Former Suns Personality Dunn Lands Record Deal
Posted: Oct. 28, 2010
Current Tiffany Dunn Singles:
Now you might not have heard of Tiffany Dunn just yet, but you’ve definitely seen her. You just don’t know it.
You might recall an energetic teenage girl breakdancing on the court of Mercury and Suns games. Or better yet, that same blond girl dunking off of trampolines with the Gorilla.
And although that girl has moved to Los Angeles to pursue a blossoming music career, her spirit for entertaining remains a constant. It’s something that has resided within Dunn for as long as she can remember.
Despite a recent meteoric rise from anonymity, Dunn’s journey through the world of music was anything but a forgone conclusion. She didn’t win “Star Search” at age 11 or have a parent/manager that got her to become a Mouseketeer.
Her path has been self-made. Her success has been self-fulfilled.
Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Phoenix, Dunn was always on the move, creating her own make-shift singing and dancing troops. Once she was in high school, she joined every club that would allow her to dance and sing, faithfully staying afterwards to absorb extra knowledge from her instructors.
With parents unable to afford the cost of formal dance lessons, Dunn took a job at Sonic as soon as she became of-age, just so she could pay for her own dance lessons. So at 16, after logging enough hours at Sonic, she enrolled in hip-hop and breakdancing classes at the Betty Johnson School of Dance.
After years of modeling other performers and developing her own choreography, taking lessons from “Bboy” House and Ryan Ingram at Betty Johnson opened a whole other world up to her.
“All the other dancers had been taking classes since they were 3,” Dunn said. “I always said, ‘I don’t need dance class,’ especially since I didn’t have any money.
“But I loved learning choreography from other choreographers. It made me a better dancer.”
Once enrolled in the school, Dunn became tapped into an entire network of dancers. Before she knew it, she was performing for the Phoenix Mercury’s Hip-Hop Squad and receiving work from the Nebellen Dance Company and Epik Dance Company.
Soon, she was invited to tour Europe as a back-up dancer for some European pop stars.
“When I was travelling around Europe getting paid to dance I thought, ‘This is the life,’” she said. “But I also wanted to be a singer and performer.”
However, in order for Dunn to accomplish that, she needed to move to L.A. During the days and afternoons she worked as a server, dedicating her nights teaching dance and working Suns games.
Suns Vice President of Game Entertainment Kip Helt, who admired Dunn’s athleticism and breakdancing abilities with the Hip-Hop Squad, recruited her to jump off of trampolines and dunk with the Verve Sol Patrol.
“It’s hard to put a finger on it, you just know that some people have a chance to go very far because of their versatility,” Helt said. “When you start combining dance, her look, a beautiful voice and her ability to play instruments with the athleticism to be on a dunk team, you’ve got a pretty powerful package.
“She’s one of the best performers we’ve ever had. When she walks out onto a stage you can see, she’s got ‘it.’ Some people get nervous in a situation like that, but she’s in her element.”
At 5-6, 110 pounds, it was quite a sight to see this petite, blond girl catapulting through the air. Usually, that type of lunacy is reserved for the likes of the Gorilla.
Between the breakdancing and the bounding, Dunn’s talent began to shine through at Suns games. Bouncing along with her trademark smile, even the players began to notice.
“Steve Nash would always see me constantly smiling and would kind of mock it to be funny,” she said.
It didn’t stop there. One time after completing a breakdancing set, she was walking by Shaquille O’Neal - a popular breakdancer in his own right - who flashed a big smile and told her wryly, “I like your moves.”
Throughout her life, entertaining fans has been a constant for Dunn.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
Having saved enough money, she packed up a U-Haul and moved into a “Podunk” apartment in L.A. And despite building up a ton of momentum with her successes in Phoenix, fate wasn’t as kind to her in California.
“I couldn’t find a job for a year,” she said. “It was the worst thing in the world. I hated L.A., but I kept pushing.”
First, her trusty car broke down on trip from L.A. to Las Vegas for an audition. After being unable to reach anyone, she actually had to hitchhike back to L.A. in a semi.
After getting a $4,000 repair bill that she couldn’t afford, Dunn’s struggles didn’t end there. She cracked her tooth before an audition for the Pussycat Dolls and woke up the next morning with a massive infection in her throat.
Needless to say, the audition didn’t go too well, ending with her immediately driving to Phoenix to receive an emergency root canal from her family dentist. So on top of that monstrous car bill was a huge dental bill, one that surely could’ve been dramatically reduced had she possesses some sort of dental insurance.
After eating into her savings, she was able to find a few serving jobs to keep her afloat. Her last one, at the W Hotel, would keep her working late into the night, despite auditions awaiting her in the early morning.
“I was living a way better life in Arizona than in L.A.,” she said. “I was picking up all these signs that made me think that maybe it was time for me to go back to Phoenix. Friends thought I had a dark cloud following me.”
But thanks to “Darkchild,” that dark cloud would disappear. Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, the super-producer behind No. 1 singles from Beyonce’, Brandy and Toni Braxton, decided to take Dunn underneath his wing.
Through some of her friends in L.A., Dunn heard of an audition for a girl group that Jerkins was holding. Those friends, who happened to be Miley Cyrus’ backup dancer and fellow Phoenix native Mandy Jiroux, as well as the two brothers from the musical group ChaseJordan, were talking to Jerkins’ sister-in-law when she brought up the audition.
Her friends pulled up a video of Dunn playing the acoustic guitar on YouTube, which was then passed along to “Darkchild.” Once he saw that, Dunn received an invite to the audition.
Despite competition from 300 hundred other girls, the panel of judges chose Dunn as one of the four members of the girl group. The group would only last three months, but after it dissolved, Jerkins moved on launching a solo career for Dunn.
“Darkchild” got her immediately into the studio, getting right to work.
“After the group ended they put me into the studio and I started banging out like 30 songs,” she said. “Next thing you know, Sony wanted to meet me and I ended up in the Sony building in New York City.
“There I was in their conference room performing for them like I did in my own room when I was little. And then they wanted to sign me.”
Not only does Dunn have the ability to sing and dance, but she’s also picked up how to play the piano. In addition, she has been playing the guitar since she was 12.
The former Hip-Hop Squad member is currently working on her album in the studio, with plans to release her first single by the end of 2010. Right now, they’re still writing new material, as well as narrowing down which songs they want for the album.
“It’s a matter of putting everything in the right place when you’re trying to break an artist,” Dunn said. “You have to do it right and not just throw your first single out there. I want to make sure that every song reflects me as much as possible, which is why we’re being picky, which is good.”
While there isn’t a scheduled release date for her album yet, Dunn does know what she wants the theme of her album to be. With her greatest musical influences being Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, she’s looking to create an upbeat album that features a lot of dance tracks.
Dunn's athleticism assists her as a dancer.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
For Dunn, music has been her therapy throughout her life, and she’s hoping that her music can assume that role for other people.
“Writing and singing is what got me through the day and reminded me of why I was out here in L.A.,” she said.
Dunn says that one of her goals is to make her album accessible and touch listeners of all ages. She says that it will “pretty much be rated G.”
“I want my songs to be inspiring, uplifting and positive,” she said. “I feel like this world has plenty of negative in it and I just want something that everybody can relate to. I feel like the world is missing that.”
Her single “Shut the Front Door” was picked up by the popular “Now That’s What I Call Music! Vol: 35” compilation. The compilation features Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” Lady GaGa’s “Alejandro,” Justin Bieber’s “Somebody to Love” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire.” The compilation debuted as No. 2 on Billboard.
“She was somebody that you knew good things were going to happen for because she works so hard and has that passion,” Helt said. “She’s talented and believed in herself, but to get where she wanted to go, she’s had to work twice as hard as everybody else, and she did that. She’s a walking testament to that.”
Although Dunn’s musical career has changed overnight, her love for Phoenix and the Suns remain a constant, even if she lives in L.A. now.
“I’m a hardcore Suns fan,” she said. “I risked my life jumping off of a trampoline to dunk balls for them. It was scary stuff.”
Dunn’s ability to take risks has helped her do more than just bound off of trampolines, it has changed her life. Despite not having any connections in the music industry or concrete opportunity awaiting her, she took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles.
“It’s so difficult, it kind of tears you up to hear about someone who works so hard go out there and make it,” Helt said. “It didn’t come without sacrifice. She was working other jobs, working games here, teaching dance, performing on the side, when she could’ve been doing what other 21 year olds do.”
Dunn gave up the comfort of being a big fish in Phoenix, to swim with the minnows in L.A. And despite all logical signs that seemed to intimate that she had made a huge error, she overcame her fears and steamed forward.
That ability to manage her fear has vaulted her music career. And pretty soon, you won’t be able to watch TV or walk down the street without seeing her face.
But just remember, you’ve seen her before. Now you know where.
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