Three years ago, a then-2o-year-old Dondria began uploading videos to YouTube. They were of her singing solo renditions of R&B tracks originally done by everybody from Musiq Soulchild and Keri Hilson to Beyonce and Chrisette Michele. Her fans and followers (now at 2.8 million) requested, rated, and raved about her voice and talent so much so that the young singer from Texas caught the eye of Jermaine Dupri. However, she’d been going under the alias of “Phatfffat,” a nickname given to her by her college roommate. Luckily, for her and her future success, she and JD decided to retreat back to her real name – after all we can’t see “Phatfffat” in big lights above a stage.
Now, 23, Dondria has become the newest member to sign on to the So So Def roster. JD says, “Dondria is like a young Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys. There is nothing that the girl can’t sing.” We’ll have to wait until next year for her official debut album, but she’s given us an amazing mixtape, entitled “Duets,” to hold us over until then. On it, she delivers her very own versions (from the female perspective, of course) of Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings,” Robin Thicke’s “Sex Therapy,” Trey Songz’ “Invented Sex,” and more! Hear it here!
HEAR HER COVER OF USHER’S “LOVERS & FRIENDS”:
HB: What made you decide to put yourself out there and upload YouTube videos for all the public to see?
Dondria: I wanted to see how people who didn’t know me, people who weren’t my family and friends, what their honest opinion was. I knew they weren’t gonna be biased. I’d been singing since I was three, I grew up in church and I’ve always been in the youth choir, so I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with the camera. I thought people would like it, but I just didn’t know it was gonna get that big, I’m still speechless when I think about it.
How did JD get in contact with you?
He told me that he hit me up on YouTube but I never got that message. The first one I was aware of was when he wrote me on MySpace, but I didn’t think it was him. I was getting so many emails, messages, requests to work and sign, but most of it was bogus, so by the time he came around, I was like, “This is not real, don’t lie to me.” But he was really persistent. All he said was he wanted to do a video of me and Jagged Edge and that he’d fly me and my mom out to Atlanta. It was actually the night of their listening party. So, I met him in person and that’s when he actually said, “I wanna work with you, are you ready for this, is this something that you wanna do?” And I was like, “Oh, ok, cuz I just thought u called me to do a YouTube video and my feelings were so hurt!”
Who would be your dream artist to work with?
I would love to open up for Beyonce, I am so jealous of [the group] Rich Girl, I would love to open up for her. Even Janet. I would love to open Monica, too.
HEAR HER COVER OF BEYONCE’S “SMASH INTO YOU”:
What is ‘Phatfffat’?
My college roommate actually gave me that nickname. We had just met at orientation and we clicked immediately. Later that night, we went to CiCi’s Pizza and I just do what I do, I wasn’t thinking (laughs). I always get my salad, my pasta, and then I pile a plate with pizza; it’s a buffet! And as I finished it all, she was like “You know what? I’m gonna call you ‘Phatfffat’ because that’s out of control.” But I feel like if I was a rapper, then I could have been like, “Phatfffat in the building!!!,” but I’m not gonna be an R&B artist (and hopefully successful) and then be announced as “Phatfffat” to come on stage and accept something.
We’ve seen plenty of artists debut with one image, and in a years time, drastically change. How do you plan on dealing with that?
I think the beauty of me signing with JD is I don’t think I’ll have that problem. I understand that I will have to grow up but I feel like he understands that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean growing naked. I can mature in a different way. All the greats didn’t have to do that extra stuff, like Brandy, Monica, Whitney, Aretha – none of them, so I don’t feel like I need to. But also, I’m gonna be 23, and I think at 25 or 30, I’ll still look 18. When I did the mixtape, I did the Top 10 male R&B songs. And 7 or 8 of those were talking about sex and everybody was like, “We can’t believe your singing this!,” cuz they think I’m, like, 16!
Let’s not talk about where you wanna see yourself in 10 years, what do you want to achieve in the near future?
I would like pee my pants if I got Best New Artist of the year, I would pee my pants. That’s what I want so bad, cuz then that means that I gave my best first impression. That would be really really big. The thing that I’m looking most forward to is honestly doing the big tour, the whole big show, a 2 hour show, fans screaming “Dondria!,” that’s the part that I can’t wait for.
HEAR HER FIRST OFFICIAL SINGLE, “YOU’RE THE ONE,” BELOW:
Check Dondria out below: