The only way you haven’t seen Jennifer dance is if you don’t have a television. She has been dancing since she was 4 when her mother put her in a tap class. Since then she has danced on tour (Lil’ Wayne), in movies (Get On up, School Dance), on award shows, and in music videos. She’s worked all over the country and lived in Detroit, Atlanta, New York, and LA. Riding on faith, Jennifer has decided to move back into her musical roots. Her grandfather was a trumpet player for The Funk Brothers back in the original Motown days and her parents met in their high school band. While dance is still a huge part of her life, she’s practicing everyday on her blue bass guitar. Her next goal is to form a funk band.
After shooting some pictures in a colorful alley, Jennifer and I found a beautiful outdoor patio restaurant, The Stage, in Burbank. We grabbed a glass of wine (or 2) for happy hour and the conversation took off… and of course involved food. At one point in our talk, our individual pizzas came and Jennifer motioned for me to click our plates together and say “cheers!”
You know, you were on my Twitter timeline a bit ago as a bunch of people’s Women Crush Wednesday… (She laughs). Wanna know why I laugh? Cause I’m like, if y’all really knew me, I would NOT be your woman crush Wednesday! I’m a goof. I snort when I laugh. I’m weird, and it just cracks me up. I think its sweet, man, I really do.
Since music is big in your background, how did the focus on dance come about? I wanna say I was about 7 or 8 when [my mom] put me in piano lessons. I grew up in church, so our church instructor charged $10 a piano lesson, which is super cheap. I always loved it, but we couldn’t afford both [because it wasn’t just me]. It was 2 brothers and me… so [my mom was like] “you gotta pick one! Piano or dance right now!” And I was like “dance!” So I stopped music and I will tell you that the only regret I have is not continuing. Because now that I am relearning it, it’s just like, why did I stop? But I’m grateful I danced because it kept me in shape, cause I love food, and I’ve been able to pay my bills [with something I love].
Is that why you came to LA, because of dance? Absolutely. My first time ever putting my feet into LA dance waters was by accident. I was in Vegas for an audition. It didn’t go well and they were flying me back to Atlanta, but something in me was like, maybe I should go see my grandpa in LA instead. So I called the people who were booking my flight and said “can you just fly me to LA, it’s cheaper.” They’re like “all right it’s cool, whatever, but it’s only gonna be one way.” And I was like, “alright, cool.” A few days later, my agents email me and they say there’s this tour audition for Lil Wayne/Nicki Minaj that’s on Monday [in LA], and if I could make it. [So I was thinking] I’m not going; I’m not embarrassing myself, no, not happening. But then I kinda sat there and was like “this will be a good experience.” What I didn’t know was that it was only the first call. So I got there and I was like, cool. There’s not that many girls here, there’s only like 50 girls. I get down to the final [group] and I get [a callback]. I’m like, “what’s a callback?” I didn’t even know what a callback was that’s how green I was. I get to Center Staging on Wednesday… 200 girls! I’m pulling in the parking lot in my rental car about to cry. I’m sitting there like, “Jen, don’t go in there. Don’t do it.” I was really nervous. This was when I found who I really was as a fearless woman. I pulled the visor thing down, pulled my lip gloss out my purse, and I was like, “go get this!” Basically, the story goes, there were 200 girls and 6 hours later I look up and there were 6 of us left. They were saying “congratulations, you guys start work tomorrow!” And the skin on my… I’m getting goose bumps right now! I think about it every day. Everyone was just standing there like, what?! Like, this really happened?! That’s where it all started.
I think it’s crazy that dancers are always dancing in heels. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done dancing? When I just danced for Iggy Azalea and T.I. for the BET awards, we rehearsed the whole show in gym shoes and then the stylist comes in with 6 inch Steve Madden pumps! Like?! Besides heels, I’ll start with dancing around pyrotechnics. I actually had solos with Lil’ Wayne for a couple shows. On his album [Rebirth], he has a song called “On Fire” and I come out and I have this red dress on and there’s fire coming up on stage. So that was the craziest in terms of being uncomfortable. Just like feeling like my face was gonna melt off uncomfortable.
Dancing on top of a car [in the Shannell video for “So Good“]… yes! That was so crazy. The car was denting in. You can’t keep your balance when the top of the car dents in! How would you ever know that top of your car dents unless you’ve stood on the top of your car and danced? I love Binky, she was the choreographer for the video. She wanted us to slide down the car. And I was like, “excuse me, we gonna what?” I wish they had footage of the first time I attempted to slide and I got stuck. Man. So that was number 2.
Number 3 was dancing on risers when I did the James Brown movie. 1970’s dancing is big, it’s like getting funky, the FUNK! We’ve been practicing in the studio, flat ground, and then they placed us and they’re like “Jen, right there.” I turn around, of course! I’m on the highest, smallest platform! You’re restricted, but you can’t be! So it’s like this constant battle of, ok, I gotta dance like everyone else. I feel like I’m going to fall if I step too far out and I don’t have enough space. And that was probably the biggest job I have ever done; it put so much pressure on me.
Ok, and then, the craziest. People don’t know this, cause social media has grown since then, but I played dual roles in the musical. I played a church girl, a praise dancer and I also played a stripper. Oh yes, a stripper! I was the understudy for the lead in the play, the daughter of the pastor who got caught up in “the life.” Sounds cliché but it was a really good story. I walk into my first rehearsal and there’s a pole and the pole instructor. I was in the corner sipping on my Starbucks like “who’s that for? Oh Emily, cool.” “Alright dancers, come on, you guys are doing a scene in the club!” “What club, the strip club? Excuse me?” I had done nothing [similar to that other] than hip hop in college. That night I had 4 calluses on each hand. I literally could not get out of bed. I was rocking back and forth cause I couldn’t lift myself with my arms. Dancers get thrown into the fire, literally.
So why do you want to leave dance and LA? Where do you want to go? First stop would definitely be back home in Detroit. Just because I wanna give back to the arts so I can put whatever I’ve gotten from [LA] into my city. I’m just a huge fan of giving back, and that’s just something I stand for. After that, NYC baby! I love New York! A lot of people say it’s too busy for them, there’s too much going on… I love that. I’m a city girl. Just with the time I spent there, their culture just sucks on my skin. Every night you can go to a live music venue at the top of every hour. One hour you can be like, lets go here, let’s go to Smalls, which is a historic jazz club I’m sure my grandfather played at before I was even born! So definitely Detroit and New York.
How did you come up with “The Jennifer Brand?” So my manager is actually my god sister. She always told me “no matter what job you pick, I don’t care how much it pays, know that you’re building a brand. You’re not just a dancer, you’re building a brand.” I have different [things] I bring to the table. I put myself through college styling hair. A lot of people don’t know that I grew up singing in church. I dance. I’m a part time comedian. I’m a closet DJ… but she gave me that wisdom early, that “you’re building a brand.” So, after my social media got all screwed up and hacked, and I was trying to create new stuff. My last name is Slaughter, and everyone’s like, “you got a cool last name, you got to use it.” And I was like, “ah that’s corny.” I’ll just be the Jennifer Brand. And that was it.
On faith and the universe: They literally call me Pastor Slaughter. First of all, I moved across the country with absolutely nothing. I didn’t know how I was gonna make a way with anything. So the same way I was in LA, I was like, I wanna go to New York. I don’t know why and I don’t know, but I’ll get there. I woke up the next morning, I did my meditation, I prayed. And I was like, you know what God, let me know! I ended up getting to New York, I had a place to stay, I met people, and I ended up falling in love with the bass, and now full circle back to LA. I’m telling you, I had nothing! I was sitting there like, what do I need, is it gas or food tonight? I’m telling you, don’t be scared of [anything]. Cause what the universe will do, you put all these vibrations out there and the universe will throw them right back to you. People laugh at me when I talk like that but it’s true! Once you make that decision, you’re already putting it out there that you want it. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It’s a small step. It’s always a little, baby step. And then something is gonna come, and you can take the next step, then something ELSE will come, and you can take the next step and before you know it, you’ll be like, damn! That’s how life is. That’s my closing of my sermon.
I’ve been tweeting “God is good. Today will be amazing!” since 2011. I can honestly say, I feel like the past 3 years of my life wouldn’t have been as awesome. You just put it out there, the affirmation. Even if it’s a bad day, it’s still a good day. I’m not saying everything will be perfect, I’m saying whatever happens, I’m good. You should say this, too. It’s not gonna hurt. My faith is my only form of transportation. Faith. Take a leap of faith. With everything; relationships, careers and jobs, food… HAHAHA. I just ordered this pizza, I don’t know if its gonna be good. I took a leap of faith. I have faith that pizza will be good. Like, I have faith in making this pumpkin pie tonight cause my boo wants it. I have never made a pumpkin pie in my life, but I have faith that I can accomplish it….
Lastly, what do you want to be when you grow up? You’re always growing so that question always applies. My mother just got her license in something. My dad just pulled out his trumpet he hasn’t played in 30 years; so were always growing. I want to be an entertainer. The season I am right now I’m a musician, I’m also a dancer, I do some modeling, I get all that, but I think that being an entertainer goes so far beyond all that. Whether it’s me talking to people, having a show, running the stage (hosting)… I just have to be one of those people that inspire people. So, an inspiration. I wanna be an inspiration. I just think that we live our lives so alone in what we go through, until we talk to other people. We all go through something. It’s so important to talk to people. Just know that everything passes, there’s a season for everything… ride the wave!
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Check out her F Stop questions, too!