Meet Englewood’s LeA Robinson, ‘Pose’ actress, and the ‘granddaughter of hip-hop’

24 mins read
Singer and actress LeA Robinson takes a selfie during her interview with Black In Jersey's Tennyson Donyea (Tennyson Donyea/Black In Jersey)

Jersey artist LeA Robinson is a multi-faceted entertainer whose TV credits include a guest role on FX’s Emmy-winning series “Pose.” 

The Englewood singer has amassed millions of plays on streaming platforms like Spotify, and she comes from hip-hop royalty. 

Her late grandmother, Slyvia Robinson, helped pioneer the first hip-hop record label Sugar Hill Records in the 1970s, garnering her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022

We caught up with LeA Robinson a few days before she flew to L.A. to induct her legendary grandmother into the prestigious hall. 

Your Instagram bio says you’re “half righteous, half ratchet. I have to ask you about that. What does that mean to you?

I love speaking life into people. I love that about me because it’s genuine. It’s not fake. It’s not forced. I love making people feel really, really good. And that is the righteous side of me. But there is a whole other side that’s like, I’m not one of those girls. So don’t play with me. Like, don’t, because I’m really, really big on respect. I treat people extremely well. I don’t care if you are a homeless person out on the street or you’re Barack Obama, I’m treating you with respect. So when I feel like people are trying to be disrespectful, you ain’t seen disrespect til you got it from me. And it’s like, did she just violate me just now in the nicest way type of thing? So I’m definitely both, and I’m a Gemini.

What made you want to become an entertainer?

Music has been in my family, in my blood forever since I got here. My grandma started the first hip-hop label ever. I’ve been on tours since I was a young child. So music has just been inside of me since birth. So the fact that I am still making music and really just loving it and enjoying myself, I’m happy about the journey that I’m on. And I love music, and I wouldn’t be doing anything else.

Was there a moment when you realized you really wanted to do this?

The moment I realized that I really wanted to do music and be on tour and perform was when my family was actually on tour with NYSNC. And I remember, like, I didn’t even know really who my family was at the time. I was like, oh, Sugar Hill Gang, whatever, y’all cool, but whatever I’ll see y’all at the house. But I loved NSYNC so much, and I went to see them. And they did this thing where they like flew over the audience, and they had on the strings, and it was during, I think, the No Strings Attached tour. And when I saw that, it felt like magic to me watching that. And I was like, oh, I want to do that right there. I’m like, I want to do that. And I want to make people feel like how they made me feel while I was watching them.

You’re the granddaughter of hip-hop. But you make R&B music. What made you want to go to R&B route?

I just love R&B music so much, and that really was what pushed me to go that route. I also tap into Afrobeat as well because I love me some Afrobeat music there’s nothing like that. I feel like a lot of the times with R&B, people get so trapped in it having to feel like heartbreak. It has to feel sad. And I’m like, I don’t want to feel like that all the time. Like I want to put on some dance music and listen to some Afrobeat and dance and feel good no matter what I’m going through. So I kind of go back and forth between the two.

So speaking of dance music, you’re from Jersey. What’s your thoughts on Jersey Club? 

I love Jersey club music. I feel like there are so many artists tapping into it even more. I heard the new Lil Uzi song that he just put out, and I was like, okay, Jersey club reference. It’s so dope. 

Growing up, did you go to basement parties where they played Jersey Club?

What? I loved me some basement parties. It was hot, it was steamy, it was sweaty in there, and nobody cared how they looked during that time. Now I feel like everybody is so put together they care so much. Nine times out of 10 when you go out, people don’t even dance anymore. Like they don’t do that. Like they just don’t want to do it. So the fact that I did experience a couple of them basement parties that I lied to my parents about going to. It’s a good time. Great time.

Tell me a little bit about your latest single, “I Don’t Mind.” What was the inspiration?

The inspiration behind my newest single was I literally went to the studio with my producer and writer, Kofi Black. And I was just like, I want people to feel good, Kofi. I don’t want to do no heartbreak anything. I’m tired of it. Like I was so out of that, that I just did not want to go back into feeling like okay, we got to put the tears inside, it is something like I didn’t want to feel that I was so over it. So I genuinely was like, let’s do some chords that just make people feel like they want to dance make those drums so impactful that when you first hear it, you have no choice but to be like, Oh, I was this like you’re not going to sit down and listen into my song. So yeah, that was the inspiration behind it. And I love Afrobeat so much.

How’d you end up auditioning for “Pose?”  

Me auditioning for pose was straight God and manifestations. I saw this video that Steve Harvey had put up and he was like, write out a list of 300 things that you want God to do for you. And I got to 150 or 175. And as things started happening, I just started checking them off and adding more stuff to it. So with “Pose,” I was like, God, please put me on one of my favorite TV shows or something greater. I kept reading this list every single day when I woke up and when I went to sleep. Two weeks later, I got the audition. My acting manager was like, hey, we got an audition that came in. I didn’t even know it was for “Pose” At first, I was just like, alright, cool. I was doing so many auditions that I was like, alright, I don’t care what it’s for. Let’s just get it done. Then I saw it had Ryan Murphy’s name on it. Ryan Murphy is one of my favorite writers, people ever because he produces another one of my favorite shows “American Horror Story.” So I was like, Oh, wait, this is for “Pose.” So I had my audition. And I just felt it in my soul. I was just like, this part is for me. They’re not giving this to anybody else. Even when I did my audition, it was live on Zoom. And the way that the girl’s face lit up when I was doing my part, it was just like, nah, this is for me. So my acting manager hit me again that day after my audition and was like, if you send us a clip of you dancing and voguing I feel like you’re gonna book this part today. Keep in mind, I had never vogued a day in my life. I just really believe in, you just stay ready. So you don’t gotta get ready. And I’ve been a dancer my whole life too. So I sent that video clip in, and they booked me the next day. Wow. So that was lit. And that’s not even the biggest piece of it. Me and manifestations are everything. And God really loves me. Like, that’s my homie. So when I was on set, I was like, God, this is such an amazing opportunity. Thank you so much for it. But I’m gonna add a little razzle-dazzle in there. I was like, Can you please make me become Emmy nominated or something like that has to do with me something greater than I even could think of? You know, my episode and my episode only was the one that was nominated for an Emmy. I said, God, you love me for real. 

You talk a lot about your spirituality. What advice do you have for people who look up to you?

I walk with God, like he is my man. Like, I don’t play about him, and he don’t play about me. And I don’t do anything without him. So like, and honestly, I talk to God, like, how we’re talking right now. I’d be like, God, it’s your girl. It’s me again. I know, I asked you for that. But I don’t think you heard me. So I’m gonna ask you one more time. Like I just say, if you are trying to figure out a way to get closer to him just talk, just talk, he listens. There’s some things that I prayed about, internally that I said nothing to nobody. And things have happened for me like that. So I’m like, I know how powerful and how strong my God is and how great my relationship with him is. And like, yeah, I just like to really, really live the right way. I feel like that’s so important. Because karma be spinning the block. And when it’s spinning the block, you wanted it to spin the block in a nice way, not on some craziness.

So let’s talk about your grandmother, the late Slyvia Robinson. She’s known as hip-hop’s first lady after starting the first hip-hop record label. And soon, you’ll induct her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What were your conversations like with her about the industry?

The crazy part is when my grandma was here, we didn’t even have those types of conversations. I didn’t know who my grandma was really until I got older. And I mean, like 16 older, because it was so normal for me to just be with musical people and the things that we were doing. So she treated me like her granddaughter and I treat her like my grandma. That was just amazing. She would cook all the time she made Christmas so special and so big. So we genuinely had family time. It wasn’t like industry-related. It was just like, you’re my granddaughter, and you my grandma, and we rock with each other. Like, that’s my girl. The crazy part about it is I feel like her not being here, I don’t know, this may sound a little weird, I feel closer to her now than I ever felt to her. My grandma had a certain scent to her. And like, I know this can sound really crazy to certain people. But I feel like my grandma comes to visit me in the strangest ways. Like, I’ll smell her scent and be like, oh, I’m doing the right thing. Or oh, LeA, tighten up. I think one of the biggest things that I learned from my grandma is to be multifaceted. And to also be a good person. You can be kind, but not everybody also deserves that piece of you. And I’ve seen that with my grandma. Like she was sweet as can be. She was also a Gemini. It was also like, don’t play with me. I’m gonna respect you. Respect me too. And when it came to business, she did not play nor did my grandfather.

 Why does your grandmother deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

Why doesn’t she deserve to be in a hall of fame? What, my grandma was lit. She was, number one, a Black woman that achieved so much at a time that was like how did you even do this? I’d see clips of my grandparents, when she would tour, she was touring during a time when they still had Black-only, white-only sign. The fact that she was still in those white clubs doing what she was doing, built this house in a community where she was the only Black person in the community, not even wanted, but they had to respect her because of everything that she brought. And it was like they were a fan of her. But they were also like, you’re a Black woman, like how dare you? So it was a weird thing. But it’s just like the adversities that she had to face and go through and still be who she was, and still have a lasting legacy right now is like, she deserves this so much. And I’m just happy to be accepting her award. 

You’re passionately vegan?

I love being vegan. I have been vegan for quite some time. I haven’t had chicken or red meat in 11 years and I’m very proud of that. So, I became vegan because I was so tired of getting food poisoning. The only time I would ever get food poisoning was from meat or something that just was not cooked properly. And then I ended up doing a Daniel fast with my mom for 41 days. And on that 42nd day, I tried it and I thought that I could eat some like chicken or something that was not supposed to be in my system and I got very, very sick and I was like, You know what? I like feeling as clean as I do. I like my energy levels being like how they are. I like my skin being flawless. I like feeling the way that I feel. So I became vegan and I started doing a lot of herbs and studying a lot about Dr. Sebi. And I actually met with his daughter I spoke to her and learned so much about the body and being vegan. I encourage everybody to do it. Even if you can’t do it as a lifestyle, try it for a week and just see how clean your body feels.

What is “People Blockers?”

I started the brand because I’m all about just protecting your peace and blocking away anything that does not serve you or does anything that’s just not good for you. I’ve been this way for years. So it started off with just sunglasses. And then my business mind kicked in. I was like people don’t wear sunglasses all year long like that. So I was like, alright, what does everybody wear that I also love to wear? And I’m like socks, I love socks, and so do so many people and you can wear socks at any point of the year, when I tell you socks changed my life. It was amazing. And like, my socks are different. They are so plush. I pray over every single item that goes out. And then after the socks came out and I got those into two stores, I ended up doing sweat suits. My sweat suits started taking off and I’m like, Oh my God, God, I see what we do here. And even the sweat suits, I spray like a signature scent on. So anytime that anybody opens up the packaging or the boxing and literally feels like a Christmas gift and it smells amazing. And they feel amazing. Like I have so many messages that people like, I don’t know what you did here, but when I put on this sweat tsuit, I just feel good. And that’s exactly what I want people to feel.

What is your “People Blockers” team like? Is it just you in the living room boxing up socks?

Yes! It is literally just me right now boxing up everything. And y’all can go to my Tik Tok and see it because every single order that I get, especially from Tik Tok, I’ll do a “pack orders with me video.” And they love to see it. They love it. Because it really is just me. I’m taking the lint roller and getting all the lint and all this stuff off of it. I’m spraying everything. I’m packaging it up. I’m printing out your order form and sending everything to you. And I show everybody the entire process. So give me a little bit more time we’re gonna have a full staff. 

What does it mean to be an artist from Jersey?

Being an artist from Jersey is lit. I just like going other places and people being like, where are you from? I wear Jersey on my back no matter where I am. So I just love where I’m from. And we got some legends from Jersey. Okay, we got Whitney Houston. LeA Robinson. We got Queen Latifah. We got a lot of Jersey-elite people, I think SZA was from Jersey, Michael B. Jordan. I’m like we lit out here, lowkey!

So what can we expect next, musically?

The unexpected. I feel like I like giving people something that they didn’t even see coming and with my latest single, “I Don’t Mind” I feel like nobody knew that that was in me, like they were like, wait, what? Where are you from? Like it sparked a whole different type of conversation within me and my music. So expect the unexpected, but it’s always going to be really, really good and great quality music.