Being the daughter of a music legend is a mixed blessing, Rhonda Ross says. But not as mixed as you might think.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” she said. “But mostly a blessing. I don’t know the percentage, maybe 99 percent, but definitely mostly a blessing.”
Her mother is Diana Ross, one of the most popular recording artists of all time and still a major concert draw. She’ll be performing at Van Wezel Performing in Sarasota on Friday. Her daughter, Rhonda, will be opening the show.
It’s kind of dream come true for Rhonda Ross, for a couple of reasons.
“She’s been a legend as long as I’ve been alive,” she said. “Now she’s 72 years old and people still love her. And I get to go on tour with her. It’s fantastic.”
Besides the familial ties, opening for Diana Ross opens new performing opportunities for Rhonda Ross.
“I usually perform for 100 or 200 hundred people in jazz clubs, in Europe and here, in the United States,” she said. “Now I’m performing for 2,000 people.”
It doesn’t make much of a difference in her performance she said. For her, a 2,000-seat theater can be as intimate as club. It’s all about the relationship between the singer and performer.
If there’s been a drawback to having famous mom, she said, it’s that through her career a lot of people have wanted her to be a Diana Ross clone, to do the kind of polished pop that she’s done since her days with the Supremes. But that’s just not what Rhonda Ross’ music is about. She’s more of a jazz artist, with a pop groove to her interpretations.
Rhonda Ross’ father is also a show business legend, Motown founder Barry Gordy. But she was raised by Ross and her husband and didn’t known Gordy was her biological father until her teen years
Even if you haven’t heard her music, you may know Rhonda Ross’ work. She portrayed Toni Burrell on “Another World” for a couple of years, and was nominated for a daytime Tony Award for her work. She also appeared in the 1998 NBC mini-series “The Temptations.”
She’s had some other business ventures over the years, too, including a real estate brokerage that she founded in New York City.
Her recording career got started in 2004 with the release of “Rhonda Ross Live Featuring Rodney Kendrick.” Kendrick is renowned jazz musician in his own right, who has been compared to Thelonius Monk, and he’s married to Rhonda Ross.
Her most important gig these days, she said, is taking care of their 8-year-old son.
“He speaks four languages fluently,” she said. “We home school him.”
Managing both a show business career and motherhood can no doubt be a challenge: “My life is no different than any other working mother’s,” she said. But it’s a skill she learned at least in part from her famous mother.
“She was very involved in our lives, a very hands-on mother,” Rhonda said. “She also kept her career and her family separate.”