She Loves Your Smile
by Aliya Jackson
It’s 7:00 o’clock in the evening on February 18, 2017, and I just missed a call from Grammy Award nominee, actress, singer with a 5 octave range, songwriter, wife and mother, Shanice Lorraine Wilson-Knox (born May 14, 1973) aka, Shanice. I ran upstairs and returned her call asap. Okay, I admit, I was 5 minutes late, but we laughed it off as we talked about how we first met.
I met Shanice through a friend of ours over fifteen years ago at a New Year’s Eve party my mother gave at our house. Shanice and some of the dancers from Soul Train arrived, I would have to say; we partied like rock stars. Although Shanice was shy, I made her feel welcome. While she ate, Shanice laughed at us dancing as though we were at a frat party. Later, Shanice would agree to sign one of her albums I brought and at 2:30 am, she was knocked out on the couch asleep. Since my mother is a photo-historian when it comes to special moments, she took Shanice’s picture.
All the way from Pittsburgh, a little girl was becoming a songstress. At 8-years-old, her mother, Crystal Wilson, took her daughter, with $60 in hand, and two one-way tickets to Los Angeles on the Greyhound. Although California was beautiful, it was rough; but the Wilson family never looked back. Without a lot of furniture and being a single parent, Crystal packed her family into a tiny studio. Shanice remembers her mother picking a couch up off the street. “It looked so bad, this guy who liked her mother in our neighborhood opt to re-upholster it for free.” And let’s not talk about Los Angeles transportation; it was the only way they got around. But no matter what struggles the Wilson family endured, as long Shanice’s mother was by her side, that was all that mattered.
Shanice claimed she always wanted to be in the entertainment business. When she landed a spot for Kids Incorporated in 1984, but all they wanted her to do was dance and play the keyboards. Clearly, Crystal could see her daughter wasn’t happy. She had to sit Shanice down to have a heart to heart talk. “What do you want to do in this business?” Singing was her gift, and that’s what she wanted to do! Crystal, a singer herself, put her career on hold and guided her daughter until she made it. Chip Fields would give Shanice her first big break in the theater. She worked with Chips’ daughter, Kim Fields, as her sister in the play called, “In Command Of The Children.” Once Shanice acquired an agent, there was no stopping her. She landed her first commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken as she scatted with Ms. Elle Fitzgerald. Then at 11, Shanice was competing on Ed McMann’s, “Star Search.” Shanice says wholeheartedly, “My mom was more nervous than I was.” Sometimes parents can be a little pushy when it comes to their children being seen; but Crystal had Shanice’s best interest at heart. Crystal made it fun for Shanice as she taught her how to move and who to look at while singing. At the age of 11, A & M Records signed her, but something was lacking musically. While working on her album, Shanice felt the songwriters were too old for her. Three years later, A & M finally found Shanice’s sound and released her debut album “Discovery” in 1987 with her hit singles, “(Baby Tell Me) Can You Dance and “No 1/2 Steppin.”
In 1991, Motown finally nailed it! The song would set precedents because of Shanice’s infectious smile called, “I Love Your Smile” which she co-wrote with Narada Micheal Walden. The song peaked at #2 on Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks for four weeks in December 1991 and January 1992. “Listening to that song… let’s just say, it never gets old, “ claims Shanice. I could sense her smiling thru the phone as she continued the conversation, “…it felt like the movie, “The Five Heartbeats” when they first heard themselves on the radio – an amazing feeling.” Her career took off, and in 1995, the role of Eponine from the musical, Les Miserables was given to her, as well as, a cameo appearance in the movie “Panther.” In 1999, her fourth album and the song, “When I Close My Eyes” made waves when it landed on the Billboard Hot 100 in one week from #91 to #16.
So the question is: what happened to Shanice’s career? Moving to LaFace Records, the relationship between the label and artist looked hopeful until she ended up pregnant. Shanice pleaded with the record label to let her stay to finish her album, have the baby and then go on tour to promote it. But the record label had plans of their own. After the 3rd call, they decided to cut their losses, and Shanice was dropped. Shanice fell into a depressed state as her career came to a halt. “At that time, it was very difficult.”
Picking up the pieces, Shanice and her husband, Flex Alexander went to OWN (Oprah’s network) and landed their first reality show on cable called “Flex and Shanice,” which premiered on November 1, 2014. For the fans that kept up with the show, I asked Shanice about getting a new hairstyle – cutting off her bangs (which was a big deal on one of the episodes.) Let’s just say… that’s not going to happen! “We had an incredible time doing the show, especially my kids… they loved the cameras following them.” Because of the show, something happened that Shanice will never forget. While at church, one of the members cried on her shoulders and said she was going to commit suicide due to the loss of her home, job, and her pride. One of the episodes saved the member’s life when Shanice and Flex made it known they too were homeless after losing their home. But their faith in God kept them together.
With seventeen years of marriage, how do you keep it fresh between you two? Flex and Shanice devote their time to their church, so God comes first, then communication; don’t go to bed mad and honesty is what keeps this couple grounded. “Marriage is work, and if you’re willing to put in the work, it will sustain the inevitable.” Shanice first met Flex when she moved into the same building where he was. In the beginning, the two were just friends according to Shanice. “He was like one of the homies.” They dated for four months then he proposed. She thought he was crazy to ask such a question in a short amount of time. Cupid had other plans, and on February 19, 2000, the two were married. Shanice jumped at the chance to tell me both decided to keep their sexual relationship on the back burner until the wedding ring was on her finger. As for her children, daughter, Imani Knox (15) and son, Elijah Knox (13)
Shanice considers herself a great mom. Shanice may be quiet and shy, but this mother knows when she’s had enough to discipline her children. “I would say, I’m similar to my mom.”
As to Shanice’s future? Sing, sing, and more singing. She wants work with new producers, write songs for other artists, tour, act in movies and on Broadway, develop and launch a makeup line, expanding her onesie line from her reality show (www.onesiezbyshanice.com), to developing new talent. Life might have had it’s ups and downs, but that’s not going to stop this talented entrepreneur. There’s no secret. It’s her determination and drive that keeps Shanice wanting more. “Failure isn’t an option for me, so I keep pushing and praying.” The right team holds a profound effect for Shanice; because they are her foundation, although, she is the one who makes the final decision in her career.
To end this interview, Shanice wanted to mention one more thing to her loyal fans. “I want to thank all my super dope fans because without you, there is no me. Thank you for your support, encouraging me and sticking with me through it all.”
Here are other questions I asked:
Me.- What would friends say your character is like for people who don’t know you? Shanice – Shy in the beginning, but then a party animal, always laughing; I have black blonde moments.
Me – Any pets? Shanice – Yes, a Maltese (Figi) and Yorkshire Terrier (Hersey)
Me – Where do you think you will retire? Shanice – Flex wants to go to Dallas, TX. Me, I love California.
Well, maybe Monte Carlo, Atlanta, Europe. I have to think on that one.
Me – Are you an only child? Shanice – Yes, on my mom’s side. On my dad side, I have three step-sisters. Me – How do your friends at home feel about your career?
Shanice – They are happy for me, but they always want me to sing. Okay, I have to admit I just can’t say no.
Me – What is your favorite saying? Me – Thank you! Shanice – (laughing) I always say it don’t I?
Me – Who’s your best friend? Shanice – Mookie, that’s my girl! She has always been there for me.
Me – Who would you like to do a duet with? Shanice – Beyonce and Celine Dion.
Me – And, past artists? Shanice – Prince
Me – If you weren’t a singer what career would you have chosen? Shanice – A makeup artist. I love makeup a lot. You should see my bathroom.
Me – If you could do it all over again, would you? Shanice – I would have to say no… because it made me who I am today.
*So I have to ask Shanice to do me a favor:
Me – If you would, can you please sing Etta James’ song “At Last” and Cheryl Lynn’s song “Got To Be Real.” I think she will kill those songs!!