Billboard Women in Music Honoree Jessie J: Whitney Houston 'Gave Me So Much Courage to Be Loud and Bold'

Rebecca Miller
Jessie J photographed on September 27, 2014 in London.

The Billboard Women in Music Powerhouse honoree talks about her girl crush on the legendary diva and the fierce female singers she admires.

Jessie J started this year fearing she had already peaked. The 26-year-old British singer-songwriter's last top 10 U.S. single as a solo artist, the No. 6 hit "Domino," was nearly 2 years old. Her last full-length, 2013's muted Alive, wasn't even released in the United States. "At the beginning of this year, I really evaluated myself as a human being and asked, 'Am I doing enough?' " admits Jessie. "I changed my management, I sat with my label, I was a grown-up, and I was like, 'This is what I want to achieve.'"

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The results are considerable. In 2014, the U.K. resident hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the saucy "Bang Bang," which features Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. She landed her first top 10 on the Billboard 200 with her third full-length, Sweet Talker. And she has been performing all over the world, from Rock in Rio to Good Morning America.

"The biggest change this year is the success. And my phone bill! That's bloody changed."

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A YEAR OF ALL-STAR COLLABORATORS
"Mary J. Blige was amazing to work with on her Christmas album. Smokey Robinson. He was incredible. I sang 'Cruisin' ' with him on his new album, and we got to perform it at the Edinburgh Castle in the freezing cold. Who else? De La Soul. Obviously, Ariana and Nicki."

JESSIE J ON MARY J.
"I said this to her, when I hung out with her: 'Thank you for proving that longevity exists.' This industry is so hit-or-miss. People bring out a song and then they disappear. I was with Jennifer Lopez last night and I said the same thing to her: 'I don't think people realize how hard it is to obtain longevity.' It's constant creation."

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HER FIRST GIRL CRUSH
"Whitney Houston. We've got a video of me at 4 years old, watching her on TV and just being in absolute awe. She gave me so much courage to be loud and bold and have a big vibrato and a big voice. Also, Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, TLC and, dare I say it, Spice Girls. Women of confidence definitely drew my eye."

ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10, THE YEAR 2014
"Let's go with an 8. It has been good, but there's always room for improvement."

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2014 Highlights
Hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Bang Bang."

"The Video Music Awards, being back on Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the American Music Awards."

Scored her first top 10 on the Billboard 200 with Sweet Talker.

Visited New Orleans with her boyfriend, singer-songwriter Luke James: "I had these doughnuts that were amazing -- beignets!"

This article first appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of Billboard.


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