Nigerian-Born Pop Star Is Fearless & Focused
7:00AM ET May 23rd, 2012
Contributor : Todd Williams
A Rocky Williform Company
Nenna Yvonne is one of the most accomplished young indie artists in music today. The Nigerian-born pop star has garnered awards and acclaim for her songwriting, performed around the world and shared the stage with superstars like Drake; and her ambitions are only just being realized. Raised in New York and based in Los Angeles, Yvonne has had those ambitions for as long as she can remember. She was put in front of an audience and asked to perform as a precocious five-year-old--and she knew it was there that she belonged. "I had a music teacher that wanted to hear me sing something a capella in front of the student body," she remembers. "I was really nervous and trembling and I remember him asking me to breathe, calm down and just sing the lines on the projector. The rush and the anticipation of being in front of a crowd, it just took me by surprise how much I loved and enjoyed it. I think that was my first initial interest in being an artist."
Obviously, it wouldn't be the last time she wowed an audience. Yvonne's upbringing in New York City and Nigerian heritage both informed her approach to music as she became a teen. The multicultural environment of the Big Apple gave her a seemingly infinite palette of influences to draw from--and her parents' work ethic gave her the drive to put in the effort to get where she wanted. It was her drive that convinced her parents that their daughter's dreams of being a star weren't just the flighty musings of an overactive imagination. "Being born in a different country, it helps you see things from both perspectives," Nenna says. "[Having] those roots and traditional upbringing helped me discipline myself. It also gave me leverage in showing my parents that, even though [they] are diplomats and doctors and lawyers, that's not the only type of career choice that I could pursue as a young Nigerian girl. It really gave me the strength and determination to show them that regardless of your heritage and cultural background, anything that you feel passionate about you can find your voice in it."
Once she had her parent's attention, she had their support. "My mom helped me build my first recording studio when I was sixteen or seventeen!" Nenna shares, laughing at her youthful audacity. "I didn't know the first thing about putting together a studio, I pretty much turned my room into a recording studio--looking at different ways to collaborate with up-and-coming producers Trying to find my way in the industry by creating my own music and finding my voice."
"My dad saw some of the pressures that came with being in the music world, so I really had to find a way to balance my efforts with handling both seamlessly," she adds. "I think that's where his appreciation for me and what I was trying to do came from. I was constantly recording, constantly creating new music. I went to a performing arts high school and I would always get feedback from him and what he thought. He really started taking interest in what I was doing with my music. I definitely had both of them encouraging me."
At the ripe old age of 22, Yvonne's list of successes is significant--and growing. Her 2011 single "Go Around," helped generate Web buzz and turned her into one of indie music's most promising names. She won the USA Songwriting Competition and won the Songwriter's Hall Of Fame Abe Oleman Scholarship. Her music has been featured on "The Mentalist" and she has a strong Web presence, with 200,000 Facebook fans, 300,000 Twitter followers, 300,000 Reverbnation fans and 55,000 songplays on Soundcloud. "That was all stuff that i put in effort to make happen for my career on an indie level," she says, before adding what could best be called an understatement: "I was successful at it."
She performed her single "Kuru Kuru 360" in Tokyo, Japan--adding to that list of accomplishments. "That was a huge deal for me," shares Nenna. "As an indie artist its not every day that an indie artist can perform at the same venue that Lady Gaga performed in. It was a huge blessing for me to have that chance."
Has Nenna Yvonne had endure her fair share of naysayers and doubters? Of course. But the singer's idols include fearless entertainers like Janet Jackson, Grace Jones and Cyndi Lauper. She admires strong women in Hollywood like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry; she's not going to let a little negativity keep her from achieving what she's dreamed for her entire life.
"You'll find that with moving along and trying to progress within the music industry, a lot of people will tell you 'no' and a lot of people will stop your drive," she says. "They'll try to hinder your commitment because they haven't gotten through their situations.
"I guess the biggest lesson I've learned so far is to really stick to who you are as an artist and don't let other people's negativity steer you away from what you're trying to accomplish."
"I'm definitely driven," she continues. "I'm definitely a trend-setter. I love taking risks. I think outside-the-box a lot. I'm also the creative director for most of my photo shoots, I'm the one that arranges most of the stuff that I put out there. I'm really the creative force behind it. I'm proud of my work and I take it seriously. This is something that I was born to do. I couldn't see myself doing anything else."
Follow Nenna Yvonne on Twitter at twitter.com/nennayvonne
Check her out at nennayvonne.com