This Design Tribe blog is a place where I celebrate strong women, those who inspire other women to be grounded, find their path, and share positivity. It is about creatives and how we share our ferocity in the world. It’s been a dream to share Cece Peniston’s journey, the challenges she's faced and overcome, and how she embodies that gorgeous confidence, beauty, and femininity so gracefully. Consider this a fabulous playdate between two creative ladies in the world.
I first learned about this fabulous diva when her hit single Finally hit the 90’s airwaves, thrusting Ms. Cece into the international spotlight and triggering a successful, award-winning career that continues today. Her passion for charitable work has been recognized by world leaders. She is a true artist, a strong, beautiful inspiration, who—against all odds— managed to stay true to herself and her artistry.
What’s hotter than hot?
I rang the doorbell to Cece’s house, hoping my mascara wouldn’t melt off before I walked in the door. For the first time I even considered abandoning black as my everyday year-round color. I was two scorching seconds from becoming a puddle when a beautiful woman named Ms. Cynthia drove up and popped out of her car, dazzling me with an amazing smile and sparkling eyes. She led me through the garage and I knew then all was going to be OK, and that everything that was in store for me was meant to be. I tried putting my nervousness for meeting Ms. Cece aside as best I could. Maybe I could just ask her for a hug to calm me. She looked like she gave really good hugs.
I waited a bit self-consciously in this beautiful house, walls covered in records and a subtle elegance, sparkles here and there. I sat, trying to remain calm. Moments later I heard a voice and the energy changed in the room. A beautiful woman came over and nonchalantly asked me to follow her. She told me to come back with her, that she was still getting ready.
And that is how our interview began, with my being invited into a cloud of beauty, filled with the spirit of strength, confidence, and an ease with the world. The two of us sat in her vanity room, surrounded by sparkly outfits, gorgeous perfume bottles, and lots, and lots of shoes. She started putting her lashes on and for the second time in less than an hour, I reevaluated myself. Yet this time I wondered if this designer thing is really me—maybe I just want to be a diva interviewer! Yes! New career!
AS: May I ask you to describe your job?
CP: Give to the world, to help create memories for people with music. You can have a shitty day and I can take that away. My job is to create those memories and make them real from the song you just heard.
AS: Do you believe in magic?
CP: Yes. Magic is when I have a thought in my head and it becomes real. That is magic. You need soldiers and protectors. [Cynthia is this to Cece.] Advice. Use what you’ve been given.
As: what is your spirit animal?
CP: [My] spirit animal—butterfly, because I’m soft and warm and connect with people. Advice. Be a dreamer, a 7-figure sister, health and wellness.
AS: Is anything possible? What are the three things to keep in mind to stay on your path?
CP: 1. Resilience 2. Dreamer 3. Goals. Because first you dream it, then you set goals.
AS: How do you know if you are on your right path?
CP: Confirmation comes from the world, God, me. And you ask yourself, is it enough yet? What you believe in can happen. Create a vision board. Every girl should have. I will just replace [girl] with the word diva.
AS: What do you need to be Cece when you are performing?
CP: Hair, lashes and fabulous outfits. My sparkling mike cover. Great shoes. A lash holder. A team—a tribe.
AS: What inspired you?
CP: Maya Angelou. Specifically this poem:
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
[Continue reading Phenomenal Woman here.]
My mom. She was always in my corner. When I said, “I hate music”, when I was going through stuff offstage, she was always there.
CP: You can’t allow the inside to affect the outside. If you believe it, you will see yourself doing it.
AS: In all of my interviews I include an invitation to send a gift – a random act of kindness or a paying it forward. May I do that with you? If so, whom may I send a gift to?
CP: Oprah, Dawn Robinson of En Vogue. Adina Howard.
AS: Who is in your entourage?
CP: Stylist, hair makeup, road manager, Cynthia, DJ, dancers, black car SUV because I’ve earned it and it’s part of my branding.
AS: the friendship you and Ms. Cynthia have is really beautiful. Both of you have sparkling eyes in common – :-) – how long have you known each other?
CS: Cece’s mom was security at school, we’ve known each other for 17 years.
[Cynthia prepared lunch for us – gorgeous shrimps with spinach and garlic. I asked her to share her recipe and she stated:
“Not a problem, but I really don’t cook with recipes. I cook by intuition and love. No measurements and I just go with feeling. I can send you the basics but I have no rhyme and reason with cooking.”
This pretty lady is absolutely adorable, I think to myself – that’s exactly how I cook!]
AS [to Cynthia]: What is Cece’s spirit animal?
CS: You know those kittens that are looking in the mirror and the reflection is a lion? Sometimes she is a lion, and sometimes she is a kitten. “I’m coming at you, if this isn’t what I want.” She’s protective, knows her job, she needs music, candles, and loves her tribe. She needs her sparkly mike. In case you didn’t notice she loves bling. She is real—there’s a difference between Cece and Cecilia.
After the interview and lunch we listened to music. Cece let me listen to several of her new songs—that no one has heard yet—as we drank champagne on the floor of her theater. I must say – it was super fabulous. We listened to “no keys for you,” Stepper’s remix, “Hot”, and my two personal favorites: “Let It Burn” and “Anyway.”
And then I had my transformation experience. What I realized in that moment is that we can all be what we want to be when we want to be. That anything is possible. I may not be a diva, but if I chose to be I could – even for an afternoon. Ms. Cece has taught me that as women, we are many things. We are girly, ferocious, beautiful, vulnerable, imperfect, and that all those things are ok. We are complex, and we cannot do it alone. It takes a team and that the people you orbit with, surround yourself with represent you. Sometimes we need to be with those that protect us. Sometimes it’s just someone to share time with to be free—to be “Cecilia.” I saw a glimpse of the beauty that Ms. Cece is and am grateful to have had this experience. The femininity and strength that I experienced was amazing, inspiring, and filled me with light.
For the third time I may reevaluate myself here – I think I want to be Ms. Cece when I grow up.
She turned me into a diva in about 15-20 minutes. This gorgeous onesie I'm wearing here during my unexpected makeover was gifted to me by Ms. Cece at the end of our interview. Imagine, being able to gift someone such fabulousness? That's a true Diva move. She wore this on stage. Obviously, I realized that kindness, sharing, and gifting is magic. It shows generosity, kindness, community, and a heart filled with light. I also realized that I can't live without this wig. This pretty, talented, soulful, kind, super talented woman didn't know me before this day. Yet within an hour of my being with her I was in her private boudoir, getting lashes put on me, admiring her amazing wardrobe and learning the secrets to gracefully navigating Diva-Land. I believe in magic.
I realized that we all have it. We just need to decide what to do with and where we want to go. Dream and dream Big. Anything is possible girl – throw in a great pair of lashes and a wig (Click here for Cece's official wig contact) and you are basically a superhero. Just like Cece. Thank you for your time Ms. Diva - for reminding all of us that anything is possible, and the world is filled with beauty.