As we celebrate Black Music Month, it’s important that we save room, and provide flowers to one of the fore mothers of the 90s and 2000s, Syleena Johnson. Since 1998, Johnson has provided smooth soulful and poignant lyrics, contributed to great artistry, and has continued to be a voice for women. As Kanye once mentioned, “Syleena, you’re like the safe belt that saved my life.” Syleena Johnson saves womanhood through music, fitness, and providing an image of stability in an area that can often not reflect positive images.
She doesn’t hold back in her stance on equality and is using her powerful voice as a vessel for activism. She also speaks fervently to the many nuances of womanhood. As she mentioned in the woman track, “You gotta think like a woman, but act harder than a man, but take advantage like a woman, but take advantage like a man.” Being a woman is harder than it looks.
SHEEN Magazine caught up with the R&B singer, talk show host and fitness competitor to learn more about her latest album and documentary under the same name, The Making of a Woman.
So with Making of A Woman being your 11th studio album, what message were you poised to convey to your listeners?
The Making of a Woman is a revamp of The Woman album. I dropped that album in 2020, which as we all know shortly after the release, the world shut down. So that was the end of that (from a promotional and marketing standpoint). We [couldn’t] tour or do anything and we still haven’t been able to tour a lot; which has been depressing, to say the least. Watching social injustice, play out on television and all on social media; to me would be even more insensitive to even talk about the album.
Even though The Woman album is still relevant to some of the social injustices that we saw. Namely, Breonna Taylor, Black women are disrespected in this country. Those are the facts. The statistics show in the medical field, within gender pay gaps, you name it. We have been disrespected, as women, since the beginning of time. We know that black women slaves were experimented on first so white women could receive treatment. I mean, we can really go there, but we don’t have time for that.
So basically the Making of a Woman is my story, my depiction that kind of covers the gamut, in terms of sexuality, body image, in the terms leaving your family, having babies, and having to travel all the time. A prime example of this is my sister, while she was putting on a six territory tour for me, in South Africa, who was diagnosed with cancer a week before we left. Even after her Lumpectomy and radiation, she went back out with me that following December.
Black women! Just Super Powers!
The album shows all the guts and glory of who we are and what we’re made of. Hopefully people can see how dope we are, because of Black women, and let me tell you, I can go all day on us. We are the bomb.
Last year you sat down and talked to us about the album and you mentioned that women were a force. Can you expound on your thoughts on the “force” of a woman?
Well, let’s just look at Biden and his campaign. Need I say more? Stacey Abrams alone, alone by herself. Our Vice President is a black woman, we are a force and not to be reckoned with. No one has to acknowledge or recognize us, we’ve been a force. You don’t have to figure that out, and we birthed this country, this world, and the nation. We created populations. A lot of people say, oh, well it takes a man. But it had to be nurtured and our womb for it to grow. God did that on purpose. We are a force and the problem is we don’t get the credit for being a force.
Then if we try to get credit, then we’re chastised for it. The sad part is just the celebration of us. Celebrating a woman doesn’t mean demeaning men. We have to be celebrated. I hope people can get that from this documentary and not just women, but men too. I hope they can hear our hearts. How can we fit together? How can we be highlighted and celebrated?
It’s been brought to our attention that your staff for the Making of a Woman documentary is all women, why was that important for you?
Well, what I’m about to say may sound mean to some men, but it’s really not to slight men.
Men are very capable, and society has made it where men are the most capable of handling business, right? Society has painted women as too emotional, that we can’t get it done in my experience in this business of 30 years, that has not been my experience or (my) truth.
Women are passionate. A lot of the time our passion is mistaken for pettiness or cattiness or arguments, but let’s be very clear – we will argue all the way to the finish line.
Men do best work-related roles. In my experience they are best when they’re provided direction. When given the tools they’re great.
Women are built to be thinkers. We don’t have time to wait for directions because we’re mothers. We have to be able to figure a lot of things out. So in business, especially in entrepreneurship , women are more efficient when they’re working on their own.
Your fitness journey has been so empowering to watch but I want to go. I’m on record and say, I liked you thick too.
Cause I’m thick from the quarantine. Yeah, I ain’t got time for it. I’m working on mine but I ain’t got time for it.
But so would you say through training, you gained a new sense of being a woman do you think that your, um, you know, the process of, of fitness for you kinda enacted a new part of your womanhood?
Uh, no, because I’ve always been into fitness. I was a three-sport athlete in high school. I was a yoga instructor. I was on the basketball team, the track team, and I was on the tennis team and I was, uh, when I went to college, I played intramural sports.
Health and wellness has always been in my life forever. I have a BS in nutrition science so that really doesn’t have anything to do with my womanhood because I’ve always been into health and wellness and fitness.
It’s just that unfortunately, the industry has perpetuated me to be a big woman or a full-figured woman, my entire career, when those were ups and down moments when I had babies and different things like that. And you also have to understand, you know, when I came into the game, I’m 5’10”, 175 pounds. That was not the norm.
But as far as competitions, for sure, it showed me how strong I was, it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
So for your docuseries, let us know what your cheat meal is going to be for binge-watching?
Well we’re watching it every Saturday at 8:00 PMon Aspire. Then on the last Saturday of June, it will be a marathon with parts one, two, and three on Aspire at 8:00 PM every Saturday.
Cheat meals all day long and cheese pizza. And I don’t care what nobody says.
The Making of a Woman airs on Aspire every Saturday for the entire month of June, and the album is streaming now. Enjoy collaborations with Raheem Devaughn and Q Parker, as we embrace our blackness and womanhood.