Sitting down and chatting with Sonya Hensley over a cup of tea and chardonnay, I was quite impressed with many of the projects she has been involved with, and the release of her debut CD “The Essential.” Sonya is a very adept performing artist and a master at dance, theater, and of course song. Sonya refers to herself as a rare combination of her parents, and extremely fortunate in regards to her being a New Yorker and having the guts to pursue her dreams.
Being a very spiritual human being, she wants to leave behind to everyone she meets and come in contact with the spirit of truth, as we are all connected. Sonya recalled that she was told by her family that her grandfather used to dress her up and drive her around in his convertible while blasting music on the radio. Sonya told me that growing up she was exposed to music at an early age. As her household record collection was quite small, she got her musical exposure from listening to the radio. At ten years old Sonya started learning modern dance, and the music that she danced to had a profound influence on her. Stanly Clark, Donald Bird, was a couple of the bands that got her interested musically. Sonya sung her first song at a talent show in junior high school, singing “rock steady” by Aretha Franklin, which she didn’t win but learned a great deal.
She later got to sing “Satin Doll” in a show which she auditioned for as a teen, which is when she knew she had what it takes to sing. Heart break, love and struggle are some of the messages she likes to convey when she sings. Sonya told me that her goal in life is to give the healing gift of singing to the world through the freedom of expression. “I like to read the spirit of the people in the room” she told me while she is performing. Sonya started recording professionally with Larry Blackman with the group Cameo.
The multi- talented Sonya started in dance and then onto theater to singing jazz, performing and singing in the U.S. and overseas. Sonya told me that she has gotten nervous many times before a performance, messed up on lyrics, but was able to recover quickly being a pro. “I shamelessly make up lyrics if I mess up.”
Sonya has performed on Broadway in:
Sophisticated Ladies (starring)
George M starring Joel Grey
Dreamgirls (role of Lorrell)
Sweet Charity. (role of Helene)
Bessie’s Blues. Ruby, Rhthym, Ma Rainey
They’re Playing our song chorus
Company Policy (Lead: Lashawn)
Othello (LA Women’s Shakespeare Co) various male/female characters
Louisiana Women (won a Dramalogue Award)
Division Street (Lead: Officer Betty)
Child of the Sun Henry Street
Canned Goods. LATC
Sonya also performed in films all principal or Featured:
The Cotton Club
A Chorus Line
Isle of Lesbos
Preaching to the Choir
What’s Love got to Do with it
And on TV all lead or featured:
A Stranger Beside Me
Very impressive indeed! I asked Sonya what advice would she give a beginner in the industry, she told me that she would tell them to “listen to the people that move them for inspiration, and find out what their voice is.” “Performing is a very tough business” she said, “but I’m a pro.”
Sonya said that she does voice exercises for an hour a day and drinks plenty of water. Sonya’s debut CD “The Essential” is a pleasure to listen to. The most noteworthy tracks are “My baby just cares for me”, “Besame Mucho” and “C’est La Baby”, and a live version of Van Morrison’s “Moondance”, which is one of my favorites. I would like to see Sonya Hemsley sing at more venues in Harlem, such as Gin Fizz or at Barawine on Lenox Ave.
The Essential CD can be purchased on Amazon, Spotify, Google music store, Shazam, ITunes, Tidal, Deezer, Rdio, and Cd Baby.