The Purple Paisley Brunch™ is back with a twist. Instead of having an in person experience they have decided to go virtual. soulhead Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Ron Worthy sat down with the creator/Executive Producer Tonya Giddens about this change, if this will be the “new normal,” and plans for The PPB 2021.
Ron Worthy: Tonya, this is the 3rd year for the brunch and you decided to take it virtual. Why?
Tonya Giddens: Quite simply… COVID-19. 2020 has been a truly unusual year so far… so many losses, tragedies and events that we couldn’t possibly make up. Our original plan was to be in Los Angeles but, of course, that didn’t pan out so I figured why not do a Summer series for the Brunch? It was a risky gamble but we did it… and it worked.
RW: How did you come up with the premise for the virtual brunch event?
TG: My vision for this actually stemmed from my brain never shutting off. My objective was to keep the name of The Purple Paisley Brunch™ out there even though our event is known for people getting together to enjoy music and food. My thought was of the notion that the women of the “Minneapolis Sound” (MPLS sound) never got acknowledged for their contributions to the fabric and culture. Hence, the first of the Summer series was titled “Something in the Water: The Ladies of the Park”.
RW: Ah yes… Jill Jones (one of my all time favorite artists), Sue Ann Carwell and Ashley Tamar Davis. How did you select those three to participate?
TG: In my opinion, these women are never fully acknowledged in the annals of The MPLS Sound. Sue Ann was the first artist to get a record deal out of MPLS. Jill, who I call “The Queen of Paisley Park” sang on a lot of the early tracks and demos and never gets the respect due for what she’s contributed (to the sound). Ashley’s (formerly Tamar) time was brief and is the only one nominated for a Grammy Award (3121’s “Beautiful, Loved, Blessed”) and the first of his proteges to perform on Broadway. For me, this was my way of paying homage to them and saying “Thank You” for being trailblazers in their own right. The response from the first event was so great they agreed to do a Part 2, which we did this past August.
RW: There are so many Prince related events happening. Where does The Purple Paisley Brunch fit in?
TG: There is plenty of room for everyone to do a purple related event until the end of time. However, what I am most proud of with this event is that I’ve created a “safe space” for my guests to be themselves with no judgment from anyone. They can be their true authentic self because they’re telling THEIR story as they knew it. For me, the panelists are showing those who attend the event that, at the end of the day, Dr. Prince Rogers Nelson (I gotta put Respeck on his name! LOL) was a human being like the rest of us. In some aspects, the ladies have humanized him and the positive responses from the guests prove that we’ve created our own lane. What makes it more special is that musicians from The MPLS Sound such as André Cymone, Jellybean Johnson and T.C. Ellis along with Jerome Benton (PPB host) show their support by joining the conversation.
RW: What have been the advantages/disadvantages of the brunch going virtual?
TG: Of course, the main disadvantage has been that we’re unable to come together to fellowship, and supporters have asked if I feel that The Purple Paisley Brunch™ will be sustainable with this “new normal’ we’re experiencing. My plan all along was to expand The Purple Paisley Brunch™ to become a brand, to include different events that include musical performances as well as events with various musicians, not necessarily part of The MPLS Sound. With us becoming an LLC we have the capability to do that, and I’m very excited about it.
RW: The final event in the series on Saturday September 19 features The PPB host Jerome Benton, Wally Safford and Greg Brooks (The Brothas). How did you get all three of them together?
TG: You know the phrase, “closed mouths don’t get fed”? Well, I spoke up and it was actually easier than I expected! LOL! I’m fortunate to have cultivated relationships with all of them and they trust me to, again, create a “safe space” for them to talk about their lives, their friendship and touring with Prince. This will be the first time, in almost 30 years, that they have actually spoken in public together and, yes, Sue Ann, Jill Jones and André Cymone will be on hand as well as some surprise guests. I always try to throw a curveball in there!
RW: Final question: Will the PPB go back to being an in person event?
TG: Absolutely! We are actually in talks to produce the brunch in Los Angeles. next year and, hopefully, things will have a sense of normalcy, where we will be able to move a little freely. 2020 has been a challenging year in so many ways, but all we have to do is stay the course and keep moving forward… WHILE WEARING A MASK!
Please check out our Paisley Diaries™ series for more information on many of Paisley Park’s notable artists.
Ron Worthy is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of soulhead.com. A passionate audiophile who has been a DJ for over 25 years, Ron studied classical music and plays 4 instruments. He loves discussing all things Prince, Hip-Hop, and Funk. When he is able, he shoots a mean game of pool, digs comedy, loves eating fried fish sandwiches, making crab cakes and drinking micro-brews from all over the World. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter and cat. Check out some of his work for soulhead.