LaToya London first caught our eye on Season Three of American Idol, where she was one of what viewers dubbed The Three Divas (in very good company, with Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia Barrino). But London will be the only diva Friday night at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for Diversity Honors, The Pride Center’s annual hot-ticket gala.
OK, maybe the only diva performing on stage.
Since Idol, where London’s rendition of Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself” earned a standing ovation from all three judges (including Donna Summer), her career has developed very nicely along two separate tracks. One is in the recording studio, of course. London released her debut album Love & Life in 2005 and continues to record as both a solo artist and a member of the hip-hop/Europop act Urban Punk.
But where London has really garnered acclaim is on the stage. She received rave reviews for her turn as Nettie, the spirited and infectious sister of Celie, in Broadway’s first national tour of The Color Purple. That musical has been especially kind to London, who won a 2012 Ovation Award as Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Shug Avery. Since then, she’s picked up Entertainer of the Year awards in 2013 from both the Bay Area Music Awards and the Oral Lee Brown Foundation.
Before her star turn at the Hard Rock, we took a few minutes to catch up with LaToya.
Were you always a singer, even as a child?
I’ve been singing on stage since the age of 7 and recording in professional music studios since the age of 12.
What was your first paid professional gig?
Unfortunately, I can’t remember my first paid professional gig, but I’m sure I was like, “Oh yeah, I can get used to this!”
How did you end up auditioning for American Idol?
I learned through a friend that auditions were going to be held in L.A. the same weekend I was planning to move there to enroll in Musicians Institute in Hollywood. So, I drove five hours from Oakland to Los Angeles. My cousin and I camped out in sleeping bags on the ground at the Rose Bowl Theater for three days and two nights. I auditioned, got through, and on Monday, I enrolled in school. But eventually I had to drop out to compete on the show.
How was your Idol experience?
Great, scary and surreal — all at the same time! It’s hard to relax and take in the experience because you’re busy learning songs and choreography, interviewing, singing in front of the world, and living 24/7 with your fellow competitors — and praying you’re not going to be voted off that week! LOL.
Are you still friendly with any of the other Season Three contestants?
Yes, some of us do keep in touch. And now social media has made that even easier.
How has your life been since Idol?
My life has been awesome since American Idol. I’m doing what I love for a living because of that platform. I’ve traveled to many places, both within the U.S. and abroad, performing, having new experiences, and meeting new people.
Are you excited to be performing at the annual Diversity Honors gala for the Pride Center?
Yes, I’m so excited to be performing at this event. We’re all going to have a great time honoring accomplished people, all in the name of love and diversity. I’m really looking forward to it.
What does the future hold for you?
I can’t say exactly what the future holds for me. But I do know I will continue to bless the world with the gifts I have been blessed with, and through this I can say: Whatever the future holds, it will be bright!
For more on Latoya London, go to latoyalondon.com.
For Diversity Honors tix (from $200): diversityhonors.com.