Optimism Rules! Syleena Johnson’s Advice on Balancing Career, Motherhood and More [ULx Exclusive]


By: Dove

It’s easy to say you have a positive attitude, but it’s not always as easy to maintain an uplifting mindset every day. Over the past decade, singer Syleena Johnson has kept the wind in her sails on all levels, despite the wild tides of the music industry. Johnson was a breakout Adult Contemporary artist in 2001 with accolades from Billboard, and was nominated for awards from the likes of MTV, Vibe and the Grammys for her collaboration on Kanye West’s 2004 hit “All Falls Down.”

A wife, mother, songwriter and busy performer, Syleena is now releasing her fifth album, or chapter as she calls her projects, entitled Underrated. Throughout any challenges that might come her way, there is no doubt that the determined Gen-Xer will stick to her guns when it comes to family and career.

Syleena took some time out from her promotion schedule to give UrbLife.com a few tips on how we can work towards balance each day, and gave us insight on how she is holding strong to her craft. Does she feel that she’s been underrated in the business? How did being a sorority member help her in life? What is the best thing a fan has done for her?

Read on and find out as Syleena breaks down her Optimism Rules!

What are some key pointers on how busy people can juggle their life effectively?

Syleena Johnson: 1. Organization.

This is key for everything. What I do is write lists of all of the different responsibilities that I have to do according to my hats. It’s like singer hat is one list, mom hat is one list, and wife hat is one list. I post charts over at my house… I know that’s sick. I put calendars everywhere and my assistant helps me a lot. She puts reminders in my phone, just reminders of everything, my doctor’s appointments, everything.

It’s very hard for me to focus on everything all at once. It’s easier for me to really push the responsibility and give it to someone else, as opposed to trying to do everything all at once. It definitely helps to simplify my life.

2. Take Time to Yourself (or Keep Liquor Handy).

You’re going to need a shot or a glass of something at the end of the night. My older sister always tells me, because she has two boys, you have to take an hour out of your day every day just to something that you want. It could be something stupid like going to sit in the quiet, but as long as you go and take an hour for yourself to go and do you. Or a couple of hours.

3. Get Romantic!

Remember to incorporate romance. This depends on how much help you have, but my mother in law keeps our kids every other weekend. My husband and I love to go to the movies, so we always catch the new movie out. It’s something that we do and we try to stay consistent in doing it.

4. Get Help.

Hiring help like maid service or nannies. I’m not big on nannies, but maid service definitely. It’s hard to do the housework when you’re doing so much.

5. Shut it Down!

Turning your phone off. Sometimes during the day, just cutting it off. When you’re driving, cut it off. You’re not supposed to be on it anyway.

6. Have Faith.

Going to church to keep the stress down. The only way to survive in this industry is by having faith. Without faith it’s actually the opposite, you won’t be able to do it. You have to have faith and you have to keep God first. You have to pray, in the morning take time to pray. Pray, meditate, exercise. You must take time out to do these things for yourself.

When I first had my second baby, I had to get ready for the video so I had to work out, but there was no time for me to do that during the day because he was nursing all day. He was sleeping through the night, maybe four or five hours, so I would up at 3:30am because that’s when he woke up; feed him, and prepare myself to go the gym which was 30 minutes away. Workout by 5:00am, be home by 7:30am… I was so tired, but that’s what I had to do.

I would take a nap later until I was able to change up. You have to be willing to sacrifice certain things and discipline yourself in order to be as organized as possible.

7. Stick to a Routine.

You have to get your kids in a routine. Putting them in a routine makes life simpler. If they know what they’re supposed to do every day, then that’s going to help you simplify things around them.

You are a member of Zeta Phi Beta. How much did sorority life play a role in helping you develop your career by your affiliations?

SJ: It really didn’t have much to do with me being a singer, although I did sing at events and did step shows. I was step master as well. It really didn’t promote me to be a singer; I was already doing that when I became a member of Zeta Phi Beta. It has enhanced my life and I have a forged sisterhood bond forever. It’s definitely a strong part of my life, especially since the national president is Sheryl Underwood, who is also in the entertainment industry.

Where do you feel you’re at in your career? 

SJ: I think that there is always room for improvement and acceleration for me, but I am happy and I’m in a very happy place. A very confident place, as far as my music is concerned and I think that I’m on the right track musically. I’m content where I am vocally.

Have you ever felt you needed to change your style for any reason, or are you just into sticking with the art?

SJ: I definitely will not try to change my style. I’ll try to make it cool or fresh, but I won’t try to change it to conform to anything or anyone. I definitely will never do that.

What would you say that your fans expect from you as an artist?

SJ: I think they expect soulful singing. I think that they expect the lyrics. I think that they expect me to sound like the record because I am a soulful artist. Most of the times when you go see an artist that is soulful like a Jill Scott or Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill, its quality music and lyrics. Marsha Ambrosious, we as fans – because I’m also a fan – expect you to sound like the record or better.

What is the craziest or most fun thing that a fan has ever done for you?

SJ: [At a recent show] one of my fans showed me her iPod, and was like “Look, it’s real out here!” In her iPod were all of the albums that I had made. She had everything.

You called your new album, or chapter, Underrated. Do you feel that you have been underrated?

SJ: I think that if you look up ‘underrated’ or ‘underestimated’ in the dictionary, I definitely think that I have been underestimated. I’ve been told that I’m not going to be anything, that I’m not going to go over a certain amount of records, I’m not going to look a certain way. I do feel like I am underestimated. I feel like I’m underrated as far as not being able to see me on the mainstream and stuff like that.

What do you want people to know about you with this new album, about where you’re at musically and as a person?

SJ: That there is more to me than just soulful singing. I’m versatile, and there are a bunch of different genres I can incorporate in my music. Not only that, but the average fan can put it on a scale from beginning to end, and be so happy about it.

Watch Syleena Johnson sing an acoustic version of “Angry Girl”, accompanied by Tweet

Get Syleena Johnson’s album Chapter V: Underrated on Amazon.com and iTunes

Follow Syleena Johnson on Twitter @Syleena_Johnson and like her at Facebook.com/Syleena.Johnson.Official

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