We’ve been around awhile now, and we know a lot of our readers might not have had the opportunity to experience our earlier issues. So we wanted to give you the chance to discover one of our favorite stories from our archive every Friday. Some of them feature actors, musicians, or artists who eventually made it big, talents we are proud to have tapped early in their careers. Some have brilliant writing, and some have beautiful photography. Some have both. But all of them are so great we thought they deserved a second chance. This week we present Natalie Joos’s Fall 2009 profile of singer and Jessica 6 frontwoman Nomi Ruiz.
THE BEAUTIFUL SINGER STOLE HEARTS AS THE FRONTWOMAN OF HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR. NOW NOMI RUIZ CARRIES ON THE ’90S DANCE REVIVAL WITH NEW ACT JESSICA 6. SHE DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR BOYFRIENDS BUT SHE’LL MAKE TIME FOR DITA VON TEESE.
“I like the view in this place,” whispers Nomi Ruiz, playfully looking behind my shoulder into the restaurant. She is not referring to some idyllic landscape or a mesmerizing skyline. No, we are in Williamsburg, but the host just seated two hot boys behind us. Unfortunately, Ruiz has no time for boyfriends. She is “really selfish” these days, concentrating on her career and touring the world promoting her new band Jessica 6. “It’s hard to find a guy who is okay with letting you step into the spotlight. Ego gets in the way a lot.”
Since releasing her first solo record in 2004, Ruiz has gotten relentless attention, and not just because of her entrancing voice, feminine curves, and hypnotizing stage presence, but inevitably because she is an unusual kind of woman, leaving her audience intrigued and sometimes even a little bit confused. Though she prefers not to discuss gender, Ruiz admits that her life is in her writing. “It tells that story. If people are really listening to what I am writing, they will understand what it’s like. They can get
their information that way.” Ruiz doesn’t need theatrics. She has an aura of bashful and comforting grace, which she applies in delicate doses to define and polish her entertainer persona. “I respect all the girls who want to play that role, but I don’t want to be a political activist. I don’t want to fight.”
Clearly Ruiz wants to be recognized for her talent, and nothing else. Her career build-up has been steady. Born and raised in Sunset Park, New York, as the younger of two siblings, Ruiz has been singing and performing as long as she can remember. “My mom used to listen to Willie Nelson and Lionel Ritchie,” she laughs disapprovingly. When she was old enough to buy her own records she got into pop, listening to Janet Jackson, Samantha Fox, and Tiffany while dancing and singing in front of the mirror. Encouraged by her mother, she recorded her first song in the Bronx at the age of 12. Later she joined a London band after winning an audition. When she returned, she started writing, launched her own record label, Deep Red Records, and released her first album. When she joined Hercules and Love Affair in early 2008, she finally took the international stage.
The sound of Jessica 6 has been described as a mix between Vanity 6 and Inner City or, as one European fan claimed, “Sade meets Flashdance.” The eponymous Vanity (who became a born-again Christian, by the way) is still one of her biggest style icons, but ultimately Ruiz would like to find a way to work with Dita Von Teese. “I read somewhere that she would love to design a burlesque show for another girl,” she explains. “If I could do a concert and have her design the live show and the costumes, that would be so amazing!” She goes on to describe how she would take the stage, surrounded by male dancers, perhaps frolicking around in an oversized cocktail glass and removing her clothing, piece by piece, in true burlesque style. But how, she wonders, will she ever get in touch with Dita? We’re sure that could be arranged.
Styling by Natasha Royt at Art + Commerce. Makeup by Tyron Machhausen at Art Department. Hair by Keith Carpenter at The Wall Group. Manicure by Alicia Torello at De Facto. Photographer’s assistant: Dima Hohlovs. Digital technician: Matt Coats at Dtouch. Stylist’s assistant: Amber Votel.