Newark, NJ–The aura swirling the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Friday the thirteenth was anything but hexed. Poising like a New Year’s celebration from weeks prior but with a perfect blend of unity, sophistication, and divine intervention to welcome some of R&B’s most finest legends for a night of pure melodic pleasure.
Setting the tempo were seasoned dapper dons The Whispers kicking off the festivities to generations of elated fans returning the warming reception. Performing endless hits “Love Thing“, “All The Way“, “Chocolate Girl“, silky classics “Lady“, “In The Mood“, “Say Yes“, and sealing their finale to bonafide jams “Rock Steady“, “And The Beat Goes On” rocking that old school flavor concluding their first class set before the joyous audience.
Succeeding their rapturous vibe was the event’s headliner moreover the leading lady honoring the spotlight. The remarkable Ms.Stephanie Mills took center stage looking radiant as ever wearing a stunning couture piece by renown designer Sergio Hudson that matched her profound energy.
Attaining well over five decades in the industry, this blessed songstress experienced her share of life’s challenges yet prevailed with a graceful resilience unlike any other. A Brooklyn, New York native she began her love of music through gospel at her family’s local church before entering the entertainment business at the tender age of nine. Making her debut in the Broadway musical Maggie Flynn, she later won Amateur Night at the world famous Apollo Theater for six consecutive weeks.
Mills went on to become the opening act for trailblazers the Isley Brothers receiving the moniker “the little girl with the big voice”. Inking deals with Motown, Paramount Records, 20th Century Fox Records, MCA and several other over the years, her breakthrough to stardom came from her portrayal as Dorothy in the seven-time Tony Award winning Broadway musical The Wiz where “Home” flourished as her signature hit.
Fruitful as her career continued to be, the powerhouse declares the best thing to ever happen in her life was becoming a mother to her now twenty-one year old son Farad. Despite the odds against her both personally and publicly, she embarked on the journey of motherhood at age forty-five giving birth to Farad who was born with Down Syndrome.
After stepping away from the limelight to focus on parenting, Mills returned to music raising a special needs child while developing a one of a kind support system that has grown with them both as a family entity still to this very day. Our 4.0 team had the privilege of obtaining an all-access behind the scenes look at the megastar’s NJPAC performance for a preview of her humble network.
Mill’s manager Amp Harris gave us an exclusive pre-show interview of the icon’s legacy, staying power, upcoming projects, including her pride and joy.
Harris: After fifty-five years, what’s it like to be still performing with your A-game?
Mills: Its wonderful to still be performing cause I’m doing it on my own terms and I like that. I’ve always stayed in my lane, I’ve never tried to be anything other than who I am. So now at sixty-five and to still do shows and selling out shows, I’m blessed and I’m thankful that kept in my own lane and didn’t try to deviate from that. That’s important.
Harris: So when you talk about longevity, some of your upcoming projects that you have like your PBS special, Honoring Black Broadway, you starring in an upcoming Lifetime movie, what does that feel like to be in this space and still be not just wanted but adored?
Mills: Well you don’t never know how people are gonna feel about you. And for me to be invited to PBS to lead the hoorah of Blacks on Broadway was very, very touching and memorable for me and something I loved to do because I love lifting us up. And for me to be starring in a Lifetime movie, I watch Lifetime all the time is just amazing. I’m like having an out of body experience so its exciting and it proves that never give up because everybody I’m sure have counted me out so many times. And said I wouldn’t do this and I couldn’t do this and I wasn’t pretty enough, so I’m thankful cause God did it. It’s all him.
Harris: So when you talk about longevity, you surround yourself with young people whether it be singers, whether it be designers, whether it be make-up artists. What does that mean to you?
Mills: I have the best singers in the world, my babies..Jason, Ralph, Jeremy they are the best singers in the world bar none. And then I have the most fabulous designer, I’m wearing his couture Sergio Hudson, you gotta get him. And then I have the most fabulous niece that takes such good care of me, Ms. Nyoki.
Harris: So when you talk about fabulous, it don’t get no better than your pride and joy.
Mills: My pride and joy fabulous over there! Come here Fad one, mister director. He’s the assistant director on the movie. He’s wonderful, he’s my pride and joy.
Ending the interview with a gentle kiss from her beloved son who was in his purest form of comfort. Clear to the naked eye, the foundation of her unit is structured with love, serenity and genuineness amongst a higher presence. Mills naturally dominated her performance beautifully serenading her setlist of platinum, award winning hits to her legion of amorous devotees as the true epitome of unconditional love.
For information on purchasing “The Adventures of Farad J“, Farad Mill’s children’s book, please visit all major bookstores. For information on upcoming tour dates, please visit all ticket outlets. Stay tuned for airing announcements on her PBS special and Lifetime movie.