Dawn Robinson might have been the youngest foxy brown of the early 90’s female glam quartet En Vogue, but she quickly became known as the rebel diva when things began to fall apart with the songbirds. After leaving the group and becoming the frontwoman for the R&B trio Lucy Pearl, Robinson has kept a low profile until the group’s recent reunion. The sultry siren took the time out to set the record straight with ESSENCE.com about the drama behind EV and Lucy Pearl, why she’s not a bitter woman and what really happened between her and her husband.
ESSENCE.COM: So how does it feel to be back with En Vogue?
DAWN ROBINSON: It feels like home; the family you haven’t seen in a while. One of the things I missed was that we laughed a lot. Terrie really missed her calling as a comedian; she’s so funny. I love people that can laugh at themselves. We have our audience and they held a torch for us.
ESSENCE.COM: When did that torch’s fame go out for the group?
ROBINSON: We were doing the lion’s share of the work but we were making the least. I started seeing it earlier when you get into the industry you come in after having a degree in accounting. You get caught up before you truly [understand] that contract and know what questions to ask. All of those contracts are written in Old English and you’re like, Huh? Nobody talks like that. We had legal counsel but if you still don’t understand because it’s not broken down in layman terms for you it’s difficult to know the right questions to ask.
ESSENCE.COM: So because you spoke up you were deemed a problem?
ROBINSON: The misconception about me is that I am difficult, a problem, a b—-. But when people try to take your hard-earned money and you stand up for it this is what happens when you’re a woman. If I was a man I wouldn’t be accused of such things. I’m glad I stood up. I was just trying to see what was going on with us financially because it wasn’t making sense and I realized after meeting with another lawyer that there were so many things in there that weren’t in our favor.
ESSENCE.COM: It’s hard to imagine with the group’s crossover success that you all were not given a better deal.
ROBINSON: We started opening our eyes and were like, we need to rectify this. It was just frustrating because most artists, once they start to have a certain amount of success, they throw out that [first] contract and start over with a new one, but we never renegotiated. There was a little fear that came in like any job when there’s a union standing behind you. I didn’t have that and the ladies realized later that I was just trying to stand up and look out for the group. The ladies know and we’ve all atoned and they’ve apologized to me in certain ways. I wouldn’t want to change anything because En Vogue and Lucy Pearl helped me to grow.
ESSENCE.COM: Weren’t you supposed to release a solo album?
ROBINSON: Yes, but I was given an ultimatum because [my group member] Terry had a solo album and in the process of doing my solo album they told me to scrap it because it was decided that the group would release another album. I told them I demanded the same respect. They really picked the wrong girl and I told them I wanted to leave the group as a solo artist and would continue to fulfill my obligations to En Vogue and completed the “EV3” album with them.
ESSENCE.COM: Well, your diva reputation followed you to Lucy Pearl. What happened between you and Raphael Saadiq?
ROBINSON: I’ve known Raphael since I was 16, so when he approached me about doing the group with him he let me know that he didn’t have a lot of money but his small label, Pookie Records, and I was fine with that. I knew we could blow up. I think he got frustrated because he came off a little jaded and pissed off in interviews because people wanted to talk to me more.
ESSENCE.COM: Did you ever address it with him?
ROBINSON: No, but my thinking was that he knew I had something to offer because En Vogue was crossover and pop and so I had a larger following in that regards. Now, Tony! Toni! Tone! only reached R&B world and wasn’t as broad so they brought me in for that extra side status. Unlike Raphael, I was very proud of Ali when we went to Germany and all the press wanted to talk to him more about his rap career with A Tribe Called Quest, and in Amsterdam everyone wanted to talk to me more. Everyone knows that the girl always gets more attention whether it’s Chaka Khan & Rufus or Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. The guys always make you feel intimidated, but if doing a lot of interviews can help bring attention to the group, then that benefits us all, but unfortunately, he didn’t understand he had something right–a group that is succeeding. It got really ugly.
ESSENCE.COM: Now that you’ve reunited with En Vogue, any chance of a Lucy Pearl reunion?
ROBINSON: Lucy Pearl is one of my favorite groups. I loved the creation me and Raphael had together since we were kids, creating this whole sound and how we came up with the idea of Lucy Pearl, because it was our idea as opposed to En Vogue, which was put together. I had a deal on the table with RCA, who had Tyrese and Coko signed to solo deals at the time, but I chose to do another group because I believed it was the smartest idea–three super artists to make one super group–and to be able to bring the knowledge I [acquired] was going to make it a stronger situation. Plus, the album was insane. I tried to talk to him about a reunion, but Ali had a lawsuit against him because he felt like he did him wrong because we found out later that Raphael had made side deals. I believe there’s strength in numbers not to get money but when God puts something together this great you don’t walk away from it, you work it out. But his ego got in the way. I was really sad that it was only a one-off. We decided that we wouldn’t commit to a long-term situation unless album sales made sense. So we just disbanded, but they have to have a scapegoat so they are going to blame Dawn and say I’m the difficult one.
ESSENCE.COM: On a personal note, your husband had some very private words for you publicly regarding your sex life. Are you two still together?
ROBINSON: I wasn’t out there, that was my husband. He made up stuff and lied. I guess he thought he was hurting me, but I kept my mouth shut the entire time. He has asked for forgiveness and has atoned for that. I told my mom that En Vogue was no different and let me fall to the wayside when I tried to speak up. I could remain bitter about it, but the reality is people do things to one another; this is nothing. We’re normal people like everyone else. Unfortunately our private matters were made public because of who I am, but all has been forgiven and we’re still together and I’m not ashamed. We’re working on a reality show together, so hopefully people will get to see me for who I am and not what the media created me to be.
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