Dawn Richard doesn’t back down from a conversation.
Whether about the public demise of her former girl group Danity Kane (for a second time) or the nasty things haters throw her way, the 31-year-old singer does not mince words. In fact, she’s an open book.
In her music, she wears her heart on her sleeve and is unapologetic about it. But where she really spills her heart is when discussing things that matter to her most outside all the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, like the unfair standards placed on Black women.
“As a Black woman we are not celebrated at all and as soon as another woman, or a white woman, starts to have the features that we have– a bigger ass, bigger lips–those things become beautiful,” says Richard, who also spills her heart out on her second full-length album, Blackheart, which hit iTunes on Dec. 15.
But it’s not just the general society that doesn’t respect the humanity of minority women, says the New Orleans native.
“Our Black woman is underappreciated by our own race which is something we have to do better at.”
Since her start with Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records, Richard got plenty of flak for her looks. Some made note of her darker skin. Some said she looked like a man. Years later others accused her of getting cosmetic surgery. Richard says a majority of that negativity came from other women of color.
“Most of the hate that I get off of my blogs about my face, about my color is from Black people,” she tells Centric. “If I could take 95 percent of that and they would say something positive and support me I’d probably be a bigger artist than I am now. It makes me sad for us because I know that I’m not the only one.”
Since her rise to fame during Diddy’s “Making The Band,” to picking up the pieces of her failed girl band, Richard has had to fight for attention and respect as a solo artist, as a Black woman and as a business woman.
As the CEO of her own entertainment company, Our Dawn Entertainment–which comprises of only her and business partner Kyle Cabrol–Richard understands the importance of being your own woman, and some of the grumbles that come with it.
“Sometimes there’s a thin line between bitch and strength, and when a woman has something to say or is strong she’s automatically perceived as a bitch, when in actuality it’s really ‘no this is my money and it has to be great,” she says passionately. “Because if I fall, it’s double the fall because I’m a woman and I’m Black. It’s the double laugh.”
In addition to being the creator and owner of her music and brand, Richard has tried her hand in the land of fashion with a shoe collection, Lust For Life, and a line of edgy shades in partnership with Coco and Breezy.
“It’s a lot of hard work being that it’s only me and people think it’s a joke. But when you step past that and you realize you can do this on your own it’s really rewarding,” she says. “I find that I love doing it. If you make a sheek, clean product people will buy it because they want to be a part of that movement.”
Richard, who says she’s learned what not to do in business the hard way, says she did learn a lot from her former boss, Mr. Combs.
“He would not sleep. I was like ‘I can do this.’ We as women, as Black women can sit right at that table and be just as educated, just as articulate and figure it out. We don’t have to be ratchet.”
Though she admits that women often find difficulty getting along (especially in girl groups) Richard says managing the ego and communication is the true formula–one that is a lot harder than it looks.
“When we get to a place that’s high we want to stay there, and so we won’t allow anyone to come up because we’re damn near fighting for our spot to stay up high. So we’ll push you down as long as we stay up there,” she says. “It’s the same thing I think with women. We try so badly to make sure our light is seen that we’re forgetting the bigger picture, and I think that’s why girl groups fall apart.”
Still, Richard is forging on personally and professionally. Despite the chapters that have been closed in her life, she’s determined to regain and keep control of her queendom.
“My biggest fear is not being able to finish my own book in life. I want to write that bitch all the way to the end, and I might have a fucking sequel (laughs),” she says. “I’m too ambitious…but why not?”