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Kwanza Jones: The Fierce Gladiator in the Thong

Major: Woodrow Wilson School – Public and International Affairs
Class Year: No comment. I don’t do numbers (except when I’m forced to at Reunions)!
Residential College: Butler
Eating Club / Sorority / Extracurricular Activities:
Cap and Gown / Delta Sigma Theta / Women’s Track & Field, Princeton University Gospel Ensemble, Culturally Yours A Cappella Singing Group, Minority Affairs Advisor, SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education) Peer Advisor (to name a few…)

How would you describe your Princeton experience?
Life-altering. In order to grow, you have to be challenged, constantly. Princeton provided endless opportunities for that.
What is the most important lesson you learned at Princeton (in or out of the classroom) and how applicable is that lesson in your career/life?
The environment that Princeton provided enabled me to learn: Don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Instead, get up, go out and make your own way. This lesson has been applicable in all that I do because it helps me from becoming stagnant and keeps me from falling prey to naysayers. 

When did you know that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I always knew I was going to be involved in music as a career. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be on the performing side. Both of my parents were lawyers. Not surprisingly, I followed suite and graduated from law school. This is why I thought I would have a career on the business and legal side of the entertainment industry.

However, being at Princeton had a lot to do with me pursuing the performing side as a career. While at Princeton, I performed at the World Famous Apollo Theater in New York. Although they didn’t purchase tickets to the show, the University organized transportation for everyone who wanted to go see me. What can I say, Princeton was in the house that night! The Apollo made more money than I did but it was an “ah-ha” moment for me. That night is when I realized people would pay to see me perform. That’s when I knew I would make performing a career.
Truly, what is the music industry like?
It’s the new “Wild West.” Technological changes have major and indie labels trying to figure out how to better monetize music. Old models are gone and it’s all about finding creative ways to generate revenue. Music is still essential, (I mean, really, try to imagine a day with NO music), but the selling of the physical form is no longer the primary source of profit. Think about it, when is the last time you bought a CD or paid for an song (as opposed to listening to it on YouTube/Pandora/Spotify)?

What do you think your perspective is as an artist?
Whether fine art, pop art or otherwise, music/art/culture/entertainment has power. Most people unconsciously open themselves up to whatever they are seeing or hearing. For example, how many females aspire to an ideal that is like the one depicted on their favorite tv show/beauty magazine/blog. Because I am aware of the impact that art and artists have, I feel obligated to create music that empowers.

As an artist, it’s important for me to create a world where there are no boundaries, no excuses and no limits. When people experience my music, I want them to be taken to a world where they see just how extraordinary they are (or can be). That’s why I say, I make music for superheroes and divas (or those who want to be).

What is your inspiration for your music?
I’m inspired by equality, action and transformation. I strive to make music that gets people off of their asses and on to their feet. For example, my goal is to keep you moving — whether it’s dancing, working out, or getting pumped to take on a new challenge or cause.
We know that you call yourself a “gladiator in a thong.” What does that mean to you?
It means I’m relentless in all I do. But, I do it with feminine flare.

How have you evolved as an artist?
The biggest change is in the genre of music that I create. I’ve done, just about, all styles from gospel to jazz to hip-hop. However, it wasn’t until I started doing dance-pop music that I felt like I was home. It matches my energy and personality the best.

What is your favorite song (out of all of your songs)?
That’s liking asking a parent to pick one child as their favorite. Even if there is one, you shouldn’t do it.

What advice would you give to Princeton collegiettes (especially to those who are interested in breaking into the music industry)?
Regardless of what industry you want to be in, it’s really very simple. If there’s something you want to do, do it. Just remember, “simple” does not mean “easy.” So, you MUST be prepared to work hard for it. And remember, don’t quit. The world doesn’t care if you do or don’t follow your dreams. You are the one who suffers most by not going for it.

Okay our final question: who is your favorite Princeton alum?
That’s easy… me! Come on now… in all I do, I promote being SUPERCHARGED. That means, first of all, loving yourself and knowing that you should be your own favorite. Just imagine blasting away any shred of self-doubt and being the superhero version of you. That’s guaranteed to make you your own fav!
Be sure to check out all websites relating to Kwanza Jones!
Website: http://kwanzajones.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kwanzajones
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kwanzajonesmusic


Ajibike Lapite is a member of Princeton University’s Class of 2014. When not studying, Ajibike tutors at the Young Scholar’s Institute in Trenton, NJ; serves as the President  of the Princeton Premedical Society; is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Princeton; currently holds the title of Most Stylish Undergraduate (from Stylitics). Ajibike is a  molecular biology major with a certificate in global health & policy. She enjoys consumption of vanilla ice cream and sweet tea, watching games of criquet, exploring libraries, lusting after Blair Waldorf’s wardrobe, watching far too much television, editing her novel, staying watch at the mailbox, playing tennis and golf in imitation of the pros, hanging out with the best friends she’s ever had, baking cookies that aren’t always awesome, being Novak Djokovic’s fan girl, and sleeping—whenever and wherever she can.
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