july 9, 1999 sister 2 sister magazine interviewed by niki turner
The "Different World" Moon Child who Grew up on
When most people think of Cree Summer I'm sure their minds
take them to her crazy character, Freddie from "A
World." But Cree is so much deeper than that.
She's not only a
a singer and songwriter as well. She released her debut album earlier
year titled Street Faerie which was produced by Lenny Kravitz. The
includes a song called
"Miss Moon" that was inspired by her long-time
Once Cree started
talking during our interview I knew that htis
be one of my most interesting interviews ever. She's had
that are probably very different from your own, but there are
stories that every
woman can relate to. Stories of first loves, best
friends, and a will to suceed. Personally, I related to
levels. First of all, she's interracial, like myself, with a white
and a black
mother; and also like myself, she's determined to do what
her happy in life.
I gotta admit that there were a few things that I couldn't
to like growing up on an Indian reservation and
her image of God
brown goddess with long hair and elfin ears! But that's Cree. The
love and her own spirituality and she definitely is true to
Check out what she had to say and prepare
to be intrigued.
niki:how are you?
cree: i'm lovely today.
niki: now where have you bee, cree? what
have you been doing for the
cree: what have i been doing for the past few years? i've been
writing music, singing.
niki: you had a very interesting childhood.
cree: yes, this is so true.
what was it like living on an indian reservation?
cree: it was quite magic. but that's also tempered with the
looking back on something. i guess what it was like was like i
school, i was surrounded
by incredible ceremonies. i used to dance
powwow, sing medicine songs, do sweat lodge, i grew up in
that my dad built with his own hands.
niki: how was that?
cree: it was a lovely
place. it was a beautiful home, i mean, there's
in it, too. he used to have to chase the pigs away
because they would
eat the house.
niki:really? how big was the house?
cree: one room. we
slept in a loft.
niki: it was just you, your mom and your dad? or do you have brothers
i have a brother, but he came ten years later when we moved to
city. it was lovely, what can i say? it was
a conscious childhood i
ther was no television. i didn't see tv until i was eight. i
day that my dad brought home a record player. that was an incredible
niki: and that happened
after you all moved all of the reservation?
cree: no, that happened on the res.
niki: now when you lived in the
mud house, did you have electricity?
cree; no, this was a little town that was close the reservation. it
really ramshackle [place]. we were only ther for about six months.
bedroom was a closet,
but i had a really, really beautiful blanket
from the top of it, so it looked like a room. my parents
informed me that the closet wasn't relly deep enough for me, so you
juse see these
legs hanging out of this closet when i was sleeping!
me, that was my space, man. that was
niki: you also lived in a school bus?
cree: yeah, we traveled in a school bus for a long time. it
mobile homw, if you will. [laughging]
niki: and where were you all traveling to?
cree: we were
traveling to canada. we were spending time in british
columbia. we's pitch a teepee and sleep in there sometimes.
commune called music church for a while. there were families living
you ever enter a public school system?
cree: yes, i finally entered a public school system at the age of like
or 10, i'm not exactly sure.
niki:and what was that like? that had to be culture shock for you?
was really no fun. i didn't enjoy it. that was tough for
because when we moved tothe cityk, we stayed
with some friends of the
who were very, very kind to us and they let us live in their
it was a very affluent neighborhood. so it was pretty obvious that we
lie in the big house that we
were in. we lived in the basement fo the
house, which was really one room connected to a suana. so
i was the girl who lived in the basement of this house. i guess that
first time that i realized that we didn't have any money. and i guess
just wsn't very hip when i
got to school. i had long braids and
and a secondhand dress. i just wasn't cool enough and i really
i think that's why i was there for six years.
niki:what did you do after six years?
when i dropped out of school? i was 16. i spent a lot of time
room smoking pot and talking about all the
things i was gonna do with
life. i'm a testament that pot dreams do come true.
niki: now that's an
cree: two of my very best friends dropped out of high school with me
was lots of
fun. we used to go on adventures. i was probably the
16-year-old in the city with a car. my
first car was a 1969 morgan
speedster, which is a fabulous old english race car. so my
were probably the freaks we still are today.
niki: oh, so you're still really good friends with them?
cree: with one of them in particular. one of the girls i wrote one of
songs, "soul sister," on the record
about. and we use to drive around
niki: what kind of adventures? what were
you all doing?
cree: we were, and still are, voracious readers. it wasn't stated
were a book
club, but we would eat books and then talk about them all
time. it was really important for us to know
more than everyone
were conscious of that. we kept journsal that we would write in all
time. we were constantly writing poetry and stories. and we wer all
obsessed with frank
zappa and it was our job to know every zappa
made. every cut. every lyric. we were
big comic book collectors.
niki: now when you first go to school you said that
you had that hard
adjustment period because you were different. so what was connection
you and these
two friends? did they have similar backgrounds?
cree; they actually didn't go to school with me. i met tham at,
things, the mall. i acutally met one of the girls because everyone
we looked alike.
when she would walk down the street people would
"cree, cree..." one day i was walking through the mall
an she said, "
cree?" and we became friends. it's probably because we didn't go to
so they didn't know yet how uncool i was.
niki: so what was your parent's reaction when you decided to drop out
cree: they were so glad. there was more time that i could hang out
them. my father
colects antique cars and rides motorcycles. it was
time for us to talk about bikes. we would
go riding together. my
went to college for acouple of years. i think my father has no
education. he let school in the sixth grade.
niki: are both of your parents native american?
no one is. my mother is african-american from louisiana,
beaumont, texas to north richmond, california. and
my father is... we
knwo what he is. he was adopted. my last name is francks. summer
middle name. i don't know . francks sounds a little german to me.
what he is.
niki: oh, so you're interracial like.
cree: yeah, that's what i am. i'm not on of thsose people
and says, "i'm part cherokee and my great-grandmother was a
far as i know
i'm just whit and black.
niki: so you all were welcomed on this reservation even though you
cree: yes, we were. we were very welcomed as a matter of fact. we
adopted into the
tribe. my parents were married on the res.
niki: what tribe was it?
cree: the plains cree indians.
and that's where you got your name?
cree: i'm sure that's where it came from.
niki: does it have a meaning?
it means indian.
niki: oh okay. that makes sense. now how di dyou get into voicing
when we moved to the city, my father became a very big voice-
in toronto, canada. he was working
on a cartoon called "inspector
he was playing dr. claw. they were looking for a little girl to do
of penny and i had gone with him to work one day and he said, " why
give cre a shot?"
and they were like, "well, all right." and i got
niki: how old were you?
cree: 12 years
niki: and how long id you do that?
cree: i guess about two years.
niki: did it pay well?
it paid great. as a matter of fact, that's probably why i had
confidence to drop out of high school
have a job!"
cree: well, i was pretty self-sufficient by that age of sixteen.
i was doing maybe 12
to 13 different animated shows a year all
niki: what other ones did you do?
cree:all the care bear movies, all those little horrible cartoons like
little pony," "strawberry shortcake"....
niki: i used to love "strawberry shortcake?"! who did you do from
cree: i was
the black chick, lemon meringue.
niki:did you ever have nay formal training in music?
cree: no, none at all. i
think, like a lot of artists, it's through
and through passion. it's through a high, deep respect and
music that we're drawn there in the first place. no, i think it's
how did you go from voicing cartoons to "a different world"?
cree: well i came to l.a. when i was 19; (a) to get out of
and be grown (b) because i thought i was gonna continue to do
theater; which, when i got to the states, i discovered just
exist at all. so strike one off the list
niki: you were doing all of those cartoons in canada?
cree: yes, so i moved here and hooked up
with all the animation
staes and started working. that's how i was paying my bills when i
moved to l.a. then somebody saw me and said, "this girl lisa bonet
show' and they're holding auditions and you should go
like, "yeah okay, whatever. i've got nothing
to lose." and i got
score, present. it was a pretyy amazing experience to be 19, fresh
town, no friends in the city and then all of a sudden i've got this
niki: i loved freddie
[your character on "a different world"]. she
of my favorite characters.
cree: yeah! all of a
sudden i'm a teenager making all this money. i
love with my first boyfriend. my very first
boyfriend i met working
niki: he was on the show?
cree: uh huh. kadeem
niki: really?!! wow.
cree: my very first boyfriend.
niki: so how was it for you watching him
and "whitley," jasmine guy?
cree: oh, that was comedy because she is such an incredible sister and
she took such good care of me. she played a really big part
awakening to my womanhood. she
showed me how to put on makeup and
shopping. she told me what drink to order so i could still look
me around and introduced me t everybody. so i wasn't looking at the
way at all. i also felt kinda sorry for them because they
a brother/sister relationship...
they had to be lovely-dovey.
cree: yeah, and that's kind of incestuous and creepy. so i felt bad
i was like, "uh, sorry." that was a really great time in my
don't think i'd ever do it again.
people ask me, "where have you
happened to you? why don't you act anymore? we miss you." the
matter is i just never felt very confident. i never felt solid. i
like i knew what i was doing. i used to leave work
bought it." and htat's just
no a nice way to leave work. you should
like you deserve to be where you are. and i never felt
like i knew
was doing in acting. but i have nothing but gratitude for that
do you keep in contact with any of the cast members from the
you and kadeem still friends?
oh yes, he's my dear heart. i love him. he just had a
the most beautiful little girl,
sophia. his mother is bethann
really incredible force in my life. she just turned out
to be a
sorts for me.
niki: how long did you date kadeem?
cree: four and a half years, maybe.
and he was really my first
was like, "yeah! i 'm in a new city, i got a new job..."
"...and i got a new boyfriend."
cree: all the greatest presents. i really feel that way about this
so charmed for me. i must've made some good deposits in the
because i keep getting lots of incredible
gifts. even when i look
things that i though were scary, in retrospect they were miraculous
too. but yeah, and jasmine as well. i keep in touch with her and
what's you relationship with lisa bonet?
cree: she is one of my best friends in the whole world. i mean, i got
best friends really when i think about it. a girl name little wing
lisa is mky champion in
so many ways. she's an incredible mother.
incredible human being. she's a conscious
human being. and she's
niki: how old is lisa's daughter now?
cree: zoe is 10
and an amazing young woman. she's the smartest little
i know. and lisa, i've never seen her and
aphrodite in the same
same time. so her divinity blows me away. she's just like a serious
woman. a serious priestess.
niki: i know that "miss moon" is about her, but what is that song
like the song.
cree: lenny [kravitz] and i wrote that for her. i guess it's like an
there's so mnay things about being a woman we're made to believe are
or not marvelous. and woman,
as you know, are in tune to the cycles
moon. our connection to the moon is tangible in our menstrual
for so long it's been something that's be regarded as the curse and
i believe it's a time when our emotions are so close to the
surfacte. when we're so conncected to our emotions and
i believe it's a time when women are most powerful and most
song was birthed from a time when, of course, i was cycling. the
was full. lenny and i wer out on
a beach in nassau and we had the fog
on the jeep shining towards the water. lisa was in front of the
dancing and she looked like a goddess. we were like, "let's write
mama a song."
niki: so they [lenny and lisa] are still really close/
cree: yes. very good friends. thank god. they're
like my family.
niki: you met lennky through lisa?
niki: and when did you all decide to work
cree: every time i write something i usually give it to her. you know
"check this out. what
do you think?" and she played some for lenny
i got a call from him one day and he was lik, "who's producing
and i was like, "nobody." and he said, "no. someone is. i am." and
"are you serious?" and he said, " yeah, i really want to do
that was it. and i hung up the
phone and jumped up and down. i said
you goddess." i thanked the goddess for another present.
what's it like working with lenny?
cree: really amazing. first of all, he's just a very, very generous
he's very persnickety about pitch and so i feel like i'm a better
i feel like lenny helped
me make a record i always wanted to make.
niki: my favorite song is "mean sleep." i love that song.
do you? good. yeah!! that was fun to make for me because i got
the other side of the control booth when
[lenny] was singing. i got
him to do it again. "one more time please. you were a little
niki: how would you describe your music?
cree: i wouldn't dare.
niki: i had a feeling you
were going to say something like that. i
thinking, "she's not going to answer this question, but i'll just
out there anyway."
cree: like, "i'll give it a shot."
niki: yeah, "just to see what she says."
[laughing]. okay, that wen
planned. so what audience do you think you will embrace it?
niki: i'll have to tell that to my co-worker, mary, becuase she's
playing it over and
over again. i'm gonna go tell her she's a freak.
cree: that's right. remember when jimi hendrix used to say,
side fly"? all the freaks and beautiful people will love it.
in magic and doesn't believe in boundaries.
niki: are you going to tour?
cree: yes, actually i just got off the
road with lenny. he took me
three weeks with him in europe.
niki: what was that like?
incredible . my opening night in the netherlands in fron to of
people was like, "hello." i just remember my
knees buckling and my
sweating. and i kept forgetting to tell the audience who i was. i
45 minutes and then i just walked off stage and lenny would get on
say, "that was cree summer."
you know, "you may want to tell them who
niki: well, that was leaning experience.
and the audiences were so warm and so kind. europeans are such
niki: do you think you'll
ever move to europe?
cree: yes, i do. i really do. what a great question to ask me. go
just say that because that was a conscious though i had on that
especially when i was in paris and berlin.
i don't know if it's a
where i want to live, but i never say never because no one surprises
than i do.
niki: so how old are you?
cree: 29 years old.
niki: now see, that's a question i didn't
think you'd answer.
niki: because some people don't like to reveal their age.
cree: i dont' understand
that. i'm so proud of it. it's a badge of
survival. of the time i've been on this planet. i'm
going to be 30
niki: do you embrace and particular religion?
cree: yes, love. just
straight up "love and gratitude." definitely.
religion is consciousness. definitely.
one last question: is "curious white boy" autobiographical? i
imagine a lot of your music is.
well you know, i don't have the audacity to write about
haven't tasted. you know? there's a lot things
i dont' know and if
expose myself, i think i'd better know what i'm talking about. my
the original "curious white boy." he was the first one i ever me. i
being in a bar somewhere
in the bible belt and i remember this white
coming over to me telling me i was really pretty for a black girl.
niki: oh really?
cree: and that he couldn't believe that he was attracted to me.
niki: and what was your
cree: i went home and wrote "curious white boy." it's my tongue in
of saying i see you
and i refuse to be your lab rat. sometimes it
me-and i want to very careful here not to make any
beautiful people [are] in all colors. i believe that love is more
anything. but sometime because the white race is the ones that
buildings, the one tha signs the
paychecks, the one with the
power-sometimes they have the luxury of not knowing about anyone
dont' have to know about the asian people, they don't have to know
black people. and so they
can approach us with this kind of ignorant
curiosity. and when you say, "that hur tme," then they can say,
didn't know." we know all about them. we have to. but i don't
of them or us. and that's why i think "curious white boy,"
is so fun.
niki: so would you
date a white man?
cree: oh, hell yes. of course i would. i'd date white, red,
if i met one with pointy ears and he was elf.
niki: what's up with the pointy ears and elfin people?
cree: i believe
in magic, that's all. i truly believe in magic. i
care what color you are as long as you're
willing to come from your
self as well. i'm secure in being a black woman and i'm proud of
black woman. and if there' a white boy that can handle it, we'll see.
niki: you are funny. it
was wonderful talking to you cree.
cree: it was beautiful to talk to you too, sister. i would love for
come to the show. we rock hard live.
niki: i believe you. and you have to sing "miss moon."
yes. you gotta put that on when you're bleeding, you know?