I’m a woman obsessed…obsessed with the “It” factor. The secret sauce. The right stuff. One’s own personal 11 herbs and spices.
I don’t know when I became obsessed with “It”. Maybe the obsession developed during all of those years of taking dance classes, watching people being put through their paces, seeing some go on to careers on Broadway while others languished at the barre.
Perhaps the obsession comes from my own needing to know if I have the “It” that will take me to the top of my profession. Don’t we all wonder about “It”? Don’t look at me that way. I know you think about “It” too.
Enough of that navel gazing.
When I got the chance to talk to famed choreographer, Laurie Ann Gibson, a woman who has become known for shaping, molding and challenging artists, most notably on the MTV series Making the Band, I knew wanted to ask her about “It”. If anyone can get to the bottom of “It’, I knew Laurie Ann could.
This season, on no less than two Diddy-produced MTV shows, Making His Band and P. Diddy’s StarMaker which is set to premiere on Sunday, August 16 at 10 p.m Eastern/Pacific, Laurie Ann will have her hands full working for the first time primarily as a judge/mentor looking for that “It” factor.
On Making His Band (Mondays 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific – UPDATE: MHB has been taken off the schedule and will return on a new day and time, Saturday, September 12 at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific), Diddy, with the help of Laurie Ann and other judge/mentors, attempts to assemble a band for his group Dirty Money which is comprised of the impresario himself, ex-Danity Kane member Dawn Richard and singer/songwriter Kaleena. The band will travel with Dirty Money as they perform songs from their upcoming album Last Train to Paris.
As for P Diddy’s StarMaker, a more traditional talent contest, 14 contestants will be coached, taught, tested, and evaluated by Laurie Ann and her fellow panel of experts which includes established star maker and manager, Johnny Wright and uber-producer Rodney “Dark Child” Jerkins. Others, including Pete Wentz, Lady Gaga and Nicole Scherzinger, will make special appearances to assist with the judging. Their ultimate goal, or rather Diddy’s ultimate goal: “To create the world’s next global superstar.”
You can count on Laurie Ann to bring her signature “boom kack” — a fusion of tough love, outspokeness and relentless quest for perfection — to both shows. Laurie Ann said that you can also count on her clashing with her fellow judges. (Not surprising. We know Laurie Ann ain’t never scared. Remember her infamous, now resolved, dust-up with Diddy?).
Why the conflict? Well, it’s more than just strong personalities at play but also different views of what is important in determining future success. Is it technical prowess, or is it, as Laurie Ann calls it, “the gift” — “the one thing that you can go back to when all else seems to have failed you…[the thing] that lets you know when to walk on stage at the right time…when to sing at the right time” — that gives birth to the seemingly elusive “It” factor?
According to Laurie Ann, this creative and ultimately productive conflict, is not a bad thing and will serve to educate the audience about the basis of differing opinions on talent and stardom.
It’s apparent for from the first couple of episodes of Making His Band, the musical directors place great emphasis on technique. Musicians must show proficiency in series of exercises. Those who can’t are eliminated. Some contestants, or rather, artists, who showed great promise during the auditions, wowing the musical directors themselves and even bringing their fellow musicians to the feet, were quickly dismissed after having failed to keep up…literally…with a metronome.
“I would never say look at technique over the gift,” said Laurie Ann. It’s not that she doesn’t have respect for technique. Laurie Ann studied at Alvin Ailey School of Dance (Take it from a sistah who knows, Ailey ain’t no joke.) and has shared what she has learned with self-taught “street dancers”. She acknowledged that training can help you sharpen your tools, enhance the gift. It’s the training, the technique, she said, that can give you “the information to make important transitions or the knowledge to support your instincts” thus giving you a better shot at longevity.
I get it Laurie Ann. Really I do. We’ve all seen someone, sometimes well-trained, stand up and sing. The sound was there but you realize something is missing and you can’t put a finger on it. You want to watch but you become easily distracted. In the end, feeling somewhat empty, you weakly applaud his/her efforts…maybe…and you move on…most definitely.
And there is that other person. She doesn’t always get the notes right. Her voice is thin or cracking. Hell, she may even use the much maligned Autotune. But there is something about her…You listen. This time, when it’s over, you’ve become a fan. You’re going to buy a download of her song. You’re going to see her in concert when she comes to your city.
Laurie Ann said it’s the “It” factor that allows artists to “connect on a level that not everybody can” and it is what separates them from their fellow performers.
Unfortunately, said Laurie, this “It” factor ” is not present right now in music industry.” But it used to be. Laurie Ann considers herself a student and admirer of past star makers like Motown’s Barry Gordy and Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun, moguls who created some of the iconic legends we have come to know and love including Aretha Franklin and the late Michael Jackson. Laurie Ann believes that the passing of Jackson has left a void. According to her, Madonna is closest thing we have to someone who has that “star”, or rather “superstar”, quality. (One such person who may give Miss Madge a run for her money is an artist who Laurie Ann has “worked with from the beginning” — Lady Gaga)
“We need to go back to it,” said Laurie Ann. “We need to go back to creating stars.” She said Diddy shares her sentiment. On StarMaker, Laurie Ann said that the talented contestants will be given the tools to assist them with the possible transformation.
So, I asked Laurie Ann, are you born with “It”? “Yes,” she said, “And it can and must be developed”. Of course, there is a certain amount of hard work that comes along with that development.
Okay, I hear you. After all of this talk about the “It” factor, you are wondering if Laurie Ann is going to have her own show. I asked her. And yes, she is currently working on something with MTV. Nice. Boom kack, it is.
Yes, LaurieAnn will be getting her own show. Not with MTV but with BET as it was announced by the network. Called The LaurieAnn Gibson Project, it will premiere on the network in 3rd Quarter 2011. In other words, the summer of next year.
Here’s a description of the show as provided by BET
THE LAURIEANN GIBSON PROJECT – Choreographer and principal dancer Laurieann Gibson (Making The Band) knows what it takes to make it, and knows real talent when she sees it. Now Laurieann joins forces with BET to give the next generation of dancers a chance to realize their dreams. Expect dramatic thrills every step of the way until the finale of this intense competition series.
If you need another dose of BoomKack sooner rather than later, don’t worry kids, Laurie Ann star in another new series, this one produced by Ryan Seacrest (Keeping Up with the Kardashians), which will premiere in January 2011.
Here’s a look at StarMaker
And check out an upcoming episode of Making His Band