May 30, 2013
By KENNETH D. MILLER
It’s been almost 50 years since the late Ted Watkins put the city of Watts on the map developing it as a treasured African American culture base that today is known throughout the world.
It’s his son Tim Watkins, who is carrying the might of his legacy as President and CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, but ultimately rising pop diva Mali Nicole might be brightest star in the family tree. Nicole is the great grand- daughter of Ted Watkins and is Tim Watkins granddaughter.
The tiny city of Watts is no stranger to celebrities in both music and sports.
Tyrese Gibson catapulted to fame after performing a soda pop jingle and is now a star in both music and film.
The late ‘At Last’ vocalist Etta James resided in Watts, Olympic gold medalist and world record holder the late Florence Griffith-Joyner grew up there, and rapper Jay Rock who fought to make a name for himself is from Watts.
However, none of them symbolizes what teen sensation Mali Nicole does.
In a new age of social media and transforming generations, Nicole is a teenage rising pop and R&B singer approaching who at 16 has captured the imagination of the entertainment industry with a voice that’s a cross between Whitney Houston and Beyoncé.
With glowing light hazel eyes, a caramel skin coat that melts your heart and shoulder length blonde hair as the flavor of the day, Nicole appears to be on her way.
She has embraced her family heritage, but is bold and gifted enough to be singularly focused on following her own unique path to success.
“I know that my great grand father was a famous developer in Watts who did many wonderful things,” said Nicole in her soft voice.
Tim influenced Nicole and his other grandchildren to follow their dreams, while he continues to be the caretaker of his father’s.
For Nicole, the daughter of Tim’s son Robert, it was music and entertainment.
“I just love music. It’s something that I want to do all the time,” she told the Sentinel.
Her singing career when she joined her other siblings as part of a group.
Their act Statik Express led them to an audition and a nice run on the talent reality show X-Factor where they rocketed to top 30 list of performers, but Mali Nicole really stood out.
During an impromptu interview for the show, the group was ask to sing the national anthem and while all sang admirably, it was Nicole’s voice which dominated the song.
Many management companies took notice, but their ears really perked up when Nicole sold 30,000 CDs out of the family garage.
The red hot smash hit ‘Krush’ elevated her to a new stratosphere and then another subsequent video ‘A Thousand Years’, a joint dedicated to her parents on their wedding anniversary lit up on the Internet, and ’Sweet 16’ a single about her 16th birthday put icing on the cake.
Booming managing firm Stampede Management rushed to sign her to a roster that includes the likes of Snoop, DJ Quik, Mystikal and YG among others, banking that Mali Nicole is a star.
Now, Stampede Management may have their new franchise player.
After trying her hand at acting at the age of seven, tagging along with her father to acting classes, Mali Nicole transformed into someone special when they put microphone in her hand at the age of 10.
Having performed on numerous mix tapes with super stars such as Chris Brown, Omarion and Justin Beiber, Nicole still distinguished herself with a voice that is effortless and powerful, signing each note with her teenage signature.
Nicole credits her parents as her greatest inspiration, but also admires the stage presence of Beyoncé and sites influence of ‘Pop King’ Michael Jackson as to why she works day in and out on her craft.
“I know there is no substitute for hard work and I know that Beyoncé works harder and most people in this business which is why she’s so successful. I want to be like that,” Nicole said.
Nicole has the support of her family and hometown and is already prepping for her first CD expected to come out later this year.
"I have been singing all my life and I can't stop. Its something I have always wanted to do and I'm ready to do big things."
In years to come, she visions herself with a Grammy and touring the world.
Obviously she will carry the family heritage with her every step of the way, but this diva is a developer of a serenading music aimed at enticing a ‘Krush’.
Follow Mali Nicole on twitter and Facebook at malinicolemusic.