When Naima Adedapo walks into a room, you know it. There is a sweetness and a youthful energy, not to mention a unique beauty that makes up all the attraction that seems to follow the Chicago native. She exudes the determination of a woman on a mission. This might explain the past couple of years of her roll-up-your-sleeves journey into the discovery of one’s own personal artistry that a little show called American Idol ignited in 2011 after she garnered national attention as one of the top 11 finalists on Season 10.
At an early age, Naima, named after a ballad composed by John Coltrane in 1959, knew that performing and expressing herself through music and dance was her calling. Being the daughter of renowned Milwaukee area Jazz vocalist Adekola Adedapo, and the great-granddaughter of actress Gladys Williams who shared the stage with Sidney Portier, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis in the 1940s, there was no way for Naima not to be bitten by the entertainment bug. Growing up in Chicago, at age 10 Naima moved to Milwaukee with her mom and younger brother after their parents’ separation. She spent her childhood around the music scene in and out of Jazz clubs with her mom all the while being influenced at a young age by the music of the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, the Motown era, Michael Jackson and later India Arie.
Finishing high school in the top of her class and graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance she made it a point to excel in what ever she did. She has been involved in the Milwaukee Public Theater as a dancer, teacher and actress appearing in a number of theatrical performances including the lead in For Colored Girls, West Side Story and Crowns among others. Since the age of 13 she has taught dance to youth for a variety of community outreach centers and schools all over Milwaukee. Before auditioning for American Idol Naima was a maintenance worker on the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee dealing with the not-so-pleasant duties of emptying trash and cleaning toilets. “I got a job there to be around the music and be in the midst of my passion. I watched all these artists on the big stages and wanted so badly to one day have that opportunity,” she said. I am proud now to say that I have played Summerfest a number of times since working as a grounds keeper there. During my time on stage I just simply look out at the crowd and realize that we all really do have the power to turn our lives around.”
After coming off Idol, performing a 47-city tour in the US, Philippines and Canada, appearing on a number of TV shows including Jay Leno, Regis & Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America and the Today Show and experiencing a whirlwind of many firsts in the entertainment industry with the new found exposure to contracts, recordings, TV production, red-carpets, media, public appearances and a level of instant recognition that only a show like Idol can bring, Naima went straight into a record deal. Things were moving fast with the record company to avoid losing the momentum of the Idol exposure and the first songs she had ever written were going on a CD.