When Zonnique arrived for her exclusive photo shoot with rolling out, the artist-reality star appeared to be at ease despite being in the throes of an extremely pivotal juncture in her life. Not only was she set to embark on a highly publicized solo musical career, but she was also girding her loins to step out into the world alone — free from the larger-than-life shadow cast by her parents (mother Tiny and stepfather T.I.).
Neither proposition would be an easy one — even under the best circumstances — but you would never know that by how she carried herself. Unfazed by the magnitude of this moment, Zonnique engaged in what was arguably her most open and unfiltered interview to date.
Your name has been popping up all over the place lately, especially as it relates to your new music. How was your recent listening session, and this entire process of releasing new music?
It was a really great experience. I was actually kind of nervous going into it. I didn’t know if everybody was going to mess with my music. I always want my music to be relatable for everybody, so I just wanted it to be perfect. Everyone that showed up took to it really well. My grandma even had her own favorite, and that’s kind of how I wanted it to be. The music is all really different, with every song having a different feel. So you have to go on a journey with me and my music.
As a solo artist, how has this journey compared to when you were in a girl group?
My musical journey so far has been lesson after lesson. Every step that I’ve taken in my career, from OMG Girlz on through, has all been leading up to what I’m doing now. I’m just really excited that now I’m filling into who I am now as a solo artist, and who I am overall. I think I’ve just been getting more into myself and really figuring out how I want to do things, and being able to have creative control over everything on my own. It’s been really fun figuring it all out. It’s also been stressful at times but it’s definitely coming together now.
Though you live a pretty public life, you also seem to be an extremely guarded person.
That’s so true. I would say that me as an artist is a lot like me as a person. I’m still really secretive, I’m really to myself, and really quiet. But I think that when I’m around my fans or when I Periscope and do little things where I can interact with them, I feel like I’m more open. When I’m on Periscope, I’m really myself and I don’t know how that happens. I’ll just start talking like I’m really talking to my fans when I’m really just looking at myself on a screen. But I think that’s when I’m most open when I get to actually interact. Other than that, I would just say I’m just all around a really chill person.
How do you deal with fame? How do you deal with people assuming that they know you just based on knowing your face or thinking that they know your story or your history?
Well, I think I’m a weird person because I’m extremely nice but I also have this attitude sometimes. I definitely have the ability to clap back at someone, but I’m really good at holding it in. I think my mom gets caught up in it more than me, and I try to tell her just don’t comment, but she always has to do it. When we’re out in public, I have this thing where if somebody asks me to take a picture, I’m like cool, we can take a picture, but when it’s my mom, I feel like I’m overprotective. She has to take way more pictures than I do, so when we’re just shopping and people ask her to take a picture, I start catching this little attitude. I don’t know. I just take it one step at a time, honestly. I’m back and forth, but mostly I can just deal with not saying anything and going about my day.
We’ve been talking about your music, but you are also branching out into television by yourself. Talk about that.
Well, I just shot for the show “Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta.” It was different from “The Family Hustle.” “The Family Hustle,” first off, is more about my parents, and my little brothers pretty much take over the whole show. I used to be like, “I have to do something today. Can I just be on the next scene, or can y’all use all the other kids?” But now, it’s all about me and it really showcases me growing up in hip-hop, pretty much just figuring my whole career thing out. I think the show also helped me realize a lot of things that I didn’t think about so much, or stress about when I really needed to. I’m a procrastinator, and I think this show showcases that. It helped me to get better with things and get more on top of things. I think when I have to do reality shows, I always want something to be going on so I’m like, “OK let me get this together, so I can showcase it on the show.” So, it was definitely different. That’s how I would sum it up. But you just have to watch it and stay tuned because there’s some drama as well.
Is there a side of you that regrets having such a public life?
I don’t think that there has been a time where I really regret the life and the fame in my life. It’s also brought perks, as well, which is why I never regret it. And I’ve never been extremely private to the point where I just want it all to go away. I’m just cool with being private and not caring about people wanting updates all the time, I guess. My fans kill me about Instagram like I don’t update it enough. And my mom and my team all say the same thing. It’s a little weird, but I don’t regret it.
You have a birthday coming up, right?
I do. I’m going to be 21.
How are you feeling about that?
I’m feeling really excited about it. I do kind of feel like I’m going to be grown. Usually, people think they’re grown at 18 but I feel like I’m really trying to be grown now. I’m really not, though, because I still can’t get a rental car. But I do feel like I’ve been going through a lot of stuff with the police up until this point. So now I’m glad that I’m turning this age. I feel like it’s a brand-new start for me. It’s a clean slate, and I’m good from there.
I remember seeing your mugshot after your arrest at the airport. Did you ever imagine that you would be on TMZ or in the blogs for that type of story?
You know, I didn’t. When it happened, I was texting my friend before they locked me up, and I told her that I was about to go to jail. And she was like, “Well, you have to be cute for your mug shot.” I totally forgot about that, and at this point, I’m looking crazy since I’m in the airport. My hair was really wild, so I tried to put it up in a ponytail before they put my handcuffs on. My friend told me that since I was going to Clayton County, I’d be fine because they don’t do public records. So in my mind, I’m like OK cool, nobody will find out about this. I asked them if it will be public, and they said no. The very next day my pops called me like,”You know you’re on TMZ, right?” And it just started from there.
Somebody was clearly trying to come up by selling your story.
Someone was like, “TMZ, we got one.” I really didn’t think that was what was going to happen.
But that’s the way life is now. Everybody is trying to catch you slipping, so you have to be on your guard more.
You always have to be on your P’s and Q’s. Especially with The Shade Room. I feel like everybody is trying to be on The Shade Room. That’s how I look at it.
Do you look at those blogs and take notes on how other people slip up?
I do that a lot. I think that that’s how I tried to warn my mom because she does a lot of stuff that I already see people get caught for on The Shade Room. I feel like The Shade Room is the news for Instagram. She doesn’t care. I try to help her. I can definitely learn from other people that I see slip up since I’ve been in that position more than once. I’ve been on The Shade Room a couple of times.
Now that you are an adult developing your own name within the industry, how do you separate yourself from your family name and truly be Zonnique?
Even now, I’m still not separated from them, so I couldn’t exactly say how I do it. I feel like that’s what I’ve been trying to do for so long. I think that in time, there will be more of a separation. But I also feel like with me just starting off, it’s a little hard to separate between the two. “The Family Hustle” is supposed to be getting a new season, and I don’t really expect people to separate me from that right now. But I do expect it to happen when I make a full name for myself. Then I’ll be like looking for people to say, “That’s Zonnique,” instead of “That’s T.I.’s daughter or Nique-Nique.” It takes time, though.