Born January 30, c. 1960, in Chicago, IL; married Andre Cymone; divorced; one daughter, Lauren; one son, Arie. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Recording Corp., 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104.
Jody Watley is the rare performer who measures success in terms of happiness. As a singer, dancer, songwriter, and producer, she typifies the complete artist of the 1990s. Watley was already a 15-year veteran of television, recording, and performing when she won the GrammyAward for Best New Artist in 1987.
Watley was born in Chicago around 1960. Her family lived for a time in Kansas City, Missouri, but Watley was raised for the most part in Los Angeles. She was born into a family with show business ties. Her father was an Episcopalian radio evangelist and a disk jockey; her mother was a piano player and singer. Among her family's most cherished friends were popular performers Joe Tex, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson. Wilson, in fact, was Watley's godfather.
During the early 1970s when Watley was only 14 years old, she landed a steady job on the Soul Train television show. On Soul Train, Watley partnered with Jeffrey Daniel, who later joined Watley as a member of the R&B trio Shalamar. The two worked well together, choreographing their own wild and daring dance routines. Cornelius was so impressed that he encouraged Watley, a 17-year-old high school graduate, to pursue a career in the performing arts.Watley, who graduated high school with honors, fully intended to enroll in college, but knew instinctively that her future was in songwriting and singing. With the endorsement of Cornelius,she was hard-pressed to ignore what she perceived as her destiny. Also with Cornelius' encouragement, Watley was instrumental in establishing Shalamar. The group consisted of Watley, Howard Hewett, and her Soul Train partner, Daniels. Watley remained with Shalamar for seven years during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1984, she left the group to expand her personal artistic talents. She was concerned about her stereotypical function in the group as a "sexy girl" instead of a serious singer, and she aspired to write and perform her own songs.
With Shalamar in her past, Watley spent some time working as a model in England. On her return to Los Angeles, she became professionally involved with Andre Cymone, a bass player and former band member with The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Watley and Cymone established a working relationship with former Diana Ross producer, Bernard Edwards. She wrote and collaborated with Cymone in a creative effort that resulted in several albums and hit singles. Watley's brother, John, was also involved as her tour manager. Watley signed a contract with MCA, and the success of her debut solo album Jody Watley won her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1987. Among the selections on that album was the number one "smash" hit "Looking for a New Love."
Watley's next album, Larger than Life was released in 1989, and featured the ballad "Real Love" which earned gold record status. The album also included a collection of dance tunes with a rousing beat. Her third album, You Wanna Dance with Me?, is comprised of an assortment of ballads, and was the vehicle that established Watley as a serious singer. The soulful selections silenced those skeptics who compartmentalized her style and labeled her a songstress of the faded disco era. By 1993, Watley had released five albums on the MCA label, including her fifth and final MCA release, Intimacy, on which she co-wrote seven of the album's ten songs. Watley's solo career completed its metamorphosis in the 1990s. She shed her image as a "disco-dolly" and "pony-girl," diverging exclusively toward introspective and romantic moods. In 1991, President George Bush extended an invitation to Watley to sing at a White House ceremony at the Kennedy Center in 1992. Watley accepted, and she used the opportunity to voice her opinions on racial bigotry.
After leaving MCA, Watley launched her own record label, Avitone, and went on to produce her own album, Affection, in 1995. Additionally she directed and released a video for Affection. She signed with Atlantic Records in 1998, and by 1999 her solo career credits entailed six top ten singles and two platinum albums. Watley was heard singing along with a collection of other popular artists on the Dr. Dolittle movie soundtrack. She also sang on various soundtrack recordings for Beverly Hills 90210, White Men Can't Jump, and the AIDS benefit album Band-Aid. She appeared live on Black Entertainment's (BET) Planet Groove and made a round of talk show visits in anticipation of her first Atlantic release. With the release of her first album from Atlantic Records, Watley also established a management company called Divine.
It came as a surprise to many who followed Watley's career that her working relationship with Cymone transcended their professional life. The couple was married for three years before they revealed that fact to the public. According to Watley, the secrecy was intended in part to protect Cymone's privacy in the wake of her own soaring stardom. The couple has two children a daughter, Lauren, born in the early 1980s, and a son, Arie, born in 1992. Watley and Cymone were married for approximately ten years. They divorced near the end of 1995.
Watley confronts the issue of a pending reunion between herself and the other Shalamar singers from time to time, but her attitude suggests that the group is a thing of the past and should not be resurrected. Motherhood demands much of her time, and her career outlets continue to unfold. Svelte and health-conscious, she filmed a fitness video in 1990, entitled Jody Watley: Dance to Fitness. In 1996, she signed with the famous Ford Modeling Agency and accepted an exclusive contract to model Sack's Fifth Avenue's Winter Coat wardrobe. Two years later she modeled for a (partially nude) six-page spread in the April 1998 issue of Playboy magazine.
by Gloria Cooksey
Jody Watley's Career
Soul Train dancer, c. 1970; member of Shalamar, late 1970s; MCA records solo artist,1987-1993; established Avitone record label, 1995; Atlantic Records, 1998 ; established Divine Management.
Jody Watley's Awards
Grammy Award for Best New Artist, 1987.
- Selected discography
- Jody Watley , MCA, 1987.
- Larger Than Life , MCA 1989.
- You Wanna Dance with Me? 1989.
- Affairs of the Heart , MCA, 1991.
- Intimacy , MCA, 1993.
- Remixes of Love (Japanese release), 1994.
- Affection , Avitone/Bellmark, 1995.
- Greatest Hits , 1996.
- Flower , Atlantic, 1998.
- Billboard, December 20, 1998.
- Ebony, November 1993, p. 36.
- Essence, March 1994, p. 62.
- Jet, August 7, 1995, p. 34.
- People, October 16, 1995, p. 96; March 11, 1996, p. 116; May 25, 1997, p. 21; April 6,1998, . 23.
- "Jody Watley Discography," and "Jody Biography" available athttp://www.americamodels.com/jodywatley/ (May 25, 1999).