- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

On Wednesdays, NicKayla Tucker goes to singing classes. On Saturdays she dances ballet, jazz and tap. Once a month she goes to a talent showcase in town. Five days a week, eight hours a day, she attends pre-kindergarten at Quality Time Learning Center in Silver Spring, Md., where she learns Spanish and Hindi, the language spoken in India, as well as English.
Too much for a 4-year-old child?
Not if that child is been prepared for stardom, as seems to be the case with NicKayla.
In January, the pint-size singer from Laurel, Md., won a third-place award in a contest at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York, where she competed against adults as well as other children. She soloed in a performance of the gospel song "I Have a Testimony" with her chorus, the Imani Temple Youth Choir.
In February, she performed "Testimony" at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Calif., where she caught the attention of talent agent Betty Bridges, who will take her to Tinseltown this summer for dancing and acting classes.
It all started at the Imani Temple, where the young choir member was scooped up by Jane Jackson Harley, the Washington-based talent coordinator for Wednesday Night Amateur Hour at the Apollo Theater and daughter of radio personality and former Apollo owner Hal Jackson.
Miss Harley was amazed by NicKaylas great memory. "She is going to make it," Miss Harley says. "She has all the ingredients to make it; shes talented and bright."
Phyllis Tucker-Saunders, Nic-Kaylas grandmother, says the child is well-advanced for her age. "She has been talking in complete sentences since she was 1," says Mrs. Tucker-Saunders, who minds NicKayla a few days a week and also acts as her manager.
"She was able to repeat the songs she heard on the radio when she was 2," Mrs. Tucker-Saunders says. By that time, the child was already in the Imani Temple chorus, where she was the youngest singer.
The family history partly helps explain this early success. NicKaylas mother, Ardia Tucker, a 22-year-old full-time student at Harvard University who will graduate this year with a degree in political science, also dances and sings, according to Mrs. Tucker-Saunders. Miss Tucker and NicKaylas father, Nik Turner, do not live together.
NicKaylas late great-grandmother, after whom she is named, was the minister of music at her church, where she sang and played the piano.
Mrs. Tucker-Saunders herself has been in the performing business. She was the Delaware Black Beauty Queen in 1972, when she also hosted her own talk show on cable TV, called "Local Talk With Phyllis."
Now Mrs. Tucker-Saunders is focused on her grandchilds promising career. This summer, NicKaylas mother and grandparents will move to Hollywood to be with NicKayla. There NicKayla will have the chance to see what the television industry has to offer.
Her goal, Mrs. Tucker-Saunders explains, is to work with Bill Cosby.
In her grandmothers living room in a modern apartment complex in Laurel, NicKayla, who will be 5 in August, plays with her favorite toy, a talking puppy, and wont answer a reporters questions directly; instead, she whispers what she has to say into her grandmothers ear as one might expect from a child her age.
So its hard to know what this child is thinking. What she is doing is another matter: She dances, jumps, laughs, falls on the carpet and constantly interrupts her grandmother, who looks after her with affection and asks her over and over to sing her award-winning song, "I Have a Testimony."
Mrs. Tucker-Saunders says she is not afraid her grandchild will be too spoiled with all the attention she is getting.
"Im her grandmother, and she is my only one. She is going to be spoiled no matter what," Mrs. Tucker-Saunders says.

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