Had she continued the path she was on in high school, Fantasia Barrino might have been just another dropout and teen mother. But she was blessed with a talent, which she continued to hone until the opportunity to display it came along. Now, at 25, she is an “American Idol” champion, a successful recording artist, a Broadway star, a budding real estate magnate—and a student again.

Fantasia told her story to about 20 kids at the Bedford Hope Center in the Hill District Oct. 22 before touring the center’s newly installed digital audio/visual recording studio.

STRAIGHT TALK—Helping with the city housing authority’s Clean Slate program, “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino tells kids from public housing communities to work for their dreams and stay in school so they don’t make the mistakes she made.

“I’ve been singing since I was 5, a preacher’s kid from a small town in North Carolina,” she said. “But no one’s coming there to scout talent. I started down the wrong road, and I knew better. Then I got to audition for ‘American Idol,’ and I won. Now my music’s doing great and I’m back in school.”

Fantasia came to the center as part of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh’s 12th annual Clean Slate program, designed to steer youths in the city’s public housing communities away from crime and drugs and toward positive activities.

The opening of the new audio/visual studio, where public housing residents can learn the technical side of recording and producing digital video and music, is part of the ongoing Clean Slate effort and complements the audio studio previously installed in Northview Heights.


Fantasia was impressed with the layout and told the kids so.

“You have people here that are working to save lives,” she said. “I’ve seen kids your age, friends of mine, lose their lives. I wanted to sing, so I took control of that. If you want to play football, get the grades—the scouts and coaches aren’t coming for the class clown. You want to make your mark—you don’t want to be hanging on the corner with the same guys 20 years from now.”

Fantasia said she tells her story whenever she is asked because, though she has overcome making some bad choices, it’s better to make good choices in the first place.

“I know what I’m doing is going to help somebody,” she told them. “Listen to the people who’ve been through it. Take it—and run with it.”

After meeting with the youths, she returned to the studio for an exclusive interview with residents Chase Felton and Kenny Jackson who have already completed the audio/visual program. At one point, Jackson said he’d like to show her some of his work and asked what she looks for when trying to decide on collaborating with young artists.

“I’d have to say I look for people who really want it,” she said. “There are a lot of talented people out there, but they don’t all have that drive—you have to be hungry.”

Authority spokesperson Michelle Jackson Washington said the interview and discussion with the kids would be incorporated into a larger video encompassing other Clean Slate activities sponsored by Honeywell International at the Carnegie Science Center related to retrofitting HACP facilities with geothermal technology.

“Once we put the whole thing together, it will air on PCTV,” said Washington. “It will also be shown in Pittsburgh Public Schools.”

(Send comments to cmorrow @newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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