Brave Heart

Posted by on Dec 18, 2012

VIBE Vixen Elle Varner cover

Despite a merciless and unforgiving music world, Elle Varner serves as its melodically sweet spot. While struggling to find solid confidence among uncertainty, she braves the inevitable changes and her newfound celebrity

BY NIKI MCGLOSTER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KARL FERGUSON

 

As a big-haired 14-year-old, Elle Varner had a crippling fear of standing in the front row of her high school dance class. “I would go to the back every time and never be able to learn the routine,” Elle recalls. Then, like Molly Ringwald in most of her ‘80s coming-of-age films, something inside her shifted. “A flame lit in me. I went to the front of the class one day and, for the first time, learned the whole thing. I went for everything instead of just shrinking and disappearing.”

These days, Elle’s hard to miss. By now you might’ve heard how the story for this jazzy soprano reads: her esteemed rise from Santos Party House coat check clerk to New York University’s celebrated Clive Davis music program graduate to smiling (and colorfully dressed) “Only Wanna Give It To You” singer-songwriter. It’s a running start most singers would kill for, allowing for early co-signs to come calling. Yet, this conversational lush owns up to the scary side of the industry’s. “I’m in such a new place. I’ve always been in control—where I was going, what I was doing, where I was gonna go to school—and with this career, there is no control.”

While constantly touring—currently with Trey Songz and Miguel—she’s managed to command a number 4 entry onto the Billboard 200 with her debut LP Perfectly Imperfect, snag a Soul Train Award for Best New Artist, an endorsement from First Lady Michelle Obama—an outstanding accomplishment in itself—and a multi-city BET Music Matters tour. Yet arguably her highest honor comes in the form of a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song for “Refill.”

As her name floats among the top of the sonically elite, success seems certain, even if juggling it does not. Her wavering answers reveal the still hesitant teenaged Elle. When asked about her sophomore album, she starts, “I think it will definitely go into a more…” After a pause, she finishes, “I can’t even give you—I can’t say. I don’t think it’ll be shocking. I think it’ll be more evolved.”

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