Take platinum award-winning singer Karyn White, who was on top of the world before making her last record and leaving the music industry in 1999; following a divorce from producer, Terry Lewis, one-half of the hitmaking duo, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
White and Lewis had lived a life of pure opulence; built and shared a 30,000 square-foot mansion on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota; and was, by anyone’s standards, the picture of the ultimate happy, power couple. But as we know, everything that sparkles isn’t gold. And in this story, based on a candid interview with EURweb publisher, Lee Bailey, the still gorgeous singer delivers a painful reminded that a life of grandeur is not a shoo-in for happiness. The woman who had once talked about a “Secret Rendezvous;” showed us what a “Superwoman” looked like; and shared her moments of ecstasy with us in “The Way You Love Me,” made a wrong turn somewhere and then disappeared from the public eye altogether.
“Hmmm, where was I?,” she responds to the first question posed by Lee Bailey. “Raising my daughter, Ashley Lewis. I was in the Bay Area. I wasn’t doing music…I was [an] entrepreneur. I started a real estate company building homes, selling homes, furnishing homes, interior design and it was very lucrative for the times.”
White says she stayed on the entrepreneurial path, in the suburbs of Sacramento, for 12 years; but left the industry following what she calls a “dark time” for her.
“Well, Terry and I got a divorce … and that was very painful. At the same time, you know, I lost my mom so … that was a dark period in my life…I kind of felt like I really, honestly didn’t want to sing after that whole process. It kind of took a toll on me because … the two most important people I cared about, I was losing them.”
“When I was 18, a lot of my musicians were from the Bay Area so I kind of learned and studied my craft in that area. I didn’t want to be in L.A. I didn’t want to raise Ashley in L.A.”
In 2008 Karyn says she met Jeremy Sylvers, son of Edmund Sylvers, a member of the popular 70s group, The Sylvers; and this meeting changed her direction.
“He was a younger guy. I really liked his energy and swag, his concept. He had a billion-dollar plan and I started to want to get involved again … just developing reality properties (reality TV). I kind of started not with me wanting to be an artist but with me wanting to develop this brand of entertainment because reality properties was what I was investing in.”
Karyn laughingly admits to Lee Bailey that she did not think she would get back into the industry as a vocalist “period” because she was content telling everybody else what to do; especially the aspect of providing guidance and artist development.
So, when the real estate industry crashed (she was able to make a lucrative sale on a property just prior to the crash) White heard a radio program, “The Way I See It,” by music veteran Jay King (Club Nouveau), who hosted the show, and with his encouragement and support, began her musical reincarnation; gaining interest in the business again, on an executive level; utilizing the skills she had developed in business finance to nurture other artists. But she soon found that, trying to push her cadre of artists only had industry execs asking why she was not pushing herself.
“Jay showed me who I was. My worth, and that there was a whole new world out there,” the singer says about King, who is now her manager.
Admitting that she could no longer hide behind her college-aged daughter Ashley; she was a bit fearful of returning to the business at first because she realized the level of commitment it demands. But once she got over that, it was on!
“Everything … is intact. I started taking vocal lessons and choreography,” she tells Lee Bailey. “I’m a late bloomer. When people were partying and stuff, I was married at 24 and focused. I was never really that type … I kind of started doing it when I was 30-something. So I really kind of feel like I’m a 30-year-old is what I’m trying to say (laughs) ‘cause to me I was so serious and stuff when I was younger … and then just me understanding who I am, and the wisdom that comes with age, its fun to do it now because you know who you are, and you know who you’re not.”
In case you were wondering, White is now 47.
White says that she is not trying to be everything, everywhere. And that those who like Karyn White will get Karyn White. This woman recognizes that the business today no longer resembles the biz she knew “way back when.”
Because things happened pretty fast for her, in retrospect, Karyn says that she wishes it had happened slower.
“It seems that everything just kind of happened with the right people at the right time,” she continues. “I wish it would have happened a little slower ‘cause the fast is frivolous. I want to be slow and steady. I’ve kind of learned that with age. You want to have a great foundation.”
It was important for this mother to show her daughter that with her re-entering the business, things would not necessarily be easy just because mom is “Karyn White,” and dad is “Terry Lewis.” So it was great to have Ashley see the hard, step-by-step process that goes into being a working professional. Things like promoting yourself online, and witnessing the sale of 40 tickets at a venue one day, change to sold-out performances on another; all as a result of your hard won efforts.
“She’s at the age where she has goals, and dreams, and visions of what she wants to be so, it was great for her to help me … she was my social media person,” Karyn proudly asserts. “She edited my pictures and my photos.”
Karyn says that in many ways, she feels like a new student.
“So I’m like, you know, ‘mommy’s starting over. You’re going to school and mommy’s going back to school, too.’ … like I’m a new artist,” she admits.
With regard to her new single “Seize the Day” – from her CD, Carpe Diem (available now) – this is not just a song for Karyn White, she refers to it as a movement.
“The world that we live in, we have to take our careers in our own hands; we have to have multiple streams of income,” says White, who adds how grateful she is to have stepped away from the industry when she did, because she can now come back without a sense of bitterness – unlike other artists who may have stayed at the party too long, so to speak.
When Lee Bailey asks if she feels she learned a lot in the business the first time around, White is quick to confirm that she definitely did.
“You can’t be around an LA [Reid] and Babyface, Jimmy Carey, Ron Swing and Clarence Avant and not learn, but it’s a different industry [now].
Now, because she has grown as a person, “a total person,” as said by her, and not just an artist, Karyn is able to appreciate the business more and go after exactly what she wants, in the most effective ways.
“I’m able to understand financial literacy, understanding how money and economics and business [works] that side was awakened in me and so that’s why it’s fun now because I have a vision … goals, it’s just a different mindset.”
Some of us say, “If I only knew before what I know now,” or “If I had a chance to ‘go back’ I would only want to do so if I could keep the wisdom I have now.” Well, that’s the beautiful thing about coming into your own; as Karyn explains to Lee Bailey here.
“Before, I was an artist and I knew some things; but not as much as I do today; just about business. There’s deals that I would never sign, you know, [like] I did before (laughs). I would never … pay people on gross; why would I pay you on something I don’t get paid on?”
Karyn explains to Lee how, even ‘back in the day’ when she was married to Terry Lewis, how her mindset in the business was starting to shift, but her youth did not allow her to appreciate or even enjoy where she was.
“As soon as I got married to Terry I kind of took on the temperament of the man I’m with. I really wanted to learn so I’m like, ‘OK, I want to be smart,’ you know, ‘cause they were smart.[But] I was just a mess. I didn’t realize what I had at that time in my life, and you know, it was just a journey I was on. I was in a dark place.”
Bailey asks Karyn to elaborate on her “dark place” and what had brought her to that point.
Wow, what an interesting story Karyn White has to tell. It’s going to get even more interesting in part two later this week when she details that “dark place’ she was in; how she got there and how she was able to break free and find happiness again.
DeBorah B. Pryor is an established journalist and entrepreneur. She is an independent associate with LegalShield, where you can contact an attorney ‘about anything you want, anytime you want,’ for a small monthly fee. Go to deborahbpryor.legalshield.com to learn more.
Watch the ‘Behind the Scenes’ video of Karyn’s Carpe Diem CD in the making: