Amber Denise Streeter knows a thing or two about redemption.
The 30-year-old songstress, better known as Sevyn Streeter, has had to hop a few hurdles to get where she is, but now that she’s here, she’s ready to share what she’s learned with the world.
“I want [listeners] to put a mirror up to themselves,” she says of her upcoming debut album, Girl Disrupted. The project, which is led by powerhouse single “Prolly” featuring Gucci Mane, is testament to her growth as a woman and artist.
“This album is coming from a place of truth and honesty, like all of my work, but putting a mirror up to myself and taking ownership, taking responsibility, taking accountability for the decisions that I’ve made, good and bad,” says Streeter.
“Overall, this whole process has made me a more confident woman, a more fearless woman, and all of the girl-like ways and girlish decisions that I was making have been disrupted.”
We sat down with Streeter to discuss Girl Disrupted and her breakthrough role in Ringside, a TV One film about an aspiring boxing champion balancing his career with love and family.
“It’s a really great movie. There’s so many different storylines within the story,” she shares. “I can’t wait for everybody to see it.”
Ringside premieres on TV One on Sunday, September 4 at 7 p.m. ET.
Global Grind: Tell us about your role in Ringside. How did the opportunity come about?
Sevyn Streeter: Ringside! My face lights up every time I say it because it’s my first acting job that I booked, you know? I auditioned for that role. I didn’t just get a call like, “Hey! There’s this film. Do you wanna be in it?” I auditioned, got call backs, really studied to get the role, and I could not be happier.
My first acting experience honestly could not have gone any better. Russ Parr, who’s the director of Ringside – shout out to Russ – he’s so great and he’s so great with actors. I feel like he’s an actor’s director, and for me, he was the perfect first-time director because he was so patient and would just give me notes and come and talk to me after scenes and before scenes and give me pointers and all that type of stuff.
I play a character by the name of Selita. She’s the younger sibling of this boxer who’s trying to become the next middleweight champion of the world, and Selita and her brother – they kind of butt heads a little bit because they lost their parents, so he feels like he’s the father figure in a way, and, you know, she’s young, hot, sexy, dating the wrong people, the wrong producer after producer, and that whole type of thing, so [Selita and her brother] get into it about that. Towards the end of the movie, she gets it together and she’s headed down the right path.
Do you have any older brothers in real life? How much were you able to relate to Selita?
I do. Working in this industry, I have a lot of guys that I work with that are like brother figures for me. My own brother is very protective. I call him my little big brother. He is 24 years old, he’s probably about 6’1”, maybe 6’2”, and he’s protective – period – but being in an industry where I have brother-like figures in my life, when I’ve been in situations like in studios [where] you may have the occasional rapper/artist that tries to hit on you, I’ve definitely had overprotective brother figures in the industry that are like, “He can’t talk to you. What is he doing?” who kind of assume that position, so I know what that dynamic feels like [and] I was definitely able to kind of draw from that.
I was able to understand and relate to [Selita’s] scenario a lot because I’ve also been in the studio and I’ve seen the girls that bop from producer to producer to producer. Trust me – I’ve seen it – so I was able to pull from that as well.
You said this is your first time acting. Is acting something that you’ve always wanted to do?
Yeah, it is. It definitely is. All of the great artists and singers who I grew up watching – from Whitney Houston to Queen Latifah to Aaliyah – I’ve watched them start out as musicians and then go on to have very successful acting careers, so it’s always been a goal of mine, always something that I’ve wanted to do. I was like, “That’s cool! If they did that, then I could do it, too!” To be able now to do both literally was a dream come true. I want to do more acting. I want to do some romantic comedies, I wanna do some action, because I’m a physical type of girl. I train like a madwoman, so I wanna kick somebody’s butt in a film. I wanna do all of that. I think that would be dope.
As a new actress, what was the biggest challenge you faced while filming?
The nerves! Because I had never done it before! With singing, I’ve been singing since I could talk. It’s second nature to me – literally. Next to breathing and talking, there is singing for me. Acting is just this whole new world, and it’s an art form that I respect, so, for one, I have my regular nerves of “Oh my God, I’m trying something new,” and then, two, it’s like “Wait, I’m trying something new in a field with people who have studied this art for years, and I don’t want to disrespect their world, their artistry,” so that was important to me. I wanted to just put my best foot forward and make sure I knew all of my lines, make sure that I studied and that whole type of thing. That was the thing that I had to deal with at first. It was all of those types of nerves.
From your perspective, how does acting in a film differ from being on stage?
I was saying this when we were filming and my dad always says this. When I told him that I was nervous, he was like “Why are you nervous? You do shows and performances where it’s like you got one shot on that stage.” Like you better go out there and kill it or basically you’re gonna look crazy. He was like, “How many films at the end of them you get to see the blooper reel where they literally fumbled over a line 20 million times, but you don’t see that in the movie? Don’t stress over it because the difference in what you do for a living, being an artist and being a singer, it’s different with acting.” You get multiple times to mess up, screw up, and to do it over again. So I would say that was the biggest difference for me. I was like, “Oh. This is awesome.” [Laughs]
Makes me think of Aaliyah. “If at first you don’t succeed…”
Who will this film speak to?
Good question! I think this film will speak to so many people in different ways. I’ll speak just from my character alone. Selita is a young woman who, ultimately, she’s just trying to find herself and she has a disadvantage – the fact that she doesn’t have her parents – but how many women in the world are doing the same exact thing? You know, trying to find yourself, and even though their disadvantage may not be “I lost my parents,” their disadvantage could be anything. “I don’t have enough money,” “I don’t have a support system” – whatever it is. She’s just trying to find her way, in particular, in life and love.
I can’t really speak on everyone else’s characters, but I’m pretty sure that people will be able to relate to Jaxon, who’s trying to become the next middleweight champion of the world while trying to support his family. He’s the oldest, he has all this responsibility, and he has these two younger siblings to look after and support them mentally, financially – we can all relate to that in a way. Responsibility. The woman that Jaxon falls in love with, people will be able to relate to her character. They’ll find something in each character for sure.
I heard the movie was filmed in 13 days.
Yes! 12 or 13 days, like quick, boy! We was in there and out of there! Really short shoot, but you would never know that from watching the movie. I remember watching the movie at [the American Black Film Festival] in Miami and just going “Oh, shoot! This is how this turned out?” And not that I was surprised, ‘cause Russ is amazing, but what he was able to do with 13 days of shooting, how he was able to turn it into what people are gonna see on September 4 is mind-blowing. It literally – it’s epic. Even just the trailer alone for Ringside, it’s just like, “Yeah. Set it up, Russ. That’s how you do it.”
Kudos to you guys as the actors and actresses, too. That’s such a short amount of time.
Let’s talk about your new collaboration with Gucci Mane.
Oh man. “Prolly” is – I keep saying that’s my baby right now.
It’s a really dope track.
Thank you! It feels so good to hear people say that and to hear you say that. I had so many sessions for that song just to get it where I feel like it was right. I started the record in L.A. and then sent it to Atlanta for somebody to try different verses on it because I didn’t like the verses that were written in L.A. Then I flew to Atlanta and wrote some of the verses with the person – and then I had four more sessions outside of all of the writers and the producer and really sat down, just me and the engineer, and really went through that record. To hear so many people like it, [it’s] like, “Alright, I didn’t lose sleep for no reason.” [Laughs] That feels good. And to have Gucci on it, that was the cherry on top for me. I’m from Florida.
Shut up! Yes! Floridians! Florida girls! So you know! In the south, Gucci is like GOD. Like “Gucci Guwop? Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout?!” I really wanted that feature, and I was wracking my brain because I really wanted a fresh take on a verse, like a rapper for it. Gucci is definitely not a new rapper – he’s very seasoned – but we hadn’t heard from him in so long. He wasn’t a new, young, fresh rapper, but he was fresh out and it’s like a whole new Gucci that we’re even more in love with now. To have him on it and then he didn’t just throw me no trash verse – I feel like he took his time with that and I loved his verse and “Prolly,” for me, I just wanted the energy to be matched because the song is confident, it’s a little sexy, it’s unapologetic, it’s in your face, it’s saying, you know, “My night might’ve went a little crazy, but guess what? OK. So what?” Just with all of it, in the way that it came together, I just couldn’t be happier, and I just want people to like it.
It almost feels like Gucci’s saying “I’m back,” and you’re kind of like: “I’m here.”
This is the first single from the debut album, right?
Yeah, and you hit the nail on the head. That’s how it felt. Gucci’s saying he was back and, granted, I’ve put out EPs and covers of songs and stuff like that, but this is different. My first album is different, and for me it comes along with a whole other type of excitement, a whole other type of expectation that I have for myself, [and] a whole other level of bars that I have set for myself. It just all came together.
What’s gonna be the feel for this album?
Right now, and I literally just got thrown a curveball, the album is gonna be called Girl Disrupted. The feel of the album and where it came from – it came from within. The way that I wanted the songs to come off – like, you know, people and fans were saying “Sevyn, what’s taking you so long? Where’s the music? Where is the album? What’s taking the album so long?!”
Sound like Frank Ocean fans.
YO! Yes! And they’ve been like [mentioning] me and Frank in tweets like “Sevyn and Frank Ocean! What we doin’?” or like “Sevyn, you pullin’ a Frank Ocean!” They’ve been going in on me, like forreal-forreal, and I’m just like, “Guys. Listen here.” [Laughs] I say all the time: I don’t just walk in studios and get songs handed to me. I don’t. I’m in there, and if I’m not writing it myself, I’m writing it with really amazing writers and they’re going in there and laying down melodies, I’m going in there and laying down melodies, we’re throwing words back and forth at each other. I’m not a puppet. I will never be a puppet. That’s not who I am. I have to live life in order to write. The feel of this album is exactly where I am right now. I put a mirror up to myself and reassessed how I was living my life.
In my other EPs, I talk a lot about relationships and I point the finger: “Oh, this guy did this” or “This happened to me” or “That happened to me,” and it’s like, “OK, at some point put the mirror up to yourself. What the hell are you doing? You can’t always be the victim. Let’s figure out a way to prevent that.” This album is coming from a place of truth and honesty, like all of my work, but putting a mirror up to myself and taking ownership, taking responsibility, taking accountability for the decisions that I’ve made, good and bad.
Honestly, it just made me look at life in a more realistic way and all the songs kind of touch on that in different ways. Overall, this whole process has made me a more confident woman, a more fearless woman, and all of the girl-like ways and girlish decisions that I was making have been disrupted. No longer am I going to be making those types of decisions. Not to say that I’m perfect; I’m perfectly imperfect. I’ma screw up a few more times. That’s just life, but from this point on in my life, I am absolutely more cautious and more conscious of the decisions that I make and that’s where this album comes from.
The timing is so perfect. You’re coming into your own after two girl groups, shelved albums, finally going solo, and now it feels like it’s all coming full circle for you both personally and professionally.
Yeah. We’ve gotta go through stuff, man. Like it hurt like hell to go through some shit that we all go through. Sometimes you feel like you’re the only person in the world that goes through some of the stuff that you go through, but it’s so necessary – so necessary for me to have been in two failed girl groups because guess what, if I wasn’t in my first girl group, I wouldn’t have learned how to dance. If I wasn’t in my second girl group, I wouldn’t have learned how to be selfless and to work within a team like that and I wouldn’t have been able to tour with Beyoncé and watch her on the stage every single night. [There are] so many different things and values that I learned from my past groups that felt like failures, but they weren’t. They were just things that God needed me to go through in order to build me and mold me and educate me and equip me with the tools that I’m using right now, everyday. Now that I get to be who I am and get to be Sevyn Streeter, everything I learned in my past I literally use it everyday now.
What is the main thing that you want your listeners to take from Girl Disrupted?
I want them to put a mirror up to themselves. I want them to grow from it. I have [a song] on there called “All My Love” that’s basically just talking about saving your love for the right man, and not on some “I’m a virgin,” but just knowing what type of love you deserve, knowing that you deserve someone that’s gonna treat you right. I have [a song] on there called “Before I Do” that speaks directly to a situation where somebody is interested in you and you’re feeling that person too, you like them back, and you really wanna go there, but it’s like: “But I know you got a situation over there that’s not all the way cleaned up yet, so before I do and before I allow me to give myself to you, let’s clear this up. What’s going on over there in that situation?” I’ve definitely been through that before. It’s just all truth, man. I want them to put a mirror up to themselves and ask yourselves a few questions and just figure out how you can grow. These songs helped me. I just want to help somebody else.
SOURCE: YouTube, TV One | PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Leupold