I. House of Petunia
Teyana Taylor was already on stage when I arrived at West End Production Park, in Atlanta, Georgia, where Red Bull was hosting the multifaceted singer’s headlining event, House of Petunia, at their first-ever Atlanta Music Festival. Taylor was in a bright yellow bodysuit surrounded by phosphorescent dancers, all in motion. They were mesmerizing, like something you would see in a Missy Elliott-produced Broadway musical.
Taylor first debuted her House of Petunia live show at Red Bull’s 2019 New York Music Festival back in May to rave reviews. “‘House of Petunia’ featured costume changes, various dance routines, numerous dancers, plus some partial nudity,” wrote Edwina Hay in a recap analysis for Music Exclusive. Hay is right, more than a performance, House of Petunia is a full-length production—produced by Taylor’s all-woman production company, The Aunties. The event is more Super Bowl Halftime show than R&B concert.
The audiovisual spectacle concluded after a breathtaking 1 hour and 30-minutes of nonstop choreography and arresting theatrics. As the crowd lingered, I was escorted backstage with three other music journalists—Caitlin White of Uproxx, Wongo of 2DopeBoyz, and Drew Ross of Office Mag—for what was supposed to be 10-minute solo interviews with the honorary songstress. Instead, the organizers had us conduct the interview as a group.
Together, Red Bull’s team walked us into an unfurnished room about the size of a modest basement and hot as summer in Savannah. Taylor was seated in the room’s only chair, not a sign of exhaustion or fatigue on her face. “Did you guys enjoy the show?” she asked, beaming with enthusiasm. We all reacted with praise, equally impressed by what we saw. After a brief introduction, we asked our questions, one at a time, across three rounds.
For my first question, I asked: When did you realize you were a performer?
“Probably like...” Taylor starts, the gears turning. “I had to be about five or six when I would dress up in my mom’s clothes. She had all this, um, what’s that shiny material? Not latex, but…” she wonders. A voice behind us responds, “Patent leather?” Taylor’s face lights up, and with a chuckle, she continues:
“Yes! Patent leather. I wore patent leather boots tonight. It’s crazy; My mom had similar boots like that when I was younger. While my cousin would sing Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ I’d be the girl in the video, walking in my mom’s boots, back-and-forth around the house like Tatiana Thumbtzen.
“Soon as they would say: ‘Alright, action! Teyana get up, give us a show,’ I got up, and I did it,” she continues. “I’ve always been that way. I’ve always been a character, always loved broadway plays, always loved movies with high-energy. Performing is what I enjoy. I love putting on a real show and leaving my heart on the stage, even if it comes out of my pocket.”
II. Junie’s World
As the second round of questions begins, Taylor’s daughter, Junie, joins us. With an iPad in hand, she climbed into her mother’s lap, paying us, the journalists, no mind. She’s wide-awake now, unlike during the show when she came on stage for the performance of “Never Would Have Made It.” The album version is beautiful, but hearing the record performed live puts the penultimate track on her sophomore album, K.T.S.E., in a separate class of beauty. As the vocalist and the audience sang every note with affection, Junie slept. Some laughed, others wept, everyone felt something.
For my second question, I asked: As an always-evolving artist, how did you find comfort in presenting all these different sides of yourself to your audience?
“It’s my audience that brings me comfort,” she responds, instantly. “I’m very, very hands-on and involved with my fans and everyone who supports me. I read DMs and GoFundMes from a lot of people going through different things. It’s so much happening behind the scenes. I don’t go looking for a gold star, but I’m watching and seeing things that inspire me to keep going.”
Mid-sentence, a cartoonish sound interrupts Taylor. Unbothered, her attention shifts to Junie, nicely asking her to turn down the volume on her iPad. With a voice sweet enough to calm a raging grizzly bear, Junie whispers, “Jojo.” A brief interlude ensues as Taylor assists with the request. “Her and this damn Jojo Siwa,” she remarks with a laugh as her daughter walks away content. “What was I saying? Oh yeah, finding comfort in my audience. I let them know I been through it. They know they’re not alone and they can find comfort in knowing it’s not just me.”
III. Every Woman
I thought of Janet Jackson while Taylor performed. Not just Janet, but Ciara, Beyoncé, and every R&B starlet who performs with Olympian athleticism and faint-inducing sensuality. Taylor possesses a visionary mentality like Missy Elliott, pushing stage design and worldbuilding forward. The House of Petunia wasn’t just a performance, it was a play, and the three acts showed an R&B star on the verge of superstardom.
Teyana Taylor is the kind of R&B star who will dance in Timberlands, stomping with the power of a thousand elephants, and then, after an outfit change, cause a woman to squirm in a chair on the verge of melting because of her touch. No one is quite like Teyana Taylor. She is a woman of many dimensions—and to close out Red Bull’s Atlanta Music Festival, Taylor showed them all.
For my third and final question, I asked: You’re an R&B star, mother, wife, director, and more. How do you do it all?
“That’s a question that I’ve never been able to answer,” she says sincerely. “That’s why women are super. We have superpowers because we make it happen without even knowing we making it happen. I really can’t answer that question; it’s not like an off-and-on switch. This is 24/7. Putting work in, being a mom, being a wife, being an amazing friend, being a niece, an auntie, a daughter, a granddaughter, that’s just what it is. Being able to give life, that’s a different type of energy. We don’t know what that is; we don’t know what to call that. That’s just that magic.”
By Yoh, aka House of Yoh, aka @Yoh31