A second album. A second Complex cover. A second chance at a first impression. Trust us, you've never seen Cassie like this before.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's August/September 2008 issue.
What’s changed for Casandra “Cassie” Ventura since last year? Besides being a Complex cover girl, we mean. Well, not all that much: She’s still beautiful, obviously (Filipino-Mexican-West-Indian-African-American, holler at your hyphenation!). But she’s also still striving for redemption. Because as quickly as the public made Cassie a star, it tore her apart once it realized she wasn’t ready to be one.
She didn’t know her voice or her artistic identity, and the jealous and jilted ones smelled the fear and claimed she slept her way to her position. Challenged by the vitriol, Cassie retreated to transform herself into an entertainer worthy of stardom. And this time she’s doing it the hard way, so haters can choke on it.
The initial exposure helped land her a role in her first movie, Step Up 2: The Streets, which came out earlier this year. She’s constantly at work in the studio, readying her sophomore album. Yet, the rumor mill is still trying to peg her as a talentless ingenue, linking her romantically to her Bad Boy label boss Sean “Diddy” Combs, who runs New York City and seemingly most of its creative industries. So it’s good to be Cassie, right? Almost.
Your second album was supposed to have come out a while ago. Why hasn’t it?
Based on my past and how my last album came out, I really need to come back much, much stronger. I wanted to have more personality. Before, I had tracks delivered to me; you pick and you choose, and there’s no personality behind it, nobody knows who you are. I really want to tell a story when I’m doing a song. Vocally, either you like my voice or you don’t. I’m not trying to blow like Mariah, back when she was doing that.
Did you work on your vocals?
I’ve worked with lots of different vocal coaches, but my vocal producer brought something out of me that I didn’t really know that I had. She was just like, “Don’t be afraid to let your voice crack and let things happen.” When you make a mistake, it just opens up so many doors and I didn’t even realize that. I was so scared to make mistakes after my first time around. I didn’t even want to let people hear me hit a bad note in studio—and that’s where you’re supposed to make your mistakes and work through it. With her I got to work through the kinks, and I really figured out what I liked and what I didn’t like. I haven’t decided to belt things out, but I have decided to sing a little bit more and put a little more personality behind what I’m saying.
Would you sing the national anthem at a sporting event?
People used to give Ashanti a lot of shit, and I saw her do the national anthem and kill it. I was like, maybe that’s something that I need to do to show people—I was afraid of the microphone and the stage, but I’m not anymore. I would definitely do something like that.
I’m not in a relationship right now, but I’m 22. I’m dating people.
Have you ever tried a few drinks to combat stage fright?
No, but maybe I should. When I do come back out, people are going to come [to my shows] to see me fall, but usually people are coming to see you perform because they want to see you perform. You have to go out with that swagger and entertain. It’s not about you being scared. That’s selfish. I spent so much time worrying about what people thought that it got in the way of me actually having a successful first album. I could have dusted it off and gone back on another TV show but I was too scared. Ashlee Simpson got right back on TV, and I was just like, “No, I can’t do it.”
Do you feel confident now?
Yes. I’ve been working my ass off, 10-hour rehearsals and vocal rehearsals until I can’t sing anymore.
Do you feel like you know who you are as an artist now?
I’m still soul-searching. Right now I’m 22. Last time around, I was just falling into what was easiest to become. “Me & U” had a whole life of its own, and I was just kind of running behind it. I don’t think I was ever prepared.
The Internet helped launch you, but it’s also home to extremely harsh anonymous shit-talkers. How do you feel about that?
I love it.
I do. It’s ammunition. I used to be really offended by it. It didn’t motivate me before; I didn’t get that concept. I get it now. At this point, the ridiculousness of the Internet and the things that people say—it’s funny.
Like you being pregnant?
I’ve been pregnant three times by way of bloggers. I’ve never been pregnant in my life. I wish they would name their sources so I know who they are.
What’s the harshest thing that’s been said about you?
“She’s fucking for checks.” I don’t fuck for checks—I’d rather live on the street.
But is your single “Official Girl” a marketing ploy to cash in on the rumor that you and Diddy are dating?
Nope. It wasn’t planned. It was just a song I really loved that I heard. Nobody will ever know who “Official Girl” is about. They think it’s about certain people but it’s not. Anything that happens in my personal life is personal. I never actually put anything out there. Nobody’s really known who I’ve dated.