BACK ON TRACK
By Belinda Trotter James
Back in the day there were a few really good musical girl and guy groups. One of the groups from the famous Motown family in the early ‘90s was the trio, 702 with lead singer, Kameelah Williams known to her fans as Meelah who was at the top of her career with hit recordings. Meelah was the very talented lead singer of the group along with group members LeMisha and Irish Grinstead who are sisters. Thanks to Sinbad and recording artist Michael Bivins, the girls were well on their way to stardom.
This was definitely a dream come true for young singers fresh out of high school. I’m sure it was one of the most memorable times in her career. “They were definitely plenty of memorable and fun times in that phase of my career,” remembers Meelah. “My most memorable time was with my first tour. We were on tour with New Edition. New Edition was the headliner and we did a three-month run with them along with Keith Sweat and Black Street. It was my very first tour straight out of high school. New Edition was the very first concert I attended when I was seven years old, so just being on stage with them and sharing the bill was so surreal. It was a full circle moment and I just remember standing backstage and thinking, ‘Oh my God! I'm getting ready to go on stage. I'm here with New Edition and I'm a fan plus Michael Bivins is my label head’. I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, is this really my life?’
Growing up in Las Vegas as a child Meelah was very active and her mother kept her in everything. "I was a happy, active child. I love to dance and I was in ballet for a minute,” says Meelah. “I was all over the place trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I did ballet for a second, I did piano next, but when I opened my mouth and sang I thought, ‘Wow, I'm kind of good at this’. So, I was really active and my mother had me in talent shows, fashion shows, singing the national anthem at sporting meets, weddings, funerals and bat mitzvahs. She had me singing everywhere. It was great. She was my number one supporter and I'm so grateful.”
With all the reality television shows flooding the airwaves, Meelah decided to throw her voice in the ring for a number of reasons. "It seems like that's the best outlet for an artist like myself who is been off the scene for a while,” says Meelah. "I call it the new age record deal. Unfortunately, it seems to be the best and the only platform for exposure and getting yourself back out there when it comes to resurrecting your career. I just didn't overnight say, ‘Okay I'm with it.’ I was reluctant and hesitant for a while and then I prayed about it and thought about it some more and realized okay I'm ready; I think this thing is a go. I just wanted to make sure I did a show that made sense for my brand and me and what I'm trying to build and establish. I wanted to show me being an artist and a vocalist who has had a degree of success. I didn't want people to forget my contribution to the industry. I don't want it to seem like, ‘Oh she's the next reality star.’ I want to be respected as the veteran that I am in this game. I wanted to be on a show that would capture a day in the life of a singer. It just made sense to go with R&B Divas.”
With all the fighting going on other reality shows were the R&B Divas able to keep it together and get along? "The thing with me is that I get along with everybody and unfortunately I guess that is not always entertaining enough,” states Meelah. “It’s bittersweet because when you're laid-back, kind of chilled and the voice of reason most the time, it’s easy for people to categorize you as boring. I'll take that… I get along with everybody, so I'll take that and realize I'm good with everyone. I stay out of the drama, but if I go back for another season who knows what will happen. Most of the time it's all out of love when multiple personalities and a bunch of women get together there is going to be disagreements and it's a part of being human. You just got to know how to agree to disagree.”
The best thing about being on reality television is that it gives veteran divas such as Meelah a chance to re-introduce herself to a generation who didn't know her when she was in the prime of her career. "It definitely gave me an opportunity to re-establish, introduce and re-introduce myself as a solo artist. It gave me a platform and the labels look at it as free advertisement. I didn't like everything that came along with it because there's a lot of criticism and judgment. A lot of people on your timeline and social media feel like they can say whatever they want to say about you. Unfortunately, they can type whatever they want to type and that's not always easy because I'm human at the end of the day. Although I am nice and humble I am human and sometimes I want to ‘turn up’ and type back. However, I try my hardest to just let it go and just know that people have opinions and they are entitled to that. I appreciate the fact that people get to see me now, but I don't appreciate how people can just say what they want, but it is what it is and that's what you signed up for.”
It’s unfortunate that in reality television people do feel that they are truly a part of your life and can say or type things and not think about how you may feel at the end of the day regarding their comments. Some say that you shouldn't read everything that's on social media however, you do want to read what people are saying about you so that you know how to react to it and then let it go. You cannot be ignorant to what is going on around you. The lesson is to see it and in this case read it and then let it go.
Meelah adds, "It's kind of hard because I chose to stop reading the blogs and all the gossip. Before I started filming the show I told myself that I was going to cut off all of the blogs, all the gossip columns and I not entertain that stuff especially now since I have a reality show. I don't want that energy around me. I'm just trying to stay easy breezy, beautiful and positive, but of course you will see some things. The good thing about me is 95% of my feedback is positive. I don't see a lot of shade or hate, but there are some people that are not going to like you. You cannot please all the people so I don't even try. Sometimes some people may let me have it and sometimes I'm just not going to let you get away with it. Sometimes I do feel the need to let people know that you just can't say anything to me and I think that you're not going to feel the wrath. But then sometimes I do have to check myself and say, 'Meelah girl you must be the bigger person and walk away,” she laughs.
As far as trying to clear up any misunderstandings, concerns or issues that are on the blogs Meelah says, "Oh no. Not at all. What I have learned is that people take digs and try to get you all fired up so that you can respond. I don’t want them to be able to say, ‘Meelah from R&B Divas was going back-and-forth with me on social media.” So for the most part I don't feed into it or give them what they want. There is nothing at all that I feel the need to clear up. People are people and unfortunately they are not going to be happy for you. That's just the way life is and you just have to move on. Some people want to have your life and they are living vicariously through your life. They admire me and it's all-good.”
Fans are really excited that Meelah is bringing new music to her loyal fans and letting new fans know she is the real deal when it comes to making great music. Sometimes when you have been blessed with a great gift, you just can’t stay away. You may try to break away from the industry to raise a family or venture out to explore the world however; there is an annoying feeling that will not allow you to keep your gift to yourself. That is a great gift within itself to know why you are on the planet. Thank goodness Meelah’s nagging inner voice made her come out to sing for us again to heal some souls that can only be healed by music.
Meelah revealed why she decided to bring her fans new music at this time in her life. “The inspiration for my music now is definitely about my life and stuff I've gone through since my days of 702,” explains Meelah. “I’m a woman now. I have a child, I am a mother, I have lived and been through life and this thing called love and relationships which just gives you more to write about and sing about. Of course I sang those love songs with 702, but I was just singing because I was instructed to do so; but now I can actually sing from experience. I'm just grateful now that I have the drive. My son has really instilled so much drive and determination in me. I just felt it was that time because I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I was feeling very empty and although I was in love with being a mommy I was very dissatisfied, missing my craft, missing recording, traveling and writing my new music. I just wasn't 100% happy and I thought I better do something about this. I didn't want to just continue to sit on my gift. Just because you're a mom doesn't mean you have to stop living for yourself. I think it was just God's timing. I don't know why He chose now, but He just did and I'm happy that He did. It feels great; it feels like I needed all that time to figure things out. Now it feels like the perfect time.”
Right now Meelah is working on her latest album and she's doing shows here and there. “I love to travel. I was in London a couple of months back and the reception was wonderful, says Meelah. “They treated me like I just came out yesterday. It didn't feel like they were mad at me because I'm solo now. They were genuinely happy to see me, hear my voice and sing along with me. It was just great. It felt so good. All the fans were asking, ‘What is taking so long to come out with a whole album? Can we get a few singles or something!’ I mean it's time and I'm ready for it. I'm definitely going to do that for my fans. I feel like I'm ready for a full Meelah solo project.”
Give It To You, is Meelah's solo video debut featuring Musiq Soulchild. Meelah and Musiq wrote this song together and Musiq produced the track. Give It To You is available on iTunes. The video was directed by SLASH and produced by The Spice Group.
A solo project usually means working with special guest artists. I wondered who she would like to collaborate with on a song. She replied, “I would love to get back with Missy Elliott. I just feel like our chemistry was amazing. The stuff we created with 702 and Timbaland just amazing. If I could have a wish list of people I would want to work with…. Oh my gosh! It would be so long. I would want to work with Pharrell again. I worked with him when I was with 702 and he is such a genius. I would like to work with Will I AM, John Mayer… I'm such a fan of his. I just love music. My musicality is very widespread and broad, so I want to introduce people to that side of Meelah.
Speaking of sides, there is another one only her true fans may know about and that is her children’s album. ‘Yes, I did a children's album about two years ago and the way I approached it was jazz influenced,” reveals Meelah. “It was very jazzy and I know that people have not heard that side of me. I just want to show the fans who Meelah really is and show them the layers I have as a musician. By being in a girl group sometimes your individuality is taken away from you and that's what I went through after I left the group. I just kind of experimented musically to find myself as an individual and as an artist. Now I'm at the point where I think I get it and now I want to share it with the world.”
Meelah's children’s album actually has 13 songs on iTunes and Amazon.com called, We Are Different. “I wrote nine of the songs and the other four my artist friends wrote”, says Meelah. “They are just R&B songs and pop records that you would think should be on the radio as just regular songs, but it's children's content. I wanted it to be fun for the parents and adults to listen to with their children. It's tracks that adults can jam to with suitable content for kids. I just thought that would be a really cool idea because all we have on the radio these days, especially down south is a lot of that music that is really not suitable for kids to be singing along to… They don't know what they are singing. They are just singing along. It's a catchy hook at a sing-along. (and with that being said we bust out laughing and had a picture in our heads of a five-year old child singing along with inappropriate music.) Meelah said, “So I thought it would really be a cool idea to create music for children and my son loves it. It's really an incredible project.”
Speaking about her son he must play instruments or may follow in his mother’s footsteps. Meelah says, “Zachariah is the funniest little human being. He has a set of drums; he has a guitar and a piano. When I tell you he pays none of it no mind… He does not touch them anymore. He loved the drums for a second so we brought him some drums; now he's over that. I have a guitar that is collecting dust in the corner of my room that he messes with, so we brought him a guitar and now he doesn't look at it at all. The piano just sits there and he'll play with it for a minute and then gets up. He’s developing and he'll figure it out, but he does love to sing. He loves to stand in the mirror and watch himself sing and act out parts. I think he's more into acting. It is so interesting just watching him. He may have an interest in the arts, but I do hope he goes in another direction as long as it's legal,” she laughs. I want him to do something else that is lucrative and legal.”
For those of you who don't know Meelah's son is autistic so she is a big advocate and very passionate about Special Needs for children. She has a newly established foundation in honor of her son called, PROUD which is an acronym for Parents Reaching Out to Understand Developmental Delays. "If you watch the show [R&B Divas] we featured a benefit concert in honor of my son,” says Meelah. PROUD put it together and it was awesome. Celebrities came out and sang. It was a good cause in the name and love of autism. I'm looking to do bigger, better and brighter things with the foundation to really spread awareness. It is so important. When I touched on it during the show, it was one of the things I struggled with on the show. I didn’t know whether I wanted to expose that and I was glad I did because a lot of parents reached out to me daily to thank me for it. I just want to be a source of support and use the platform that I have to encourage others.”
When I talk to different celebrities and they expose very personal situations that are going on in their lives, regular folk are a little bit in shock because some think celebrities are untouchable and they have the money to correct any problem or situation. However, we find that sometimes money can't correct all situations. Sometimes things have a way of working themselves out to be exposed so that the masses can have hope that if a celebrity can get through this then as a non-famous person, I too can get through.
Meelah reveals, “It's so amazing how God works because I didn't get it at first. I was definitely one of those people who thought, ‘Why me? Why me? Why me?’ I had to look myself in the mirror and do a reality check and say, ‘Why not you?’ It was then that I realized there was a bigger picture. This wasn't just for me. God didn't give me all of this just for me. I had to use it for something. I had to use my platform for something else. It's not just a video or selling 1 million records and being glamorized. It's a bigger purpose so I get it now and I love my son to pieces because he helped me see clearly now. Sometimes we have to go through life changing events to really understand our purpose, so I am really grateful for it.”
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