Singer CeCe Peniston is in that limbo stage between obscurity and stardom. Her first single has gone gold and she has performed on Arsenio Hall. But when Peniston came to Utah last week she had to do those kinds of things not-quite-stars do.
She did promo spots for the radio station that sponsored her visit. She went to the radio station and thanked the station for playing her songs. She courted the media to get interviews."People remember good attitudes," Peniston explained during one of those interviews. "You just chill out with everybody, and then when your new record comes out, they're more willing to play it."
Peniston's accommodating attitude and her talent have so far met with success. At 21, she already has had a single - the dance song "Finally" - that reached No. 1 on Billboard's club music chart, and A&M Records has just released her first album, also called "Finally." It jumped into Cashbox magazine's best-selling pop chart a month ago.
Up till then, her success had been limited mostly to dance music fans, which explains why her first two appearances in Utah have been at clubs. Last week she performed at the Ivy Club in Provo. In December she performed at a club in Salt Lake City, but Peniston can't remember which one.
"I started the tour in October," she said, explaining her memory lapse. "I got a week off at Christmas and I get two or three days off here and there."
Her appearances are what is known as "track dates" - there is no live band; instead, the singer performs to prerecorded music.
Peniston says she began thinking seriously of a music career when she was 12. At 16 she starred in the Phoenix Black Theater Troupe's production of "Bubbling Brown Sugar," and two years later, while a freshman at Phoenix College, was crowned Miss Black Arizona. The following year she won the national Miss Galaxy pageant.
She broke into the music business as a backup singer for Phoenix rapper Overweight Pooch, and it was there she caught the eye of a producer at A&M. Give us a demo tape, he told her, so Peniston went home and wrote "Finally."
She didn't know it was a dance song when she wrote it, she says. Influenced by her music idols - Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, Shirley Murdock - Peniston says she really likes singing rhythm and blues.
"There's a lot more to CeCe than dance music," she says. "I feel I'm an R&B singer. I put soul into whatever I do, and that could be dance music or `Memories' by Barbara Streisand."
And she's not just a one-hit singer, she predicts. In fact, her second single, "We Got a Love Thang" is getting good airplay.
"My long-range goals are to keep a level head and know where my blessings came from," she once told an interviewer.
"I'm growing from day to day," she says. "Anyone can be at the top if they try hard enough."
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