NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: Rhonda Ross attends the 2013 New York Association Of Black Journalists Gala at the Time-Life Building on May 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
Even though Rhonda Ross has a very obvious “in” with the headlining performer at the Theater at Madison Square Garden this Saturday, that doesn’t mean she was just handed the opening gig. As you’ve probably already figured out from the photo above, Rhonda’s mom is Diana Ross. But in the 25 years that Rhonda has been singing professionally, this is only the second time she’s opened for her mother.
“This is brand new for us. My mother raised five kids and she raised us to be fiercely independent,” she says. “She was just really good at helping us understand that we have to stand on our own two feet, and because of that, none of us have really felt that we were in her shadow.”
Rhonda Ross bares both visual and vocal similarities to her mother (she is the only offspring of Diana Ross and Motown founder Berry Gordy) but the songs that Rhonda writes have a decidedly more jazzy feel.
“I do not sing ‘Baby Love,’ and even if I did, I wouldn’t sing it half as well as she does,” says Rhonda. “There is only one Diana Ross and I am not trying to repeat that or clone that.”
Diana Ross very rarely even has an opening act, but a gig at the Hollywood Bowl last August got the mother and daughter thinking.
“Because it’s outdoors and because it stays light for so much longer, they really like to have an opening act, and that was the first time we thought, ‘Gosh, maybe we could do that,’” recounts Rhonda. “And she ran it by the powers that be, because she’s not the final say on this at any of the venues. So I had to audition for it and send my reel.”
She had to audition? For her mom?
“Yes, she was not the final say on whether I would get the gig,” says Rhonda, “and I’m really happy for somebody to look at it and make a decision based on its merit.”
Diana Ross With Rhonda Ross Saturday, 7:30 The Theater at Madison Square Garden 4 Pennsylvania Plaza $59-$333, 212-465-MSG1 www.theateratmsg.com