The first time nona gaye appeared
in front of the camera was on an episode of the ’70s dance show, “Soul
Train.” Brought out on stage to introduce her father, the
late, great Marvin Gaye, Nona blinked at the audience, thrust her
out and spoke her lines like a vet.

“He came back out after he performed,” Gaye
says of her father, “and
he said, ‘This is my little girl, Nona, and she also sings
quite well.’”

This compliment was more than enough encouragement
for Nona. Choosing to follow her dad’s lead, she began
to pursue her own singing career at an early age.

“I think it was just second nature,” she
admits. “I’d
grown up in a musical family and there was music and singing going
on in my house ever since I can remember. But it was difficult,
because my father’s legacy was so strong and he was so influential
to so many millions of people that I didn’t want to let them
down. Sometimes I feel that pressure still. But I’ve learned
to deal with it.”

Gaye overcame her inhibitions quickly, recording
her first demo at age 14 and releasing her debut album, “Love for the Future,” with
Atlantic Records in 1992.

“I just had to do it, despite what people were
going to say,” explains
Gaye. “And it helped that I never felt like I wanted to do
anything else.”

Except acting, that is, which Gaye stumbled into almost by accident.
After taking a two-year hiatus from music to focus on her son, Gaye
returned to her agents at William Morris, ready to jump back into
the fray.

“They asked if I was interested in acting,
as well,” says Gaye, “and
I said, ‘Yes, terribly interested.’ So they sent me
out on my first audition and they told me, ‘You don’t
have experience and won’t get the part, but don’t be
upset. Just get your feet wet.’ And that audition was for

Gaye defied her agents’ expectations and got the part, going
on to star opposite Will Smith as Muhammad Ali’s second wife.

“There were moments on that set where I thought, ‘What
am I doing?’” laughs Gaye, “I was so nervous
and so inexperienced. But everyone in that cast welcomed me like
an equal
and, in the end, it felt the same way music did.

It was like food.
It feeds you and it nourishes you and it’s the only thing
I know that gives you that feeling.”
The critical acclaim Gaye received for Ali lead the way to high
profile roles in The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions as well
as a starring turn opposite Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis’ The
Polar Express
, due out next year.

Gaye is also in the process of recording her next album.

“I could never stop singing,” she says, “and
lucky that I had an album out before all this. Now I can go back
to it without people saying, ‘Oh, here’s another
actress trying to sing.’ Basically all I want to do is
keep learning and growing. I want to be ready for anything.” MM