What is your name/stage name and tell me a little bit about your background? Where are you from and how did you get started in the entertainment business and what do you do? My name is, “Tiffany Makeda Francisco''. But I am known by “Makeda Francisco”. I am originally a native of New Jersey. Yes, I am a Jersey girl born and raised yes! And of course, I like to always say by way of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, because I believe that's where I nurtured and cultivated not only spiritually but my gifts. Everything was just nurtured and cultivated there. I spent seven years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before I landed in California.
When was your first record deal?
I had my first record deal with an independent label called, “In search of Hits Records”. It was a subsidiary of “Sugar Hill Record. I recorded my first record in Teaneck, New Jersey, at sugar Hill Records Recording Studio. What were some of the most memorable moments in your career? That is such a hard question because I have so many. Every so many years, I would get this climactic moment where it would be life-changing for me. When I was18, I met Liz Houghe, Maysa Leak, and Phyllis Hymen. That was everything for me because I was obsessed With Phyllis at that time. In my late teens, I developed a deep admiration for artists such as Chaka Khan, Phyllis Hymen, and Anita Baker. As much as I loved their rich tones, I equally enjoyed their message and delivery. They were all equally phenomenal! I remember one day, while at the Philly international, I had the pleasure of meeting Phyllis Hymen. that was life-changing!
Another intoxicating moment of my career was going to “Sugar Hill Records” and being able to sit down with pioneers like Silvia and Rod Johnson. Having these type of people pour into my career like, George Kerr, who was the owner of “In Search of Hit Records”. He was a member of “Little Anthony and The Imperials” and he is also the founder of that label. The first person I reconnected with when I came to California was, “Malcolm Jamal Warner” of “The Cosby Show”. He treated I will never forget how he embraced me and treated me like his little sister even though there was only a 1 year age difference. Prior to that, Malcolm and I crossed many paths during our childhood and teenage days. I must say, he had a huge impact on my life!
I also had the pleasure of sharing pageant stages with, then-girlfriend of “Malcolm Jamal Werner” and “The Cosby Show” actress, the late Michelle Thompson. We were both a part of " The Hal Jackson's Talented Team". She was crowned, “Miss New Jersey” one year and I was “Miss New Jersey” the following year.
Malcolm began introducing me to many influential people in the business. He started setting up stage appearances, showcases, and studio sessions at the musician's Institute.
One day, I met a sound man (Kenny Williams) who told me that R&B singer, “Eric Benet” was holding auditions for a new vocalist. He gave me the number to the music director and instructed me to inquire as to which day the audition would be held. He went on to say, “go get that job”! So, I did just that and after speaking with the musical director for Eric, he told me to come down to the studio in Redondo Beach where the audition was to be held. I did not delay it! I went down to the studio and sang maybe two songs before he cut the audition and gave me the job! I believe that God used Kenny in a mighty way on that day when he told me to “go get that job”! I'll never forget it!
For the next four years, I performed with Eric bonnet. I was hired at the end of 1999, But I started in 2000 because unbeknownst to any of them I was pregnant lol.
My musical journey was packed with pivotal moments. Eric and I had an amazing working relationship! He was like a brother to me. In fact, we gelled so well that you would have thought we grew up together. However, I must say, working with Eric opened many career opportunities. Unfortunately, My journey with Eric came to a halt after the whole Halle Berry saga.
What is amazing is that I never worked with any artist where there was drama. Later in my career, some minor issues would arise but, I was instantly capping the situation because “I just don't do crazy”.
Later I went on to work with Phillip Bailey, Sheila E., Malcolm Jamal Warner’s band, “Miles long.” And the amazingly talented Teena Marie.
Being asked to perform with Teena Marie was another pivotal moment in my life. I love my story with Teena! One day, after a live performance at “Cafe Cordiale,” R&B / Funk artist, “Rick James” sister Penny approached me and said that Teena needed me! So, we arranged to meet. While at the meeting, she went on to tell me that, “Teena” needed a backup singer to fly to Florida within 48 hours and asked me if I knew her songs? I told her yes. I then called my then-husband and he encouraged me to go. After getting off the phone with him, she informed me that there would not be a rehearsal and asked me if I was ok with that. I looked at her, cocked my head to the side, and said, “there is nothing that this woman has put out that I don't know”! Penny then asked me if I would be able to blend with the other girls, and I said, “I got it!”
Next, Penny calls Teena, relays what I said to her, and hands me the phone. I couldn’t believe I was talking to the “Teena Marie” on the phone! She said, “I'm going to tell you something”. I'm going to fly you out here. If you do this show, I'm going to double your pay! She also told me that if I could go through this concert without one rehearsal she would not only pay me for the show but, double my pay in cash. So, she flew me to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and just as she said, “Teena” not only gave me my pay, but she also gave me a dozen white roses With $700.00 bills in the shape of roses wrapped up inside the beautiful bouquet. She was amazing! This was the event that began not only our successful business relationship but long-lasting friendship.
As time went on, “Teena” would teach me survival tips in the industry while she continued pouring many blessings into my life.
Little did I know that I would go on to perform with “Teena Marie” for six years.
What was your most challenging moment? Believe it or not, “the colorism”! I vividly remember overhearing a conversation that deeply disturbed me to the core, but later would be a life-changing experience for me.
I was all geared up to do a big stage event at the “The Essence Festival” with an artist I was working with at the time. This event was being held at “The Superdome” in New Orleans, Louisiana. The artist manager informed him that “the heads of the record company were here” and he further went on to say that he didn’t feel as though I fit the status quo of what the black image is right now”. He felt that they wanted to see a woman who looked more exotic and that I was too ethnic. That conversation tore my soul!
I will never forget that conversation. Too ethnic! I was furious! I love wearing turbans, big hoop earrings, a big wild and crazy afro and braids! I love the essence of being an African Hebrew Queen, that's just who I am! How dare they insult my ethnicity! So, what did I do? I rebelled! I said to myself, oh, so you want ethnic, I’ll give you ethnic! I took my long beautiful hair and cut all my hair off down to 1/4 of an inch and locked it! When it came time for the show, I stepped on all three stages with my big earrings and my new short twisted do! You should have seen the faces of my bandmates as I stepped on the big high riser stage! They were shocked, but for me, the shaving of my head brought the blessing on self-love and self-liberation! That was the day that I permanently packed away self-hatred.
In my formative years, I remember my parents reminding of my black beauty and curves, but, I just thought that all parents say kind things to their children just because they love you. This is what I would say to my dad. Even though I was winning pageants I never felt like a beautiful black woman. But, visiting and performing in Africa reinforced their unforgotten words and became the most life-changing experience of my journey!
Africa was amazing! I never met So many beautiful people! On top of that, I found out that I have family in the “Congo” and in “Ghana”. What was even more amazing is that they came out to the concert to hear me sing! How amazing is that!
Sitting at the seat with the elders in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Johannesburg, and in Cape Town, was the biggest highlight of my trip. I told them that “, I brought back In my little transportation ship” ( this is what I call my body), my transportation ship, and they gave me my culture, my language, my God, and my power. As an African woman, they gave that back to me. So, you can imagine how powerful this experience was for me. It was a spiritual exchange. I brought something to them, and they gave me something by allowing me the right to step on that homeland soil again. It was a powerful exchange. We hugged and cried as if we knew each other for a lifetime. Although I had the option of red carpet treatment, with limousine and all, I opted to the humbler approach and settled for being picked up in a regular car. Throughout the entire duration of my stay in Africa, I wanted to live like everyone else. I wanted to just be Makeda.
Who are your influences? Diana Ross of course! You know, I thought I was her at age 14. Diana Ross and Natalie Cole combined! I loved “Natalie”, but “Diana” was my favorite. She was a beautiful diva on stage. She was elegant, articulate, and simply amazing! I wanted to exude that type of stage presence also. I believe my stage presence is modeled after “Diana’s”, and my tone and vibration are from, Natalie Cole, Phyllis Hymen, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, Angela Bofill, Angela Winbush, and Stephanie Mills. I love the artist that you don't often hear about, but you should hear about them because they are amazing! If you could do a duet and or have someone work with someone in the industry, dead or alive, who would it be? Marvin Gaye! I love Marvin Gaye because he was a street Prophet. I hope to write songs like him one day. I not only loved Marvin Gaye’s writings but his silky soul sound, tone, and voice. To me, he was the epitome of a beautiful black king. His music was way ahead of his time. Everything about him was amazing! The other one would be Stevie Wonder. Both are equally incredibly talented artists!
What is the last song you listened to by another artist and who is your present favorite?
Kem! I love him! What was your most embarrassing moment while performing live or in an interview?
My water broke while on stage. You know how you take a break when you are performing, and the host asks you questions? And my water broke, so I just told the audience, excuse me, I was about to go home and have this baby. Hilarious! How has COVID 19 affected your career? It made me slow down and listen to God more. It has made the mother in me shine even brighter. I wake up every day with my children. I am not at the door with my suitcase and makeup saying. “I’ll see you in two weeks or a month. Really, it has been a blessing to me. In this time, I have learned how to slow down, study and learn. I become a student in my life, spiritually, musically and as a songwriter. I have even learned how to become a more excellent mother.
Tell us about your current and future projects? I have a book that will be released called, “Psalms and Lyrics. Its basically a collection of songs I’ve written, and prayers I’ve prayed, over the years. The book is packed with wisdom and inspiration! I pray that those who read this book will not only be blessed by it but apply these principles to their everyday life. The book is due to be released in October of 2020. I also have an album coming out, “Queen of the South”. My new album will be ready by September. What are your either weird habits or traditions you do while preparing yourself artistically? Before I perform, I always get in my quiet place, cut off the lights, burn candles, and incense and just sat there and just chill. I try getting the world out of my brain. I am a girly girl. I like Jasmine in lavender burning in my room anywhere I am. I settle myself before going on stage. Always ask my Heavenly Father, to get rid of me and do what He does to me and through me before approaching any stage. What advice would you like giving those seeking to be in the entertainment industry? Build your well and be independent. Hard work makes you appreciate success even more. Also, maintain your own life. Remember, you are in control of your own life. Without independence, you can get paid millions upon millions of dollars, but you're not in control of your life. Take a good look at of these athletes. They couldn’t even take a knee in protest against racial inequality, because someone owns them. So, if only you and God own you, God and you have the power. Develop your own business and product. Finally, surround yourself with like-minded people and you’ll be just fine. Interview by: Gina Carey