Measha Brueggergosman, Rare Opera Diva and Afrobella of the Week

I’ve made allusions to my job here, but today I will tell you all what I do. I’m the calendar editor of the Miami New Times, and my job is to write and put together the section that includes all of the hottest events in the city for that week. I love having my fingers on the pulse of the city, so to speak.

Very rarely, my job winds up relating to something Afrobella. I wound up having a wonderfully serendipitous experience recently, which leads me to my first full-length Afrobella of the Week for 2007.

Last year, I got e mails and comments from quite a few readers suggesting I check out Measha Brueggergosman, a beautiful woman with a large ‘fro and an even larger voice.

She’s a soprano who is essentially is a freelance soloist, brought in to work with the world’s best orchestras. I checked her out, thought she was amazingly beautiful, but never had a chance to really explore her work at that point. Then a press release popped up in my work e-mail. Guess who’s coming to town with the Cleveland Orchestra for their two week residency at the Carnival Center?

I just about screamed when I saw the gorgeous photo and information they sent me. Obviously, this was meant to be.

I arranged an interview with Measha and told her right off the bat that this was a two-part interview. One about the Cleveland Orchestra performance – she will be singing in the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, otherwise known as “Ode to Joy.” The second was all about Afrobella, to which she replied, “Oooh!” Then “Hey- aren’t we friends?” I’m confused for a moment, then I realize she’s referring to MySpace. I had just added her that day. So nice to know that some stars actually check their own MySpace pages! (While you’re there, check out her version of “Summertime.” Homegirl is fierce!)

I know essentially nothing about orchestras or Measha’s kind of music, so I had to get those questions out first. Let me tell you, Measha Brueggergosman has sung in practically every major city in the world. “I opened the seasons of the Quebec Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony… in the Spring, when I’m in Gothenburg in Sweden, we do Gothenburg, Lyon, Paris… Tel Aviv for five or six concerts…”

I was amazed by her job, the fact that it requires her to travel to the world’s artiest cities and perform and the most luxe venues. Still, she is far from jaded.

“I still don’t take it for granted. I think it’s one of the coolest jobs in the world. Right now I’m staying in Cleveland at this beautiful hotel with the cast of Dancing with the Stars! You wanna talk cool? I wanna talk having a glass of wine at the hotel bar and watching Cheryl go by!” she gushed. “I’m a reality television junkie, and that’s one of the rare shows that is actually about talent!”

She was so excited. I found it hilarious that someone with such a highbrow occupation had such lowbrow interests as reality television. “The music is what elevates the medium. So you have to have singers and musicians who are healthy and are treated well… you have to be fit, and I think if you live a full and delicious life, that all comes out on stage anyway. So in a way, one helps the other. My lowbrow interests keep me fresh and humbled by this grandiose art form that I happen to be blessed enough to do for a living. I’m still a 29 year old from the Maritimes, and I still get absolutely speechless when I see Joey Lawrence in the hotel lobby!”

Whoa! Both of us felt like we grew up with him, watching him with the bowl cut on Gimme a Break, then as the studly idiot on Blossom. Now he’s all grown up. We gushed about the newly sculpted and shave-headed Joey Lawrence for a bit too long, but it was all fun. Measha is a happy, giggly, fun-to-talk-to person who just happens to have one of the world’s most notable singing voices. We totally clicked.

We talked conductors and Beethoven, singing in foreign languages, and the plastic surgery nightmares on South Beach. I admitted, in a superficial city like Miami, at times I feel so different, so stared at.

Being a super curvy girl with a big head of crazy hair in a city filled with lithe, breast-implanted, blond-by-any-means-necessary, skimpily dressed women will do that to you.

I tell Measha, sometimes I just don’t feel like I fit in here at all.

“Yeah, but you feel like you don’t fit in but then you realize that everyone else looks the same. You stand out because you’re hot! You’re hot because you’re different. The uniqueness is attractive,” she purrs. “I was just in L.A, I had to convince myself of that in L.A. I was like, OK… I’ve left my self-esteem at the door! But then you realize everyone looks the same.”

When I told Measha about my Canadian readers who e mailed me about her fabulous fro, she gasped. She loved the idea of the site, and at that point she hadn’t even seen it. And she was instantly ready to discuss hair products with me!

“I’ll tell ya, there’s a line of products called Devachan, and they are… amazing. I stopped shampooing my hair three years ago, and I didn’t have nearly as much breakage. I was able to grow it. I’m never gonna straighten it again. But sometimes I have it braided for something different. But I love those products, they specialize in naturally curly hair,” she gushed.

Measha’s been natural for five years. “I think I was straightening out of habit. My mother straightens of course… it’s a generational thing, it’s a cultural thing. I’m not sure, it’s just what we did. I was in an opera where I had braids put in, and I liked it, and I just let the straight grow out and I thought – why don’t I just wear this? It’s so much easier! I would never begrudge my mother, she really takes beautiful care of her hair. She has the beautiful, long… you know how length is a status symbol in the black community… I don’t know what’s up with that. But yeah, it was like, I know this is going to be easier. I’m not gonna be have to think about it, I can get it wet… so I gave into it. I love it!”

For anyone who thinks that afro hair is unkempt, or not workplace appropriate; look at Measha as an example. She performs around the world for the crème-de-la-crème, and she says she has never faced judgment from anyone because of her hairstyle.

“I think people are just relieved – finally, someone with an afro! I think at the core of it all, what is most important is the work. So if I didn’t feel secure in my ability as a singer, I think I wouldn’t let that bleed into what I look like. In classical music you get to dress up in beautiful gowns… and you want to reflect the medium, and respect this tradition that you belong to. That to me is bringing everything I can to it, and also ensuring that with my seemingly au courant kind of look, I play my small part in modernizing this genre of music and keeping it as relevant as I can for as long as I can. It’s not like people are banging down the door to come to classical music concerts. We need to accept our role in the death of this art form. It’s like church! They have to modernize as well. It doesn’t mean that they need to dilute the message, they just need to acknowledge that you know, people seem to be ready for a different package.”

As a total classical music ignoramus, Measha drew me in with her style, and the sheer glow of her personality.

“You can only be who you are. It gets so exhausting to be someone else, you know? And I think it doesn’t do anybody any good for me to be anyone else but me. You feel like you have more to offer as yourself, than as the projection of what people might want you to be. I’ve never ever had anything but positive reinforcement from orchestra members, conductors, all of the people I work with,” she says.

“So this is you,” I say, which instantly makes me think of Mary J. Blige’s Take Me As I Am. I love that song, but it strikes me as somewhat ironic. When MJB was on the Tyra Banks show with Jada Pinkett-Smith and Lisa Price repping Carol’s Daughter, she admitted that the industry makes female singers — including herself – feel like they need to be the skinniest, with the longest hair. Personally, I’d love to really see Mary without the weave. If there’s any singer that talks the natural-hair talk but doesn’t walk the walk, it’s her.

I discuss that apparent contradiction with Measha, and she sort of agrees with me. “Well, you gotta wonder if this is what she wants, or if it’s what her stylist wants,” she says. “I wonder, are we doing our children’s and our children’s children a disservice by presenting a lack of diversity?” She gives a heavy sigh. “I’m so sick of… same,” she says. No kidding.

Here’s Measha, singing Reve Infini (Infinite Dream). She’s got the voice of an angel, and she’s so beautiful and down-to-earth. Love her!

Congratulations, Measha! You’re Afrobella of the Week!

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Comments

  1. great post Bella

  2. Measha sounds really cool! I love classical music. I’ll definitely check her out on MySpace.

  3. Just wanted to say how much I love your site.

  4. DAMMIT, my first half of this post isn’t readable. I can’t fix it till I get home. This happens whenever I write a super-long post without using the “more” tag in my HTML. I’ll have this looking picture perfect by tonight, but for now scroll across the words at the top if you can’t read all of this, bellas!

  5. i hate how they cover her body with frumpy clothes. boo and hiss!

  6. Hey Diamond – for the record, that’s just the one video and I think that’s the theme of that particular piece. She had another video I watched on her website where she’s wearing a gorgeous ballroom gown, but it’s not available on YouTube, which is where I source these embedded videos from. But I know what you mean – from the outsider’s perspective it’s like the Ann Wilson/Carnie Wilson “let’s hide the big girl behind a rock” kind of ish.

  7. Wow she is really beautiful and I love her tiny nose ring! I looked at her picture gallery on her website and in her picture with Bill and Melinda Gates, her fro look gorgeous and gigantic! I don’t know if that was all her or some added haid. How big was her fro in person?

  8. Oops, added hair.

  9. Hey Peajai! This was all a phone interview, she was in Cleveland at the time. I could have met her… right now! At noon today (Friday) she’s teaching a master class at the UM Music school. Unfortunately, I’m at work. =(
    I may not get to meet her in person, the timing is just too wacky. But I’ll try, and hopefully, when she gets a moment she will come on here and answer that question herself!

  10. Ms.Bella ..I love you you ! Every morning at work I check your blog..and more often than not I an delighted to see some words of wisdom.,,and always a reminder of why i love my nappy hair,,brown eyes..and big butt…..this one was very special because I also sing in a band…with my locks and size 12…this sister is BAD ! Thanks for sharing !

  11. LOVEDDDD this article. Thanks so much for bringing to light the sistas of Opera. I too sing with an Opera Company and there aren’t too many of us sistas within this genre of music. It’s such a bonus that so many more of us are deciding to go natural. I’ve known about Measha for some time now and I wish her well in all her endeavors!! Love, love, love this site. Please keep it up!

  12. jerseybred says:

    Great post. Beautiful voice and fabulous hair. I love how Measha combined her last name with her husband’s to create a new last name – Brueggergosman.

  13. I just ordered two of her CDs from Amazon. Thanks for putting me on to her.

  14. AppleDiva says:

    Hey,

    She has a great voice. She reminds me of a mix of Floetry. She looks like both of them combined. I be will checking her out. Thanks

    to Bella, Have you heard of Joy Denalane? She is German soul singer. I would say that she is the German Mary J. Blige. Fortunately, she does have albums in English.

  15. Another extraordinary post! Thanks so much for introducing me to Measha!

  16. Black Honey says:

    I love her style. The hair, the flawless makeup, the nose ring. I love it all. About a month after I decided to grow out my relaxer, I started to doubt my decision. One day I was searching the web for natural hair inspirations and I came across her picture and info. I realized that if this black woman could wear an afro and work in the up tight whole of opera, there’s nothing to stop me from wearing my natural in my corporate job.

    I am so happy to hear that she is as real as she is beautiful.

  17. He voice is magical. what an inspiration.

  18. LBellatrix says:

    I believe you have just made my morning, sis! And it’s not even 7 am (Central) yet. (I usually get up between 5 and 6, even when I don’t have to. Yeah, I’m sick like that.)
    This is the first I’m hearing of this singer. I love that she’s performing in my home town (Cleveland). If I were there I’d definitely be going to see her. I hope that her star continues to rise. As a (amateur) classical flutist, I’m always happy to see more black folks in the field. Sadly, as I put it, not even white folks listen to classical music these days (lol) so it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
    And the hair…well damn…I don’t need to say any more about that except that I like (and may steal) the concept of talking the talk without walking the walk. :D There are performers (like Mary, maybe?) who say that they have to wear the fake hair to be appealing to their fan base, but then there are performers like Measha and others who embrace and display their natural nappiness without apology. The sooner we can stop apologizing for our hair and skin, the sooner we can evolve into TRULY confident black women (as I alluded to in a comment I made on an earlier post).
    Anyway, thanks again for introducing me to Measha! :)

  19. LBellatrix says:

    Oops…didn’t read closely…the Cleveland Orchestra is down there in Miami with you. Well, Afrobella, as a “classical music ignoramus,” you owe it to yourself to check out one of the world’s great orchestras. And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m originally from Cleveland. ;)

  20. I am a huge fan of Kathleen Battle’s soprano voice, so I was delighted to learn of Measha through this post. Can’t wait to get the CD. Thanks for bringing her to our attention.

  21. Great post bella.

  22. Excellent post Bella!!!

  23. Brava! Wonderful intro to a true diva.

  24. great post! i love her hair!

  25. She is a beautiful and extremely talented woman!! LOVED this interview, 2 thumbs up!!!

  26. Hey, I just found your site and the first thing I saw was this article. I have got to say that it is amazing to see talented afro chiqs out there. Especially one getting recognition for singing classical music. I took voice lessons all through high school (I’m only a college freshman now), and while I’m nowhere near as talented as she is, I’m hoping that will more training I’ll get to that level. People laugh because I’ll be the only singing doctor known to mankind, haha.
    But anywho, I know I’ll become a regular on your site, and I can’t wait to read about the hair adventures. I just bought some hair stuff today and I’m excited :-). Go to my myspace when you get the chance!
    Shanique

  27. Your enthusiasm made this interview and post magic!!! Love your (writing) voice!!!

  28. Hello Lovelies,
    This is Measha. OMG, this article is super! I can’t tell you the number of interviews I’ve given where I really felt as though the interviewer didn’t get my “voice” right (ironic, right?). THANK YOU so much P.Y!

    And yes, ladies, it’s true, the hair with Melinda and Bill is beefed up quite a bit. However, what you *don’t* see in this photo is that I’m also singing on live television in the 60 000-seat Skydome in Toronto for the opening ceremonies of the International AIDS Conference. (I’m gonna see if I can get permission to put it on U-tube so you can get the full effect.) But added hair or not, I will say that when singing for 60 000 of your “closest friends”, bigger *IS* definitely better! Thank you so much for making me Afrobella of the Week. I am so honoured! – Measha

  29. Patrick jnr. says:

    Loved the post lil sister! I am surprised that no one has found that you two resemble!! I thought it was a picture of you at first in front the mike!

    Have a good day Bella!

  30. So happy Measha posted! So glad you liked it, Measha. Like I said, you were a real pleasure to interview!

    Yes brother Patrick – I do see a resemblance! I was hoping to take a photo with her if I had a chance, but sadly the opportunity did not present itself. Love you, have a great day!

  31. Bella – Thank you for such a wonderful post!!

    As an opera singer, there are days where it can be ENORMOUSLY difficult, but with people like Measha…she helps to pave a path.

  32. Thanks for introducing us to such a beautiful singer. Measha is beautiful – love her hair including the parts that are not hers. When you Diva style sometimes you gotta go a little over the top. You know how we do – it is either make up or something so, I loved it. I am going to check out her MySpace page. In addition, Bella, you are beginning to make me think about going natural again. I did it for 4 years and it was wonderful. Going to look for information on how to do it again without cutting my hair off again. Great post!

  33. Measha is ab/fab. She is coming to my town 4/12 & I am going to see her!

    Thanks for the introduction!!!

    Bygbaby

  34. Cristalle says:

    Enjoyed reading this post and the music was great. A great Opera movie featuring a sister is a French film called Diva.

  35. muslimahlocs says:

    greetings. thanks for this posting. her voice and spirit come accross as both beautiful and genuine.

  36. iva ford (withers) says:

    This note is for Measha. I knew here when she was preteen and ‘helped’ her in Vacation Bible School back in the 70′s I think it was. Every New Years Eve we would expect to hear her sing at our Brunswick Street Baptist Church where she first sang in the Junior Choir with my boys. She has a beautiful voice, face, and hair. I love the hair. Almost makes me wish I had an Afro. She deserves the best. She worked hard to get where she is and is nothing short of a phenomenon. God Bless you, Measha. I hope to see you May 19 at the Playhouse in Fredericton,New Brunswick on your eastern tour.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Favorite Clicks Afrobella is one of my favorite sites.  Her beauty recommendations are always on point, her taste in music shows she is a true music lover and her interviews are off the chain.  Her interview with Measha Brueggergosman ism one of my favorites. [...]

  2. [...] Did you see the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics? If you did, and you’re a longtime Afrobella reader, you may have instantly recognize Canadian opera singer and former Afrobella of the Week, Measha Bruggersgosman. [...]

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