Most would not be surprised that the daughter of fashion journalist, Constance White would be involved in fashion. Would they expect for her to be a Reggae artist? I think not. Nefatari is the child of Jamaican parents. Though she was born in the U.S. she has steeped herself in the music of her heritage. She has the beauty of a cover girl, and the drive, and energy of a rising star. Nefatari, and Kofi Black are featured on Dj Sussone track “Bring Yuh Body”. The song is currently in rotation on Power 105. Nefatari’s perspectives and insight was something we wanted to share with our readers. We are pleased to present Nefatari.
Posh: Nafatari, thanks for making time for POSH. How did you come to choose Nefatari as your stage name?
Nefatari: Nefatari is my real name and my stage name. It’s derived from the name of the Egyptian queen. I figured you’re not going to find another Nefatari. Why try to make up a unique name, why do that? My name is as unique as it gets.
Posh: So, where did you grow up, and spend your early years?
Nefatari: I was born in Miami Florida, but my parents are from Jamaica. That’s where I get a lot of my influences in terms of the music. Living here I didn’t hear people like the Temptations playing in my house. What was playing was people like Dennis Brown, Sanchez, Bob Marley. The Jamaican culture was a huge influence on me for sure.
Posh: When did the interest in singing start?
Nefatari: I think ever since I was little, ever since I was like, five years old. I can remember thinking I would love to do that. I always thought that I would love to be that person up on stage, and sing. I think I decided to try and make it a reality when I went to a Lauren Hill concert. I was just in tears, and I was like I want to do THAT. I think that was the point where I said, I’m just going to go after it.
Posh: What was your first break that got you on the path to being “that person”?
Nefatari: My first major thing that kind of solidified it for me was when I saw an ad backstage. It was for a girl group, I applied, and I went to the audition, and I got it. I became part of this girl group; it was me and two other girls. It was in Boston, and I would have to drive to Boston back and forth. I think the group was called KIZMET.
Posh: Was your family supportive of you choosing to do music?
Nefatari: They were supportive because they knew that was what I wanted to do. So, it wasn’t really surprising when I said “oh, I’m going to audition for this girl group.” I was with the group for about two years, the group eventually broke up. That’s when I decided that I was just going to pursue music as a solo artist.
Posh: Sometimes one break leads to another. Was there another big break that moved you along your music path?
Nefatari: The next big thing was a text from my friend Gene Noble. He’s a recording artist, He used to sing background for Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Shaggy everybody. He’s on tour with Sting right now. I remember one day being sad and depressed, I don’t know why I was sad, I can’t remember. I got a text from him saying that Lindsay Lohan is looking for background singers.
Posh: Had you been a background singer before you got that text?
Nefatari: I had never sung background for anybody. I didn’t even know what that entailed. She had an album out called SPEAKS at the time. He was like “you should go”, and I just said “why would they pick me I don’t have any experience. But I said, let me just go, so I jumped on LIRR and went to Manhattan. I auditioned and got the gig, So I did a promotional tour with Lindsay Lohan singing background for her. Her management also managed Emma Bunton, who was Baby Spice from the Spice Girls. When the tour was done with Lindsay Lohan, they hired me for Emma Bunsen. I became a background singer for Emma Bunsen.
Posh: At the time did you have a creative circle of friends that you worked or collaborated with?
Nefatari: I think that has been part of my struggle. There’s this thing of being a creator but you’re not in a creative circle. It’s not like my parents were musicians. Being a musician, or a recording artist wasn’t really glorified. What was encouraging was becoming a doctor or getting into an awesome college. I did that but wasn’t in a creative circle, and that’s a huge part of my story.
Posh: Let’s talk a bit about fashion. When did your interest in that area start?
Nefatari: I’ve always loved fashion, of course, I was influenced by my mom Constance White who is a fashion journalist. She would bring me to “take your daughter to work days at Women’s Wear Daily, and Elle Magazine. Take Your Daughter To Work Day was really powerful for me. It was instrumental in my life. I have friends who have daughters. Even though their moms are amazing women they don’t get to see them in that space.
Posh: How was it for you to get to see your mother in her workspace?
Nefatari: Going to work with my mom normalized that for me. It normalized a black woman being in this powerful space. It normalized a black woman in a predominately white environment for me. I realized that it was ok. I realized that I shouldn’t be afraid of that. I also knew that clearly, this isn’t normal. It’s not normal for my mom to be here if she’s the only black person.
Posh: Did you also get to go to fashion shows?
Nefatari: Sometimes I would attend the shows with my mom. That for me was a huge thing, I still love to do it. It always inspires me when I go to see a runway show. Even though you’re just watching, you’re still part of the experience.
Posh: When did you start participating in shows instead of just watching?
Nefatari: I was in a Tommy Hilfiger runway show at Macy’s, I was really young. That was really cool because there were a lot of other artists there. At the time Tommy was really hot with the streetwear. I had expressed that I was interested in modeling when I was in elementary school. I shared that interest with my mom and then she was able to help get me in the door to do runway shows. She also helped me to get an agent, and I landed this commercial print ad for Dell computers. It was at a time when I was still in high school.
Posh: Did you continue doing both fashion, and music during high school?
Nefatari: There was a big gap between the Tommy Hilfiger show, the Dell modeling gig, and the cover girl gig. Even in high school trying to do the modeling thing was a lot of work. The music was also a lot of work. I decided to just focus on the music because that’s what I want the most.
Posh: What brought you back to modeling?
Nefatari: I just focused on the music for years and forgot about the modeling. Then a few years ago around the rise of Cardi B. I was studying her rise and her success. There were a couple of other people who had the same journey. It was like they were becoming popular for things other than music. Cardi B was becoming popular from social media, and the L&HH how. I started thinking, maybe I need to find something else to help build my brand. With that in mind, I decided to go back into modeling.
Posh: How did you do that, where did you start?
Nefatari: I hit up a Debra Ginyard, a stylist I had worked within the past. I did some magazine work with her for publications like Hype Hair, and Black Hair. I told her I wanted to get back into modeling. We did some shoots together that she styled for me, so I had a portfolio of pictures. At the time I had a regular job. I was working at a creative agency called DMA. I was just doing regular marketing work. While I was working there, I met a casting director Vanessa Ly. I ended up leaving DMA, but I kept in touch with Vanessa. One day she calls me and says I want to cast you for this cover girl ad. She knew I was trying to transition back into modeling. She asked me to send her some pictures. Because I was preparing myself for that working with Debra, I had pictures to send her.
Posh: Seems like there’s a huge lesson in that, was it that way for you?
Nefatari: There is definitely a huge lesson in that. Sometimes you just have to start where you are. I could have said, well, I have to get an agent first, this, that, and the third. Because I said let me just start shooting, I had the pictures there ready for that opportunity with her.
Posh: You are also involved in creating a clothing line, tell us about that.
Nefatari: My clothing line is called NEFATARI by Nefatari Cooper. I was featured in a Sonja Morgan runway show. The distributors of her line reached out to me because they saw my following. A lot of the clothing lines now are being launched by influencers. They specialize in that, so they reached out to me about launching a line. I’m really excited to be working on that this year. I would say it’s definitely for millennial women. Women who love fashion, and love style. It will have an edgy fashion-forward kind of look. It will also a few girls next door kind of looks as well. I wanted to mix the two. I hope to be launching it soon.
Posh: So with all the projects you’re involved with, what’s the main focus right now?
Nefatari: Right now, I’m focused on recording. I have a new song with Dj Sussone ft. myself and Kofi Black the song is called Bring Yuh Body. It’s playing on power 105 right now.
Posh: Do you have plans to drop any more music soon?
Nefatari: I want to drop an EP this year with some new music. I have some songs that are hardcore Dancehall. I also have songs that are pop but with Caribbean influences. That’s where I want to continue to go. Most of the songs right now are just solo tracks there are a few people I may get for collaborations but no one specific yet. That will definitely will be coming soon.
Posh: Have you ever been signed to a label, or has it all been strictly independent?
Nefatari: I was never signed, I decided I was going to go to Jamaica and start promoting myself there. Even though I grew up here, I went to Jamaica pretty often as a child. As I got older, I would go back a lot. I’d go for a few months, record my music, and network. So, I would go back and forth between New York and Jamaica. I would do a little bit in Miami, promote my music there, and work with different producers. After that, I decided to start pushing my music in New York, so I’ve been doing it independently this entire time.
Posh: What are some things you’ve learned that emerging artists would benefit from knowing?
Nefatari: I would definitely say in terms of music; get a producer who is committed to you and your team. People used to tell me this, but I never understood why. I’m only now realizing in retrospect why it’s so important. If you have one producer that’s on your team and you guys are working on projects with the understanding that we’re dropping this music at a certain time, then you’re in control.
Another thing is having a team, I find that it’s definitely necessary. It’s very, very hard to be doing it by yourself. I would say as soon as you can, try to solidify a team around you. If you can’t get a manager who is already connected, then just get your friend. A friend who is willing to answer the emails or willing to reach out to a list of people. Having somebody who i consistent, and on this journey with you is almost more powerful than having a person who is connected. It’s a big thing, it’s very hard to find.
Caribbean Posh Magazine thanks Nefatari for making the time for this interview.
Styling Debra Ginyard.
*Nefatari will be walking in the Negris Lebrum Runway show during Fashion Week FW22.