Inspiring People

Rhonda Ross

Rhonda Ross
Rhonda Ross, daughter of the legendary songstress, Diana Ross, is a writer, vocalist and an actress. Her most famous acting credit is on Another World, as Toni Burrell. She played the role from 1997 to 1999 and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award.

Rhonda is also very passionate about real estate. She currently works for Citi- Habitats, in New York City, where she sells and rents homes.

A graduate of Brown University, she is married to jazz musician Rodney Kendrick, and together their most recent albums are top sellers on and other music sites.

She is not only multi-talented, she is also memorable. I spoke to Rhonda on a Saturday morning, as she was heading out for a busy day. Talking to Rhonda was, in a word,


You will appreciate what she has to share.

DR: Rhonda thanks for taking the time to talk with me this morning.

RR: Oh, you're welcome.

DR: I want to start by asking you to describe to me, what you do for a living.

RR: This is an interesting question to me (laughs), mostly because…I call myself a full service artist, in that I have a lot of things I love to do. I have a lot of things that I have been blessed to do well, and I'm trying very hard to juggle them and to keep all of these things as part of my life.

When I was in college, my girlfriend and I used to say that "we were multi-faceted" and that's just how it was and we were going to pursue all of these things. So, in my life, at this point, I am an actress, I am a vocalist and a songwriter and I do that very much with my husband, Rodney Kendrick, who is a jazz pianist. We work together doing that. I am also a writer …screen plays…essays. I do some public speaking. And, I also have a passion that I love, for real estate. So I also work at as a broker in New York and I help people find homes…. I have found that I am just one of those people who loves a lot of things and I try to stay in as many as I can.

DR: So that would make you a Renaissance woman, then.

RR: I like that better than Jack-of-all-trades. I'll take that. (laughing) It's funny because it was a fight for me -- through college and after college -- feeling very pressured to choose, and… recently, I mean within the last year or so, I have really just embraced it and said:

"Ya know, I don't know why God made it that I have all of these loves and seem to have the ability to balance them and manage my time and that sort of thing…I don't know why He put me in this eclectic position but, I am here and this is what feels most natural and organic to me"

So instead of trying to figure out what I can cut out - because there are a lot of people that I have met that have said "Rhonda, you can't do it all. You must cut something out.", and that just grieves me too much -- instead of trying to do that, now I just work on time management and I definitely prioritize and…I embrace all of theses different facets of who I am. So far, it's been really rewarding.

DR: The thing that I like about what you are saying Rhonda, is that you don't feel obligated to adhere to rules that you didn't make up about what could be possible for you.

RR: Yes. That's exactly right. And, I find it interesting because as an artist I am creative but I am not afraid of money; I am not afraid of numbers. I am not afraid of whatever that kind of linear thinking is. …There is this weaving amongst worlds that I have found in my life that has been so…rewarding…such an honor for me. My friends and my associates now come in all shapes and sizes. There are the Investment Bankers and there are the Poets and there are the Europeans who have never been to America, and the Americans who have never been outside of their city, and there are all of these people in my life who I get to know…the benefit of knowing their perspectives and their lives has just been fascinating because, I weave myself through all of these worlds.

DR: Would you say that having these relationships with all of these different kinds of people, has contributed to your versatility?

RR: I think first of all it has contributed to my life in many, many unspeakable ways. I think that it has broadened my understanding of things; I think that it has absolutely opened my life up. But, yes. I think it's also added to my versatility and my interest in so many ways. There's almost nothing that comes on the television or into the newspaper that I don't know about, or want to know about; that I don't want to study, that I don't have somebody that I know who does something like that…

Unfortunately, I think as Americans, sometimes we can become very blinded to what's happening around the world - even around the country sometimes. We can become so narrowly focused in our own specific situations and I just feel blessed that I have had experiences with so many other communities and cultures and all of that.

DR: I just said to Auguste yesterday that the word for the week is Curiosity. CURIOSITY! Curiosity is something that I would want to encourage in people - to be curious. I am not always as curious as I could be about information that I am given; I am not always active in looking a little deeper or walking a step further. I am realizing more and more that there are marvelous things to know but, you have to be curious first. I love that you just shared that. Something is in the air.

Talk to me about one of your most treasured memories.

RR: Oh my goodness! That caught me off guard. I don't know where to start with that. I have to say that one specific memory isn't coming up but, I think that it is interesting that you mention memory.

I had a nightmare last night.

One of my family members was hurt and it woke me up at 6:00 AM and I couldn't get back to sleep. And I prayed and just tried to pull myself out of that space and …this has been on my mind - I went to a funeral a couple of days ago, so this has been on my mind for the last week or so --

Life continues to move no matter what we do. The moments pass. And, what we have are these memories.

So I was laying there this morning, thinking about that particular family member {that I had the nightmare about} and just these moments - I feel like I want to cry right now …conversations we've had or expressions that I saw on their face, or one little word here, or one little sound of their voice there…It was just so amazing to me that these little tiny moments were stuck in my head. Just moments that came and went so quick, that were not necessarily big or deep or passionate. Just these expressions on their face…and I was just saying to myself that the memories of those moments are what we have, ya know. It's what we have.

Like I said I was at this funeral and I didn't know him very well…I was thinking about the fact that {he and his wife} had been married for 35 years and… just all of those moments and, we can't take that for granted…

I have a tendency to look toward the completion of something so that I get to a static place…well let's say it's getting married. And you say, "I can't wait until I get married" and you work toward getting married and you get engaged and then you get married. But "married" is not static. It doesn't stay there. You have all of these moments within the marriage…We have a tendency to try and make life static…It's been on my mind that these moments is all we have and the memories of these moments.

I am sorry that I didn't answer your question. This has just been on my mind a lot.

DR: Well you actually did answer my question. This is what you left me with:

That your memories are your treasures!

RR: Yes! It's what we have!

DR: Well, since you mentioned marriage, tell me something that you love about your husband.

RR: Oh! I feel superbly blessed to know this man, Rodney Kendrick...The idea that I am the one who got to marry him and be with him and share my life with him is almost overwhelming at times. I feel honored to know him. I think he is a king of a man. I think he is extremely rare, brilliant; honest…We have a love for each other that is very deep; still passionate and romantic {after twelve years}.

...I am still curious about him...

DR: That is beautiful. You are blessed and it's great when we get blessed like that. Would you mind sharing with me, on the other hand, an adverse situation that you have had in your life that you turned into a triumph?

RR: I try very hard to turn negative stuff into positive. I try very hard to learn from my mistakes. But I will say this - It's not easy for me because I am one of those people who likes to get it right the first time. I am very clear, however, that the greatest among us failed…umpteen times before they succeeded. And what their success was created by, was, the fact that they could fall and get back up, fall and get back up. I know that. I am good at getting back up after I fall but, boy, I don't like to make that first fall.

Through Rodney and through unbelievable artists like Abbey Lincoln and Randy Westin and Barry Harris - people I have gotten to know personally -- and then of course, Billy Holiday and Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker…watching their work and listening to their work -- and I want to include Chris Anderson, who is an absolutely brilliant pianist and singer - I have learned that you must go out on that edge and live on that stage in front of the audience and make your mistakes and fall and pick yourself up, and fall and pick yourself up and I have practiced that, and I have continued to make that a practice when it comes to the arts. I will say that that is more of a challenge for me when it comes to my life. I am the oldest of five and I am expected to be a good role model and…I take it hard when I fail. But I know that I must fail in order to succeed.

DR: That's right and it's so basic and yet so profound.

Well, here is the question that I want to leave you with:

A hundred years from now, Rhonda, what do you want to be remembered for?

RR: Now that makes me want to cry.

At my funeral, I would like the people there to remember the ways in which I helped them… What gives me the most pleasure in my life, is to feel that I have helped somebody; that I feel that I have been honest with them, that I feel that I have shared some of myself with them; that I have listened and experienced and received some of them, and that somehow by knowing me they felt that they were helped in some way.

DR: So what do you want to be remembered for?

RR: I want to be remembered as someone who helped others. I want to be remembered as being helpful.

Thanks Rhonda!

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