Jill Scott: The Complete Evolution Of The Grammy-Winning Singer

Jill Scott is best known for her music, but that's certainly not all she has to offer. The hugely successful musician is also a poet, actor, and philanthropist — having founded the Blues Babe Foundation which supports youths in underrepresented communities. But at the end of the day, Scott is "just a regular chick from North Philly," as she described herself (via Jet).

At just 50 years old, Scott has achieved more than a lifetime's worth of accomplishments, including three Grammys, seven albums, and many high-profile acting roles — not to mention a whole lot of fame. But notoriety was never the goal for Scott. "I do what I do because I love to do what I do. It's natural. It's right. It fits me. It belongs to me, and those are the reasons why I do it. Fame was never even a thought," she said (via Jet). Sticking true to her roots has always been a key part of who Jill Scott is, and this authenticity and humility are part of what makes her such a talented artist and musician.

She grew up adored by her family

Jill Scott was born in North Philadelphia in 1972 and was raised by her mother Joyce Scott and her grandmother Blue Babe. She was an only child, and received no shortage of love from her family: "I grew up very much a loved child," she said (via Jet). This same sentiment was also echoed by her mother: "She was a very loved child. ... Her food was given to her with love. She never had a diaper rash. This baby knew that she was loved" (via Rolling Stone).

The love that Scott felt as a child may have contributed to her success as she got older: "I really do believe that makes all the difference in the world. Whether you are rich or poor, you know that there are people who love you whether you succeed or fail. It makes you stronger and makes you willing to try," Scott expressed (via Jet). 

She was destined for fame

From an early age, Jill Scott was a performer. In an interview, her mother once said: "She would read stories to my friends and act out the characters. ... She learned at a very early age to be the center of attraction and accept it," (via Rolling Stone).

Many parents will tell you that their kids love to be the center of attention, so Scott's theatrical behavior as a child may not seem all that unusual. However, according to her mom, other people around Scott noticed she had a spark that other kids didn't possess: "Once, a principal told me, 'Jill is a little butterfly and the other kids are flies.' I was insulted by his wording but at the same time he, too, knew that she was different," Scott's mother recalled (via Rolling Stone).

As Scott got older, her unique talent became all the more apparent, and eventually, her fame would prove this. With three Grammys under her belt — not to mention a successful acting career — it's clear to see that what her family and her principal saw in her as a child was indeed something special.

She planned to be an English teacher

Sometimes, famous singers and actors will do interviews talking about their lives and saying they've always wanted to be a performer or an artist. But this wasn't exactly the case for Jill Scott — she planned on becoming an English teacher.

Scott studied at Temple University in Philadelphia for three years with aspirations to become a high school teacher (via Rolling Stone). The goal made sense as Scott had an appreciation for literature, but she also had a deep affinity for music. "I could hear music playing in the background of works by certain authors, like Poe and Shakespeare. And I discovered Nikki Giovanni when I was in eighth grade. Her writing has a musical energy with pulse and rhythm, almost like jazz or hip-hop," Scott said (per Oprah).

When it came time for her to teach children, Scott utilized songs and melodies to help the students learn. "That's the way that I learned how to spell," she said (via Rolling Stone). "I made a melody out of the words." While the children appreciated her approach, the other teachers didn't, calling Scott "young and idealistic." It wouldn't be long before Scott abandoned her plans to teach and embark on an entirely new journey — with outcomes she couldn't have ever predicted.

She could have never guessed what was in store for her

After trying out teaching, Jill Scott had a change of heart. According to Rolling Stone, she quit college and teaching in the same day. "I was like, 'I don't know what I'm-a do, I don't know where I'm-a go.' But by the time I got home the phone was ringin'," she said. As it turned out, her impulsive choice paid off! A friend of hers offered Scott an apprenticeship at a theater that allowed her to learn the ropes and get acting gigs. "One minute we'd be in the basement diggin' holes, tryin' to build a new theater, and an hour later, I'd have on a dress, welcoming the people into the theater company, filthy," she said (via Rolling Stone).

Her work at the theater led to more acting opportunities and she was eventually hired for a role in Canada's successful TV special "Rent." Around this time, she was also discovered by The Roots' band member Questlove at a slam poetry event. Questlove asked Scott if she wrote songs, and — thinking on her feet — she said "yes." She later admitted that this was a lie, but stretching the truth seemed to be worth it in this instance because Scott was invited to join The Roots in the studio and became a co-composer on "You Got Me" (via All Music).

Her music career took off

It's an understatement to say that Jill Scott has had a successful music career; she's been more than successful, with three Grammy wins on top of 14 Grammy nominations (via Grammy). Her accomplished career took off soon after she dropped her first album "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1" in 2000. This album earned Scott her first three Grammy nominations and popularized her soulful, poetic voice in the R&B genre. 

This early triumph was only the beginning for Scott. Over the years, she's released a total of seven albums, each one critically acclaimed. Fellow R&B star Erykah Badu said of Scott and her music: "Her music takes me back to the grass roots. It's simple, whimsical, very dreamy. ... She makes me cry. She makes me feel me" (via Rolling Stone). Rapper Tyler, the Creator also expressed his appreciation for Scott and her first album when he tweeted in 2020: "20 years ago this album flooded my ears, being the soundtrack for that summer and shaping my ears into what they are now. I hold this body of work very close to me" (via Twitter).

Despite it all, Scott has stayed humble. In fact, she doesn't identify much with fame at all. "I'm not a celebrity," she said in an interview with Jamele Hill (via YouTube). "I know what I've done. But I don't feel that way in my heart. I feel like I'm an artist."

She was asked to gain weight for a movie role

In addition to being a successful musician, Jill Scott became a prolific actor — with one of her first roles being Donna Williams in the hit series "Girlfriends." Some of her most well-known works include "Why Did I Get Married?" in 2007 and the 2019 TV series "First Wives Club."

In the TV and movie industry, it's not uncommon for actors to undergo physical changes to fit their character — Brendan Fraser put on weight for his role in "The Whale," while Joaquin Phoenix lost 50 pounds for "The Joker" — and this was also the case for Scott. 

In 2007, she was told to gain 30 pounds for a role in a Tyler Perry movie (via People). "I gained 30 for this role," she said. "I wore a fat suit, and if my face didn't match the suit, then it wouldn't be believable." Making drastic physical changes for work isn't always an ideal situation, but it does demonstrate Scott's commitment to the craft.

Despite the pressure that comes with fame, she carries herself with pride and confidence

Being a famous actor and musician means being in the limelight and dealing with immense pressure to align with societal beauty standards. Jill Scott entered the scene in the early 2000s, right on the heels of the "heroin chic" days of the 1990s when being super thin was super in, and way before positive self-image was even a thing. There are significant steps being taken these days toward body positivity and body neutrality, but things weren't quite as progressive 20 years ago. 

However, as far as we can tell, Scott has never made self-deprecating remarks or indicated she feels anything but confident in herself, and it's one of the many things we love about her. However, after she had to gain weight for a movie in 2007, she did say she wanted to lose some extra pounds. "I'm taking walks ... I don't put a lot of stress on myself to lose weight. But I will, because I didn't want to gain this weight in the first place," she said (via People).

She had her son Jett in 2009

Jill Scott had her son Jett Hamilton Roberts with her then-fiancé drummer Lil John Roberts. According to Scott, having her son was a happy accident, as she didn't think she could have children. "It sorts of throws you for a huge loop, especially since I was told I could never be pregnant. This was a shock, a complete and utter shock to me," she said (via People).

In 2011, when Jett was 2 years old, Scott reflected on motherhood and her baby boy: "We're both super in love right now, just nuts about each other. He gets on my nerves, he aggravates me — I think I aggravate him, too — but still, he's pretty incredible" (via Oprah). 

Though Jett is all grown up now, it appears that he and his mom are still as close as ever. On Scott's Instagram, there are many pictures showing the two of them hanging out and going to events together. And when the two of them aren't together? "I turn on a little slideshow of photos of my son, family, and friends on my computer. It helps me settle in, wherever I am in the world," Scott said (via Oprah).

Her son inspired her to be healthy

After Jill Scott had her son in 2009, she spent the next two years focusing on her health — and it was her son who inspired Scott to become healthier. "There's a world of discovery in his eyes, and I want to be around to enjoy it!" she said (via Us Weekly). "I'd walk up nine steps and be out of breath!"

Scott made some lifestyle changes to support her health. Every day, she ate three low-fat meals and two snacks and committed to three hourlong workout sessions per week with LA trainer Scott Parker (via Us Weekly). Most can agree that working out can be a drag sometimes, but, according to Scott, she did exercises that she really enjoyed, like kickboxing, boxing, and riding bikes outside. She even brought her son Jett along for some of the workouts. "We have fun!" she said. 

She is a published poet

"The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours: The Poetry of Jill Scott" was published in 2005 and is comprised of Scott's personal writings and poems that she had compiled since 1991 (via Goodreads). The book of poems presents more of what Scott's music offers: soul, honesty, sensuality, and a down-to-earth vibe. "It's music. It's experiences. It's vulnerability. It's honesty. It's being a woman — an African American woman. Being a daughter, a sister, a grandchild and a Godmother. It's life. It's deeper than what I know. It's bigger than what I can see. I guess it's a dive into the human spirit." It's safe to say that Scott's poetry collection is a similar deep dive into humanity.

The book has a 4.3 rating on Goodreads, and many reviewers have nothing but good things to say about her poetry. One reviewer called it "sensual" and "refreshing" while another reader said her poetry "made me feel empowered to be a better African American Woman" (via Goodreads).

No matter what, she stays positive

Some may look at Jill Scott's life and see only blessings — and though Scott would probably agree she's had a charmed life, she's also had her challenges. When she was a child, her mother married a man who ended up being violent which led to Scott's mom escaping with her young daughter (via Rolling Stone). 

"I watched my mother walk away and I think that was the most powerful thing that has ever happened [in] my life for our greater good," she said (via EURweb). "She walked away with nothing ... It taught me that when life is being cruel to you, you have to do something about it. ... But her actions let me know I don't have to suffer in silence. I don't have to stay in a place that is harmful to my spirit or my body."

In Scott's adult life, she had some ups and downs in her relationships, particularly with her ex-husband Mike Dobson who she divorced after a year of marriage for "inappropriate marital conduct" (perEURweb). Despite it all, she remembers to keep her head up. "Positivity and peace is not a bus stop you get off at. You gon' have to work on it every day for the rest of your life," she said (via Rolling Stone).

She's still touring

On February 28, 2023, Jill Scott will embark on a tour for her debut album "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1," celebrating 23 years since the album's release. Scott had planned a 20-year anniversary tour for her first album back in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic put a wrench in those plans.

"My band and I were so excited three years ago," Scott said in a statement (via Billboard), "but that d–n COVID shut us down. Now we outside! Come see me. Come feel again. Relive your favorite moments. ... It's a lot of love here." Scott will be performing all across the country from February to June and the tour will feature all major hits, including "Gettin' in the Way" and "A Long Walk." On social media, Scott put out a video acknowledging all the requests she received from fans to add more cities and countries to her upcoming tour. With a gleaming grin on her face, Scott described the response to her tour as "completely overwhelming" (via Instagram). "Thank you so much. I'm going to do it. We are going back on the road," she wrote. 

With an impressive music and acting career, multiple awards, and a loving family behind her, Scott continues to climb the ladder. Even though it's been over 20 years since she became a household name, Jill Scott proves that up until now was only the beginning as more success awaits her!