Rhonda Nicole a “Bohèmian Princess”
Danielle Smith of Personal Assistant Magazine/EPVA Blog Online recently caught up with Rhonda Nicole to discuss her experience as an executive and personal assistant, her debut EP, “Nuda Veritas,” and her new position as Social Media Strategist for MGM Resorts International.
One word, “Bohème,” which is the French word for ‘bohèmian,’ describes those who are artists, who are free spirits, and who follow their own compass, this description fits Rhonda Nicole.
Rhonda Nicole is a singer, songwriter, and music journalist, but for nine years she was the executive and personal assistant to radio personality, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Mr. Thomas Joyner, also known as “The Fly Jock.” Mr. Joyner is host of the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, founder of REACH Media Inc., the Tom Joyner Foundation, and BlackAmericaWeb.com.
A Dallas native, Rhonda Nicole managed Mr. Joyner’s personal and executive office, she worked very closely with his staff, and interfaced with many celebrities, entrepreneurs, and politicians. In 2010, Rhonda Nicole released her debut EP, “Nuda Veritas,” and in 2011, she became the managing editor for SoulTrain.com where she interviewed musicians, artists, and talent managers. After the death of her sister Dawn, Rhonda Nicole stepped down from her position as executive and personal assistant to Mr. Joyner in January 2012 to pursue music full time. Currently, Rhonda Nicole is a Social Media Strategist for MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas, NV.
EPVA: Mr. Tom Joyner is the hardest working man in radio. How was it to work for the legendary, “Fly Jock?”
Rhonda Nicole: It was truly an honor to work so closely with Tom. When I first became his assistant, I didn’t have any previous experience as an executive and personal assistant so it was a true crash course in learning the ins and outs of his business. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning and it took some time to get into the groove, which you’d expect when you work for someone as busy and in-demand as Tom.
EPVA: I completely understand what it means to work with a busy and in-demand executive/celebrity. How did you manage your responsibilities for Mr. Joyner and handle your day to day tasks?
Rhonda Nicole: Lucky for me, Tom empowered me and gave me a lot of freedom and flexibility to run the office and handle my responsibilities as I saw fit. I learned so much from Tom and was able to implement protocols that ultimately made both of our lives easier.
EPVA: Mr. Joyner sounds like an amazing person to work for. How many years did you work with him and why did you step down from your position as his executive and personal assistant?
Rhonda Nicole: I worked with Tom for nearly 9 years. It was truly an honor to work so closely with him. Tom taught me so much through his example and I was exposed to people in the industry and had experiences I wouldn’t have had. It was an incredible adventure. Unfortunately, I lost my sister Dawn to suicide and that was the impetus for me deciding to leave my job with Tom to pursue my passion. After she died, it shifted everything in my life and I realized that I was too comfortable, too static, too cool being in the same place. I wanted to create a different life for myself and for some reason, that horrible moment gave me the courage to do it. To this day, I use that loss and trauma as motivation to push toward my dreams.
EPVA: Rhonda Nicole, I am really sorry to hear about your sister Dawn. I know first hand what it feels like to lose a sibling because my sister Jennifer was killed in 2001 by her children’s father (domestic violence). I have been helping my mom raise her three boys ever since. I know your sister Dawn would be very proud of you stepping out in faith and pursuing your dreams! You are an inspiration to me! So, what did you do after you quit working for Mr. Joyner and REACH Media Inc.,?
Rhonda Nicole: I moved from Dallas, Texas to San Francisco, California to pursue music full-time. While I was in San Francisco a soul/dance band called “Midtown Social,” asked me to join their band and I performed with them as a background vocalist until late 2013.
EPVA: Sounds like you had a lot of fun performing with the “Midtown Social” band. Was this the first time you were professionally singing and performing?
Rhonda Nicole: No, my first professional singing gig was at Universal Studios Japan. I have also had the opportunity to perform around Texas, Atlanta and San Francisco where I was working with my amazing producer Montrose Cunningham. In 2013, I went to Luxembourg for Vinx’s Songwriting’s Soul Kitchen, it was a songwriting workshop that culminated in a performance and in 2015 I went to Australia to cover the Byron Bay Bluesfest when I launched my BohèmeRockstar blog. I’m very fortunate because music has led me to some really cool adventures.
EPVA: Yes, I see music has definitely led you to some awesome and international adventures. One particular adventure I’d like to ask you about is your debut EP, “Nuda Veritas.” I recently purchased your EP from cdbaby.com and I love it. You have a sultry, soulful, rock and roll voice. How did you come up with the name “Nuda Veritas,” and what does it mean?
Rhonda Nicole: ‘Nuda Veritas’ is Latin for “naked truth.” I actually heard the phrase years ago, maybe in college while watching ‘Jeopardy!’ and I wrote a song called “Nuda Veritas.” I never recorded that song, but when Montrose and I began planning my EP, I decided I wanted that to be the name. At the time, the songs I chose for the project really were my naked truth.
EPVA: Speaking of writing, you are a talented songwriter. Every song on the EP paints a story from SoulLover to Mia. Two of my favorite songs are “Wanderlust and Like you should.” I’m a fan of music and its different genres and to me “Wanderlust” is one of those songs that can be heard on a country western, R&B, or rock and roll station. My favorite line from “Wanderlust,” is “”Fallen with no place to land, it’s just me, myself, and my wanderlust and the world in the palm of my hand.” Now the song, “Like you should,” was written by your music partner Montrose Cunningham, my favorite line from that song is, “We don’t communicate, but we talk everyday!” I really like the chemistry you and Montrose have. Your lyrics are thought provoking. How old were you when you wrote your first song?
Rhonda Nicole: I started making up songs when I was very young, probably around the same time I started talking. I’d record myself singing these little melodies that didn’t make sense but that was where it started. When I was about 11 or 12, I actually wrote my first song; I got a notebook and started writing song lyrics in it. I numbered every new entry in a table of contents. To this day, I still number every entry in my song notebooks. I’ve written more than 1,300 original songs since I began?
EPVA: 1,300 original songs! You are sitting on a gold mine. One of these music publishing companies need to sign you to a publishing deal. So, what is usually your inspiration when writing a song?
Rhonda Nicole: It depends, most of the time I’m writing from personal experience, especially since I tend to write songs about love. But sometimes I write about what is happening in the world today or what my friends may be going through. A few years ago, one of my girlfriends went through a bad break-up, and I wrote a song about it. One day a friend shared a status on Facebook where she was excited about seeing her lover. I loved the sound of that so much that I wrote a song called, “See my lover tonight.” Last night I was practicing a song, (not one of mine) that has this gorgeous part that goes back and forth between D-flat and C-sharp minor, it was so pretty. I’m sure at some point I’ll work that into a song of my own.
EPVA: Are you currently working on any new projects and is there a new album in the works?
Rhonda Nicole: Right now I’m not writing much new material, but I am re-arranging songs I wrote awhile back and re-imagining some older material. I compose on guitar and I got bored with how some of the songs were sounding so I’ve begun experimenting with programming and using loops and other sounds available through technology to give the songs a different energy. As far as a new album, unofficially I literally record 2-3 songs every weekend and share them on my SoundCloud channel (soundcloud.com/rhonda-nicole). They are rough demos, but the idea is that eventually they will comprise an EP or mixtape that I will formally release.
EPVA: Do you have any upcoming shows?
Rhonda Nicole: I wish! I so miss performing. I did a Prince tribute in Houston with my music partner, Montrose Cunningham, in June. We did a set of songs by Prince-related artists like Sheila E., Wendy & Lisa, and The Time. Other than that, I haven’t really been on stage since 2014 when I did a show in Dallas with my old bandmates. Hopefully that will change sooner than later.
EPVA: You are also a music journalist. How did you become managing editor for SoulTrain.com? When I was growing up, Saturday mornings was just not complete until we watched Soul Train.
Rhonda Nicole: I actually was able to write and be the managing editor for SoulTrain.com while I was working with Tom. When I moved to the Bay Area I continued to freelance for the site. I covered music-related events like GRAMMY week, the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards, BET Awards, and other events. I curated the site’s Artist to Artist column where I interviewed musicians like Michael Franti, Alice Smith, Meshell NdegeOcello, Cody ChesnuTT, Nikka Costa, Bettye LaVette, Les Nubians, fDeluxe, Jill Jones, LiV Warfield, Taja Sevelle, The Foreign Exchanges, Mathew Knowles (Beyonce’s father), and many more to just name a few.
EPVA: Wow that sounds really exciting attending all of those events and interviewing those amazing musicians/talent managers. Also, your new position at MGM Resorts International sounds pretty cool. What is your position and what do you do?
Rhonda Nicole: I am a corporate social media marketer for MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas, and I manage the day to day and monthly content strategy for preferred and luxury hotel accounts. I handle social media marketing and community management for my accounts’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels.
EPVA: Rhonda Nicole thank you for taking the time to speak with me about your experiences as an executive and personal assistant, your music and your new position as a corporate social media marketer. I can’t wait to hear your next EP. One last question, what advice can you give other executive or personal assistants working or wanting to work in the entertainment industry?
Rhonda Nicole: I think the one thing that can kill your executive/personal assistant career faster than anything else is not being able to keep yourself in check when you’re around celebrities. It can be exciting to be in the room with people you admire, and understandably tempting to ask for autographs, sneak selfies, or–if you’re really bold–try to give them your music/screenplay/business plan, etc. DON’T DO IT! I discovered early on that being in those rooms did not mean a free for all; I was there to work for my boss, and the more low-key I was, the better. As an executive/personal assistant, your role is to be support–NOT THE STAR. But, I took advantage of those opportunities by putting the job and Tom first, and inevitably he would introduce me to whomever else was in the room because he knew that he could trust me to be cool and professional. So that’d be my advice: Remember that your job as an executive/personal assistant is to support your boss. You may want to clarify with them from the outset what is or is not OK in terms of asking other celebs for photos, autographs, posting about it on social media, and so forth when you’re working.
Rhonda Nicole is an independent artist whose debut EP, “Nuda Veritas,” was released on Candle House Records in late winter 2010. “Nuda Veritas,” is Rhonda Nicole’s open invitation to explore the naked truth of the soul of a woman on the verge of love and loss. Rhonda Nicole has graced stages in Dallas, Houston, New York, and Atlanta, and performed before an audience of 80,000 at the 13th Annual Power to the Peaceful Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She has shared her love for music in Osaka, Japan, Paris, and Rédange, Luxembourg, where she was blessed to collaborate with legendary singer/songwriter/percussionist Vinx and tap dancer extraordinaire Lee Payne.
Rhonda Nicole’s music takes the listener on a bohèmian musical journey.
To purchase or download Rhonda Nicole’s “Nuda Veritas” EP, click on the link below.
Official website: RhondaNicole.com