Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor @iamcomprehend
While having an intriguing conversation with Florence LaRue, lead singer and six-time Grammy Award-winner of the legendary group The 5th Dimension, I could feel her warm spirit as she poured out her soul and gave insight about her new book “Grace in Your Second Act” that is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and digital platforms. Full of wisdom and knowledge, she shares with Consciousness Magazine significant moments regarding her career that she has learned from over a 50-year span of being in the music industry.
I was more than honored to interview a woman of such statue, who loves God and whose heart is filled with much love and joy. Here is what Florence LaRue has to share with the readers.
Aaron Robinson: You have a new book out titled Grace in Your Second Act. What was your motivation behind writing this amazing book?
Florence LaRue: Actually, Aaron, my motivation was the people that I met, the people that came to the shows…friends. I’ve been writing the book for like 5 years. And people would come up to me after a show and say, “How do you have the energy you have? What do you do? What do you eat? Do you exercise? And how do you look the way you look?” By the way, on February 4th I will be 80 years old. I tell people I’m proud of the fact that God has let me live this long and be this healthy. So many people say ‘you should write a book’ and I thought, no, there are beauty books out there, and there are all kinds of books. What do I have to say that’s different? There are no secrets. But then I visited senior homes and I would see seniors lying in bed. Many of them are too ill to move and not be able to get out of bed. Many of them are not having visitors and not living; they’re existing. This encouraged me to want to encourage them to give them hope. Also, I saw young people doing things that were just terrible for their health. You know smoking or not eating properly and not exercising. And I would like to encourage them to prepare for their senior years because you don’t think about those things when you’re young. I know I didn’t. I was blessed to have had to be very active. I studied ballet. I was very active in sports and of course performing.
But I was just encouraged by different things and finally God led me to just sit down and write the book to give people hope.
Aaron: Wow, 80 years old! How do you stay motivated and inspired?
Florence: I must tell you, God. You’ll probably hear me say God a lot in this interview, but He is the most important thing in my life. I tell people that I’m not religious, I’m spiritual. There’s a difference. God likes spiritual people, not religious nuts. He wants spiritual fruits. I respect all religions. I tell people we have to all learn to respect each other no matter what religion we are or how we worship. We definitely need God in our lives.
Aaron: Yes, absolutely! In your book you talk about beauty, aging, self improvements and so forth? Do you share your secret of how you have kept your beauty over the years? If so, can you share some pointers?
Florence: First of all, there are no secrets. People know what to do. They just don’t do it. I saw a lady who was very, very much overweight. She was eating a ice cream sundae. She said, ‘girl how do you keep your weight down?’ And I just knew the way she said it, I could tell her, but she wouldn’t do it. It’s like we know what to do, but we have to be willing. Action speaks louder than words. It takes discipline; you have to really want to be healthy. And being thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy, because there are some people who are thin eating the wrong foods. They just don’t happen to gain weight. Being overweight doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not healthy, because there could be other things causing it…allergies or many different things. There are no secrets. My secret is I do what’s good for Florence LaRue. I can tell you what to do, but it may not be what you need. You may need more vitamin C and I may need more vitamin D. You have to find out what your body needs and give it what it needs, not what you want it to have.
Aaron: I know you talk about your struggle with Eurocentric beauty standards? Growing up, what was that experience like for you?
Florence: Oh, I’ll tell you. I’ve always been the Black girl in the white neighborhood – not by choice. When I was younger I lived in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and there was a street that actually divided the black and white neighborhoods. My family’s house was on the white side of the street. So I ended up going to the white schools. When I got older, with our music, The 5th Dimension music, people couldn’t see us, so we didn’t sound like what the public expected a Black group to sound like. They expected a Black group to sound like just R&B, forgetting that Black people also sing opera and all other kinds of music. Most of our audiences were white. So I always happen to be in a situation being the only Black. I remember one time I was in elementary school…they read a book called The Story of Little Black Sambo. I was so embarrassed because I was the only Black in the room and I thought the kids were laughing at me. I went through many experiences and I also experienced some prejudice from the black neighborhood. My mother told me, ‘this is America, if you believe in God and work hard, you can do whatever you wanted.’ So it was challenging on both sides.
Aaron: There are many women that have insecurity issues when it comes to their natural look and also struggle with their identity. Do you have any inspiration that you would like to share with them in hopes that they can empower themselves and feel good about themselves?
Florence: Well, now we have Afro-American movie stars, lawyers, judges, an ex-president and first lady. So, we have people that we can look up to see. I didn’t have that. I remember the one person that inspired me when I was a little girl. My mother took me to New York City to see Lena Horne live. And oh, I just thought she was just so beautiful! My mother said I stood on the chair and said, “Shake Lena shake!” Years later, I took my mother to see Lena Horne and she was so gracious. After the show she came out. I have a photo. She took a picture with my mother and I. I just thought she was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t even talk. I could hardly speak. You see pictures of people and they’ve been airbrushed. She was just as beautiful in person. But not only was she beautiful on the outside, she was beautiful on the inside. So I was very inspired by that.
Aaron: That’s great! When people read your book Grace in Your Second Act, what would you like for them to take away from it?
Florence: Well, if she can do it, I can! [Laugh] Also, they must remember that I didn’t do it alone. God had my back all the way, because I was put into situations. And being so naive, had God not been with me, and had I not been raised in the church…I was a Sunday school teacher and I was drugged to go to Sunday school every Sunday, no matter what. If I didn’t have that foundation, I probably would be either in jail or not alive now. I had people hand me little packs of coke on stage. I had so much energy at that time. You know drugs were just really all around. You know, the flower children, they were smoking everything. They assumed that I was using drugs, and I would take it and flush it away of course. Had I not had that foundation, you know, I could have just as easily been involved as other people and friends of mines.
Aaron: Let’s talk about the group The 5th Dimension. You are the lead singer and it’s been over 50 years. I mean, did you ever see the group having this much success and music impact on the world?
Florence: No I didn’t! I thought we would be successful or I wouldn’t have joined it. I had no idea we would be this successful with six Grammys and all of the awards. And no, I didn’t. I had no idea.
Aaron: You’ve been an icon and a legend. Do you have any words of encouragement for those individuals who would like to have the tenure and success such as yourself?
Florence: First of all, know what you want. Dream big, dream big, not little, dream big and ask God to guide you. Then once you know what you want prepare for it. I still take vocal lessons. I still study. You’re never too old or too late to learn. Continue learning. Study your craft. If you want to be a musician, practice. Continue taking lessons. Learn your business. You know, the Bible says that you will perform in front of kings. You know, if you’re excellent. Don’t do it for the money. God provided what I want, he said, ‘Okay, now what are you going to do with it? Who are you going to help? Who are you going to mentor? With the talent that I’ve given you, are you going to waste it? Sometimes I’ll sit and I’ll look at my wall full of all these accolades, but they can’t talk to me. I appreciate all those things, but that’s what they are, things. And know your priorities: God, family and then career. Your family must come first.
Aaron: Absolutely! And you guys music entailed conscious elements. It has spiritual meaning as if you all were before your time. Did you all tap into some type of source or energy or something in order to get that vibe?
Florence: You know, Aaron, we didn’t really tap into it until after our success. God lead us to surround ourselves with the best writers, the best directors, the best arrangers…you know. We didn’t plan this.
Aaron: What is that feeling, that energy like when you receive that first Grammy or when you realize your record is a hit?
Florence: There’s no expressing it. We were nominated for several Grammys. We brought Grammy outfits because we were hoping to get one. That night we won like three or four Grammys. And it was just overwhelming. You know, there’s that one award that would really please me more than anything and that’s from my people. Yes, to be acknowledged by the black community because we weren’t trying to sound white. You remember a song called I’m Coming Home, I think. It was the Spinners. I put that in the show. It was the worst thing you have ever heard because I was trying to sound like the Spinners. Be you. That’s what I tell the people in my book. As a matter of fact, I heard Johnny Mathis sing the song and it was great, but he sounded like Johnny Mathis. He didn’t try to sound like the Spinners. Be yourself. It’s okay to admire people. Don’t try to be them. You can learn from them, but be you.
Aaron: Before we conclude the interview, Miss LaRue, would you like to add anything that we have haven’t talked about regarding your book or anything that you want to share?
Florence: I pray that my book blesses those who read it, even though it may be geared towards seniors. I pray that seniors will continue to live and not just exist. I pray that the young people will learn from it and prepare themselves, financially, physically, and spiritually, and learn from the wisdom that the older people have lived and learned. And the older people, don’t you say you don’t like rap or you don’t just like their music or don’t like the way they dress. The Bible tells us that as seniors, we have to teach them with love. Not that we’re trying to change them, but respect them, love them and teach them.
For more information on Florence LaRue please visit https://www.florencelarue.com/
Last modified: July 3, 2023