I’ve been a fan of Karyn White from the moment I saw her illuminating our screens in the late 80s with her enviable natural spiral curls, powerhouse vocal chops and gorgeously pretty features. Along with Whitney, Janet and Jody, Karyn was one of few black beauties on screen who emanated beauty, confidence and talent in abundance, which was a refreshing presence for my early adolescent self. Karyn scored a hit with her debut single The Way You Love Me before landing a global smash with the iconic women’s anthem Superwoman. The world seemingly appeared to be her oyster and although Karyn had other hit singles thereafter like Secret Rendezvous and Romantic, she didn’t quite become the global singing sensation that I’d imagined. In fact, Karyn appeared to swap the spotlight for domesticity, with a marriage to super producer Terry Lewis followed by a baby to boot. Then she all but disappeared off the scene. Every so often I’d wonder what happened to Karyn. Luckily with the advent of the internet and social media we’re afforded the opportunity to track down our favourite stars of yesteryear, and a quick Google search let me know that Ms White is doing just fine.
When she left the music business she reinvented herself and had a successful career in real estate for many years. Two years ago she released an album called Carpe Diem (Seize The Day) which marked her re-entry into the music industry. A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to interview Karyn and of course, jumped at the chance. Karyn is a great interviewee, she’s definitely a talker… an animated, insightful and engaging one at that. Here are some of the highlights.
On the legacy of hit single Superwoman…Firstly, I was so young, I didn’t even know what a superwoman was, I just tried to relate it to my mother’s life. LA Reid and Babyface wrote it and I just sang it. It was quite shocking to me that it became such a huge hit all around the world and a woman’s anthem. Of course, you sing songs and you think they are great, but of course it has to connect, and Superwoman definitely did. It was also a great divider for me. Before that I was more of a dance artist. I came out with The Way You Love Me and I began getting comparisons to Jody Watley and Janet Jackson, but when Superwoman came out it separated me from the pack so I’m definitely grateful for that song.
On leaving the music industry behind.. After Superwoman I toured with Bobby Brown and Levert, we had a really large tour which went on for two years. I had a lot of success, then I started to date Terry Lewis and moved from LA to Minnesota. So life was changing at a rapid pace. I took quite a lot of time off, maybe longer than I should have, I took like 18 months off. I was writing songs and doing other things for other artists. By the time I made a third album I was going through a few personal problems. I recorded a song called I’d Rather Be Alone and it was around the same time as the OJ Simpson murder trial so that song was really big because it was about domestic violence so things were starting to take off again. My record company approached me and said we really need you to go on the road, but by this time I had my daughter Ashley and was going through some personal problems so I really didn’t want to make that commitment.
On suffering the loss of her mother and divorcing legendary record producer Terry Lewis…When Terry and I ended up getting a divorce and my mum passed away, it was the most devastating period of my life. The two people I was closest to in the world were no longer there and I was grieving for both of them.
On looking after her glorious mane
My hair is quite long but I also love to wear wigs, weaves and U-Part wigs – I love the curly look on me. I spend a lot of time online looking at hair tutorials. I love Carol’s Daughter, Miss Jessie’s and Mixed Chicks – I’m a big beauty buff.
Karyn White is appearing live at the Jazz Cafe on Sunday May 18th. The Cocoa Diaries has a pair of tickets to give away. To be in with the chance of winning just answer this question:
What is the name of Karyn’s comeback album
A) Carpe Diem (Sieze The Day)
B) Made It Back
C) The Return of Superwoman
Send your answer A, B or C via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday 15th May. A winner will be chosen at random and notified via email. Tickets should be collected at the box office on the day of the show.