Martha Wash on Aging in the Music Business

Martha Wash

With over 30 years in the music business, dance music diva Martha Wash refuses to let age slow her down. But she isn’t opposed to letting life’s maturation process teach her a few financial lessons. On Friday July 19, Wash will appear at the Bronx Library Center for the Fame and Fortune series to share how getting older has made her more aware of the need to secure a sound financial future. It is a theme relevant for many maturing singers and musicians who were often financially exploited by record labels.

“I worry about the retirement part of it,” she reveals. “I have a pension plan with the union, SAG-AFTRA but outside of that I don’t have anything else,” she reveals. “That’s the hard part—the older you get and later you put into retirement, the longer it will take you to save up. I haven’t done it and that’s the bad part on me.”

Wash hopes that her story will inspire others in and outside of the music business to take care of their finances. Meanwhile, she knows that a limited retirement fund means that she will have to continue to record and tour for the foreseeable future. “A lot of people are putting off retirement and continuing to work past 65. It seems like I probably will too. But for some people it keeps them going and moving. So I think that’s great.”

Still this time around Wash is doing it all her way by remaining an independent artist in control of her future. Her latest release, Something Good is now available here.

If fashion designer Onyenauchea Nwabuzor has her way she will work for as long as possible too. The rising talent was one of several intriguing guests at acclaimed visual artist, Kehinde Wiley’s Independence Day party in SoHo. While there, Nwabuzor shared a preview of her line, Ana Kata. The designs are inspired by cultural awareness, African culture and rooted in personal experience. It is these elements that the designer hopes will compel others to view African fashion as valuable and worthy of greater mainstream recognition. However, it was a journey for Nwabuzor to unlearn her own prejudices against African fashion.

“I told my mom at seven I wanted to be a designer. She said ‘You can make African clothing,’ but I didn’t want to do that at all,” she says. “It was something I thought Americans did not appreciate or see as high fashion. Things changed in 2005 when my mom passed from cancer. She asked to be buried in Nigeria. While I was there I saw what African fashion really was—it wasn’t just fashion, it was an interpretation and appropriating what was around you. I had to interpret that into the clothing that I made. So I began to let go of the things I thought fashion was and the influences that run around in your head.” Nwabuzor’s line now embraces African fashion through vivid patterns infused with a contemporary edge, and her skills have already been seen in magazines such as V and Italian Vogue.

Another Independence Day event was the third annual, Philly 4th of July Jam, a staple of the Wawa Welcome America! festival. Performers included The Roots, John Mayer, Jill Scott, Ne-Yo, J. Cole and more with comedian Kevin Hart serving as the host. If you weren’t one of the 500,000 in attendance then click here for footage.

One Philly resident that you couldn’t miss in a crowd even that large is Cheryl Ann Wadlington, author of The DivaGirl’s Guide to Style and Self-Respect. For the noted fashion and beauty expert the book was necessary due to what she believes is a crisis of resources to help guide and mentor today’s young women.

“A lot of attention is being placed on the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries which is essential. However, I don’t hear the alarm ringing loud enough about addressing the issue women and girls face here in America,” she says. “I don’t want them, especially women and girls from socio-economically-challenged backgrounds, to be forgotten about. There is a lack of effective programs that teach girls about good character and citizenship. Bullying and technology issues are creating problems that kids 20 years ago never imagined.”

The book offers tips for young women on everything from style to self-esteem. And when she’s not empowering youth through books, Wadlington is working hands-on with them as executive director of the non-profit organization, The Evoluer House. Recently the school celebrated graduating more than seven hundred disadvantaged girls from its personal development program.

Wash and Wadlington prove that some people certainly do get better, wiser and more giving with age.

The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater,