Next To Blow: Dondria An Over Night Sing-Sation

| August 16, 2010 | 0 Comments
so so def

Dondria

Dondria is never one to try too hard

This hot Aug. 9, 2010 afternoon, she makes it clear that she’s performing one song. “In and out,” she tells a bystander. From the time she enters the media lounge at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center for the massive Bronner Bros. Hair Show, Dondria’s charisma and positive attitude shine. She greets the crowd before she performs. She laughs for a bit. Offstage, she continues to be the center of camera flashing: constantly posing with her hands on her hips and a million-dollar Colgate smile.

The caramel-toned and long curly-haired young lady is quite comfortable: wearing a blue leather vest, light blue ripped Levi’s shorts, gold open-toed heels, and gold bangles. Dondria gives hugs left and right without losing her smile. Even on stage as the amps and microphones give out, she keeps on singing. When holding this conversation, Dondria stands comfortably by a column outside of the lounge and drinks out of a bottle of Dasani. Dondria is laid back with every response: glaring eye contact and minor hand gestures. She is a purveyor of quality — never missing an opportunity to thank her supporters.

Dondria Nicole Fields has a wonderful voice with incredible range, vibrato, and crescendos where it counts: obviously a skill and gift tailored in the church choir that heavily idolizes Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Etta James. The 23 year-old Dover, OK born, Sasche, TX raised singer and songwriter has music in her blood next to a small treble clef tattooed above her right ankle. Her first single under producer Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def imprint, “You’re the One,” opens with an organ riff layered under her powerhouse vocals and a sound potent enough to take listeners to a Sunday morning service. The follow-up melodic crunk single, “Shawty Wus Up,” cranks it up a notch with assistance from vocalist/songwriter Johnta Austin and rapper Diamond. Another single, “Makin’ Love,” features a looped Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes sample and is an ode to true love.

But Dondria knows she wants more. Her music and style resurges a lost art. “I’m definitely tryin’ to do my part in bringing that real R&B and soul back, which is really not relevant right now,” she says. “Everybody’s tryin’ to crossover and do pop or, you know, make it more hip hop, but nobody is really embracing the real R&B. So that’s what I’m doing, and that’s what’s gonna set me apart.”


Dondria talks to her fans today

Call it cruel intentions, but music wasn’t really a priority. It doesn’t start as Dondria’s passion, but she would grow to accept it. Dondria’s mother encourages her to join the church choir and take advantage of her vocal talents. She knows her young daughter has skills unlike any other. “My mom says that even when she was bathing me in the tub, I was singing,” Dondria remembers. “I wasn’t really feelin’ it, but it’s just one of those things like when you’re mom makes you go to Sunday school, you just go. I just developed a passion.” As she grows up, the cycle would only continue, and Dondria’s talent would gain more recognition than she would ever imagine. She would enroll in Tarleton State University, a college not too far from Dallas/Fort Worth, and major in music. Also quick to recognize her incredible range and impressive ability, Dondria’s superiors only feed her more encouragement.

“All my voice teachers strived for me,” she remembers. “They made me try out for solos, and they made me try out to do these competitions. All this stuff at one point in time, I wasn’t really interested in, but I guess just developing the understanding that I have a gift. I’m expected to use this gift for good and spread joy – spread what God has given me, and I’m supposed to share it. I guess I just understood that. I realize I really have something, and people are embracing it. Now, I wouldn’t do anything. I can’t. I wouldn’t do anything else.”

Dondria never minds joking around. She knows her voice wasn’t the only thing big on her. Her college roommate, noticing Dondria’s huge appetite for food, gives her the nickname “Phatfffat.” Needless to say, the name fits. “I’m little, but I eat a lot,” she says followed by a slight gush of chuckles. “I can throw down.”

Taking it in stride, Dondria runs with the joke. She uses “Phatfffat” as her screen alter ego on YouTube in 2006. She would make mini-videos of herself singing customized versions of popular R&B records. Before long, her online enigma would build an online cult following in the States and abroad (as far as Australia according to Dondria) amassing 3 million page views and over 20 million video views total on her channel. “I wouldn’t imagine that anything would happen like that,” she says. “I just reached a broader audience with it. It’s amazing.” She knows her genuine spirit makes her a marketable brand to be reckoned with. “I’ve had such a big following on YouTube because I’m real, I’m down to earth. I’m myself. I’m not puttin’ on a façade about how glamorous this business is. It’s like the cover of a book, but nobody’s reading the book. I’m just showing everyone that it’s okay to be real. It’s okay to be yourself.”

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