Hip to High Heels

Sat. May 10, 2008 12:00 AM
by Jason P. Freeman

Stage actress and vocalist sings soul with sensational soles

On assignment for PINK Magazine, I had the opportunity to have lunch with jazz and soul artist Simone while the singer was on the Chicago stop of her debut CD's promotional tour. During our dining, I wanted to get through the initial, obligatory, accomplished-career conversation as quickly as possible. Though it was very interesting and impressive to hear Simone talk about her varied roles on the national tour of "Jesus Christ Superstar," her late-'90s run portraying the female lead in "Rent" at the Shubert Theatre, her years as the featured artist in the Chicago-based jazz ensemble Liquid Soul, and her National Broadway Theatre Award-winning work as the star of "Aida," our lunch time together was limited. I just couldn't wait to get that needed part of the interview over with lest the clock run out before Simone could show me her shoes.

Though totally taken in by her pair of pointy toe, form-fitted, black, glossy, patent leather-like high heels, the possibility that they might have been icky, '80s-styled anklets had me concerned. Oh no—-Simone rolled up her pants and presented a calf-climbing cobbler's creation by lifting her lovely, leather-lined leg above the lunch table. Petite on the feet and fabulously feminized, Simone's shoes looked like girl-geared biker boots without buckles, stretching black, shiny sheaths up to her knees. Definitely not out-of-style, old school anklets, my fears were totally unwarranted.

"You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes," Simone smiled. "My uncle used to say that."

Uncle and I are apt to agree because Simone's fashionably fierce footwear was a herald of her hip hotness, a well-suited statement repeatedly said by her black, double-breasted, pleated leather jacket, dangling red-jeweled earrings, thick knitted brim cap and dreadlocks. But the shoes sealed the deal, and the doting fan in me instantly came out. Fawning at her feet while gushing over an autographed, advance copy of Simone's CD, I may have even told her that I loved her.

Simone's Chicago concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music, preceding the May 13, 2008 release of her debut album, Simone on Simone-—produced in tribute to her mother, Nina Simone, through High Priestess/Koch Records—-was the next night. The gold-strapped high-heel sandals that she wore on stage were sexy too.

Simone can be found online at www.simonesworld.com.

*Note: Tentatively titled "Legacy of Soul," the PINK Magazine interview by Jason P. Freeman, profiling Simone and her Chicago '08 concert, is, as of press time, slated for feature in the publication's summer issue, hitting stands June 2008.