This interview originally appeared on EARSTYLE June 15th, 2010
You may know Dondria as Phatfffat that pretty girl who’s always eating and covering others songs, but the beautiful vocalist wants to prove that she is more than a voice! With a top 10 single and a sick voice she is well on her way to stardom.
-How are you?
I’m good! How are you?
-I’m great. It’s been a while. Last time we talked it was like a year or two years ago.
Oh gosh. It’s been a long time.
-Congratulations on the single! “You’re The One” has really taken off. Everyone is singing it from fathers to mothers to the children. People even said their churches are making gospel renditions. It’s crazy!
Ok. I was saying “really?” My church tried to, but I was like “No! Stop it.” (Laughs)
-When the organs come on it takes you to church a little bit though. Especially once you start singing. How does it feel having people cover your song? That’s how you started doing covers so I know it must be crazy?
Yes! It feels great. I think that a lot of times it’s so surreal, because that was me singing other people’s songs. It’s like things switched. I don’t even know. Sometimes I’m even speechless, because it’s like wow. I really did like a 360.
-So for the people who haven’t heard the story about how you were discovered can you give them a quick run through of how you were discovered?
Yes, I started putting videos up on YouTube in 2006 just to get an unbiased opinion from someone other than my mom, friends at church, and people like that to see how people really felt about my voice. What ended up happening is…I guess through word of mouth people were like, “Look at this girl on YouTube.” A year later one of my videos had hit 1,000,000 views. I had up to 25,000 subscribers at the time. People started hitting me up to collaborate or to write for me or work with me period. One of those people were Jermaine Dupri and he ended up signing me like 6 months later.
-And you didn’t believe it was him did you?
Nope! Not at all. I thought it was someone pranking me and I told him “Do not play with me” I ignored him for like a month. He probably thought I was crazy, but I thought he was crazy.
- How did you finally end up talking to him and realizing that it was really Jermaine Dupri?
Well I just gave in one day. (Laughs) He was very very persistent and that was one of the things that set him apart from everybody else which made me think, “Well maybe it really is him.” I just finally said “Ok” let me see what this man wants, because what’s funny is if I didn’t finally give in he would probably have stopped hitting me up. So I just said “Let me see what this man want” and I gave him my number and he was real. It was really him!
-He produced the first single correct?
-It’s crazy because I was in the car and I heard it and a friend from high school asked who you were and I reminded him that it was the girl from the YouTube videos that we use to watch during free periods. It’s definitely a blessing to see the growth and success.
It sure is.
-Did you expect the success? Did you know that the record was “the one” when you heard it?
I did. I actually really did fall in love with it when I first heard it. What’s so funny is I wasn’t really sure when I was looking for a single what it would be like, but I really knew that it was the one. It’s something very simple, not very complex, but it’s something that everyone can relate to no matter what age you are. It just worked and I am happy, because I fell in love with it from the jump.
-When was your first time hearing the record outside of the studio? Where were you and what was your reaction?
Umm…where was I? I don’t know, I don’t know where I was at, but when it plays now I’m like “Thats me!” It just keeps getting better and better, because right now it’s a Top 10 record and I would have never imagined that any of this would happen. So it’s always like I have to pinch myself.
-You are preparing to drop your second single “Shawty Wus Up” which features Johnta Austin and Diamond. It’s a hot record and I love it! How did that record come about?
Thank you! I actually recorded that record with just Johnta Austin. It was just Johnta Austin and me at first and we had like a whole different bridge, but I guess listening to it and always trying to figure out what the second single would be I just kept listening to it and decided on it. The music was different and all so we basically just remixed it. Instead of you all hearing the orignal music and all it’s kind of like a complete remix and we added Diamond on it. I think it’s hot. We actually shoot the video tomorrow.
-Oh wow! That’s an exclusive. It’s a sexy song and all, but will you be bustin’ out into a little choreography to show us what you got?
I might! I definitely want to on stage, because I really want to show everyone a different side to me. I don’t want them to think that I’m just going to sing ballads all the time. Definitely on stage we are going to do something together. I know for the video we are going to…this is an exclusive ok. (Laughs) In the video there is a section where I’m rehearsing with DeVyne Stephens (choreographer for TLC, Ciara, Usher) we’ll see what he shows me. I don’t know yet. (Laughs)
-We are definitely looking forward to that. I know the last time we spoke you revealed the title of the project, “Dondria vs. Phatfffat”. Can you explain the story behind the title?
Yes. The story behind the title, it’s not necessarily like the whole alter ego thing that everyone else has done. It’s more of just telling you that Dondria is more than just Phatfffat. There’s a whole another side to Phatffat. Dondria and Phatfffat is the same person, but there’s a whole another side that y’all don’t see. Everyone sees Phatfffat and me singing people’s songs and joking, laughing, forgetting words and all of that. Dondria is the artist which shows the professional side, the artistic side, because a lot of people be hating and saying I am only a YouTube singer, but whatever.
-You have to forget the haters. Who have you worked with on the album?
I have worked with JD of course, Bryan Michael Cox, No I.D., and as far as writers Johnta Austin and Cristyle and me. I wrote as well.
-I heard one of the records and fell in love with it. “Can U Help Me”? That’s an amazing record.
Yeah, “Can U Help Me”. That is on the album. That one is by The Inkredibles actually.
-When is the album dropping?
The album is dropping August 3rd!
-I know on your twitter you talked a little about working on a second mixtape. How is that coming along?
It is coming along slow. (Laughs) Just because I am doing a lot of traveling now and doing a lot of promo. Which is very good, because it means people are booking me and all, but I don’t have the time to get in the studio and really finish it up. It’s coming.
-Phatfffat loves to eat and we share something in common. I can’t get enough of Chipotle! Chipotle is crack.
It is! It really is.
-People don’t understand. They try to argue with me and say Qdoba is better, but Chipotle is really crack.
-If there was a Dondria or Phatfffat special at Chipotle what would that be?
It would be a burrito bowl. It would have the black beans, but it would have the onions and peppers too. It would be half chicken-half pork and then sour cream, corn, mild salsa, and the Chipotle in the bottle like the Chipotle Tobasco. I love that.
-I never had that.
It’s so good. It’s the dark red one.
-Ok, I am going to try it next time.
Yeah, and lettuce and guacamole on the side with the chips!
-Oh you get the chips on the side too? You go in!
-Don’t you have a lifetime supply or something?
Yes, I love it.
-How do you feel about reality television? Would you ever be interested in going that route?
I would have fun with it. I think it’s fun. I would love to. I would definitely have my brothers and sisters with me. I know they would make y’all laugh like it’s nobodys business, but I’m not knocking it. Some of them are so…I don’t even know what the topic is.
-Which ones are you feeling right now?
I love…well I did love the dating ones like Flavor Flav and New York, but now everyone and their Mama wanted to have one I was like ok. I also loved the Hills until all of these other seasons. Now Lauren isn’t even on it anymore. I don’t understand that, but I like it all. I like “Tiny & Toya”. I watch it all.
-Have you ever seen the Brandy & Ray-J show?
Yes, I’ve seen a few episodes. (Laughs)
-Do you relate in anyway to Brandy and her relationship with her Mother/Manager?
I can kind of relate. It’s such a good thing, because you know your mom is looking out for you, and she has your best interest at heart. At the same time it’s like you are grown.
-So your mother still have you in check is what you are saying?
Yeah. It’s not really bad. It’s just certain stuff where she’s Mom instead of manager. I’m like, “Okay Mam put your manager hat on.”
-I have a few questions from some fans. The fellas wanted to know are you single? I tried to tell them what’s up, but I think they need to hear it straight from you. (Laughs)
(Laughs) I am not single. I mean legally I am single, but I’ve been in a relationship for three years now. We’re good.
-Another fan wanted to know if you were looking for backup singers and if so where could they audition?
I will definitely put out a big blast when I start looking for some. I will probably post it later when the album comes out and I start doing a real promo tour. I will definitely put out a blast letting everyone know that I am having auditions.
-One of your fans wanted to know if “Weight of My Tears” is on the album?
“Weight of My Tears” is not on the album. If I can find the link I will tweet it and you can download it and have it.
-So that’s legal?
-Before you go is there any advice that you can give to to aspiring singers and to those who are making YouTube videos to receive feedback or even get signed?
I would definitely tell them to put themselves where ever they can. Definitely use YouTube. It’s a great great tool. Use Facebook and MySpace. Do Open Mic nights and Karaoke. Sing in the choir. Do everything you can, because you never know if anyone is going to be around who’s listening, who’s watching. You have to always be on your toes. Like almost just walk down the street singing.
-Have you ever did that?
I do that all the time. I be at the mall in the dressing room and then the girl in the next dressing room be trying to battle me. I be like, “Ok mam please stop.”
-They don’t know who they are messing with.
-Thanks so much! We’ve been working on this awhile, but I am glad we finally made this happen.
Yes. No problem.
-You have to hook me up with a Chipotle pass or something.
I can do that! I might can get you a little pass or something.
-I’m going to be on you about that! I am not going to forget.