Downtown Los Angeles. A bustling urban center where the classic rolling hills and palm trees of LA halt to make way for skyscrapers, fire escapes, and vintage theaters. One such vintage venue, The Theatre at Ace Hotel, shimmers with light in the evening dusk and the name “Avery*Sunshine” glows above the entrance, suggesting the presence of the pop/soul icon who will take on the stage this Saturday, November 23rd.
I pause to think of all the times I’ve read the names on vintage theater marquees throughout my time in L.A. On every street corner there is seemingly another niche band or artist performing “TONIGHT ONLY. SOLD OUT”… and in that moment a name I had never recognized becomes my most recent search on Spotify or Apple Music. A new world of art opening before me.
But, the name Avery*Sunshine. Now those are 5 syllables that changed things.
Avery*Sunshine is the stage name of Denise Nicole White, a Philadelphia-born singer and performer. According to Sunshine, her parents named her after Denise Nicholas, a famous black actress. When Avery*Sunshine’s Spelman College sister got cast in The Color Purple on Broadway, leaving Sunshine to finish their record alone, her manager and writing partner Dana scored the opportunity for Sunshine to travel to Japan to promote her new song, “Stalk You.”
At that moment, Dana muttered words that would pivot the trajectory of Sunshine’s career: “You have an opportunity here, what do you want your name to be?”
Without even a moment of hesitation, “Avery Sunshine” was muttered — a combination of two of Sunshine’s true loves and favorite characters, Shug Avery from The Color Purple and Sunshine from Harlem Nights.
Just like that, Avery*Sunshine was born and her career has sky-rocketed ever since.
So when you step foot before The Theatre at Ace Hotel this Saturday evening and see the glowing letters of her name above you, I challenge you to take a moment to think about what your stage name might be. How does your stage name disclose your niche preferences and qualities?
Once you’ve done that, scurry on into the historic theater and enjoy the show!
See you there.