Sexy and confident are just a couple of words to describe YouTube sensation turned So So Def artist, Dondria. The Dallas native, who now goes by Dondria Nicole, is stepping back on the music scene with a more mature sound that embodies authentic R&B. The sassy artist stopped by the EBONY.com office to give us some insight about her as an artist and the re-introduction of Dondria Nicole.
EBONY: How has your life changed since you got discovered from those YouTube videos of you singing in your bedroom?
Dondria Nicole: It’s changed quite a bit. I’ve definitely gotten stopped everywhere since then. And then the surprising thing is how many people saw me and know me that are not in America. People in Africa, China... I mean, anywhere you can think of. That was really like a “wow!” You know, when you don’t think you are known for anything, to even imagine that someone across the world knows who you are, and they don’t even know what you are saying, that is amazing. Just the love and the recognition that I have gotten, that is the biggest change.
EBONY: How long were your YouTube videos up before you got discovered?
DN: A year.
EBONY: I’ve noticed that you are going by Dondria Nicole now instead of just Dondria or Phatfffat. Why the change?
DN: The change was to show my growth as a woman, artist and person. I, as Dondria or Phatfffat, was very inexperienced, young and just kind of going with the flow. I had a little bit of say, but I didn’t know what I was saying. So now I am more mature. I have embraced my confidence, sexiness and sassiness. I wanted to add something to show everyone there is a change, a new movement.
EBONY: How long have you been in the music business?
DN: I have been in this business for seven years.
EBONY: What has been the biggest challenge for you as an artist?
DN: The biggest challenge was to prove that I was more than Phatfffat from YouTube. I mean, out of the gate that was the biggest thing. Like, you sing other people songs on YouTube, but can you sing your own? Can you put out an album? Can you hold your own as an artist? So that was the hugest thing. I accomplished it.
EBONY: What song of yours are you the most proud of? Why?
DN: I’m going to give you a two-part answer. “You’re the One” is my first one, because that was my first single. It got such a great response. You know, that was my second big break. So that is definitely my favorite one. My other one is also on my first album: “Where Did We Go Wrong.” It made the album, and I was excited because I was just kind of trying it out, and that made me more confident in my writing.
EBONY: What can we expect from your album, The Re-Introduction: Dondria Nicole?
DN: I’m still going to give authentic R&B, because that is really important to me. But I will give you more attitude, more sass. Just give you a more mature, established sound, because I did a lot of experimenting before trying to figure out where I wanted to go.
EBONY: What made you first realize you wanted to pursue a music career?
DN: When Destiny’s Child came out, I got their first album—well, cassette—and it just inspired me. I saw them in their videos, and those might have been the first artists that I really, really paid attention. When they came out, I just knew that was what I wanted to do.
EBONY: Name the people who have influenced your music.
DN: My influences musically are Whitney Houston, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Destiny’s Child, Tank, Jasmine Sullivan. I have a lot. And on the gospel side, I love Kierra Sheard and Kim Burrell. They all make me and make my sound.
EBONY: If you had the opportunity to change something in the music industry, what would you change?
DN: I would change the demand for authentic R&B. I know it’s coming back and more people are wanting to hear that sound again. And a lot of artists are bringing that sound back, like Miguel, Jasmine Sullivan and Justin Bieber’s last album. I love it. He definitely gave some R&B on it. But those are a few people. Robin Thicke and Bruno Mars, as well. So a few of them have and are bringing that sound that I love. I just want more people to demand it, because until they do, it’s not going to change and be as big as it used to be in the ’90s or early 2000s.
EBONY: If you could mirror your music career after anyone out there, who would you aspire to be like in terms of longevity?
DN: My number one answer would be Beyoncé, just because she keeps finding ways to be creative, successful and stay outside the box to wow us. We don’t necessarily do the same kind of music, so on a different kind of scale, I would say Whitney Houston.
EBONY: Are you looking into acting or anything else in the entertainment industry?
DN: I would like to do it all. I write. I would love to get into acting. I want to open up a restaurant. I mean, I want to do it all, but music is my foundation. This is my baby.