"I know I was looking good…”
With these six words on the 1984 hit single “The Men All Pause,” Bernadette Cooper and Klymaxx changed the face and sound of music. The group that the Inglewood, California native created went on to become the most successful all-female soul/pop/funk band of all time with classic jams including “Meeting in the Ladies Room,” “Man Size Love,” “I’d Still Say Yes,” “Sexy,” and the monster ballad, “I Miss You.” Cooper found further success producing singles for Cheryl Lynn and creating Madame X, an ultra-mod 90s trio who had a top 5 R&B hit with “Just That Type of Girl.”
Cooper next put her skills as a producer, composer, engineer, vocalist, drummer, stylist, director, and madcap genius to good use on her solo project, “The Drama According to Bernadette Cooper,” which included the anthem “I Look Good,” her hilarious ode to self-love. Then, it appeared the decidedly over-the-top Cooper went quiet on us.
A few years ago, a fit and in fine-form Cooper went on the road with “Klymaxx Presents Bernadette Cooper: A Diva and a Turntable,” which garnered rave reviews. And now, nearly two decades after “Drama,” Cooper recently released “Last Diva on Earth Episode 1: Planet Sexy,” which she describes as “an introspective, comedic look at earth, love and the search for happiness.” Essence recently caught up with the trailblazing musician to talk about Klymaxx, her new music, and what’s next.
Yes, I’m back. “Last Diva” is the soundtrack of my life from the beginning to where I am now.
You kicked off this project with “I Am Your Diva Savior (Blowin’ The Spot Up),” which fused vintage Klymaxx with an urgent contemporary message about Black women, HIV, and brothers on the down low. Explain.
I have experienced women and men who have died from AIDS. Back in the day people were dropping like flies. Today, we are still not educating ourselves like we should. The fact is if you're a man and you’re participating in risky behavior just let a diva know. I always try to do things with a sense of humor, but I’m very serious that we’ve got to protect ourselves emotionally and with our health. I’m into empowering women of all ages, but women in our 40s, 50s and beyond are still at risk.
You have an interesting take on husband hunting with “All The Girls Are Looking.”
We as women sometimes pit ourselves against each other. I don’t have a hater gene. I’m not that girl. This song is my way of saying, 'Sisters let’s have some dating rules.’ Know when to stay in your lane, and I will stay in my lane when it comes to finding that soulmate or your husband.
People were nostalgic after seeing Klymaxx on VH1's Bands Reunited some time ago. What's the status of the group now?
As for the show, while we are on hiatus one of the members of the group continued to tour with the band’s name. We asked her to stop. Klymaxx was my vision. I created the concept. We did get together and we did tour for awhile. If you’re an original member of the band you can use “Klymaxx Featuring…” But realistically, our time was up. I toured as “Klymaxx Presents Bernadette Cooper, but I’m looking forward to letting go, and moving forward.
There was some time where it appeared you had gone quiet on us.
I’m a smart business woman and I’m always creating scenarios for myself. I moved to Jersey City, brought a building and owned Museum 68, a vintage clothing store. It was very successful. I had to return to Los Angeles to care for my grandmother and my mother, who had a stroke. I buried my grandmother and went through some ups and downs. Talk about the last diva standing! I've been through, but like I said, I'm back! I know so many women out there can relate to how we take care of everyone, and we have to remember to also to love and take care of ourselves.
What's next for you?
My mission is to be happy and to go on the road with a fabulous new show. I'm looking forward to touring in Europe and here. I want to work with Annie Lennox. I’m currently working on Episode #2. Look out! I am fiercer and sexier. I know who I am. I’m a diva in music but not in life.
For more info on Last Diva on Episode 1, visit Cooper's Tumblr.