Posted: December 14, 2018
By Brianne Tracy
The R&G legend popped backstage at H.E.R’s sold-out London show in March, and later posted a photo of the two to Instagram captioned with words of encouragement. “You are a sweet and talented soul,” Jackson wrote. “I’m excited for your journey, never change who you are.”
“It’s been crazy; her reaction to me and saying that I got her through her pregnancy and that she listens to all of my music,” H.E.R., 21, tells PEOPLE. “It’s crazy.”
Jackson, 52, welcomed her son, Eissa, with ex Wissam Al Mana in January 2017. Though Jackson is just one of H.E.R’s many famous fans — including Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and Kylie and Kendall Jenner — there is still someone she is dying to meet: Stevie Wonder.
As for her dream collaboration, H.E.R. — whose real name is Gabrielle “Gabi” Wilson — says she wishes that the late Prince were still alive so that there would be a possibility they could work together.
“I really wish I could have collaborated with Prince before he passed,” she admits. “I’m always thinking about Prince when I make my music and how genre-less he was and just how versatile and amazing he was on the stage. I’m so inspired by him.”
During the 2018 BET Awards, H.E.R. was likened to Prince when she showed off her electric-guitar playing skills before performing “Best Part” with Daniel Caesar. She considers the comparison to be a “great honor,” but she says she tries not to put any extra pressure on herself to live up to his legacy.
“I definitely study the greats. It keeps me motivated when people say that like, ‘Wow, I’m headed in the right direction. I need to practice, I need to continue to work hard so I can possibly get to that level,'” she says.
H.E.R. considers the performance at the BET Awards a “turning point” in her career, as well as this current moment in time where she stands as a five-time Grammy nominee. H.E.R. is nominated for her self-titled LP in the album of the year, best new artist and best R&B album categories, as well as in the best R&B song category for “Focus” and in the best R&B performance category for “Best Part” with Caesar.
“I’ve been dreaming about this pretty much my entire life so it’s crazy,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s definitely really cool.”
While in Houston for a stop on her I Used to Know HER tour, H.E.R. first got the news of her nominations. She says she had been feeling “really sick” at the time, and her manager decided to play into that in order to surprise everybody with the announcement.
H.E.R.’s manager called everyone on her “tour squad” in for a meeting and said there was an “emergency.” She says everyone came into her room thinking that her manager was going to cancel the tour, but in reality, he was just surprising them with the news of the Grammy nominations.
“He just drops the news on everybody like, ‘So, you’re nominated for not one Grammy but five!'” she says. “I didn’t even know what to say. I was crying, and then I was screaming and I just remember being extremely happy. I’m still on a high.”
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A post shared by H.E.R. (@hermusicofficial) on Dec 7, 2018 at 7:55am PST
Though H.E.R. was still feeling under the weather and had to spend time in the doctor’s office instead of celebrating, she says she “was still really happy.”
Now, feeling “much better,” she says, “nothing can take away my joy. I’ve been really happy these past few days.”
H.E.R.’s parents were the first people she called about the exciting news, and though she is now officially a Grammy nominee, that doesn’t mean her parents will excuse her from doing chores around the house.
“I have a really dope team and a really dope family that keeps me grounded and keeps me regular,” she says. “I go to my mom’s house and she’ll make me do the dishes or clean up. She’ll cook for me, and I get back to myself and back to my roots.”
To H.E.R., the hardest thing about this year has been “finding that time” to take for herself and wind down.
“And being able to say, ‘Okay, let’s skip this thing, and let me take the time today to just chill and do nothing for a day,'” she continues. “Because I’ve been so busy for the past two years. [But] honestly, right now, I’m only seeing all of the good since these Grammy noms.”
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A post shared by H.E.R. (@hermusicofficial) on Dec 14, 2018 at 11:26am PST
When H.E.R. does get a rare moment of downtime, she likes to go to the movies or stop by a spa in whatever random town she’s in for her tour.
“I just went to see Ralph Breaks the Internet last night in some random city in Kansas,” she says. “Those are things that help me center myself.”
It’s pretty ironic that H.E.R. stands for “Having Everything Revealed” due to the fact that she remained anonymous when she first took on the stage name, à la The Weeknd‘s early career. When RCA released her first project — simply titled H.E.R., Vol. 1 — in September 2016, they even kept her identity a secret.
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H.E.R.’s debut project hit No. 1 on the iTunes R&B chart and made iTunes’ Best of 2016 R&B/Soul Albums list. With all of the newfound attention, it wasn’t long before fans figured out the identity of the woman behind the music. Now, she says, she’s as ready as she can be for the spotlight to be fully on her when it comes time for the 2019 Grammy Awards.
“I’m prepared for it, and I’m still going to remain myself,” she says. “I’m still low-key, I’m still very private, that’s just the person that I am. You never really see me out, you never see me amongst the people. There’s still going to be a sense of mystique there.”
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A post shared by H.E.R. (@hermusicofficial) on Nov 19, 2018 at 3:07pm PST
Of this whirlwind past year, and all of her recent success, H.E.R. says it’s been “confirmation” that she’s on the right track.
“Whether or not I have a million followers or a bunch of people that admire me, it’s like, people really admire the music and that’s what’s so exciting for me,” she says. “It’s not about people really knowing who I am, but people really paying attention to my message and my music and what I offer, I guess, to the world and to a lot of young women. That’s the most special thing. To be recognized for not just one Grammy nomination, but for so many things from best new artist to album of the year and all of these things — I don’t even have a debut album out. It’s really dope, it’s really dope.”
When it comes to the outfit H.E.R. is planning to wear for the Grammys, she answers coyly.
“I’ve been thinking about it a little bit,” she says. “I can’t say anything yet because I’m still figuring it out. But I’m excited.”
But when asked if she’ll wear the sunglasses that have become her signature, the answer is more definite: “Of course, of course, of course!”
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