Photo: Kristopher Harris from Charlotte, NC
I will never, ever forget singing at the Academy Awards with Adele in 2013. I remember how amazing it was to even rehearse Skyfall with Adele, because the whole scene was set in LA.
We were asked to rehearse for a week, and that in itself was amazing. I got to spend time going to restaurants on Sunset Boulevard and explore LA. I remember how many people were on stage: band, male voice choir, orchestra and us backing vocalists. It really was an amazing experience.
I remember the moment Adele came into rehearsal with us; her son was just four or five months old then. He was so cute, and I remember holding him. The production behind the scenes to get everything ready for the Academy Awards was grand.
On the day of the show, we made our way to the Dolby Theatre for soundcheck. We were in a van and stopped at the traffic lights. I remember looking to my left and seeing Russell Simmons in his car right next to us at the traffic lights.
It just struck me how close we were to these amazing legends, yet how faraway a lot of people felt from their dreams as they auditioned and worked as waitresses. It just felt like anything could happen at any time, you could be discovered or get that audition but you never know when. It was fascinating to be in that dynamic.
Once we got to the show, we were given our credentials; a bespoke laminate with our picture and name on it, with barcodes that gave us access to different areas. Of course, security was tight, and we were informed upon entry that someone had already been sent home for taking a picture of their credentials and showing everybody, as it was a security breach. So, we were absolutely not going to make that same mistake.
We did our soundcheck, and then went back to our dressing room where the clothes we'd been fitted for, particularly for this performance, were hanging up and waiting for us.
The actual show itself was unreal: just imagine, a theatre packed with all of the celebrities you've seen in the movies over the years, watching you sing! I'll never forget how surreal that moment felt. I was both nervous and elated at the same time. I specifically remember looking out into the crowd and seeing Jamie Foxx and Halle Berry and thinking, "Oh my god, this is huge!"
Everything went off without a hitch; the band played amazingly, the singers sounded great, the male voice choir was perfect, and Adele was wonderful. Everything was in order.
I even remember what happened directly after that. We came offstage and were held in a little waiting room for a short while. By this time, the announcements for the Oscars for Les Misérables had been made. Anne Hathaway had just been announced for an Oscar, and I remember being a few inches away from her and giving her a round of applause. Everybody started applauding her and her face was a bit shy - I guess she was overwhelmed with the moment. But it was so special to me to see her and to celebrate her getting her Oscar backstage before she even went on.
I remember then going on to see Catherine Zeta Jones, and complimenting her on her outfit. She looked fabulous. I then saw Jennifer Hudson for the first time - this was years before I worked with her - and I complimented her on her outfit. I just remember that feeling of celebration and jubilation, as I had to celebrate these people who had done such an amazing job and were being awarded.
Being in the presence of greatness was deeply inspiring to me, and I had a deep respect for the actors and their contribution to entertainment and film.
What strikes me about my experience in LA and at the Academy Awards is that when it comes down to being an icon and a legend in your field, it takes absolute insistence that you be that. It means that nothing else will do.
However, there's something nuanced here that I want to bring to the fore, and that is that most legends don't set out to win awards. Most legends bury themselves in the love of their work. They disappear down a rabbit hole, of their own greatness,.their own creativity and their own inspiration. They don't watch what other people are doing. They are focused on what they love and they will not stop until what they are creating comes to fruition. To me, that is the real grind.
The grind isn't about having more; it's about disappearing into your own world of creativity and staying with the gestation period until your business or chosen career is born. There's something self-honoring about the insistence upon your own creativity. It's delightfully fulfilling to get the ideas out of your head and into the world. As a leader, someone who shifts paradigms, the grind is a crucial part of life.
I have created a meditation to help you get into the mindset of the most iconic speaker.
Download your Powerhouse Affirmation for free below.