By Tamara Juarez, July 2017 Issue.
As part of this year’s Pride in the Pines festivities, Northern Arizona Pride Association (NAPA) announced that Lisa Lisa, of ’80s pop group Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, will headline the Main Stage June 24.
Echo Magazine caught up with the “Queen of Latin Hip Hop” to find out what she’s been up to since dominating the airwaves in the ’80s and ’90s, and here’s what she had to say.
Echo: Have you been to Flagstaff before?
Lisa Lisa: Yes, I have. Many years ago, but I have not been to their pride festival, so I’m looking forward to this. I have been doing a lot of pride events for the past three years.
Echo: Is there anything you enjoy more about pride events or something that make them different from your regular concerts?
Lisa Lisa: Anything that has to do with me being on a stage and performing for the people, I love dearly, but I have to say, [Pride attendees] treat me so very good. They are so sweet and appreciative of [my] music.
Echo: Do you categorize yourself as an ally?
Lisa Lisa: Oh absolutely! Hell yeah! [laughs]. Anything I can do to help the community, I’m so very proud to be a part of it?
Echo: What’s your touring/recording schedule like these days?
Lisa Lisa: I haven’t stopped. I’m all over the place. Thirty plus years and whenever someone calls, I’m there. As a matter of fact, since last year, we’ve been on three different tours. It’s nonstop!
Echo: When you’re not on stage performing, where are fans most likely to find you?
Lisa Lisa: They can expect to find me being a mommy. I do laundry, I mop the floors, I do the dishes, I help my kids with their homework, I go grocery shopping, I cook, I do it all. I play mommy when I’m home. That’s why many years ago, I opted not to do the six-to-nine month tours any more. I just work on the weekends ... I have to be home for my babies.
Echo: What is it like to have such an incessantly busy schedule for so many years? Does it ever get tiring or is it always exciting?
Lisa Lisa: Not only is it my job, but it’s my love. It’s my blood flow and what I thank God for allowing me to do. It’s never going to be tiring for me. I want to be the Puerto Rican Lena Horne on the stage. My fans make me who I am – they make me proud and happy and keep me young for my kids. I have to be running around after them, so I need that exercise.
Echo: Are you working on any new projects currently?
Lisa Lisa: Yes, we’ve been working on some stuff for about two years now, so hopefully we’ll get it out soon. I released an album independently about four years ago, and it did well. I really focus on it being the right time and the right flavor, but I’m also doing a lot of acting, so look out for some good Indies.
Echo: How does it feel to be labeled the “Queen of Latin Hip-Hop”?
Lisa Lisa: If I opened doors for anybody, I thank you for acknowledging that, I’m honored. If I have little girls following me and looking up to me, then I appreciate it and do whatever possible to be a good mentor, but I don’t really think about it. I honestly just love to perform and sing. To be on a stage has always been my dream. I don’t want anybody to be a leader or a “queen” or “king” because there are just so many of us out there – so many different styles of music … We just need to continue doing what we do and make these audiences happy.
Echo: Was there any moment in your career that stands out in your memory or that shaped you the most?
Lisa Lisa: The only thing the really, really shaped me was the fact that my mother gave me the green light and yellow brick road, because I started when I was 13 in this business. Everyone tried to guide me away from it, but my mom was the one that said, ‘do you.’ Before she passed, seven years ago, I was able to sit there and talk with her and she said, “Remember when I told you that you were going to make it out there. You did you, so continue doing it.” That’s my highlight.
Echo: Was there a particular moment when you realized you had accomplished your dream?
Lisa Lisa: I remember when I finally said to myself, ‘I made it!’ As I’ve mentioned, my mom was my biggest fan, even before anything had happened. I got my first solo when I was six years old in the church choir, and I sang the “Ave Maria.” And when I saw her smiling and crying, I thought, ‘this is what I want to do.’ I remember that on the very first tour we did, our last stop was New York, and I used to tell my mom, ‘I want to see my name up in lights in the city. I have to, mommy, I have to see that.’ And she said, ‘don’t worry, don’t worry.’ So, we pulled up, and it was the night before the show, and we we’re driving in on the tour bus, and I remember telling the driver ‘you have to stop by radio city’ … It was about midnight, and there it was: Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam in lights. I remember yelling ‘I did it! I did it!’ I jumped out of the bus and threw myself on the floor and kissed the ground there. I thanked God and my mother. That’s when I knew I was on the right path.
Echo: You were one of the first people who pioneered in freestyle music, but you have also covered a wide variety of genres, so how do you categorize your music?
Lisa Lisa: I have always considered our music to be hop/hip-hop. I don’t like to put myself in a genre, because, except for country, I have done it all. I think we were put into freestyle, because when our music first came out, it was what the freestyle dancers were dancing to in the clubs and in the streets .... whatever you want to describe me [as], girl, I’m happy! [laughs]
Echo: Many people, including younger generations, continue to listen to music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s? What do you think makes freestyle music to attractive?
Lisa Lisa: It’s all thanks to the fans. Without them, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to perform. I thank them 100 percent. Fans from back in the day guided their kids into this. I have people who come with their children and their children’s children. They’re out there, these young kids – they know about this music.
Echo: What are you most looking forward to the weekend of the Flagstaff event?
Lisa Lisa: I want to be able to enjoy the celebration. That’s going to be my goal. To sing on stage and be able to bring them back to the ’80s, and given them a platform. I also love watching the drag queens perform. It’ll be great. I’m going to have so much fun.
Echo: What message do you have for your fans, specifically Flagstaff Pride attendees?
Lisa Lisa: Believe in your dreams. Master your craft. Then go full force and kill it. You’ll make it ... Stand up and stand proud.
Echo: Can you give our readers a sneak peek of what they should expect from your performance?
Lisa Lisa: It’ll be all of the hits and classics, of course, with a little flavor of today. We’re going to give them a good show. They’ll feel like they’re on that stage with me – back in the ’80s.