentrated on songwriting and production.
Her distinctive "hee haw" rap on Gina Thompson's "The Things You Do" brought her wider exposure, and several offers from record companies. Fiercely independent and ambitious, Elliott signed to Elektra Records as a solo artist on the understanding that they would subsidise her own label, Gold Mind Records. In 1997, she launched her solo career with the album Supa Dupa Fly and attendant single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)". The well-connected Elliott was provided with immediate exposure for the song via rotation play of its Hype Williams-directed video on MTV. Co-produced with long-time collaborator Timbaland and producer DJ Magic, the album received excellent reviews, though Elliott was reluctant to commit herself fully to a career as a performer: "I don't want to get caught up and be an artist always on the go, because once you do that, it's hard to get into the studio and do what I do.
" The album also featured cameo appearances from Aaliyah and Busta Rhymes.
Despite her growing reputation and success, Elliott remained based in her hometown in Virginia. In September 1998, she collaborated with Mel B from the Spice Girls on the one-off single, "I Want You Back', which debuted at number 1 in the UK chart. Further writing and remixing work for Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson followed, although Elliott found time in her busy schedule to release her sophomore set, Da Real World, in July 1999. Incredibly, Elliott and Timbaland managed to surpass their first two albums with 2001"s Miss E ... So Addictive, a stunning compendium of contemporary dance beats, urban ballads and left-field samples that was instantly hailed as one of the finest albums of the new millennium.
.. So Addictive, a stunning compendium of contemporary dance beats, urban ballads and left-field samples that was instantly hailed as one of the finest albums of the new millennium. The following year the drastically slimmed-down Elliott broke into the US Top 5 with "Work It", the lead-off single from Under Construction.
Missy Elliott: One on One
Q: Tell us all about the new single 'Work It'...
Missy: Basically it's just Timbaland and Missy giving you some old school flavour. Work it is whatever you want it to be. Whether it's working it in the gym or working it at work, working in the bedroom, whatever. Whatever you want to do.
Q: OK, What's the story behind the new album 'Under Construction'?
Missy: It's me saying I'm a work in progress. That I'm working on myself mentally, physically, lyrically and musically. After Aaliyah passed and after September 11th I just felt that there was too much focus on negativity and not enough focus on life. Everything should be more positive. I love my family and felt the need to take more time with them. Cos life is short. Aaliyah wasn't murdered and she wasn't sick, but she's gone. Same thing with Lisa [Lopes]. They showed us that we don't have long and we're not owed a long life.
Q: Have those experiences spurred you to work harder?
Missy: Definitely. I feel like, in case my time be up, I'll have felt like I served a purpose, and that my work wasn't in vain. I hope people could look on me and think I made some kind of contribution to music.
Q: TLC worked on the new album, that must have been an emotional time...
Missy: It was very emotional. They called me to comfort me when Aaliyah passed, they called and said, "If you need anything, we're here and you and Timbaland are in our prayers." It felt like hours later that I was making the same phone call to them. When they did the record they were the first ones to spring to mind, because they were feeling the same pain that I felt when Aaliyah passed. It was very emotional. I cried the whole time I wrote it. Chilli took it very bad. It was a special record.
Q: Aren't you producing Aaliyah's final album?
Missy: Yeah. Actually her cousin and uncle have the project and have a lot of artists working on it. Aaliyah always had incredible work when she was alive, and people want to make this last album so people can appreciate her even though she's not here. There's some incredible songs in there, and I think a lot of people will be surprised.
Q: That must have been very difficult?
Missy: It actually gets harder for me as time goes on because I think I was in shock at the time and I kept thinking she is gonna come back or that this was a dream, and expecting her voice to be on my answerphone. Now a year is passed the days get harder because I realise I ain't never gonna see her again. It's a hard thing to deal with seeing her videos or hearing her on the radio. It chokes me but I know she's in better hands.
Q: How did you react to the death of Jam Master Jay?
Missy: When I heard about Jay I felt the same thing I felt when Aaliyah passed. I've met him and just felt like we had another fallen soldier in hip hop and another fallen soldier of the music industry. We go on asking "Why" but I think things like this happen as a wake up call for the way we live our lives. We want the cars, we want the money and the jewellery and we think that's the way that life is supposed to go. And then things like this happen it makes you sit and think that none of that is relevant and you can't take any of it with you. I believe that God takes important people sometimes to catch our attention.
Q: You recently did an ad about online piracy, do you feel that strongly about it?
Missy: Yeah. As an artist I don't just give you anything. I give my best work. No one wants to work hard for hours for someone to disrespectfully take you music. Whether it's bootlegged or downloaded off the internet. Anyone who does that is weak, they're wack for that. Hopefully one day we'll find a way to overcome that. Feels like each day we learn something new and so we will hopefully shut this down.
Q: You must have a huge music collection, any records that would surprise people?
Missy: I like Faith Hill, and that girl with the song 'Complicated'. I think she's hot. And any old Michael Jackson album.
Q: Thay're pretty credible records, any embarrassing ones?
Missy: I can't tell you that [laughs]. Erm… I didn't hide the Spice Girls record but it's the song where they're in the rain, it's a rain joint.
Q: 2 Become 1?
Missy: Yes! That's it [laughs]! I didn't hide it though... it's just there. Shoot I think a lot of people bought that record [laughs].
Missy Elliott Launches Contest For Students
To coincide with the Jan. 5 premiere of The Road To Stardom With Missy Elliott, UPN and Break The Cycle's national spokesperson and Grammy Award-winning artist Missy Elliott will launch the "Break the Cycle Challenge," an anti-domestic violence public service announcement (PSA) contest for Junior High or High School students to end dating and domestic violence.
Open to individuals or groups of students (total of 3) between the ages of 13-19 years old, the contest asks young amateur filmmakers to produce an original and powerful 15-second commercial spot on video that tells other teens how to break the cycle of emotional, verbal and physical abuse.
All entries will be judged and scored. The entries with the five highest scores will become the finalists, each winning a trip for up to 6 people to Hollywood to attend The Road To Stardom concert finale. Then, from the five finalists, Missy will choose the grand prize winner, whose PSA will air nationwide on UPN during the series finale.
All submissions must be received by Monday, January 31. For official rules, contest applications and additional information, please go to www.upn.com.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1996, Break the Cycle is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage, educate and empower youth to build lives and communities free from dating and domestic violence. For information about dating violence and Break the Cycle, visit www.breakthecycle.org.
On UPN'S The Road To Stardom with Missy Elliott, thirteen aspiring vocal performers travel coast-to-coast with Missy Elliott, living together on the road in an austere tour bus and competing against each other for a record contract, a released single and $100,000. Missy leads the panel of music industry judges, including R&B artist Teena Marie, Dallas Austin, and president of Violator Management Mona Scott.
The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott airs Wednesday (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on UPN.
Five Things You Must Know About Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott participated in Lifetime's Times Square Project, a campaign dedicated to stopping violence against women.
In 1998, she became the first rap artist to sign on for the all-female Lilith Fair music tour.
Elliott co-produced the award-winning remake of "Lady Marmalade" that was performed by Pink, Mya, Lil' Kim and Christina Aguilera.
Along with model Iman, she created and sold her own lipstick, donating more than $1 million in proceeds to Break the Cycle.
Elliott recently appeared in the 2003 hip-hop movie "Honey," as well as in a Gap ad with Madonna.
Missy Elliott : Song of Strength
Music would heal her childhood wounds and make her a megastar.
You look at TV and you're like, 'OK, I don't see no big women on this TV, where are the big girls at?'" — Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on July 1, 1971. Her childhood was traumatic: Her father violently abused her mother, and for several years, Elliott was sexually molested by a cousin. She found comfort in writing and singing music. Thankfully, when she was 13, she and her mother left her father. Though they barely scraped by financially, Elliott continued to find joy in creating music, even winning numerous local talent contents.
As a young adult, Elliott formed the girl band Sista and landed an Elektra Records deal. When the group's album was permanently shelved, the determined artist gained her big breaks elsewhere, with work on Aaliyah's "One in a Million" and Gina Thompson's "This Thing You Do." She soon launched her own label, Gold Mind, and went on to write, produce and perform on her breakthrough 1997 album "Supa Dupa Fly" and in the accompanying groundbreaking videos. Just a few years later she earned a Grammy Award for the song "Get Ur Freak On" and was collaborating with the likes of Madonna and Beyoncé.
Unfortunately, her success was marred by the death of close friend Aaliyah in a plane crash in 2001. Elliott received more bad news that same year: Her high blood pressure was putting her life in grave danger. She immediately focused on improving her health, and through exercise and diet she lost 71 pounds.
These days, the now-svelte hip-hop queen is basking in the glory of two chart-busting follow-up albums, five 2003 Grammy nominations and a 2004 Grammy win for Best Female Rap Solo Performance for the hit "Work It." She recently took on another important role: spokesperson for Break the Cycle, an organization committed to stopping domestic violence. "I want to be part of something I'm familiar with and feel like I'm helping somebody go through a situation I've been through," she says.
Missy Elliott Reality Misdemeanor
Does television need another talent show? Probably not, but it's getting a new one tonight, courtesy of UPN's "The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott" (8 p.m., Ch. 9).
The R&B performer plays Simon Cowell and Donald Trump rolled into one -- a combination talent judge and mentor, critiquing the style and chops of her 13 handpicked musical competitors and teaching them hard lessons about what it takes to make it. And yes, the series is as full of hot air as it sounds.
The performers were selected during a nationwide talent search, but the pool of finalists suggests there either wasn't much talent to be found, or else youth culture is so brazenly imitative that most of the talent is buried under cliché -- where, one hopes, it can be excavated with a bit of elbow grease from Elliott and her friends and advisers. The singers all do vocal runs and sing through their noses to hide pitch problems, and most of the rappers sound phony-tough and have severe rhythm deficiencies -- problems that also plague many "American Idol" contestants. It's as depressing to see as it is to hear.
Two of the performers -- Deltrice from San Francisco and Jessica from Chicago -- seem the most authentically interesting of the bunch. Based on brief interview snippets, they seem to have something else going on creatively besides a need to be noticed.
But is this the right venue to tease out their talent? So much of "The Road to Stardom" feels contrived in that standard reality show way, from the opening VIP party to the scene where the group gets a look at its "tour bus," a graffiti-scarred behemoth.
Elliott's status as a working professional lends the show a certain difference -- and helps bring in power hitters like rapper Busta Rhymes, R&B icon Teena Marie, and Elliott's tough-tender manager, Mona Scott. But it's not enough to make the show seem like anything more than a hip-hop/R&B focused riff on "American Idol" -- which is sort of redundant, when you think about it.
Missy Elliott's Reality Show Set To Premiere January 5, 2005
Viewers of Missy Elliott's new UPN reality series The Road to Stardom, premiering Wednesday (Jan. 5), will catch a strong dose of real tour life as music hopefuls compete for money and recognition on the quest for the next big sensation, said the show's road manager Steve Lobel.
"Everybody just watches TV and sees these artists in videos and they think it's just about that," Lobel told AllHipHop.com. "They forget about the people behind the scenes, all the managers, the road managers and the tour managers who keep everything going day to day."
The Road to Stardom spotlights the gritty realities of touring as thirteen aspiring rappers and singers travel on a dingy tour bus and contend for $100,000 and a recording contract.
The group is introduced to music industry executives and insiders as the cameras roll, and presented with various challenges under Missy's supervision.
Lobel, the manager of all members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony excluding Bizzy Bone, can be seen in promos for the reality show badgering the promising hip-hop prospects.
"In the beginning, the first couple of episodes and the first couple of days I met these kids, I needed to get these kid's respect," Lobel said of his tutelage. "Otherwise they would think I'm just some joke or some actor."
Lobel added that severe training is a necessary step for these new performers hoping to hit it big.
"They haven't sold a record yet. You gotta let them know it's not just about their talent. They gotta be in shape," Lobel said. "They have to know how to wake up on time. They have to be healthy, eat right. The road is not easy."
The battle-tested Lobel has been in the music industry for 20 years and said he has no gripes about his portrayal on the show.
"God has given me the opportunity now to show the world on primetime TV, what a road manager does on the road with an artist," said Lobel, who's worked with Run-DMC, Fat Joe, Eazy E, Big Pun, and The Outlawz among others. "I'm not acting. I'm not changing it up. As you see in the commercial, people who know me [know] that's how I am on the road."
Missy serves as co-executive producer of the series and judges the budding talent along with R&B singer Teena Marie, producer Dallas Austin and Violator Management President Mona Scott.
The panel eliminates one contestant each episode until one remains. Missy will sign the winner to her record label and release his/her first single.
Missy Elliott: reality show not rip-off of 'American Idol'
Missy Elliott's road to stardom was filled with bumps and detours.
There was a home that had hard feelings and great music. There was a production company that insisted she avoid radio airplay.
"It was like someone was trying to keep me in prison," she said.
But despite the potholes, the bumpy toad to stardom worked well for the Grammy-nominated and in-demand hit maker.
Now she might help give someone a smoother route.
"The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott" is a reality show in which 13 aspiring entertainers travel nationwide and live together on a tour bus while competing against each other for $100,000 and a recording contract. The show premieres Wednesday on UPN, rerunning on Friday. Judges include Elliott, singer Teena Marie, music producer Dallas Austin and Mona Scott, the show's co-creator and executive producer. At first, it might seem like an "American Idol" retread.
"It's more than that, because you get a chance to see what it takes to be an artist," said Elliott, 33.
The show held auditions for hip-hop or rock musicians. That part is "Idol"-esque, but the rest isn't.
"It was really about combining a talent search with great story telling," said producer Allison Grodner, who has produced most of the "Big Brother" seasons. "We took these kids on the road and we put them through a lot of mental, physical and performance challenges."
Her show has people with more grit in their music -- and sometimes in their lives. One contestant spoke openly about her own family's pain.
"Her mother was a crack head," Elliott said. "That's major, especially to an urban crowd ... her bringing that out was special to me, because I was someone who had to deal with my father being abusive to my mother. When I brought that out, I felt great."
Elliott said she had to tackle the then-male field of hip-hop. She said she spent years with a production company that ruled harshly, ordering her to avoid the radio and pop culture.
"I learned a lot, in a sick, twisted way ... you start to mimic other people's styles. And for me, because I didn't know what was hot, I had to create my own thing."
It was a successful thing, taking her to the top. She has won an American Music Award, two Grammys, three BET Awards and five Lady of Soul awards. Now her show nudges people on their own road to stardom.
Elliott Sends Wannabes down 'Road to Stardom'
If a prominent personality wants to share his or her success, landing a reality show is one way to do it.
Donald Trump, Tyra Banks and Richard Branson have, and Missy Elliott is joining their ranks. The Grammy Award-winning performer of hip-hop hits such as "Get Ur Freak On" and "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" gives 13 aspiring performers the chance for their big break on the unscripted UPN series "The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott," premiering Wednesday, Jan. 5.
With cameras and microphones trained on them always, the hopefuls literally go on the road, traveling together in a tour bus and facing challenges designed to reveal how they deal with various aspects of the music business. Elliott and the other judges -- singer Teena Marie, producer Dallas Austin and manager Mona Scott -- determine who stays, eliminating one contender per week and giving the eventual winner $100,000 and a deal with Elliott's record label. Madonna and Busta Rhymes make guest appearances along the way.
Elliott, who is producing the series in association with Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner ("Big Brother"), says she's recalling her career roots while helping others jump-start their own dreams.
Zap2it: Having filmed the complete series after your concert tour with Beyonce and Alicia Keys, how did you find the process?
Elliott: This was a whole different ball game, coming off the road and then going to TV and having cameras on you constantly. I'm used to cameras, but not to that degree. I had just come off tour, so I was very tired, but it was a lot of fun. It was cool.
Zap2it: Since it's about the search for a new music star, how does your show compare to "American Idol"?
Elliott: I'm a watcher of "American Idol," and I was very happy that Fantasia won, but this is a whole different type of show. Reality is reality at the end of the day, but this is more than that, because you get a chance to see what it takes to be an artist ... not just someone getting onstage and performing.
You get a chance to see the hard work behind it and to see if they are capable. Just because you can sing, you might not have that characteristic to be a superstar. Every singer can't keep a crowd's attention, so you have to have drive, you have to have personality, all of that.
Zap2it: How much time did you spend with the contestants?
Elliott: Oh, man, a lot of time. I didn't get a chance to be there for the wake-up and bedtime calls, but I was there a lot, and I did learn a lot from them. That's what I think is great about this show, because you're not just seeing people get up there and sing or rap. These are regular people, just like anybody else, and that's what I want people to see. When you see Missy Elliott, don't look at me as the superstar on TV. Look at me as a human being. I cry. I laugh. I like to go to amusement parks. I use the bathroom, just like each and every one of you do.
Zap2it: What was your own career start like?
Elliott: I worked with a group of people who didn't allow us to do anything. I didn't have money to go out and get the great deodorant I can go get now, or the food I can eat now, and we didn't have cars to be able to take us around town. Plenty of times, we walked to the studio in the snow. We had somebody who would rip our self-esteem down. When I look at these kids, they had it hard, but it could get harder than what you are going to see.
Zap2it: Did you ultimately find your earlier hardships beneficial?
Elliott: The funny thing is that I learned a lot in a sick, twisted way. Back then, I didn't think any of it made sense. It was just like somebody was trying to control me, and my life was in their hands. There were times where we couldn't listen to the radio and we couldn't watch TV, but it worked for me because it made me create my own style. If I had a crystal ball back then to see I was going to end up here, of course I wouldn't have thought it was crazy. I would have thought it was a great idea.
Zap2it: Could you talk about your involvement in Break the Cycle, an initiative to help young people stop domestic abuse?
Elliott: I had the situation where my father abused my mother. I feel you get artists who contribute to different organizations, but they really don't have any knowledge about them. Some people may do it for tax [purposes] or to just say that they're a part of something, but I felt like I needed to be a part of an organization where I could help because I had been through the situation and I could relate to it.
Zap2it: What do you think about the reach and acceptance of hip-hop music today?
Elliott: Hip-hop is mainstream now, so there's a lot of different cultures. I was in Japan, and if I had to compare, I think it could be as huge in Japan as over here. I was in New Zealand, and to see that culture and hip-hop ... that's the great thing about this show. It's not just one nationality that you're getting. You're getting all different types.
Missy Elliott helps ''Stop Violence Against Women''
Last spring, Lifetime Television ran a special documentary called "Together: Stop Violence Against Women." The program profiled survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and ended with the phone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. That night, calls to the hotline went up 900%.
Today, philanthropy involves a lot more than writing a check. It also includes dedicating resources -- such as valuable airtime -- to public service and making a long-term commitment to an issue. Like Lifetime president and CEO Carole Black, who substantially increased the public-affairs budget at the network when she arrived five years ago, a growing number of women in the entertainment industry are reassessing their power to give back and effect change based on the positions that they hold. Many are finding that the natural resources that exist within Hollywood -- talent and celebrity, professional contacts, the power of storytelling, the reach of the media, even screening rooms and backlot space -- are all things that can be leveraged to make a positive difference in the local community and in the world.
One is the passage of the Justice for All Act of 2004, which aims to clear the backlog of 250,000 DNA rape kits that lie unprocessed in the nation's police departments. Lifetime vigorously championed the bill and brought to Congress the story of rape survivor Debbie Smith, who waited six years before the evidence from her case was processed. Another victory has been Lifetime's work to stop the practice of "drive-through mastectomies," where women are sent home from the hospital just hours after surgery because of HMO restrictions. The network gathered more than 10 million signatures on its Web-site petition and pressured Congress to address the issue. As of press time, the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act is scheduled to pass this year.
"The network is deeply committed to this work," Wagner says. "And its impact has been a great testimony to (Black's) leadership and passion."
Black's brand of leadership involves seeing oneself as not just an executive but also as an agent for change. Two other women who have taken that view are CAA Foundation executive director Michelle Kydd Lee and program director Michelynn Woodard. Together with the backing of CAA president Richard Lovett and company executives, they have built a thriving program at the agency, providing financial and volunteer support to local schools, as well as creating an atmosphere of community involvement among the staff. Yet, their contribution to industry philanthropy goes far beyond that.
As staff members at a top agency, they have the interests and the ear of CAA agents, clients and much of Hollywood. As members of the nonprofit sector, Lee and Woodard are acutely aware of many of the social needs that exist locally, nationally and internationally. This unique position has allowed them to bring the two worlds together in creative ways and to integrate artists more deeply into the philanthropic process. They are midwives of sorts, helping conceive of, strategize and manifest long-term relationships that ultimately raise awareness and funds for important causes.
"They are able to bring together people from Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and from the political side to sit around the same table," says Torie Osborn, executive director of the Liberty Hill Foundation, which funds grass-roots organizations working for social change. "There are not a lot of players in philanthropy who have the vision or the clout to do that."
Whether the issue is foster care, education, hunger or domestic violence, they work to identify an artist's own passion and then help find ways to make a lasting impact.
One of Woodard's recent efforts included brokering the relationship between Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, a CAA client, and Break the Cycle, a group that works with youth on ending domestic violence. Elliott donated proceeds from her concert tour to the nonprofit, which also had a booth at every stop on the tour. As a result, 25,000 kids signed up to learn more about its services.
"That's more people than we usually reach in one year, and we reached them in six weeks," Break the Cycle executive director Jessica Aronoff says, adding that Elliott's contribution has been a tremendous asset for the organization, and Woodard provided the essential link between the two.
This year, Lee worked with CAA client Natalie Portman, who was passionate about fighting poverty. Lee then connected her with FINCA, a microlending institution in Washington that provides $100 loans to women in developing countries to help them start small businesses. Portman has now traveled to Guatemala and Uganda as an ambassador of hope for the organization to raise public awareness about its programs.
"Our clients are truly citizens of the world because they have such a global presence," says Lee, who hails from the nonprofit sector, having worked for United Way and in Bosnia with refugees before assuming her post at CAA. "Their involvement can spotlight important initiatives and issues on a worldwide platform."
What joins all of these women is a willingness to immerse themselves in an issue and discover how they can leverage their resources to make a true impact. The key to doing this effectively, say those in the nonprofit world, is listening to the people doing the work on the ground.
"The people who are closest to the problem usually know the answers to solving it; they just don't have the money to do it," Osborn says. "Being effective in philanthropy takes a humility on the part of the donors to listen to the grantee; it's a partnership approach instead of a paternalistic approach."