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I want to let you in on a little secret. I love Adina Howard’s music. To this day, my spirit quickens when I hear the instrumental for her song, “T-Shirt and Panties.” In a lot of ways, through her music, she’s said the types of things we wish we had the courage to say aloud. But when I spoke to Adina this afternoon, she explained why she’s really not about singing about that life anymore. I was a little disappointed but I also understand why she said it. And even though she might not want to only sing about the provocative stuff anymore, she still let me know she hasn’t lost her sensuality. In fact, she’s channeled it into her new career path, culinary arts. Throughout our conversation she took me through a brief life journey including how she came to be so sexually expressive, how she uses food as a means of seduction and why she decided to participate in TV One’s series “Life After.”

It takes a woman with gall to express her sexual bravado on a record for the whole world to hear. One could assume that someone turned Adina out or an older woman pulled her aside and gave her a speech on the wonders of womanhood. Ironically, a bout of racism in 8th grade, helped her to break out of her shell and more herself, unapologetically.

Adina’s mother moved the family from Michigan to Arizona. Everything was going along fine until one day, during her gym class, she glanced over at one of her white classmates who she thought resembled a character from the movie Top Gun. Though she never said anything to the boy and claims to only have looked at him for a second, he turned and spat in Adina’s hair.  And if that wasn’t enough, he included a racial slur to boot. When her mother went to administrators about the incident they told her “We can’t do anything about it. If it happens again, let us know.” Adina said the incident was life changing. Her mother let her leave the school and the state but eventually they came back to Arizona. But before they arrived, Adina told her: “If we go back to Arizona, be prepared for me to get kicked out of school.”

From that incident she learned that “your bark has to be loud.” And that carried over into her music. She said she wanted people to know “I’m here, what?!”

And despite the bad experience she had in Arizona and vowing never to return, that’s exactly where she ended up. Both her husband and her education happened to be there.

She decided to go to school to study culinary arts. It may seem like a stretch from singer to chef but Adina said the transition was natural for her. She wanted to pursue a skill that would allow her to live a life that would wasn’t so public. So she prayed about it. “Lord, you know who I am because you did this. You know I can’t just have any job. Find me a job where I will not be questioned.”

And food suits her well.

“To me, food is another form of entertainment and it’s also a form of seduction. I just want to be inside you.” Adina talked about the immediate gratification she gets from cooking for people. “You touch them in ways that music can’t touch them. You actually savor the food, it marinates on the inside. You stay with them for a while.”

Well, that certainly is sensual.

So in order to feed her passion she works as a line cook at a resort in Arizona where Adina says she’s grinding and paying her dues.

And though her manager makes an effort to tell new employees who she is, she says the experience has been liberating because she’s been embraced.

Embraced in a way that she didn’t always experience in the music industry: “The industry is full of wolves and snakes. Every kind of negative animal you can think of. It’s full of people who want more than they’ve worked for.”

Adina says that when she felt like she was showing up and doing what she was supposed to, the label didn’t reciprocate or hold up their end of the deal. Eventually she’d had enough of it. “I don’t care what type of reputation or fan base I’ve developed. Nobody wants to work for free.”

But all of that changed with a recent performance: “For the first time I enjoyed performing.” And when she came home and told her husband that, he encouraged her to get back in there and do one more project.

Today, Adina says it’s a completely different ball game.

“Now, because music is not my sole source of income, it’s now become a hobby.”

She notes that people don’t like to hear that but Adina has this for those who don’t understand: “Don’t be mad at me because this is not my grind. Am I hungry? Absolutely. But I can find other ways to eat. I don’t have to remain relevant. Ya’ll can keep all of this. This is for play-play.”

But just because this is a hobby, she still wants to get paid. So it only made sense that she participate in TV One’s new series “Life After” in attempts to promote her reemergence in music and her new single “Switch,” which you can purchase on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

The song is featured on her new project The Switch Up.  Adina says this album is based on who she is and not based on the label’s perception of what people what:

“Not to say that you they will not get a little morsel but I need to get out of this provocative box they’ve put me in. “Freak Like Me” should be able to tide you over.”

Even though it’s a change she’s been waiting 10 years to make, Adina is well aware that her core group of fans want what they’re used to. She says people approach her screaming that they want “Freak Like Me 2014” but to them she says: “Can I give you this first? Can I whet your palette with this first?”

You can see what Adina is up to those days on AdinaHoward.com and follow her on Twitter at @AdinaHoward. Her episode of “Life After” will air on TV One Wednesday, October 2 at 8 pm. 

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