Cece Peniston is not your typical R&B Diva. Her versatility, style and talent reaches far beyond voice. In 1991, she swept the radio airwaves with her first big hit, “Finally” an uptempo song that had the dance floors of every club packed. Produced by Chicago DJ and producer, Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, the song showcased the not only her talent as a strong vocalist but fused soul music with the Chicago House sound. Soon after, another Peniston and Hurley hit was followed up by “We Got a Love Thang” along with “Keep On Walkin”—all reaching number one on the Billboard Dance charts.
Nearly 25 years later, Peniston is going strong with non-stop shows and continued list of recorded projects that range in her ability to sing jazz, R&B and of course—dance music. With a voice that you would typically find inside the walls of a southern baptist church, her ‘dance card’ is always filled and in demand both in the U.S. and abroad.
Peniston can recall her childhood and how she became influenced by music at an early age.
“When I was a kid, I was probably like thirteen years old, I knew that when I got into the business there was one person that really impacted me and that was Patti Labelle. I loved her so much. She was powerful to me, when she was on the stage—she was funny,” she said. “I felt like she owned the moment, and I just felt like if anything happened—she just knew how to just go with the flow.”
Growing up in Phoenix, where she still calls home, her music career continues to take her everywhere. Her reputation as a young, budding singer in her hometown when one day she was asked to do background vocals for a hometown female rapper, Tonya Davis aka Overweight Pooch. The title track of her song, “Female Preacher” gained some solid ground movement on the UK Dance charts but not much traction in the U.S. Regardless, Peniston was buzzing around the offices of A&M Records going into record her first project. The hit song, “Finally” would be her first debut single at 21 years old.
During her days as one of the leading artists at A&M Records, it was a time when music videos reigned supreme and artists were battling for video spins instead of radio spins.
She said, “A music channel was actually a music channel. They weren’t reality show channels. I felt like you knew who the artists were. There was no social media. Everything was done by publicists. Everything was like the less people knew about you, the more that they wanted to know,” Peniston said. “It was the mystique of being an artist that was better. These days, if you don’t hit me back on Twitter or Facebook, you’re not paying attention.”
Since Patti Labelle influenced her coming up, she’s also wears the seasoned singer’s cap very well giving props to the next generation of R&B singers making their mark.
“I like K. Michelle because she’s real. She has a little ‘hood’ in there, but she’s not so far off the beaten path that you can’t understand her. She’s real R&B and I feel like women really relate to her very well,” Peniston said. “Jhene Aiko I really love her flow, too, because it’s like a singing-rap flow, you know? So I would say those are the innovators of the music.”
Peniston has been where they are now and wears many hats, but her most important role is the ‘business woman.’ She finished filming a movie in Nashville, released a bathing suit collection, and currently training for her first fitness competition this Fall. In addition, she’s released an energy drink designed for pregnant women and filming a reality show.
She continues to release new music including a song she recorded for the late DJ and producer, Frankie Knuckles. One of her strongest qualities is writing, having co-penned a song with singer, Noel Gourdin.
She said she keeps a daily journal to keep her thoughts and experiences captured on paper, she still loves to welcome people on the creative process.
“I analyze myself, the good things that have happened throughout the day and the bad things that happen throughout the day. Then I say to myself, ‘What could have been better?’ or ‘What could have been greater?’. I just keep trying to reinvent myself –that’s what I do,” she said. “I also have good family and friends around me –people who tell me the truth.”