Although she was introduced to many of us in 2002 via her hit single "Foolish," Ashanti's first brush with stardom dates back to 1992 when the singer appeared as a student in Spike Lee's Malcolm X biopic. The Glen Cove native might be best known for her musical contributions; however, she is well acquainted with the big and small screens. She appeared appeared in Who's The Man? when she was a teen, and in her later years flexed her acting chops in Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die, and Law and Order: SVU.
"I think it's so important to not limit yourself or pigeonhole yourself to one thing or one genre," says Ashanti, who is also getting her feet wet behind the scenes as executive producer of the romantic comedy, The Plus One. "As a female, especially in this male-dominated world, I think it's important to get outside of the box, push other things creatively and keep inspiring people."
For her latest release, Honey Girls, the multi-hyphenate, stepped into the familiar role of a global pop star, Fancy G, who holds a contest in search of the next big solo artist.
"I think there's an even exchange of lessons between Fancy G and the teenage girls," adds Ashanti. Unintentionally, "they teach each other life lessons about following your dreams and following your heart and your passion." Moreover, the project offers guidance on perseverance in the face of adversity. "Some of the doors close but you have to keep going. We all get rejected," the singer goes on.
Handpicked for the role by director Trey Fanjoy, there are aspects of Fancy's story to which Ashanti feels she and many other artists are able to relate to. "Her career caused her to be a little bit cold and a little bit hardened," says Ashanti. "A lot of artists go through that. You have to get protective a little bit and a little guarded."
The feature film, which is based on Build-a-Bear Workshop's popular Honey Girls doll line, is one that is rich in themes of hope, friendship, and going after your dreams.
"This is the first time anything like that has ever happened," Ashanti tells EBONY of Fanjoy, who personally wrote a letter to the singer, asking her to take on the role of Fancy G "The whole 'your people call my people' thing happened—agents and all of that. But when I received the letter, I was like, 'Oh my God.' She's an amazing director. She's so talented."
Recently, the singer announced that she would be re-recording her debut album, Foolish, which dropped nearly twenty years ago. Ironically, she appears just as youthful and vibrant as she did the day the album was first released.
"Be very aware and conscious of what you eat and what you put in your body," Ashanti shares when quizzed on her top three self-care principles. "You gotta work out. There's no way around it. You gotta get sleep. You definitely have to get sleep. You work hard, but you gotta take care of yourself at the same time."
Honey Girls is available for purchase on DVD and digital streaming platforms beginning October 19.