Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik
The Road to Royalty
By Sam Johnson
Interview with LaToya London
The Color Purple has been a pillar in the African American community ever since it hit the theaters and received critical acclaimed by also paving the way for Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg and a colossal in the film industry by the name of Steven Spielberg. The film which holds a special place in the heart of Oprah has been brought to life on streets of New York on and off Broadway and has made its way to Chicago and most recently heading to Los Angeles. The musical has received rave reviews and has been running since 2005.
American Idol sensation LaToya London soared to even greater heights when it was announced in 2006 that she would be starring in an extended Chicago run as Nettie in the Oprah Winfrey produced musical The Color Purple. No stranger to success and sisterhood London was also able to co-star with her friend and fellow American Idol star Fantasia Barrino who would eventually star and Celie in the run of the show.
London who has a strong background in music and drama is a native of San Francisco, CA. She had a successful run with on the third season of American Idol and had the privilege of joining the ranks known as “The Three Divas” alongside Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia Barrino. In terms of her music career she garnered a recording deal with Peak Records and had two chart topping singles from her 2005 album Love and Life. I had the pleasure of speaking with the amazing actress about her beginning stages, her journey and her road to success with the Color Purple
Sentinel: What is your connection with the Color Purple?
LaToya London (LL): It was just another appointment for me. I didn’t get drawn into it until I actually became a part of it. It was just another audition to me.
Sentinel: How would you say the play differs from the movie? And are you biased towards either one? Why or Why not?
Â LL:I loved the movie. It was one of my favorites when I was younger. I know all the lines and I saw it on Broadway a few times and had the opportunity to audition.
Sentinel: What personal connection do you have with your character Nettie? Is this the character that you identify with the most?
LL: I identify with her in the movie. She wanted to give her sister everything she had and show her everything that was wonderful about life. She was very protective. I connected to her spirit. I love the whole aspect of her. She’s someone I could aspire to be. That goes for Celie as well. I definitely see a lot of her in me.
Sentinel: What do you think the Color Purple means to the black community?
LL: It’s a classic. There have been many classics from Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, classic from black female writers and that’s major. It has sustained the essence of time over 20 years. It means a lot because it’s a classic that goes far beyond race and gives other races a history of things we’ve gone through. The musical means so much because it’s the first time that we’ve proven to producers that we will come to Broadway and we will sustain the test of time.
Sentinel: How do you balance your music career with your acting career? Is your focus divided?
LL: My focus was singing at first but I also wanted to act when the opportunity came I wanted to audition for things. Since Color Purple it’s been harder to travel from place to place. Once The Color Purple is over I’ll have more time to focus on music. I love them both but singing is my first love. I’m just getting my feet wet in acting but I really enjoy singing.
Sentinel: American Idol has definitely been a stepping stone for yourself as well as others like Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson etc. What do you think prepared you the most for performing on Broadway?
LL: I was already performing a lot on stage in front of audiences from younger day’s church. I got to break the ice as a child. Once I got to American Idol the professional aspect was able to equip me.
Sentinel: Do you feel that AI alumni have as much advantage nowadays as they do when you were involved?
LL: In reference to AI alumni, the recent alumni have an advantage because they’re actually able to be artist on the show, work in a band and things of that nature. They could make a song their own. They could make the songs the way they wanted to sing it. The knowledge of how to sustain one’s self in the industry was not available back then. So yes, today’s AI alumni definitely have an advantage