Paving her own path to success and triumph, Patrice Covington, like most young black girls growing up in Chesapeake, Virginia, dreamed big. It was hard not to imagine life on a stage, coming from such a musically gifted family with a father who was an opera singer and minister of music. Though musically gifted in her own right Patrice sought out to be different from everyone else in her family. So instead of being the little girl who twirled around the house in a beautifully crafted gown singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T into a microphone much resembling a hairbrush, Patrice set her sights on Broadway. “..Theater created a different energy for me. When I saw my first play, which was just a high school production of, I believe it was Peter Pan. And then shortly followed by the Sound of Music, which became my first musical that I truly loved. It changed me.”
Once the little girl who’s first love was theater to now adorning television screens across the world. Patrice has certainly modeled after the likes of whom inspired her all those years ago, icons like Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin. A woman now all her own, Emmy winning and Grammy nominated superstar, Patrice Covington is not shying away from her dreams. Though 2020 proved a year to truly test the bounds of one’s limits, Patrice again found her way nabbing a role as Erma Franklin in NatGeo’s television anthology series ” Genius: Aretha” premiering March 21.
Much like her character Erma Franklin, Patrice also has the experience of being an activist and background singer. “It was so much fun. It was very much art imitating life for me at one point, because before I got this job, I was singing background for Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera. “I was on tour in Vegas with Christina Aguilera when I auditioned for the role, to play Erma Franklin….It was really beautiful to learn how the family supported each other and how she didn’t want to do things without her sisters, how they collaborated on things and how her sisters created songs that we know as hits today…”.
Also starring in the series alonglside Convington is actress Cynthia Ervio as Aretha and Courtney B. Vance as CL Franklin, Aretha’s father. “Cindy and I actually worked together previously on Broadway in the color purple. So this was a repeat for us. So yeah, I’ve definitely just seen her star grow from the very beginning. I will say she’s equally a singer and actor and always has been…It was a good time. I’m so grateful that this is my first television show. I’ve never been on TV at all. Not as a background. I didn’t have one line somewhere, nothing on set, like never been on a TV set. And he [Courtney B. Vance] taught me how to be on TV. He as well as Pauletta Washington who played my grandmother and I’m just so grateful that I had them to guide me, they let me ask them anything. They taught me things, they showed me things and they held me down. He is so funny, and such an uncle dad figure. We told each other we’re stuck with each other. So I’m really glad to have him in my life now…He’s just great so full of knowledge and light.”
Not only did Patrice gain a wealth of insight from veterans in the business like Pauletta Washington and Courtney B. Vance, she found herself learning from Erma Franklin as well. “I learned the importance of showing real human life as an actor, just very humanized. There was no real performance. It wasn’t a performative thing. It was just humanizing. And because she is a real person, it was important it is to be relatable, and human. That’s what people get. And that’s what people appreciate. So just keeping it real, just be myself. I didn’t have to put on anything.”
Even with the successes Patrice has seen the entertainment industry is not without its ups and downs. Learning to be one’s self when you’re always portraying different people can sometimes blur the lines. Patrice has found a way to navigate those blurred lines and carve out a safe place for her to be true herself. “ I truly aim to try to be myself all the time. I feel like that’s what wins. I look at people like Cardi B and Tiffany Haddish, who could not be more of themselves, and that’s what people love. But somewhere along the line, it got twisted that, you know, you have to be a certain way or look a certain way. And I’m inspired by so many actors that are on TV, whether it’s because of the way they act in their normal everyday life or the way they look, which is not like supermodel size or anything like that. I’m inspired by a lot of women who are truly just living in their bodies and as themselves.”
Authenticity has been a recurring theme throughout Patrice’s life. Starting early in childhood when she made the bold decision to be different from her family. “I did start singing in the church, but everybody’s singing in the church in my family, it didn’t feel special to me. My father was a minister of music and everybody in my family could sing. Nobody else in my family did that [theater]. My father was an opera singer. And so that would have been the, probably the closest thing to it, but I didn’t experience him doing that. So it was intriguing to me and I wanted to explore more of it and my parents were so awesome and they allowed me to do community theater. And then later my church started doing like church plays and stuff like that. And I just, I loved that niche of the entertainment industry.
Next on her list of goals to crush is creating her own film. Wondering what the cast may look like when the time comes, Patrice says she wouldn’t want to work with any major superstars. Instead, “I would want to work with those in my life. And I promise you, I’m not just saying this. I have a tremendous bunch of uber, talented friends. It’s almost like we’re aliens. Like we are an extremely talented bunch of people and some of them are superstars so fine, but I would cast my friends. I have an amazing circle of talented friends that I can’t wait for the world to know.”
Now that she’s made it [for lack of a better term] I’m sure creating a film is not far way for Patrice. Eager to pursue more of her dreams, singing naturally has become a passion and this past holiday season Patrice released some new music. The song perfectly entitled My Favorite Things is a rebranding of the classic holiday jingle. As to why she chose this holiday classic to revive, Patrice says it all goes back to her musical theater roots and seeing the Sound of Music for the first time. “..The sound of music, that was the first time I’ve ever, ever, ever, ever heard that song. And it made me fall in love with it.” The tune is very lively, wrought with beautiful vocals by Covington herself and it certainly has a knack for quickly becoming one of your favorite things going into the next holiday season.
As to whether or not we can expect to hear new music from Patrice , the answer is yes. The singer-and-actress does anticipate to release an album sometime in the near future but as to a date that is yet to be determined.
While singing and acting are on the forefront of who we know Patrice to be, there’s also a philanthropic side to her which focuses on mentoring. “So many of the things that I do, I do to inspire others. I’m a part of an amazing organization on the board of kids in the spotlight, which is an organization that empowers foster kids through filmmaking. And it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. I go to inspire them and of course I leave way more inspired than I they could’ve ever been from me because they are just magnificent children. And so when it comes to children, I love to inspire and encourage and to tell my story and tell my truth. And with that, I’m also creating a children’s book that will inspire little girls who are, you know, a little round, a little thick when they grew up, that aren’t the typical body size. They might get picked on but I’’m going to encourage them, that they can do anything. And especially they can be stars, singers, and actors and dancers, things that we aren’t always seeing on television and in magazines.”
Her own initiative, The Galaxy Method aims to equip youth and adults interested in a career in entertainment with the tools necessary for them to succeed.
The message, “Don’t be a star..be a galaxy.
Genius: Aretha premieres on NatGeo March 21. The series will air for four days before becoming available for streaming on Hulu. For a sneak peek of the third season of Genius’s Aretha view the video below.