Paris Bennett: Ready To Reign

Widely known as the cheerful 5th runner up on last season’s American Idol, Paris Bennett is following the path of other contestants from the show in preparing her debut album, Princess P. Long gone are the pigtails and oldies renditions - this time around, 18-year-old Paris is doing things her way. While her new fame is a result of television, her talent is most likely a family gene. Her grandmother Ann Nesby was the lead singer of the group Sounds of Blackness, and Paris definitely inherited the gifts of song and performance.

Hot off the heels of Jennifer Hudson’s stellar turn as Golden Globe winning actress, this seems to be the best time to bolster success for Paris. Only time will tell if she can be America’s next star, but for now she’s happy to be pursuing her own vision. We spoke with Paris about how being on television affected her life, the importance of working with her uncle’s independent record label, her new clothing line and her thoughts on the “other” Paris. Alternatives: How do you look back at the Idol experience now that it has been a year or so since your season ended?

Paris Bennett: It was a great learning experience. It taught not just me, but [all of the other contestants], how to not just be a performer, but to also perfect ourselves.

AHHA: How did you feel when you were eliminated from the show?

Paris: I was happy. It was time for my chapter in American Idol to end. It was time for me to do my own thing in my career. When I got eliminated I was happy because I was no longer on a one way track which structured what I would do in my career. But I’m not sad or mad about [being eliminated]. When I went on the show, my goal was to become a household name and enjoy life.

AHHA: Jennifer Hudson has gone from “who?” to Hollywood elite with her Golden Globe winning performance in Dream Girls? How do you feel about her new found stardom?

Paris: I’m very excited for her. She helped to open up doors for past American Idol runner-ups. She proved that even though some people say that, [after losing American Idol], it’s the end of the rode, but it isn’t the end of the rode.

AHHA: Well, I think Jennifer jumped the Idol rode for the It Girl express. In that process, she has become a weekly magazine favorite over the past few months. Although I haven’t read much bad press on Jennifer, do you see yourself getting tabloid attention like some other young starlets? You know, live that Lindsay Lohan lifestyle. In a way, the attention might propel you to another level of fame. At the same time, you’d be sacrificing your privacy…

Paris: I haven’t had a personal life since American Idol, but as far as being wild like Lindsay Lohan and so on and so forth, I don’t think that’s for Princess P. I have a whole different lifestyle. I’m a little more cordial and a little classier. I have too many goals for myself for me to go and wild out. If I’ma wild out, it’s because I just achieved something, not just because I want to be in the camera.

AHHA: Indeed. Tell us about the creative process for making your album. I’m sure it has become your baby. Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Paris: I don’t have one favorite song; I like all of my songs. I’ve been working on the album since November, even October. I co-wrote all of my songs and worked with some great producers.

AHHA: How has your family supported you during the past year now that you’ll be breaking out from the American Idol brand?

Paris: We support one another and we are definitely a family. No matter what we all do, we have each others back. They keep me level headed; they keep me being Paris Bennett. At the same time they push and encourage me to do different things in the industry.

AHHA: Speaking of family, you’re signed to your uncle’s record label, 306 Entertainment. How does that differ from being on a major label?

Paris: I wanted to be my own kind of artist and that’s why I signed with 306. 306 is owned by my uncle, Paul Jones. It’s very family orientated. We all strive for all of us to [do well]. If one blows up, we all blow up. We all stick together. Major labels have great sounding contacts and plans for you but they have plans for what they are going to push you as. You’ll have to fit a certain stereotype whether you are an R&B artist or this or that. [Major labels] have this thing where they shelve [artists] who have already been seen and put them behind the people who are already out there because they are of more interest than when they die down and do other things. When they die down, that’s when labels will look at the shelved artist.

AHHA: True story. But some major labels are pushing artists whose swagger I know you must be feeling right now. Which of your contemporaries have careers you’d like to have, if looked at in terms of how they have developed and the kind of music they are putting out?

Paris: There is no one person whose career I like. You have Ciara who made a whole new change with the Evolution thing and the modeling thing, and you have Beyonce who has the clothing line, acting and music. Everyone has something different going on so I don’t have a favorite.

AHHA: You must have a heavy month ahead of you with promotions for your CD. What does an average day for you look like? Do you have any days off?

Paris: Everyday looks busy. When you have a day off you’re not busy enough. As long as I’m busy, I’m happy. I’m looking forward to fashion week and the Bronner Brothers Hair Show. I don’t know my schedule by heart, but I know I have a lot coming up.

AHHA: How was it shooting your video for the first single “Ordinary Love”?

Paris: My video was a great thing. It was my first video so it was fun, but I had to give it all I have. I had Dustin from B5 in it as my love interest. The end of the video goes into a song called “I’m So Hot.”

AHHA: What do you love most about your first single?

Paris: I love that it is my first single! It’s put out and people will hear my own creativity.

AHHA: Rewinding back to your days on American Idol, are there any backstage secrets from the show that you can talk about?

Paris: Not really. They put everything out in front. We were like a big family and we had normal family problems and everyone was like brothers and sisters.

AHHA: Do you feel like American Idol is a gift and a curse?

Paris: It’s a gift because you get to share your talent and enjoy doing it. It’s a curse because you either take it from where it’s ended and blow up from it, or you can take it for what it is and let it just be that.

AHHA: We always hear about artists who go on TV shows and when the show ends, it seems like the executives give them the pink slip and send them packing. Has the American Idol bus kept moving for you?

Paris: I’ve been constantly moving. Everywhere I go people want to hear me and want me to do shows for them. I’m still moving.

AHHA: How have you changed since the show?

Paris: I definitely haven’t changed. I’m still me. I’m still Paris. The same person that came on the show is the same person that left the show. The only thing that has changed is me having a larger fan base.

AHHA: Do you watch the new season of American Idol?

Paris: I watched the first two auditions. It’s definitely TV. They’re making TV. It is what it is.

AHHA: Do you plan to make any guest spots on the show?

Paris: We’re trying to work on when we are going to make an appearance.

AHHA: This might be a silly question, but have you ever met Paris Hilton?

Paris: I haven’t met her but my mother did and she sent me a message on my mom’s phone at one of the clubs in L.A. People have asked me if I would want to do a Paris/Paris show and all sorts of questions about Paris Hilton. But I’ve never met her. I definitely have her CD though. I think it shows a different side of her that people haven’t seen. I give her much love and my respect.

AHHA: I’m sure she thinks of herself as a Princess too…

Paris: Well, [I’ve been called Princess P.] from birth. Ryan Seacrest didn’t give me that name.

AHHA: So I take it you like to be treated like a princess?

Paris: Yes. I think that everybody should have that sense of royalty because that’s basically saying that you love yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love the other people around you. I’m just saying I’m simply a princess to everybody.

AHHA: What is going on with your clothing line, Tres P.?

Paris: My clothing line is in the works. It’s cool. I like to put clothes together and try different creative things. I have a lot of different views on what should go with what.

AHHA: What advise would you give to the new batch of American Idol contestants?

Paris: Do you. Prove to the world that you’re unique and you are different from the ones that are already out there.

AHHA: So in five years, how do you see yourself evolving?

Paris: I’m not a futurist person, so I can’t speak for where I’ll be in five years. But wherever I am in the next five years I hope it’s a great place. I want to have a long lasting career and not just be a one hit wonder. I pray that I am a legend.