Singer/ songwriter Taura Stinson has enjoyed a successful career in the music industry. Not only has she written for megastars such as Destiny’s Child, Kelis, Kelly Rowland and Deborah Cox, she has also racked up some fantastic movie credits. However, her newest venture the release of her new book, titled 100 Things Every Black Girl Should Know.
ShineMyCrown talked to Taura Stinson about her new book, and about her incredible career.
ShineMyCrown: What made you decide to write ‘100 Things Every Black Girl Should Know’?
Taura Stinson: It was pretty much just inspired by my mistakes and the mistakes of my friends, and family, and just working in the music industry, and watching helplessly as girls fall in [the same] traps. You know, just, your recording studios and music video sets and things like that, and just wishing that I could say some … Sometimes you don’t want to offer unsolicited advice. I don’t anyway, so I just kind of keep quiet, and then all these things built up, and it literally could have been 1000 Things Every Black Girl Should Know. I just wanted to make it attainable, and something that’s gonna stick, instead of something that they can’t even grasp because it’s too much. So I wanted it to be just compact enough for them to get it.
SMC: What do you think are the biggest obstacles that black girls have to face in 2017?
TS: Honestly, when they say it starts at home, that … It starts at home. It starts with ourselves if you look at yourself as being home. So I think one of the biggest obstacles that we face are just not being able to be of help to each other. Everybody’s so worried about getting ahead, and it’s kind of like a crabs in a bucket mentality, nobody’s looking out to help each other. And, you know, just reaching back once they get to … Once we get to where we’re going sometimes, as a people, we have this mindset of, “Okay, well I’ve got mine.” But that’s a huge hindrance, and if we all have the mentality that for every step I take I’m gonna help someone take a step too, we’d all be together. We’d all be further along, as a people, and as a gender, because, as Black women, we have gender biases, as well as racial biases that we have to face. So yeah. We have that double whammy.
SMC: The book is available digitally, but there’s also a paperback version?
TS: Yeah, there’s a paperback version.
SMC: Where can we get ahold of the paperback version?
TS: On Amazon, Booktopia, Books-A-Million. I also offer direct book sales. I’ve done a couple of deals with different school districts, but I don’t do hand to hand, just like one book at a time, but I will sell 30 or more books from my … Someone just wants’s to email me, they can get those books directly from me at taurastinson.com. But a really reliable resource is amazon.com. Cause everybody’s got that Prime, you can get it in two days.
SMC: So you’ve written for a whole host of people, and composed, and all kinds of stuff. What does it feel like when you see your name in the credits for people who are known all over the globe?
TS: It never gets old, to be honest. Sometimes it’s kind of like, “Oh man.” When you see your name, especially, I write a lot for film, so when you read those credits it’s normally, like, these huge names and then your name scrolls by, you get a huge sense of pride. I always do. And today, I just found out that a song that I wrote for a documentary called Step got nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award. So that’s a new feeling that I can get used to as well. I liked it.
TS: Thank you!
SMC: What has been your most memorable collaboration to date, and why?
TS: That’s an easy one, cause I’ve written for a lot of people, but I wrote the Grammy-nominated song “Show Me the Way,” I keep looking at my phone to make sure I have enough battery, “Show Me the Way” for Earth, Wind & Fire. So when I wrote that song, the late Maurice White was alive, and it was one of his last studio sessions before he had gotten sick. Then he kind of went into seclusion for, maybe, eight years before passing. So working with him was really great because I know he is the voice of several generations, and he’s almost like Stevie Wonder in the way that he has written all these wonderful songs, and for him to tell me, just simply, “You’ve got it, kid.” Then I feel like that’s a real stamp of approval.
Also, my late, musical father was Leon Ware, and he wrote the I Want You album for Marvin Gaye. He wrote a lot of songs for Minnie Riperton, and the Jacksons, and he’s just a legendary songwriter. So I worked under his tutelage for a while, learning to never sacrifice a word for anything. Words are just as valuable as anything else in our world. I learned that sometimes people follow trends, but if you just brush up on your literary skills and keep reading, you’ll always become a better writer. So those are probably the two collaborations that I’ve held close to my heart.
SMC: You’re a brand ambassador for O Magazine. By the way, Oprah is one my heroes, side note. How did that happen? I’m asking for a friend…
TS: *Laughs* Yeah, because you can really go and sign up. It was, literally, I was online late one night, and I filled out a document on oprah.com. They were like, “Do you want to be an O Magazine ambassador?” And then they tell you in that contract, or whatever, in the very fine print. “Oh, we’re gonna choose 50 people in one year.” And I never win anything, so I didn’t think that I was gonna win it, I just filled it out, and then I got that letter saying you were chosen. It was kind of crazy because we were then inaugural group, they were kind of figuring it out as they go along with us.
But we’ve gotten so many different things. Like, eight different women were just chosen, there’s one guy in our group, he got chosen as well, to go to the different things, giveaways. I didn’t get that, but I did get a Clinique advertisement. It’s actually coming out tomorrow in Oprah Magazine.
SMC: Oh, wow.
TS: Yeah, I was just like, “What? I’m flying to New York to shoot for Clinique?” I never thought I would model, but apparently, Clinique thought I would be okay for it. And you get to try and test out products, and hopefully, we’re gonna meet her some of … Well, I’m gonna meet her regardless. I just believe that I will, and that’s just what it’s gonna be. But I have not met her, even though she has emailed me. And I put a portion of her email in my book.
SMC: Right. How do you manage to balance everything? Because you do a lot!
TS: I use my personal assistant a lot, her name is Siri. I’m like, “Siri, do not let me forget to do blah, blah, blah.” *Laughs*
But really, I talk to Siri all the time, like, she runs my life. I’m like, “Okay, oh yeah, that’s right.” And I look in my phone at something that totally forgot it would pop up, cause I’m in the Bay Area now. I went and spoke to a school this morning, I went to a college on Saturday, and then I have a music fest to do too all throughout the week. I told my mom, “I’m going to sleep next Sunday.” But it’s great because there have been times when I’ve just been sitting around for months, like, “Nothing’s happening.” So I really prefer this.
SMC: And what’s next for you? Are there any more books following? Music projects? What do the following months look like?
TS: I don’t have a new book in the works I could share. I am working, but I just keep going back and forth. I’m like, “Oh my god, what is this gonna be?” But I have a couple ideas that I’m playing around with. Musically, I’m just looking forward to award season for the songs. I usually write end-title songs for film, so I did the song “Jump” for Cynthia Erivo. She’s a Broadway star who’s won a Tony recently and a Grammy, so it would only be right that she wins this Oscar.
I’m also on the music branch committee for the Academy, so I’m looking forward to just interacting with the other branch committee members like Common, and different people, just to continue to diversify the Oscars and the Academy. On November 17th, I have an end title that I co-wrote with Mary J. Blige and Raphael Saadiq. It’s a Netflix movie, but that’s also eligible for Golden Globes, Oscars, the whole bit. And that song is called “Mighty River” performed by Mary J. Blige, who also stars in the movie.
So, looking forward to that. I’m gonna, probably, try to have a viewing party of some kind. And then, you know, just continue to write. I have a blog that I have been neglecting, and I just want to challenge myself to write more, because the more I write, the more I read, I become a better writer. So, my plan is to just write my way through it, no matter what I’m doing, always continue to stay active as a writer. Both musically, and from a literary perspective.
SMC: What is “black girl magic” to you?
TS: Well, I mean, it is everything. To me, when I think of magic, I think of it lighting up, it being like a sparkle in darkness, a light in darkness. I believe that we are that light. We are, for each other, like, we can help each other through so much. And this is a cold, dark world that we’re living in right now, and we just make everything better. From Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, to Solange. Everybody’s just in their zone right now, and it does everything for the culture. Rather than, there was a time when we were synonymous with being angry or being promiscuous, or whatever it is. Now, we are synonymous with being a light, being magical. But I don’t feel like it’s something that isn’t real.
I heard someone said that one, “Just because it’s magic doesn’t mean it’s real.” It’s very real, and it’s tangible, and it’s a power that we all possess as black and brown girls that are here to light this world because we are the salt of this earth. We are the light of this world.
Order your copy of 100 Things Every Black Girl Should Know by clicking this link.