ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet pop songwriter Ester Dean, best known for penning hits "Where Have You Been" by Rihanna, "Superbass" by Nicki Minaj, "Countdown" by Beyoncé and more. This week Dean will try her hand at big-screen acting with the new musical comedy Pitch Perfect, about an all-girl collegiate singing group.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us about your character Cynthia Rose in Pitch Perfect.
ESTER DEAN: She's such a beautiful character. She loves the ladies. All the [main characters] are girls who tend to be misplaced. The movie is about these girls who [typically] use their bodies and their looks to win the competition, and they need some people with talent. So we're all, like, cute rejects. We would not normally be in that group but our talent got us there. That's our whole story.
ESSENCE.com: This is your first movie. Were you nervous?
DEAN: I wasn't very nervous, but I was doubtful because I never understood what we were doing. When I first got [to rehearsals] it was all about dance. No one told me I was going to be dancing!... I was very confused about what it is I got myself into. [But] I wasn't nervous. I was like a fish out of water just trying to figure out where I belonged.
ESSENCE.com: Pitch Perfect comes out this Friday, but we know you're working on your own music. Tell us about it.
DEAN: We have two singles. I have a single for overseas and I have a song for here. Everyone's excited because it's like this big meeting today. The song is called "How You Love It" featuring Missy Elliot. I don't know about [an album title]. It's all about what song you pick. But I would like it to be called Stories Never Told. I've said a lot of things and a lot of people have heard the words I've said, but it's a story never told. They don't understand what I meant by those words because they were always given out through a different source. What I meant by those songs never got told.
ESSENCE.com: Do you feel pressure for your album to be great since you've written so many number one songs for other people?
DEAN: I never feel pressure to do anything. I don't feel pressure to write songs for them. I do this because I love it. If that moment of pressure makes me feel like I don't love it — I'll walk away. I just write songs from the heart and you never know who'll like the songs. I try to make sure that I don't allow anybody's expectation to weigh on me. I have my own expectation of life. I believe in letting people be free. I enjoy the album, but we've got more songs to go.
ESSENCE.com: You're known for doing music and now films are on your plate. Do you have plans to do more movies?
DEAN: I'm in talks to do my own animation film. I want to do so much more of it… all the way to the point of directing it and writing it and doing my Ice Cube/Queen Latifah situation. I say Ice Cube because he knows how to make some movies and Queen Latifah because she knows how to pick some movies. They've made the blueprint for me to see where I can go with the talent. I always tell people I write songs but I'm a writer. It's a difference. I can write songs to music, but I can write a story. I can see ideas spark in me.
Pitch Perfect hits select theaters this Friday and opens nationwide on October 5.