When Heather Headley’s brother Iric Jr. called to ask if she’d do a benefit concert for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, she had a simple answer for him.
This wasn’t Heather being a diva. This was Heather being a sister. If you have a healthy relationship with your sibling, you are obligated to give that sibling a hard time from time to time or all the time.
Iric, who is a Boys and Girls Clubs board member, had a great comeback.
“He’s like, ‘I know things about you that you don’t want out,’” Heather said in a phone interview with Whatzup. “So I was like, ‘Of course I’ll do it! What’s the date?!’”
The date of the show, at the Clyde Theatre, is October 24.
Busy with baby — and a TV show
It’s not as if Headley doesn’t have other things going on in her life these days.
She is currently in Atlanta shooting the Netflix series Sweet Magnolias. The series is based on Sherryl Woods’ series of novels about Southern women.
Headley plays a small-town lawyer with some big-city experiences under her belt.
“It’s a show about these three friends from North Carolina, Southern girls who have just been friends forever,” she said. “It’s a show kind of just about life. These women have gone through things like divorce and children and not being married and not having children. Living in a small community and why you do that.”
Not only is Headley filming a TV show, she’s also caring for her six-month-old daughter, Eliana.
“She’s a precious little girl,” Headley said. “She kind of caught us off guard. We’re all a little smitten. She’s got a very strong pinky finger. She’s got everyone wrapped around that finger, especially her father.”
Starring in a TV show while caring for an infant has been “good but tiring,” Headley said, no doubt putting it mildly.
“I have been burning all the oil,” she said, laughing. “The midnight oil, the morning oil. I have been burning motor oil. Crisco.”
Headley’s husband is former New York Jets wide receiver and current Chicago investment banker Brian Musso. Headley and Musso also have two adolescent sons, John David and Jordan Chase.
A long way from Northrop High
The Trinidad-born Headley has come a long way since she was a student at Northrop High School in the early 1990s.
She has appeared on Broadway and the London stage in Ragtime, The Lion King, The Bodyguard, The Color Purple, and Disney’s Aida (for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical).
She released four pop albums, one of which won a Grammy award.
She starred in Spike Lee’s TV version of his film, She’s Gotta Have It, and has duetted across Europe with Andrea Bocelli.
Headley said the Bocelli collaboration was a little karmic because his song “The Prayer” has always had special meaning for her.
“I told Brian when we were dating: ‘That’s our song,’” she said. “And he said, ‘Don’t you pick that song organically, like it comes on the radio or something and you both sort of realize…’ And I said, ‘No. This is our song!’”
“The Prayer” was one of the songs Bocelli wanted to sing with her.
Headley’s participation in these concerts always comes near the end. Bocelli has already been singing for 2½ hours at that point.
At first, Headley thought she should go easy on him.
“I was like, ‘He’s going to be tired,’” she said. “‘I’m going to make sure he’s taking care of by not singing too loudly.’ In essence, he’s been batting all night. ‘I’ll just throw a softball. It’ll be OK.’
“I come out there two hours into the show and he’s like, ‘Oh no, sweetheart. We’re swinging for the fences.’”
Encouragement from her husband
With a new baby on the way, Headley wasn’t sure she should swing for the fences when she was offered Sweet Magnolias.
But her husband encouraged her to take the role.
“I’m always the one to say, ‘Oh no. I can’t do that,’” Headley said. “And Brian’s like, ‘No, no. You can.’”
Heather thinks Brian’s football background has given him unusual fortitude and stamina in the face of stress and pressure.
“I’m so grateful for him,” she said. “He’s always like, ‘No, we’re going to put the kids on our backs and we’re going to go.’ Nothing scares him.”
The upcoming Clyde Theatre benefit will be a scaled-down version of her 2018 Broadway My Way CD and its corresponding shows. Instead of full orchestral accompaniment, Headley will be joined on stage by pianist Jason Webb.
“I have always done these Broadway songs that I have always wanted to sing or that I seem to hear a little differently,” she said. “I have this thing about taking a Broadway song out of the context of the musical.”
Grateful for Fort Wayne
Headley expects to see some of her former Northrop teachers in the audience and her mother, Hannah, of course. Hannah retired from Fort Wayne Community Schools a while back.
“She’s really happy,” Headley said. “She raised us to believe that nothing is deserved, that you’re not entitled to anything. But I will tell you that this phase of her life, I actually believe she deserves this. I see her and she’s so happy. She’s running around and having such a great time. She deserves it. She worked hard with us and for us.”
Headley said she is enormously grateful to Fort Wayne.
“Not only for keeping us safe but for letting me know Broadway existed,” she said. “(My Northrop teachers) took an interest in me and got me interested in musical theater.”
Headley said she will never be able to thank her Northrop teachers and counselors enough.
“Me coming to Fort Wayne to do a show is not about people coming to see me,” she said. “It’s about me coming to see everyone. My brother’s job makes the whole family happy because it’s a way for my family to give back to Fort Wayne.
“Fort Wayne wasn’t just a jumping off point for me,” Headley said. “It was a trampoline.”
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