Ghetto, fabulous and super-talented, Keyshia Cole has what it takes to become R&B’s next big superstar. But can she just get out of her own way?
Three and a half hours after she was scheduled to arrive at a Santa Monica, California, photo studio, there is still no sign of R&B singer Keyshia Cole. The photographer, stylist and makeup artist—not to mention the camera crew trailing Cole for the second season of her BET reality series, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is—do their best to feign patience. Still, whenever a car pulls into the parking lot, all heads turn. And it’s always a false alarm.
“She works on her own schedule,” says Ri-Karlo Handy, supervising producer for The Way It Is, “but don’t be there when she wants to go somewhere or do something and you’re not ready.”
Cole’s manager, Manny Halley, and her label publicist, Tresa Sanders, saunter into the studio. Both seem genuinely surprised to find their artist missing. Calls are made. BlackBerrys are whipped out. They’ve been through this before.
“What’s it like to follow her around?” I ask two of the crew members as they gather around a monitor with a static view of the parking lot. They exchange looks and chuckle. “Raw,” says one man, who asks to remain anonymous. “Like Mary when she first came out—don’t-get-punched-in-the-mouth kind of thing. But she speaks for the people who listen to her music.”
An hour and a half later, suddenly lights are set up. Booms pop out. Cameras are at the ready.
“She’s here,” they shout.
Donning designer shades, the five-foot-two Cole struts in, trailed by a bodyguard, who is about the same size as the Cadillac Escalade from which they emerged.
“I’m Keyshia,” she says, offering her hand. Her grip is supple and confident.
Being a star means never having to say you’re sorry. So she doesn’t.
Two hours later, Cole stands on the studio’s rooftop rocking form-fitting pants and black lipstick. She looks every bit the ghetto superstar. The sunglasses come off, and her eyes are more vulnerable than sensual, almost needy.
Making people wait, having cameras record her every move, Cole seems to feeds off the attention. After all, she went from an unnoticed young chick to the mouth that roared. Her attitude speaks volumes: If I’m not important, then why is everybody watching me?