Tony Sea: Greetings! NOT A PROBLEM! Thanks for taking time to chat with me!
DBB: How are you keeping cool this summer?
TS: Why, you know. I don't just keep COOL! I can't help it... Cool keeps me, cuz I'm so HOT!! You know how we do!! [Smiles]
DBB: My readers adore having a new dance diva on the scene. What can we expect when you promote your new number, "Need Your Love" at Icon, Queens, this coming Saturday night?
TS: Well, this FRIDAY NIGHT... at midnight; I guess it will be Saturday by then... expect a kick-ass performance and hot dance music that's gonna make you shake a tail feather! BE READY! BE FOREVER READY!
DBB: You're a recording artist on Nyo-Dae Music. How did you meet or come to sign on with Inaya Day and her label? And promoter Barbara Sobel?
TS: Inaya Day is a longtime sister friend of mine whom I've had the pleasure of working with in the touring company of The Wiz nearly 22 years ago! We were playing opposite Stephanie Mills I was Aunt Em & Glinda The Good Witch! Since then, she knows that I've been working as a professional backing vocalist and one day told me that she wanted me to come and record/write some songs with her... I did; she's tough love... cuz, I've definitely lurked on some things in the past when my head wasn't clear, but she doesn't play when it comes to music... and when I started getting back on track, she contacted me again; we talked and she put me on a few more, and then eventually signed me to her label! She believes in me, and that's why it's easy for me to be in her company. I know that she has my best interest at hand... in heart... and that, to me, is worth more than any money can buy! As long as I know that she's happy and that I represent the best of my abilities, we gon' fly HIGH... and we gon' Fly RIGHT!! That's how we roll!
DBB: You currently reside in NYC but were born and raised in Mississippi. When did you make that move and what was adjusting like?
TS: I was born and raised in Pascagoula/Moss Point Mississippi! Two small towns along the coast, the GOLDEN GULF COAST of Mississippi. I went to school there, and H.S. there but graduated from a school in North Mississippi. When I won my state pageant, I eventually got married to my FIRST husband and lived in Pittsburgh for five years. We separated in 1992 and I moved to NYC, and I've been living here ever since! It was pretty hard when I first got here because I was going through that divorce, but then I auditioned and got The Wiz and it became such a wonderful experience to be here in NYC! I met my second hubby and we had two children together, and WE are now divorced but God blessed us with these wonderful sons that are musicians and singers just like their father & I. So, NYC has been pretty good to me.
DBB:What popular music and recording artists influenced you growing up?
TS: I would have to say, Michael Jackson is my absolute favorite, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole & Deniece Williams (when I was younger), Patty Labelle, Jennifer Holiday, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross & Teena Marie. (Whom I later ended up singing background vocals for after moving to NYC.)
DBB: You are also an actress. What have you done in that regard and what are your personal five favorite stage/screen performances?
TS: Wow!! That's a GREAT question!! YES!! An Actress, indeed, I am! I'm a stage actor, and I don't get a chance to go out on a lot of auditions, but this year, I will! Thank God, the Casting Directors that KNOW my work will actually call me directly and tell me that a director wants me for a show! That means a lot to me. I won an AUDELCO award for the role of Miss Mamie for a play/semi-musical called "The Widow & Miss Mamie!" (ONE OF MY TOP 5 FAVORITE parts I've done); Sister Ann from "What Would Jesus Do" ,... "I, Barbara Jordan!" (my first ONE WOMAN Show w/25 pages of MONOLOGUES!!!) YES. and it was directed by Woodie King, Jr. (You know, he founded Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson..AND TONI SEAWRIGHT!) (He truly believes in me and that, to me, is the STRONGEST coming from the ICON in Woodie King, Jr.!! I can't lose with his support!! :) "The Josh/Satchel Page Requiem for Harlem" is another one, "A Time To Love" (features the music of Stevie Wonder, and I got a chance to sing my fave Stevie Wonder Song: "Love's In Need of Love") HEY!...Can I have six??? My most recent show, "Sowa's Red Gravy" w/Lonette Mckee (Original Sister from Sparkle and the lead in ALMOST ALL OF THE SPIKE LEE JOINTS) & Kene Holiday (Detective from Matlock)...I LOVED THIS SHOW!! It was incredible! I played a WITCH & that was the hardest role I've ever had! I had a 15-minute monolog that sped up at the end! Pretty incredible moment!
DBB:When did Toni Seawright change her name for the stage to Toni Sea? And why?
TS: I've always signed my name Toni Sea..for years since a child..I played basketball & ran track and that was just short name that people would call me...However, when I got older, no one called me that..it wasn't until The Wiz that my good friends would call me that..However, it was Inaya Day who said that would be more catchy to use the shorter abbreviated name for my music...and thus...A STAR WAS BORN! [laughs] (I saw on YOUTUBE where this young lady is using TONI SEA for her CLOTHING LINE!! I have GOT TO STOP HER ...IN THE NAME OF NY-O-DAE!! WE GOTS WORK TO DO!! GIT OFF MY NAME!! They don't EVEN KNOW!!! :)
DBB: Can you tell us about Toni Seawright Music & Entertainment Showcase?
TS:The Toni Seawright Music & Entertainment Showcase is a weekly showcase that I host & produce at the FIVE SPOT every Wednesday night. This show gives the performers, who would NOT likely have a platform, a chance to taste the stage and see how they can book a show for themselves on the weekends. But yes, it's something that I love doing... my band is hot, and we are really packaging the show to shop for a reality serries! YES, it's a lot of fun... and I'm so happy for the support that I've gotten from my friends!!
DBB: You seem like a pretty enterprising kind of a gal with a lot going on. Where do you find the time and energy?
TS: I am constantly recreating myself! I have to in this town!! My stamina is the love that I have for my wonderful children, my family & friends. I love to have people who are genuine around me!! I love knowing that I have the support of wonderful family & friends!! I am in school studying Oriental Medicine (Herbal Med/Acupuncturee) and that is the side of me that loves healing!! I will take my time to do this..as this is NOT a means to make money, but to extend myself as a practitioner who heals others... and I think that is just ANOTHER extension of the God in me....
DBB: You were the first African-American Miss America contestant from Mississippi. Can you tell us about that experience and how you got into pageants?
TS: Yes, I entered the pageant at the local level to win scholarship money and God took me ALL the way to Miss America!! It was, indeed, a dream come true!! It turned the pageant world UPSIDE down! [laughs] I got so many calls & telegrams! Yes, telegrams from many people... Jesse Jackson... Lionel Richie ... Dexter King (MLK's Son)... there were so many wonderful people contacting me and it was really cool!! I got a chance to represent my state as the first Black to win...and that, to me, is a testament in itself....
DBB: Any last shout-out to fans and fans-to-be about Friday night's gig?
TS: YES YES YES!! It's GOIN' DOWN!! I'm YELLIN TIMBER! !You BETTA MOVE!! YOU BETTA DANCE! IT IS GOING DOWN!!!!