If you're old enough to remember dancing your ass off to CeCe Peniston's indelible club hits "We Got a Love Thang," "Keep on Walkin'" or her signature tune "Finally," you might be surprised to realize how young the disco diva still is—and at just 41, she's very much a contemporary-minded artist, too, complete with a newly minted dance hit called "Stoopid." She also had an attention-grabbing spread in Us Weekly in March of 2010 to reveal that she'd undergone a slate of body-sculpting surgeries—how much more modern does it get?
Fresh off a sizzling performance at L.A. Pride 2011 this past weekend, Peniston offers some girl talk to Boy Culture about her body, her body of work and her special affection for the LGBT community...
Boy Culture: Love "Stoopid!" What inspired it?
CeCe Peniston: Thank you! I think it works because it's something we say every day. I mean, people say that all the time. I even say it—"They must think I'm stupid!" I went into the studio to do another song, then I heard this music was like, "Huh..." So I started writing the music coming from the studio and I kept hearing "stupid, stupid, stupid," and I thought, "How can I make it fun but not men-bashing?" It's just something we say every day.
BC: What's your best advice for girls you think are being "stoopid" in a relationship?
CP: Give them what they give you—that's the biggest thing. Don't overdo, don't underdo, just give people what they give you. Let the man choose you. That's the order of things anyway. When a man chooses you, it's different from when you choose him.
BC: What will the rest of your new CD—coming in August—sound like?
CP: Definitely on a dance vibe—the trend of music right now is definitely dance. Some pop and R&B. You'll feel elements of the old CeCe but with a new vibe. I'm revamping some of the songs I already had because music is changing so drastically, radio is changing, everything, so I'm like, "Okay, this beats-per-minute is not working any longer," so I'm redoing a lot of stuff right now
BC: You were doing dance 20 years ago—how does it feel to hear that sound come back around?
CP: It's kind of funny—what goes around comes around. When you have somebody like Usher doing dance music, you know the trend of music is back to where it was. Hey, I'm in right now! Dance is in. It's the twentieth anniversary of "Finally," which is nice. I'm about to do a remix of it with Paul Oakenfold.
BC: Despite being around for 20 years, you're not a nostalgia act.
CP: I just didn't want to be that artist you look at and go, "Oh, look at that old-school artist trying to do whatever," you're looking dated with the sequins and feather boas. [Laughs] I was like, "No, I don't want to be that." I've tried very hard to market myself in a way that looks current and I keep up on current fashion and everything, so I just reinvent myself constantly.
BC: I do have to ask one nostalgic kind of question: You were once Miss Black Arizona. What was the pageant circuit like, and did it help you for your later career?
CP: It really, really did. Especially the interview section of doing pageants—it really taught me how to answer questions effectively and on my feet and stay poised. One thing about pageants is you can't do a lot of moving around—you've gotta keep smiling (it helps if you have a little Vaseline on your teeth, by the way), so it teaches you to be more poised and comfortable in front of an audience.
BC: Why do you think you've always had such great support from LGBT fans?
CP: I think...you know what? The gay crowd just gives me a lot of love and they chose to love me and I chose to love the gay crowd back. I couldn't ask for more. I think I'm just a lot of fun when I get on stage, I'm real interactive with people and keep it real. I can't say how supported I feel by the gay community.
BC: Some of your longtime fans are probably especially curious about the plastic surgery you had done last year—I know I am. Would you do it again?
CP: Absolutely! I loved it. I'm really happy with the results. You know how you do a really bad stomach workout and your stomach is like, "Uhhh!" when you're trying to get out of the bed? That's how it felt. Minimal pain. In fact, I was watching Sex & the City 2 while they were doing it; I was in a twilight. [Laughs] You know, it's not really a light-hearted thing, I'm just making you laugh. But I had a really great doctor who told me the things I was gonna go through and I was comfortable with it. I would do it again if I had to do it. I was happy with all of it, and I'm being totally honest.
The feedback I've gotten has been so positive, too, with people saying, "We can really see the change in your body." It wasn't just the surgery—I lost 30 pounds on top of that. So I didn't look at surgery as a quick weight-loss thing. If I hadn't lost the weight on top of it, they would've been like, "Oh, well, you got one part fixed...keep goin'!" I thought, "Well, this is gonna improve this part, but if I have a back roll to go along with the flat stomach, that is just not gonna be a good look." [Laughs]
BC: Do fans run up to you singing "Finally?"
CP: Sometimes they're like, "Hey, I came out to your song!" or "I was at a wedding with your song!" I'm really engaging, though, like, I'm really a hugger and like to give people love. It's always a good reaction.
BC: Did you ever think when you were first releasing "Finally" that the song would still be so well known 20 years later and you'd still be singing?
CP: You know what? Absolutely not. I know that when it first started, I was like, "How long is this gonna last?" In fact, it took me a long time to get a house because I kept thinking, "It's gonna go away! It's gonna go away!" I kept saving my money. And it didnt go anywhere. And I realized it doesn't have to go anywhere. I realized God gave me a gift for a reason and as long as I treat it right I'll be able to do what I love forever. For me, it never stops. I still love it as much as I did then.
BC: Some artists grow to hate the songs with which they're most identified...
CP: Look, as long as I'm gettin' a check, I'm not ever gettin' tired of 'Finally"—okay? [Laughs] I guess some days you feel one song more than another. Some days I may feel "Keep on Walkin'" more than "Finally." I just think of different adlibs I can do during a show so it doesn't get boring to me. Most of the time when you get on the stage and the crowd is on point and there's good energy, I just love to do it.
BC: Were there any songs you recorded that you were sure would be huge hits but weren't?
CP: Let me see...um, I thought, "I'm in the Mood" would've done better—it did good [#32 on the U.S. Hot 100—Ed.], but I would've thought it would've done better. And of course I had my third album that I brought out and thought, "Oh, this is gonna be..." and they're like, "Nope!" I can look back at it now and see that it might've been a little more R&B than people were used to from me at the time. But I'm glad that I did it because I like to just do what I feel sometimes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but that's okay—I just revamp. I like to try it first and then revamp it later if it doesn't work.
BC: Not to get too personal—
BC: —but I hear you're newly single?
BC: Are you living single or looking for love?
CP: I'm just letting it happen. When you seek out stuff too much, you run into a disaster. What's meant for you to have will come to you.
BC: What do you look for in a guy?
CP: I like people that are different. I like a guy who's kinda quiet or reserved, because I'm wondering what he's thinking. I like somebody who has substance, can hold a good conversation, has their own thing going on because I have my own thing going on, has a nice physique...if I can look at you and you're eye candy, I like that. And if he kisses good, that helps, too. [Laughs]
BC: Would you ever date a fellow musician?
CP: I wouldn't be opposed to it. People are people. I don't have a box saying, "I'm not gonna do this, I'm not gonna do that." If we're meant for each other, we're meant for each other. It might be real interesting, like, "Hey, Boo, what song did you do in the studio today?"
BC: Would you ever do a reality dating show?
CP: I wouldn't say no because I like to have fun; I'm a comedian sometimes. If I'm the prize, let's go!