Simone Denny: The Power of No! Be the Superstar! at TEDxStMaryCSSchool (Transcript)

Simone Denny – Canadian singer
Initially, as a kid, my interests were visual art, fashion design, and music was cultural, because my parents are from the Caribbean, they’re Guyanese. And so, it was in our home, every day, every week. Varied styles of music.

I also sang in the school choir in Catholic school, in grade school, and in high school. But if you had told me all those years ago that I’d go on to win Juno Awards and MuchMusic Awards, I would have laughed. Music was not my focus, nor my passion, nor my direction. It wasn’t until my grade school put on a talent show, and I wanted to be involved. And truthfully, when I stood on that stage, I didn’t know if I had actual vocal talent. I just wanted to be on the stage and contribute to my school.

By the time I finished singing, I got a standing ovation. And by the time I walked off that stage, music had found me and changed me forever. After that, anything that I could do to be in front of a crowd, I was there.

Flash forward a few years later, I went to Humber College for music, where I met some of Toronto’s most amazing musicians, and I immersed myself in the music community. Then I started to take this recording artist thing seriously, and I said, “You know, R&B is hot. I’m going to be an R&B singer.” Unfortunately for me, every other girl in Toronto wanted to be an R&B singer as well. A little bit challenging. I was told by one producer that no, I didn’t have the right look and the right image, and that no, I’d never be on TV, and that no, I’d never sign a recording contract or have any sort of success ever.

Then, I joined a girl group, an R&B girl group, and was told that I was too powerful vocally, and that I shouldn’t consider myself a lead vocalist, and I should be content to stay in the background and be a background vocalist. No way. It wasn’t going to happen. I was so incredibly frustrated, but despite my frustration, I went on to demo music for different producers in Toronto.

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One producer referred me to a then DJ radio personality that was looking for a powerful voice to sing on one of his tracks for his album. I figured, “Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll try it.” That first session was a series of, “Scream here! Hold the note here! Growl here!” And I was like, “What? What? Where?” I had no clue. But that first session earned me my first Juno nomination in the dance music category. Thank you! You can clap! Thank you.

BKS was the group. It then disbanded, and that same DJ came to me and said, “We’re starting a new group. It’s called Love Inc. And I want you to be the female vocalist.” All I can tell you is I dove into dance music. Where it was, I was. I’d listen to it all day, every day. And the naysayers followed, “Simone, are you crazy? Dance music? Really? Why? Why are you doing this? You need to get back to R&B.”

Then, all my female vocalist friends were like, “Simone, really? Guess what Simone’s singing now?” So, I’m going to tell you this: Love Inc.’s “You’re a Superstar” went on to explode onto the Canadian dance scene. It not only was a hit in Canada, it was a hit internationally: Top 5 in the UK, across Europe, and into Australia. And as for my look and my image, our music was everywhere. Our video was everywhere. And we ended up winning the coveted MuchMusic Dance Music of The Year Award. Thank you. Thank you.

Attaining that success was everything to me. At this point, all the noes had elevated me to this success. I reached my goal through another path. Our music was everywhere: Radio, TV, video, fashion television. I was on tour across Canada, branching into the US and Europe. I was so incredibly happy in that success. I had succeeded in doing what I dreamed of. The music found me, and I found myself. I was at a place where all the obstacles, all the noes, everything, all the skills I had learned had led me to a spot where I was unique, I was free to be myself, I was the only woman of color, at that time, on the Canadian dance scene, doing music and dance music, and attaining that much success, because I took a chance, stayed strong, stayed focused, and dared to do something different. Thank you.

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