Sarah Rosete [Interview]
Los Angeles, CA – Sarah Rosete is a Toronto-born performing artist and model. She’s also a former student of the Claude Watson Arts program, one of the earliest members of Do Dat Entertainment and is currently a member of the all-woman, American-based Pop/R&B group, Electrik Red.Over the course of the last decade, Rosete’s become one of the most sought after dancers in North America — especially within the realm of hip-hop culture.
Having lived in Toronto, New York, Atlanta and L.A., and in addition to her travels overseas, she’s worked with such iconic artists as Jay-Z, Usher, Alicia Keys, Diddy, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, The Dream, Hype Williams, Lil X and countless other notable names in the arts and entertainment. As a performer, she has inspired artists worldwide and helped sew the fabric that is hip-hop culture in North America, since the infancy of her career (as dancer in Toronto).
Below, I’ve included my interview with Sarah, for HipHopCanada and also for my black and white photographic essay on Toronto’s entire hip-hop scene – Project T Dot.
HipHopCanada: Could you tell me about your background as a performer – specifically as a dancer? Also, how did you get started with Do Dat Entertainment? What does Do Dat Entertainment mean to you and what role does the dance company play within Toronto hip-hop?
Sarah Rosete: As far as Do Dat goes, I auditioned for Do Dat when I was in high school and I didn’t get in. I think it wasn’t until a year or two after that I auditioned again and got in.
At the time, Do Dat was the biggest hip-hop company in Toronto. We were doing a lot of shows and any major recording artists that were out in Toronto were affiliated with Do Dat in some sort of way (as far as performances go). Do Dat really started me out, in terms of performing in music videos and that kind of stuff. I moved to New York after high school.
HipHopCanada: What brought you to New York?
Sarah Rosete: I had a friend whose older sister – Denosh Bennett, was a performer on the road for artists like Puff and Mariah Carey. So, I felt that I could do it too, if I could just get out there. I basically jumped on a Greyhound and headed to New York and ended up auditioning all over. I didn’t have the legal stuff together, but I started working and eventually got the money together to pay for a visa.
Lil X actually introduced me to Wilhelmina Models, when I was in New York. They were interested in signing me, so they ended up being my visa sponsor.
Initially, I didn’t want to model at all – I really wanted to dance. Through working little gigs in New York, I learned that L.A. was the place to be to make a living off of dancing, because of the union out there.
So, I went out to L.A. after 9/11 and I haven’t looked back since. I signed with Bloc Agency and my life consisted of running out to auditions for everything, almost every single day. Out of the fifteen auditions you go to every week, you might book one or two gigs. That’s kind of the nature of the beast.
Anyway, I’ve been fortunate enough to have built relationships with people to the point that I don’t need to audition for gigs anymore. I’ve been on tour with Usher, for his last two tours. I’ve built a great relationship with Fatima (Robinson) – the choreographer. So, I get a lot of direct bookings now. More recently I was in a Nair commercial – that was pretty big for me. Dancing on tour with Usher allowed me to meet my future band mates and helped me to start that new chapter of my life.
HipHopCanada: So, from your experience of living in the U.S. and also from growing up in Canada and working here as an entertainer, how would you compare and contrast the American entertainment industry to the Canadian entertainment industry?
Sarah Rosete: Aside from there being a huge difference financially, I find that they’re very similar. The States is a way bigger market and I feel that there’s a lot of great Canadian talent that doesn’t get the opportunity to crossover. Being an artist and learning about the politics of the industry, I’ve come to understand that there’s a lot more that’s involved in being an artist than most people would think. Basically, everything is very money-driven. So, if you don’t have that, you’re pretty much on your face.
HipHopCanada: It’s pretty interesting that the level of talent in Canada is similar to the level of talent in the States, but because the market is so much smaller in Canada, a lot of Canadian artists just can’t reach as many potential fans as their American equivalents.Anyway, between when you first started performing and today, what has been your most challenging experience and how did that experience influence the artist you are today?
Sarah Rosete: The most challenging experience for me has been juggling my career and spending time with my daughter. Everything else is really glamorous and fun and it’s something that I’m passionate about – I’ve been doing this since I was ten. But, being a single parent, being there for her and working out the time I spend with my child, that part’s the hardest. Besides that, it’s rock star life.
HipHopCanada: In terms of Electrik Red, besides the members in the group, who are the most important people when it comes to the Electrik Red brand? Who are the most influential people behind the scenes?
Sarah Rosete: In the early stages we worked with this producer, Ken Michaels who had this really, amazing and different sound. He was a nobody at the time, but even Pharrell told me to “stick with this guy.” He definitely helped us create a sound as opposed to being just like everyone else out there. He helped us create a good buzz for ourselves. Anyway, Shakir Stewart – there was actually a great article on him that just came out in Vibe – he really helped us and he was an A&R over at Def Jam. He was a good friend of ours and believed in us from day one – we just didn’t have the music together when we first met him.
Also, we worked with Rodney Jerkins and those Rodney songs helped us get signed and helped our vision become a reality. So, for the first time we had some really good music to show Shakir and he believed in us, pushed us and eventually signed us. We didn’t have management for a long time, because he was so heavily involved in who was going to produce the album and how it would be produced. We eventually decided to go with Tricky and The Dream. Radio Killa and Redzone executive produced the whole album and they were really pinnacle in creating our sound.
Shakir passed away, so we didn’t really have proper management after that. I feel that he was very important in building the basis of the new Electrik Red brand. Every person that was introduced in our lives helped us rebirth and reinvent ourselves into a better Electrik Red…After his passing, it just wasn’t the same. It was just the four of us really putting our all into Electrik Red — trying to be managers, if you will.
HipHopCanada: It’s unfortunate that Shakir passed away suddenly, because who knows how Electrik would look and sound like if he was still alive?
Also, who knows what Def Jam (as a whole) would look and sound like had his career progressed?
Sarah Rosete: Oh, it would be a completely different movie. I know it would be. A lot of decisions were made without any kind of confirmation from us. They were made just because they had to be made. That really hurt our image and Shakir wouldn’t have let any of that go down — he would have made sure everything was perfection before it was put out. We know now more than ever how great your first impression has to be. Anything less than a great first impression means that success isn’t guaranteed, so you really have to go hard or go home.
HipHopCanada: So, in terms of Electrik Red, what is the group planning for the future? Also, as an independent artist, what do you have coming up? Are you planning on expanding and doing things besides dancing and music? Will you be taking a more behind-the-scenes role in near the future?
Sarah Rosete: I definitely feel that I’ve graduated from dancing. As much as it’s been a part of my life, it’s also just a part of my life and not something that I would go back to, in the same way. I’ve always dreamed of having a dance studio. So, that’s my own personal goal right now, in terms of dancing.
As for Electrik Red, we’re just back in the studio – recording new material. We’re trying to get the label excited again, because obviously our numbers weren’t the greatest. Soon, we’ll decide if we’ll be sticking with Def Jam or possibly finding another outlet to create a second album.
Proper management is crucial, as well. That’s on the list of things to do.
HipHopCanada: Working with a lot of the well-known musicians that I’ve photographed, I’ve learned that to get a musical project to the point that you can call it “big” – on an international scale, you need to have management that believes in the artist, maybe even more so than the artist believes in themselves.
Sarah Rosete: Well, the management that we did have believed in us, but they weren’t experienced enough to know what do with a group like Electrik Red. There’s a lot that goes into it. What happens when the label isn’t throwing money at you? You have to be smart from day one with the money that is given to you. How are we actually going to make a living off this brand? That’s going to be an important factor this time around, in finding management that’s experienced and focused on making Electrik Red a larger brand. Because of the state that music’s in, no one’s buying albums. We’ll have to be more creative in terms of the strategy we use to make this thing huge.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for the interview and I’m looking forward to seeing how Electrik Red evolves as a group, in the near future. Hopefully you get that dance studio, as well!
For more information on the Sarah, Electrik Red and on Do Dat Entertainment can be found here:
Written by Ajani Charles for HipHopCanada
Photograhy by Ajani Charles
Photography by Ajani Charles
Tags: Sarah Rosete