My parents gave me the foundation. But I was especially fortunate to have Shakim with me from the beginning. He always knew what I was capable of. We've been friends since I was fifteen and he was sixteen going on seventeen. He was a student in my mother's art class at Irvington High School. He's seen me sing, rap, act, joke around, and hold my own in conversations with people from all kinds of backgrounds. He's seen me be outgoing. He's seen me show up when it was time to show up. He knew me in a way the rest of the world had yet to witness at the beginning of my career. He knew that the acting bug bit me when I was in a school play, and he encouraged me to pursue it. He knew that I didn't want to be just an R&B singer and that I loved jazz. He knew before I did that I'd be just as capable of hosting my own talk show as I am at developing a new line of cosmetics or perfume or clothing. So what looked like reinventions were really just moments when I had the right time and opportunity to let all these things inside me out into the universe. A lot of the time, Sha's job is to make sure those doors are open to me. He's been amazing at providing me with a road to follow.
We all need someone in our lives who can see what we're capable of and bring it out in us. So don't shut anyone out. Everyone can be a friend, and anyone might be able to help. There's an old saying, "A wise person knows many things, but a successful person knows many people." We can't do it alone. Other people can change our lives and take us a lot further than we ever thought we could go. That's what Shakim did for me.
A lot of people in my business are surrounded by yes-men and -women. There's always someone around you to pump you up and tell you everything you do is great. They blow smoke up your behind and tell you, "Oh, you're so cool, you're so funny," you're so this, you're so that. You rarely hear the word "no." And what that does is create a false identity. When people are telling you "yes" all day, you never get a sense of who you are or where you really stand. But I have real people in my life who let me know. They pat me on my back when I do good and spank me when I do bad. That's Shakim. He always tells me the truth. He's my barometer.
I'm very involved in my career and pretty clear about where I stand, but Sha helps me stay close to what the truth is. He lets me know when I'm deficient in something, and he tells me what people think and what the temperature is on certain things. He helps me keep it all in perspective, so I never think I am bigger or smaller than I really am.
You need to start with that. It's important for us to figure out who we are as quickly as possible. We need to be clear on what we are and are not willing to stand for, deal with, or put up with. We need to decide who we want to be seen as. The quicker you figure out your insecurities, deal with them, and learn how to love yourself, warts and all, the better off you'll be. Because then you'll be making decisions and choices based upon your authentic self. You'll have the confidence to chase down your dreams instead of phoning in whatever it is you think you're supposed to be doing.