**FILE** Stephanie Mills performs in New Orleans in June 2022. (Mark Mahoney, Dream in Color/NNPA)
**FILE** Stephanie Mills performs in New Orleans in June 2022. (Mark Mahoney, Dream in Color/NNPA)

After gaining global acclaim for setting the Broadway stage on fire as Dorothy in “The Wiz”  and then producing some of music’s most memorable tunes, Stephanie Mills inexplicably remains under the radar, especially for someone with, arguably, one of the best voices in history. 

But Mills, 65, doesn’t care that the music industry still hasn’t given her those much-deserved flowers.

During a spirited one-on-one interview with the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s live morning show, “Let It Be Known,” she said, “If they don’t give me my flowers, I’m good with that.”

“Every time I walk up onto that stage, someone gives me flowers. Mills observed, “People come out, and they adore my show.”

In 2022, Mills performed in front of sold-out crowds across the United States as generations of fans have continued to devour the sonic treats she gives, especially when performing classics like “I Never Knew Love Like This Before,” “You’re Puttin’ A Rush on Me,” and “Home,” which, according to the majority of Black Twitter, no one besides Mills should sing.

Even when discussing such topics as Ye (the rapper formerly known as Kanye West), Kim Kardashian, and Rolling Stone magazine’s ranking of the “Greatest 200 Singers of All Time,” her genuineness shone through in every part of the chat.

When asked what the magazine’s most egregious oversight was, Mills said, “Leaving Celine Dion and me off the list, and putting Michael Jackson at No. 86.”

According to Mills, “Why should we care at all?” 

The legendary singer called the magazine “meaningless.” 

“With Michael Jackson (No. 86) so far down on the list, and neither Celine Dion nor myself on it, it’s meaningless,” she said. “Willie Nelson is not a singer [yet] he made Rolling Stone’s list at No. 54.” 

She scoffed at the selection of Adele at No. 22.

“No way do I believe anything on the list. This is just a PR effort to get people talking.”

Mills, who earned a Black Press of America Lifetime Legacy Award in 2022, said the music industry has continued to whitewash R&B. 

“We can’t make it in the industry, because it doesn’t want us to,” she declared. 

She argued that it should come as no surprise that whitewashing persists.

For artists like Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, and others who have been able to crossover, Mills said they suffered lots of stress and permanent damage.

“Michael and Prince felt they needed to medicate themselves to get through their struggles — the stress that came with it — and they are dead,” she said. 

Don’t get it twisted — Mills isn’t throwing posthumous shade at any of those superstars.

She enjoyed a close and fond relationship with Jackson and adored Prince and Whitney Houston.

Along with a phenomenal career, Mills is an activist.

Witnessing anti-Black sentiments from other African Americans bothers her, she said, noting that individuals like the rapper Ye have crossed the line.

“Are you completely crazy? In other words, you have completely lost your way,” Mills said she would add, “You came from a Black woman,” Mills said she’d ask the rapper.

“But Kanye thought he was so loved and welcomed in that world that he could do anything. However, they have made it clear to him that ‘no,’ he is not welcome there. What we’re saying is, ‘No, we’re going to take everything from you.’” 

Mills said it’s paramount that artists stand on their own and not allow corporations and music labels to control them.

“We worry so much about losing what we don’t have. You will not miss out on what is intended for you. You can’t be a slave, and that’s exactly what Prince meant. To them, you’re like a little pet. They could care less.”

Mills was also moved to reach out to hip-hop star Megan Thee Stallion after rapper and singer Tory Lanez shot her in 2020. 

Mills objected to the lack of encouragement Megan received.

“I love Megan Thee Stallion, and at no time, in no place, in my mind, could I ever go against a woman who has been physically attacked and shot by a guy,” Mills added.

With violence permeating the entertainment industry, specifically in hip-hop, Mills cautioned that performers can no longer engage in risky behavior and expect to survive in the modern environment.

“There’s no way [Migos star] Takeoff should have been out there at a dice game. You’re an entertainer.”

Takeoff, 28, whose real name was Kirshnik Khari Ball, was shot and killed in Houston in November 2022, after a fight broke out during a dice game. Ball wasn’t the subject of the dispute.

“There are some people you simply can’t associate with,” Mills stated. “No, I don’t have to visit the worst neighborhoods in Brooklyn to prove that I’m a true Brooklyn girl.”

In recent years, the infamous Karens – racist white women who obnoxiously confront people of color – have received lots of media attention. 

Mills said she would not hesitate to reveal her inner Brooklyn girl if she’s ever confronted.

“I know she’ll remember me if I get a Karen. She will no longer identify as a Karen.”

Meanwhile, despite the hectic nature of 2022, Mills has a full agenda for 2023.

For an upcoming PBS television show celebrating Black Broadway, she recently went to Howard University for rehearsals and filming.

In addition to her busy touring schedule, she’s currently in Canada filming a movie for Lifetime that should debut early this year.

Mills also plans to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with engagements in Atlanta this month on behalf of the King Foundation.

She and her super manager, Amp Harris, have a plan in place to guarantee that Mills will always receive her flowers.

“Amp allows me to focus solely on my performance.”

 Mills was adamant that nothing could stand in the way of her and Harris’ plans, which include movies, theater, and a busy touring schedule.

“I feel like I’m getting my flowers in the form of the movie, the PBS special, and my shows,” Mills said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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