LaTrice Verrett, The entertainer with the inspiring edge

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BY RICHARD KUMBA

One has to be a die-hard optimist and extremely kind-hearted to make it one’s business to inspire others, put a smile on every face, and turn negatives into positives in anybody. That’s exactly what LaTrice Verrett is. But at first she was (and still is) a talented composer, singer and dancer with an impressive track record.

LaTrice has a blessed life and says she does not take one moment for granted. Singing by the age of two and performing by age five, she says she has always been celestial. Classically trained and raised in the church, her early start created a strong foundation for her dynamic stage presence today. She has been blessed to tour the world three times over as a cast member of the longest-running Off-Broadway play, “Mama I Want To Sing,” as a member of the Three-Time Grammy Winning Group “The Sounds of Blackness,” and as a Universal Music Published-Singer/Songwriting Dance Artist with a Platinum Selling Single “What a Night.” Her voice has been featured on commercials for AT&T, Northwest Airlines and Wild Cherry Pepsi, to name a few. LaTrice has been blessed to grace the stage with such artists as Prince, India Arie, Queen Latifa, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin and so many more who have all gifted a little of themselves to her.

LaTrice is also a lifestyle expert and has been featured on numerous primetime shows and talk shows on American television including The View, Anderson Cooper, Dr. Oz, What Would You Do, Rachel Ray, HSN, and The Wendy Williams Show. She also hosted six Mommy Special episodes on TV One’s “Full Plate.”

LaTrice says she credits all of her successes to her firm belief in the verse “All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me,” with this there is nothing you cannot do. The Love of her husband of 20 years, James Felton, and their four children, Madison, Parker, Lexington and James IV, has allowed her to live her dreams. She is currently working on her Inspirational Album and on securing a deal for a new reality show. She is also touring with a lead role in a new stage play, “Redemption.” The talented entertainer says her life is inspired and she simply wants to share the Joy.

The African “discovered” LaTrice in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, sixteen years ago this May, on the occasion of the inaugural of then-President-elect Olusegun Obasanjo. The night before the May 29, 1999 inaugural, LaTrice brought a lively artistic touch to the historical event by performing both in the ballroom of the Abuja Sheraton hotel and at the city’s stadium. In the ballroom, La Trice, who only a few days earlier had flown in from New York, performed two songs for President-elect Obasanjo and his guests. One of the songs was titled “Listen to Your Heart” which she said she composed especially for the occasion and dedicated to the Nigerian people.

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How long did it take to compose that song?” we asked the entertainer (with whom we traveled to Nigeria on the same flight) during an exclusive interview over lunch at the Sheraton hotel: “Well, with Nigeria in our heart, not long at all!” she replied, with a broad smile. During the state dinner, the Nigerian president and his distinguished guests applauded LaTrice’s (and the other entertainers’) performances warmly, albeit with the dignified restraint usually shown by such dignitaries. But when LaTrice performed later for the second time that same night at the stadium, being the only one among her peers to perform twice, the jubilant crowd greeted her with long, unrestrained ovations.

Beyond her brilliant performances, LaTrice also impressed us and others around her with an unusual positive attitude despite the very stressful travel circumstances.

LaTrice, whose visit to Nigeria was her very first one to the continent, said she was happy to be in Africa, despite an extremely tiresome trip that lasted more than 24 hours and was marked by our stop-over in Rome to refuel and several delays during another stop-over in Addis Ababa, and barely three hours of “layover” in Lagos before finally proceeding to Abuja. Said LaTrice:

“Leaving home I was very excited. My friends were very excited, my family was very excited for me. As an African American, I guess it’s always a dream to come and see where our ancestors began. I think it was kind of surreal, with me having the opportunity to not only come to Africa, but to come on such a prestigious occasion and to become a part of something historical like this. It is just a wonderful feeling.”

Even the landscape, LaTrice felt, was something special: “Upon my arrival, coming through Ethiopia, and on the plane looking out of the window and seeing the landscape and thinking and thinking ‘oh my Gosh, what a beautiful country?’ I mean it wasn’t anything like I had imagined. It looked like I had just taken a paint brush and painted it.”

The landscape may be beautiful, but poverty is a big problem in Africa, as LaTrice could see in Ethiopia and in Nigeria. Was our artist, coming from one of the richest countries in the developed world, shocked by the magnitude of poverty in Africa? “Well, I live in New Jersey, so I am very close to New York where, as well as here, there is poverty,” LaTrice said. She added:

“I am sure the poverty is on different scales, but if you went to the Ozarks in America, you would see people living in huts and people living without running water. I think we all have problems in our own places. But sometimes they’re hidden, and sometimes they’re out in the open. I think you’re going to find things like that because it is not a perfect world. For me to say that I come and see poverty and I feel really bad about my people, no. I can see the same thing in the United States, in Japan.”

No wonder LaTrice, an entertainer with a bone-deep positive attitude, later started a business called Inspiration-ista that is committed to turning negatives into positives. “It is my goal in life to help people feel great about themselves and realize that the way they look and feel directly affects all of those around them. I believe that everyone has that special little spark and I want to help them find it in everything they do. Follow my daily musings on my blog LivinLaDiva w/LaTrice,” LaTrice says, adding “I live by and share my five ‘F’s’: Faith, Family, Fashion, Fitness and Fun!”

In practical terms, how can LaTrice really take a negative and turn it into a positive? She explains:

“I can find Inspiration in the grocery store with a grumpy clerk. Instead of allowing a grumpy attitude to steal your joy, simply create a story that will provide your heart with empathy. Imagine that her rent is due tomorrow and she has no idea how she will pay it…that might make someone pretty grumpy Ya Think? So, in this case keep your cool and offer a kind word because you never know how your positive can turn a negative around.”

But the Inspiration-ista goes beyond the above. “It encompasses all things ‘Lifestyle’ in an inspirational manner,” LaTrice stresses. “It inspires you to get in shape and healthy with my daily workouts and nutrition plans. You will be inspired to look your very best from me, the mother of four who always strives to keep her fashion on point.” LaTrice, a woman happily married for twenty years and counting, inspires her clients “to conquer the trials of parenting as I share my 16 years of experience, and succeed in your relationship as I share highs and lows of my 20 years of marriage.”

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We are thrilled to bring you soon, and on a regular basis, features of LaTrice’s Inspiration-ista both in our print magazine and our on-line edition. Don’t miss out on this life-changing experience.

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