Danity Kane are back and blazing with their ‘Universe Is Undefeated Tour.’
But this reunion packs much more significance than a quick trip down nostalgia avenue. It’s seen the ladies reflect on their journey in the frankest of ways – in a bid, perhaps, to genuinely repair old wounds and also to establish fertile ground for future ventures.
In a candid new interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, remaining members Dawn Richard, Aubrey O’Day, and Shannon Bex open all the way up about their collective and individual experiences in showbiz.
Refreshingly, they zero in on the corners of their story that many don’t know and lift the lid on the behind the scenes sexism, colorism, and outright racism they say is rife. They also don’t hold back when talking about former boss Diddy.
This incarnation of DK aren’t just independent label-ly speaking, they are independent in thought. And they make no apologies for sharing their truth in this must-read interview.
Check out excerpts below…
Dawn Richard: I always thought that we were always put in situations where men in the industry were always belittling us and pitting us against each other. That was a lot of the reason why we would fight. We would fight for our own validity.
O’Day: It wasn’t with each other.
Richard: This time around, I hit Aubrey up and was like, “You want to do a tour? You do your stuff, we do our stuff. No middle people. We control it and see how we feel about it.” That’s when she went to Shannon like, “OK, it’ll be small at first.” I thought that what they were doing was great; I thought what I was doing was great and I was like, “What do you think about doing it together?”
O’Day: We’re our agents, manager, costume designer, set designer, music director, editor, band, photoshoot editor, sometimes photographer as well.
Interviewer: In prepping for this interview, I re-watched the episode of Making the Band 4 in which Diddy fires Aubrey and D. Woods from the group, and it just struck me how anti-feminist it was. I mean, he used words like “promiscuous” to explain his reasoning…
Richard: It wasn’t about her being “promiscuous.” It was about the power to prove, I own your career.
O’Day: And I’m not promiscuous. I didn’t lose my virginity until my senior year of college.
Richard: It wasn’t even about that. It gave him an excuse. It was to let you know, This is my show, this is my shit, and I want to prove to you that it’s my shit and I’m going to show you how much power I have over you by saying I’m going to control your lives. It’s so much bigger than that even though, you’re right, it was extremely sexist.
It was really uncomfortable to watch.
Shannon Bex: Whenever you had conversations with him, it was almost like you were asking, “Is this OK?” And Aubrey didn’t like to bring the apprehension, so she was like, No! This is what it is. He didn’t like that.
Richard: It gets even deeper that—I remember having discussions with D. and when we would talk, we would always say, it had to be Aubrey because we would say shit and the first thing that they would tell us is, if you’re a black women, we’re going to paint you as the angry black women.
O’Day: If something needed to change, we’d all get together first and they’d be like, “Aubrey, go do it.” Because as a white women with big tits, everybody laughed it off. Whereas, I was always brushed off in regards to my talent and when it came to that, my other girls had to go out and be like, “She can sing this part.”
Richard: We were constantly fighting for each other, but we were young, we had no idea how to grab the power of our unity.
O’Day: And we wanted to be here and when you want to be in the industry…
Richard: You try to play the game.
O’Day: And Puff plays one of the dirtiest games there is around and that’s what we were exposed to at 17 years old.
They then went on to expound on their experiences on reality TV and within Dirty Money; experiences that made them see that something has to change.
Interviewer: There’s also been a cultural shift, I think. Back then, there wasn’t talk within pop culture about what the patriarchy is and women wanting all the power that they deserve.
Richard: You had to look a certain way. Whatever your image was, that’s what you had to be for the rest of your life. Women change daily. You’re telling us we can’t evolve?
O’Day: When I was doing Celebrity Apprentice, I was doing all these old fashioned looks. I have this amazing hairstylist and he would do all of these classic looks on me in the boardroom and I remember maybe the fourth or fifth episode, two producers came over to me and said, “Aubrey, you’re the youngest one we’ve had here. You’re running circles around everyone. Nobody thought you’d do this well, but Trump thinks you’re ugly.”
O’Day: “He’s wanting to get rid of you. He wants to keep the dumb Miss Universe around because she’s really pretty and she’s hot and he thinks that we’ll do better. She gets more ratings.” They said, “You are beautiful though and we know that but they don’t understand your looks. We’re trying to help you. Part your hair down the middle, wear it straight, and wear a tight dress that pushes up your tits.”
Richard: That’s what they’re told, and it’s insane because you get it from every gambit. Jimmy Iovine told Kalenna [member of Dirty Money with Richard; the duo performed with Diddy as Diddy-Dirty Money] and I are to our face, he looked at [Diddy] and said, “Why don’t you have two light skinned girls?” In front of a boardroom of fifty people.
Bex: They treat you like you’re just something, not someone.
Richard: He said, “These girls are too ugly. I don’t get it. What are you trying to do with this?” I remember feeling exactly how Aubrey felt. You know you’re more than this and you’re sitting there and you’re being told as a grown woman you’re ugly.
Bex: Not even told to you, but told in front of you to other people talking about you.
Richard: And the worst part was my boss then said when we left, “I need y’all to go put on a mini-skirt and we’re gonna straighten your hair” and they brought us back in the room. And he still didn’t get it. No one fought for us, ever. We’ve only had to fight for ourselves. There was no one who was willing to say, “We have your back.”
O’Day: Our first manager Johnny Wright who was with us for a long time, one time he took me to dinner and was like, “You need to hold this group together.” And I was like, “We’re not getting along, it’s not working.” And he said, “I want to tell you something and this is the realest thing you’re ever going to hear.” He said, “The managers, the agents, the lawyers, the booking, the CPAs, we’re all going to be here in 10-15 years. You guys have got a short lifespan and we can replace you or you will be replaced quickly and we’ll have another girl group and another girl group and another girl group. You guys are the only ones that are temporary. We’re the ones that are always here.”
Richard: And it’s not all men, but it’s just what we’ve experienced.
When quizzed on whether any of the men mentioned had reached out to them, they offered the following:
O’Day: Next question! The silence is telling you.
Richard: And it speaks volumes because it means you never cared. You never were for us. You were never truly supportive.
O’Day: Imagine had Diddy just encouraged us to be our greatest selves at that time. Look at after all of that, we’re back together and we just did an incredible show that featured all of us in our greatness. Imagine had he made us believe in it at that age, what we could be right now.
It’s oh so rare to see this level of candidness. Literally, it oozes off the screen.
More than anything, it’s warming to observe so much growth from each of the ladies. They seem to have contextualised their issues, dug deep to address them, and are sharing in a rivetting way.
With a renewed foundation, they have the healthiest footing to spring forth with new music? We sure hope so!