FROM THE ARCHIVES
ISSUE 06 of LIFE+DOG
by Ryan Rice
Photos by Brett Chisholm
In 2007, during the audition portion of American Idol, the American public was introduced to a curly-haired, wide-eyed teen with a dream for stardom and a voice that gained praise from viewers and judges alike. It wasn’t long until that teen, Jordin Sparks, was crowned champion of the hugely popular show, becoming the youngest contestant to-date to win the title, launching her career and catapulting her to fame. As soon as the confetti cleared, Sparks was on the road, headlining the American Idol tour that summer and heading into the recording studio to cut tracks for her first album. The grueling pace of the show helped the teen prepare for her future of fame as well as the seemingly endless media interest in her life and career. “I didn’t know it when we were doing the show, but all the interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff prepared me for now. Being on Idol was exciting, exhilarating and slightly traumatic. I won the show I was a fan of…what could be better?”
Since Idol, Sparks has released two hit albums and gained a legion of fans that proudly call themselves “Sparkplugs.” Her self-titled debut album went platinum—selling over 2 million copies worldwide—with the first three singles going top 5 and the album’s second single, “No Air” selling 4 million digital downloads. Jordin’s second studio album, 2009’s Battlefield, debuted on the Billboard Album chart at number seven, with the first single, also called “Battlefield,” reaching the top ten on the Billboard Singles Chart and the second track, “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play),” topping the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart while also becoming Sparks’ first #1 hit. The musical prodigy co-wrote four songs on Battlefield and teamed up with a dream team of collaborators that included Dr. Luke, T-Pain, Stargate and Max Martin. Cumulatively, her singles have sold almost 9 million downloads/ringtones and Sparks is the only Idol contestant to have their first five singles reach the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her hit “No Air,” a duet with R&B singer Chris Brown, added another feather in her Idol cap by surpassing 3 million in sales, making her the first American Idol contestant to reach the three million mark. “No Air” is also listed by Billdboard as #27 in the TOP 40 DUETS OF ALL TIME.
In the short amount of time that she has been on the music scene she has worked with music legends and has toured with Alicia Keys, The Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, Jesse McCartney and, most recently, The Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block. She has also performed for both President Bush and Obama, appeared in a GOT MILK? Ad, won two BET Awards, one American Music Award, one People’s Choice Award, and has been nominated for two MTV Awards and one Grammy®. Sparks is about to make a splash on the silver screen, as well. In August of 2012 Jordin stars opposite Whitney Houston—in her last role to play before passing— in Sony Pictures’ remake of the film Sparkle.
Idol wasn’t Sparks’ first time competing for top honors and prior to her big break on the Fox favorite, Sparks participated in, and won, several talent competitions including Coca-Cola’s Rising Star, the Gospel Music Association Academy’s Overall Spotlight Award, America’s Most Talented Kids, Colgate Country Showdown, and the 2006 Drug Free AZ Superstar Search. Sparks also frequently performed the national anthem at various local sporting events, appeared with rocker Alice Cooper in his 2004 Christmas show and toured with Christian contemporary singer Michael W. Smith in 2006.
She has not let all of her success and fame go to her head however. In her real life, Jordin is all about keeping it real. She loves to shop at Old Navy, is a huge fan of the Cooking Channel and secretly would love to open a bakery with her grandmother. She’s also pretty particular about her pearly whites and confesses that she is very meticulous about brushing her teeth. “I have a toothbrush and toothpaste in my purse right now. I would love to do a toothpaste commercial someday,” she says. Hope you are listening Crest, this is one star that is in high-demand, especially after her latest transformation.
The singer recently unveiled a new look, a slimmer, sleeker frame and she has been getting a lot of buzz from her new body, especially after gracing the pages of People Magazine’s “Most Amazing Bodies” issue this past June. “I didn’t know [my transformation] was going to get the reaction that it got, but overall it’s been really, really positive,” Jordin recently told Access Hollywood.
By incorporating healthier choices and exercise that include hiking and Zumba, Sparks has shed 30 pounds and several dress sizes. We first noticed when she appeared on this past season’s American Idol to perform her current single, “I Am Woman,” which is a perfect fit for the celeb who seems to have blossomed overnight from her teens to womanhood.
Her personal transformation and growth is not only about her appearance however. Jordin is also a dedicated humanitarian and philanthropist that uses her celebrity platform to help groups and individuals, while empowering others to do the same in their communities. She has worked with candy giants Mike and Ike to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which helps to raise money for children with cancer, and has partnered with Allstate for the “Thumbs Up to X the TXT” campaign to encourage teens and their families to not text while driving. Perhaps the most notable of her charitable endeavors is the charitable campaign she founded with her brother, the “I’m M.A.D., Are You?” campaign. The acronym stands for “Making A Difference,” with the goal of motivating people to find something they’re passionate about and channeling that energy into helping others. Get “mad” about litter on the side of the road and donate time to a clean-up program, get “mad” about sick children in hospitals and take time to visit the them at a nearby hospital, get “mad” about illiteracy and volunteer to read to children or be a tutor. Says Sparks, “However big or small, we want you to get ‘mad’ and make a difference in your community. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels when you know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”
Her most recent charitable endeavor is extremely exciting to us. Jordin has signed on to be an official ambassador for Collars for a Cause®, LIFE+DOG’s pet project. It’s because of her lifetime love of dogs and her desire to make a difference in the lives of people’s canine companions that she has joined us to raise funds and awareness to support free and low-cost wellness, spay-neuter services, and education and programs for those in the community that need it most. “It breaks my heart to see people wanting to best provide for their animal companion and not having the financial resources to do so,” says Sparks. “It is important to help these animal lovers by going out in their community and providing free and low-cost services so they can care for their loving companions.”
On the cusp of the start of rehearsals for her upcoming feature film debut with Sony Pictures’ Sparkle, LIFE+DOG jetted off to Phoenix to meet the star and chat about her LIFE and her DOGS at the incredibly chic mid-century modern hotel, the Hotel Valley Ho. This is one celebrity that has a passion for fashion and a genuine appreciation for how dogs have helped her handle the pressures of fame and life in the spotlight. On a toasty Arizona summer day, we sat down to learn more about Jordin, her career, and her beloved canine companions.
LIFE+DOG: Before stepping into the public limelight when you won American Idol, you had already won several competitions and titles. What was your biggest achievement early in your life?
Jordin Sparks: I have been so fortunate to receive the accolades and success so far in my career and each achievement means so much to me personally! If I had to choose, especially early in my career, I would have to say getting my braces off and singing for Michael W. Smith at his home while he played piano. I am a huge fan of Michael’s and meeting and working with him remain a major highlight for me!
L+D: We know how important family is to you and that your father was a professional football player when you were younger. What lessons have you been able to learn from your parents that you have been able to apply in your career and professional life?
JS: My dad played football for most of my young life, so we were in the spotlight from a really young age. I know all the traveling, and having to adjust to different situations and people helped me for what I’m doing now. I always watched him, how he interacted with fans and did interviews. His and my mom’s work ethics and how they raised me definitely still apply today.
L+D: Do you get starstruck? If so, can you tell us a story of meeting someone special to you?
JS: I totally had fan girl moments being on tour with New Kids and Backstreet Boys this past summer. Howie and AJ—I have to keep myself composed!!!
JS: So many things! You have to have a good sense of humor. I always laugh when someone falls or trips—I just can’t help it!
L+D: What makes you cry?
JS: Pretty much any time I talk about my amazing younger brother, PJ.
L+D: You have always looked incredible, but lately, you seem to be coming into your own more and more. How have you been able to maintain your new healthy physique while facing the demands of a tour and the challenge of living in the public eye?
JS: THANK YOU! My diet has pretty much remained the same. I am not too crazy about sticking to a regimented diet…if I want a piece of bread, I’m gonna have a piece of bread! What I am doing is making healthier decisions now, like instead of a bag of chips for a snack, I’ll see if I can find an apple. It’s always important to up your intake of water and vegetables, too.
But, honestly, if I feel like working out then I do. If I don’t then I don’t. There isn’t a secret, just everything in moderation! On tour my set kicks my butt every night…it’s pure cardio!
L+D: Are you passionate about any causes or charitable efforts?
JS: My brother and I have our own charitable campaign, called “I’m M.A.D., Are You?” M.A.D., which stands for “Making a Difference,” is a non-profit corporation, serving the community by managing individuals and organizations by helping identify and implement projects to benefit a cause or humanitarian effort of interest.
L+D: What are you looking forward to in the future?
JS: I’m looking forward to watching my brother play college football, the NBA lockouts ending, doing more acting and honing that side of my artistry, doing more music and then a break after that!
L+D: Since winning American Idol, what has been the most exciting aspect of your career?
JS: I love being able to do what I love for my job…there’s nothing better than that!
L+D: Who are some of your biggest influences in music and in life?
JS: Musically, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Natalie Grant, Nat King Cole, Christina Aguilera and Kirk Franklin just to name a few. Personally, my mom and my grandmothers.
L+D: What was it like to be nominated for your first Grammy Award?
JS: I screamed my head off! It was incredible. Every artist dreams of that and to be nominated on my first record was unbelievable!
L+D: Tell us what life is like for you on tour?
JS: Always moving and no sleep. It can be quite exhausting, but once I get on the stage everything feels right!
L+D: So what do you do to prepare for going on stage in a huge arena show?
JS: I do vocal warm-ups around two hours before the show. Then I pray and tell myself to breathe and then I go!
L+D: Tell us a little bit about the recording process for you.
JS: It’s different every time. There are different producers, sounds and writers during the album process and I write as well. For the first record it was mostly songs that were already written. With the Battlefield record, I wrote 6 songs that made the record! Sometimes a song can be finished in a few hours and sometimes it takes quite a bit longer. The variety is what keeps it interesting.
L+D: If you weren’t a multi-platinum recording artist, what would you be doing today?
JS: I’d be going to college studying either criminal justice, pediatrics or culinary arts!
L+D: What songs are on YOUR iPod?
JS: Oh goodness…thousands of songs! Everything from Kanye West to Martina McBride, Celine Dion, Chris Brown and even some of my own stuff!
L+D: What is your favorite color?
JS: Jewel toned colors are my favorite for sure. I am loving orange, turquoise and purple right now!
L+D: What is your favorite restaurant?
JS: Oh, I have more than one! I love Ruth’s Chris Steak House, the Griddle on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Berri’s Pizza and Fogo de Chao.
L+D: Where is your favorite place to visit?
JS: Right now my favorite place to visit is home, because I am always away. Sometimes it seems like a vacation just to be home, with my friends, family and dogs all close by.
Minnie Sparks on a Serengetti bed from P.L.A.Y.
L+D: Tell us a little about your dog history and the dogs you currently have in your family.
JS: My first dog was a Lhasa Apso named Angel. We got our first lab when I was about 9 years old and his name was Noah. We got a Black Lab named Ebony two years later. Our current lab is their daughter, Noni. She’s 10 and is the queen of the house.
L+D: What is the greatest gift that your dogs give YOU and/or what is the greatest thing you have learned from your dogs?
JS: I know it’s lame but the quote ‘I want to be the person my dog thinks I am’ applies here. They wait for us no matter what and love unconditionally. I should be that ‘person’ every day.
L+D: Do you have a favorite breed or type of dog? If so, what characteristics make them your favorite?
JS: I absolutely adore Labradors. They are the perfect dog. They are so smart and learn so fast! They’re not too big and not too small and I love that they love to swim because I do, too! But I have a schnauzer-bichon and a schnauzer-poodle mix and since they grew up with our lab they think they are too! Jumping in the pool, fetching—the whole nine.
JS: They do travel with me! It’s like a little piece of home with me when my mom or dad or brother can’t make it out. They do have their accidents from time to time, but they are great to have around for everyone and love living on the bus!
L+D: What do you miss the most about your dogs when you do have to leave them behind?
JS: I miss cuddling with them and them going crazy when they’ve been on the bus too long. I also just miss them being there…there’s a comfort level that they bring when they’re around.
L+D: Your dog recently had puppies in a surprise pregnancy. Are they all still living with you? How do you manage raising the little ones with the demands on your schedule?
JS: I kept Minnie. Maddee, Molly and Millie all have amazing, loving homes and they come for visits often. I make it work with my schedule…Minnie actually helps relieve stress. You just can’t stay mad or frustrated when you have a cuddly puppy around!
L+D: In your opinion, what should the role of dogs be in humans’ lives?
JS: Dogs can be our best friends and closest confidantes. It is so important for people to realize that if we provide love and care to an animal we will gain their trust and unconditional love. Caring for a dog is a big responsibility and I think if you want to have a dog in your life you have to make sure you realize the commitment and responsibility that you are taking on. If you do, you’ll have a companion for life!
L+D: If you could describe your feelings for dogs in one word what would that be?
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This article was written by LIFE+DOG editor Ryan Rice.
To read more from Ryan, visit his blog on our site.