As the great HOV said, “you can’t knock the hustle”. Nevertheless, in this new digital revolution social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace are common outlets for artists and entertainers to reach out to the public. Dondria, 22-year-old singer and YouTube phenom, saw an outlet and an opportunity. She made videos showcasing her craft (and her love for food – hence her nickname “Phatfffat”) using the video muscle YouTube, and I’ll be damned if a new star wasn’t born.
I met Dondria before she blew up at a Core DJ’s retreat in Dallas and after almost three years I sat down with her via phone to chat about music, her career, her “friend/fans” and how it is being SoSoDef’s sweetheart.
Ladies and gents, I introduce to you, Dondria!
TK: Dondria, are you there?
DN: Yes Tuesday!
TK: (laughing) Just wanted to make sure that you were still on the line. Alright, let’s get to it. What’s the whole deal with your name? Do you prefer Dondria or Phatfffat?
DN: I mean, I like both. Dondria is more professional. It’s for when I’m in a meeting or something, but I like for my friend/fans to call me Phatfffat because it makes me feel closer to them. My fans recognize me as Phatfffat more than Dondria.
DN: That’s what I call my fans. They are like my friends because they support me and always got my back.
TK: So where does the name Phatfffat come from?
DN: Phatfffat came from my roommate during my freshmen year of college. She called me that all the time because I ate so much (laughing)
TK: Where are you from? How old are you?
DN: I’m 22 and I am from Sachse, TX. It’s a small town right outside of Dallas but right now I am living in Atlanta.
TK: Do you come from a musical background?
DN: Well both of my parents have really been into music. My dad was a DJ in his college years and my mom sung her whole life (choir and competitions). She’s also my manager.
TK: Where did you first start singing?
DN: In middle school. I was always singing in choirs and stuff at school. And I listened to Destiny’s Child. I would listen to all the runs, harmonies and make my own up.
TK: Has music and singing always been your calling?
DN: I think I go through so many phases. I know that if this didn’t work out I would like to go back to school and finish my major in music and teach voice.
TK: How would you describe your sound?
DN: I think I am just bringing real R&B. I’m talking about real stuff. It’s no make believe or bubble gum. I go to parties with JD and people be like “what chu know about that stuff”. I’ve just been exposed to that kind of music. Even in high school I was in this group called “Main Attraction.” It was a pop group and we did old pop, rock and a little R&B. My album is a little bit of everything.
TK: You are very young, and other than the internet, your shine was very minimal. What do you say to those that consider you a “fly by night” kind of artist?
DN: I just don’t listen to it. I’ve already had a lot of people try to discourage me with the time. People tell me that I need leave JD and that he’s never going to release me. If I have learned anything it’s that patience is a virtue.
TK: How did you get signed?
DN: Well, I started recording myself singing songs by other artists and put them on YouTube. People loved them. I started getting more and more subscribers and people started requesting songs they wanted me to cover. Next thing you know I was getting thousands of views in a matter of days.
TK: So how did JD you link up with JD?
DN: Someone told him about my videos and he wanted to meet with me. He ended up calling me and then before I could blink my eye my mom were on our way to Atlanta to meet him.
TK: How is your relationship with JD? How does it feel to be SoSoDef’s sweetheart?
DN: He’s like my big brother. He looks out for me. He doesn’t pump my head up. The only things that I bother him about are doing things while we aren’t in the studio. I love it all.
TK: Did his split with Island/Def Jam make you nervous?
DN: When he first left Island Def Jam, I asked where I came in all of this. He simply told me “wherever I go, you come with me.” I trust that he is going to look out for me.
TK: How do you feel about the current state of music & hip-hop?
DN: I don’t know. I always say that I should have been born in the 70’s because I felt like I would’ve gotten a chance. It’s going to take the new people to bring it back in. Not just because “oooh, she’s fine” and “oooh he has his shirt off”. We are on a good track right now. With me, I introduced the whole new web thing. I don’t know about the guys but the girls are doing their thing. I was excited for Keri Hilson to come out. I thought she was going to bring something different on behalf of the ladies.
TK: Most people chant about hip-hop being dead. Do you think that R&B is dead?
DN: It’s sleep. It’s not dead; it’s in hibernation (laughing). Ya know, spring is here so it’s about to wake up.
TK: Musically and professionally, who influences you in the industry now?
DN: Professionally, Beyonce – because she does everything. Sings, dances, writes, co-produces, writes. She’s getting money in every aspect. Also Karina Parsons and Jazmine Sullivan. Other than that, I stick to all the old school artists. It’s not really a lot of real music out right now.
TK: How do feel you differ from the other R&B acts out right now?
DN: First of all, nobody can sing. They are just pretty or can dance. I stand out because I brought my own fan base. I had 25,000 subscribers. Now I am at 60K.
TK: Fill me in on any new projects and whatnot.
DN: At this point, I just tell them to stay tuned on YouTube. I will be doing appearances. There are a lot of schools that want me to come out and host and I am also looking into doing commercials. I was going to get an at-home job.
TK: Give us the top 5 songs that you can’t live without.
DN: I really like Beyonce “Hello”, Sophia Fresh “What it is”, Jagged Edge, Karina Parison, and Keyshia Cole’s “You Complete Me”.
TK: How has it been adjusting to the new lifestyle?
DN: I think I have adjusted pretty well. I haven’t had any transitional issues. I haven’t had any “I wish this didn’t happen issues or anything.”
TK: Of course, a lot of fellas would like to know if you are single…do you care to share?
DN: (giggling) My answer is that music is my boyfriend.
TK: Who is Dondria outside of the flashing lights and stardom? What do you like to do to unwind?
DN: Besides eating I watch a lot of movies. I am starting to get a lot of friends now but before, movies were my friends. I like to go out every once in a while. I love to scrapbook. It started with my senior scrapbook and it turned into my life scrapbook.
TK: I see that you are already getting a little bit of early onset hateration. How do you feel about the whole Dondria vs. Phatfffat exposed website?
DN: Ugh, this fool. This guy and I had the same friends in high school and he was just jealous and bitter. I don’t really think it ever bothered me. He’s a hater. He doesn’t know anything about me. We weren’t even in the same circles. It’s just that I know he used to walk around with these $5.00 CDs trying to sell them to anyone (laughing).
TK: Aww man, that’s tough. Any last words for your friend/fans?
DN: I love you all! Thank you for the support and patience. I promise my album is coming real soon. Until then, you can always find me on myspace, facebook, of course YouTube and now Twitter! Muah!
I love this chick!!! If you would like to hit her up, click any of the links below.
To see the full interview, please grab the April issue of Street Report Magazine!
Peep her first live performance at Bow Wow’s album release party on 3/31 in NYC.