En Vogue, Retro Chic

Please don’t ask me to choose my favorite En Vogue video. The funky divas had a hold on me ever since Hold On. Like Lauren from Stereohyped, I too wanted to be one of them — usually Cindy, but I always thought Dawn was too fierce for words.

Lots of En Vogue videos really honed in on the women’s beauty, the exquisite attention they paid to their makeup and hair. For example, the fierce fashion show of Free Your Mind, and check out the intro to Giving Him Something He Can Feel — is that El DeBarge drooling in that audience, alongside the likes of Johnny Gill? (a side note – when En Vogue dropped Funky Divas, I thought their version was the original. Then I saw Sparkle. And then, I heard the definitive version. OMG, check out Aretha’s outfit in that clip. Loves it).

So obviously I can’t pick a favorite En Vogue video, but I have one that means more to me than the others. Funky Divas was one of the first cassette albums I owned, and I wore that tape into dust. So let’s just say that Give It Up Turn It Loose struck a special chord in me, back in 1992.

So gorgeous. Talk about turning the glamour up a notch, right? The first time I saw this video, was the first time the lightbulb of “Wow, I want to do my makeup like THAT” clicked on. I started using my mom’s kajal stick and dreaming of a transformation from gawky preteen into glamazon. The love of makeup and primping and all things self indulgently girly were already instilled in me thanks to Mama Bella, but my admiration of Nineties black style icons like the women of En Vogue shaped the woman I have become. This video still inspires me. I love the thick, Fifties brows and perfectly applied liquid liner look. Like En Vogue’s music, it never goes out of style.

I found this interesting NY Times article about the behind-the-scenes stylists helping on this video to create that definitive En Vogue look, a “three man finishing school” that coached the group on everything from how to accept an award to how to select the perfect clothes. I’ve often thought a finishing school for famous people could be a good thing — I’m sure more than a few celebrities who could use a lesson in manners came to your mind, too. But perhaps it was that molding and preening and fussing that led to the group’s demise. The article ends on a foreboding note — “One image stricture is that “the girls” must appear as a unit, even though they often disagree about how they like to look individually. “If we have to wear the same thing,” Ms. Robinson said, “Cindy will vary it by wearing a halter neck, and Terry, who’s very conservative, prefers to be more covered up.” Of course, there’s no telling how long harmonious diversity will last. “In the same way that Motown worked, where eventually a whole series of artists tired of that system and left to go out on their own,” Mr. DeCurtis said, “all four or any one of them might get to the point where she wants greater freedom.”

Ain’t that the truth. By 1997, Dawn Robinson had left to pursue her own solo career, and EV3 remained. I lost track of the ladies after Don’t Let Go — apparently they added a member or two, and released some albums that didn’t fly. Hope returned when all four ladies joined Salt N Pepa at the 2005 Hip Hop Honors, and I loved them singing backup on Stevie Wonder’s So What The Fuss. But amidst rumors of financial differences, and some frankly depressing rumors about Dawn — who has some new solo music and talks about a big comeback on her MySpace — the future of the original En Vogue lineup looks murky. But hey, if Salt N Pepa could get it together thanks to reality television, maybe that’s the solution for En Vogue. I know I’d watch that for sure! For now, all I can watch is the old videos and keep my fingers crossed for a comeback.

I won’t ask you to choose one favorite En Vogue video — it’s too hard to choose just one! Tell me which ones make your top three, bellas!

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Comments

  1. My favorite three are: Hold On, Give It Up Turn It Loose and Don’t Go. Dawn Robinson was my favorite memeber, it was just something edgy about her that I loved.

  2. Miss Mckinzie says:

    Giving Him Something He Can feel,Don’t Go and Hold On.

  3. HijabiApprentice says:

    I absolutely loved and adored En Vogue! I wanted to be Dawn because she is who I looked like the most. My highschool senior pictures include several EV inspired outfits.

  4. Of course, Hold On! That was this ish. They had my vote after the Michael Jackson breakdown in the beginning of the video.

  5. hard choice…don’t go…whats it gonna be and free your mind…i loved how they could switch it up and still remain fierce…

  6. Hello? Never gonna get it

  7. I will cosign with “Give It Up, Turn It Loose”. I always tried to copy Cindy because I looked most like her, but I love me some Dawn. Anyone remember Lucy Pearl?

  8. muslimahlocs says:

    and don’t foget to mention that dorian harewood was in the en vogue video as well as in the original cast of sparkle. he was the man before denzel.

  9. See what you started? I just spent my lunch hour watching EV videos on YouTube! I wanted to be Dawn or Maxine; they looked sassy but ready to rumble. And I loved “Free Your Mind” – “I can’t change your mind; you can’t change my color.”

  10. “Free your mind”, “Don’t Go”, and “Don’t Let Go”…
    I loved En Vogue’s sound and their style. Both have yet to be matched. And Dawn was my favorite, HANDS DOWN!!

  11. I used to love En Vogue!! Their songs definitely bring back old childhood memories. My cousin and I danced several routines from En Vogue’s CDs at our family reunions. In retrospect, hilarious and super cheesy, but good times!!

  12. tracey in Ohio says:

    I will have to of course say Hold On was my first favorite, then Giving Him Something. I thought they looked so glam & sexy in that one. I can’t tell you how many times I’d suck in my gut, grab a hanky & strut my stuff around my living room! (LOL!) I remember Lucy Pearl – that didn’t last long, either.

  13. Are you kidding me?! I loved loved loved En Vogue back in the day, still do, really. I wanted to be them, specifically Dawn. She was just so badass, you know? My favorite videos: “My Lovin’”, “Runaway Love”, & “Free Your Mind”. I actually really liked “Whatever” too, it was very avant garde.

  14. Never Gonna Get it
    Giving Him Soething He Can Feel
    Free Your Mind

  15. Wow, who DIDN’T love EnVogue when they first came out??? I loved Hold On. I think that’s when I really started to pay attention to part harmony; their’s was ALWAYS off the chain! But to be honest, my favorite songs are probably more obscure ones off their first CD. “Don’t Go” is number one on that list and then “Waiting On You” and “Part of Me”, oh and I CANNOT forget “Just Can’t Stay Away”.

    Gotta go get my mic!!! I feels like sangin!

  16. LOVED En Vogue. I worked on the movie LOVE AND BASKETBALL that had that great Lucy Pearl song. I wished both groups were still doing their thing.

    For me it’s “Don’t Go” and “Free Your Mind”

  17. Give It Up Turn It Loose, Free Your Mind, and I liked Whatever, too — it is weird but at the same time the message — I think most women have been there at least once in their life. I also like Don’t Let Go, but I have to confess mostly because of Mekhi with his SEXY self.

  18. And you know they were on Sesame Street’s “Elmopalooza.” Seriously. Did a good job, too.

  19. I loved En Vogue…wanted to be Dawn and wanted to be her even more when she was part of Lucy Pearl. I remember reading about how they did hundreds of sit ups a day to keep their abs in tip top shape. I wish they’d get back together.

  20. Wow…Bella you brought back some serious memories with that EnVogue Video….When I was about 12 EnVogue was that group of Black women that made me proud to be young gifted and black. They were sexy, strong, classy, and could sang. All of them were stunningly beautiful…. Plus..their style…there’s no words..just bad chics…

    1.Hold On
    2.Runaway Love
    3. Free Your Mind….

  21. OH MY WORD!!!
    Bella what have you done to me and my big-preggy-belly!

    I’ve just run to my CD collection to dig out ALL of my En Vogue CDs

    … YES, it HAS to be “Hold On”..!

    Bella thank you so very much for bringing back some good tunes!
    Much love to you!
    Anita

  22. 1. Don’t Go
    2. Free Your Mind
    3. Yesterday

    I liked the little one. Maxine? She was spunky.

  23. natashamck says:

    Whatever, Givin’ Him something he can feel, and Don’t let Go are my top three…

    And don’t sleep on their latest CD – Soulflower. I was able to listen to it before I bought it and its pretty good. It’s different from the “born to sing” days, and definitely different from the EV3 stuff, but they made it work…

  24. wait… except Giving him something he can feel was my FAVORITE en vogue video. And yes, funky divas (along with J. Jackson, rhythm nation) was the first casette tape I can remember having. I was probably in the second grade but these women embodied what it was to be black, talented, and FLY. They were really style icons of the era. I wanted to be just like them. The make up in the Giving him something he can feel video… legendary. I still do that matte lip + smoky eye combo today. Luvs it.

  25. Just saw them performing 2 weeks ago and they still have it! No way I can pick just one favorite, they are the bomb.

  26. “Don’t Go”, “My Lovin’(Never Gonna Get It)” and “What’s It Gonna Be”

  27. I adore En Vogue as well. I hear Dawn Robinson has reunited with her dear husband.

    I am a HUGE fan of El Debarge as well and think he is one of the most talented and sexy men on earth. Yes, that is El about 1 minute, 30 seconds into the video with this gorgeous grin on his face.

    Aaaahhh…to have been a member of En Vogue for just that day would have been enough for me to live on. :)

    Great Blog!

    Lyn

  28. …they just had such an energy about them. So soulful. I don’t think any other female group has been able to emulate them. So under-rated…Even had Boys II Men on MTV talking about how sexy they were.

    Love given him something he can feel, never gonna get it (my love) and free your mind,

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