Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs had a grand vision: to create the biggest-selling boyband the world had ever seen. The brilliance behind such stars as Jodeci, Mary J Blige and Notorious B.I.G, he was bound to discover true talent. But did Diddy count on Que? Flavour talks to the man in question…
While scouring the US for male singers to front his R&B supergroup, every moment was simultaneously filmed for Diddy’s reality show Making the Band. And we loved it. After we witnessed all the tears, fights and shock dismissals, eventually five young men of the very highest triple-threat calibre were chosen and Day26 was unleashed on the world.
One of the band members, who managed to meet Diddy’s very high standards, was 22-year-old music graduate Qwanell Mosley, from Rochester, New York. With Diddy’s wisdom and creativity fuelling the young Que’s talent, he was propelled straight into the life of an R&B star. Where other band members found it hard to cope not only with the very tough taskmaster that is Sean Combs, but also their newfound lifestyles and the sheer hard work involved with such a project, Que seemed to sail through the entire process, emerging without so much as a hair out of place.
Falling in love with Que
As Day26 and its accompanying reality show progressed, we fell in love with Que, and he in turn openly fell in love with Dawn Richard (formerly of Danity Kane, now of Diddy-Dirty Money). The nation was hooked as they shared their first kiss and became one of the most loveable couples in R&B history. Que showcased his flare for romance, laden with the stuff many women dream of – rose petals on the bed, Stevie Wonder serenades and frequent declarations of his love for Dawn.
Also unashamedly expressed was his church background and his love for God. Que very quickly emerged as the ‘nice one’ of the group and women all over the world – of all ages – couldn’t help but love him. But then along came Making the Band 4 (Season 3). Fans of the show were amazed as we witnessed a very dramatic change in Mr Mosley. He constantly fought with his bandmates and now former manager Screwface, while also displaying what seemed paranoid, disruptive and irrational behaviour no one could understand.
Questions about Que
Naturally, after this season of Making the Band was aired, there was speculation over Que’s mental health and also rumours of a split with long-term girlfriend Dawn. But the final blow came in December 2009, when Que was formally told by none other than his bandmates that they would be continuing without him.
Here, in his first and only UK interview, Que finally sets the record straight. He puts all the rumours to bed and turns a fresh page to the next chapter of his life, love and career as a solo artist.
‘Basically, it was business,’ Que explains straight away. ‘If you guys watched the show, you would know our manager’s name is Screwface. He never got the business together. When we got signed to Atlantic Records, the same stuff was going on that I had been complaining about when we were on TV, with all the Making the Band stuff. I was telling Screwface I didn’t want to go through all that again and I want the business to be in order.
‘Because of that, the group members wrote me a letter back in December (2009) saying, ‘We don’t want to work with you anymore.’ [Laughs] It was very random, and they had the lawyers sign it. So that is what happened with Day26. The group members kicked me out.’
His shock dismissal from Day26 and the discordant behaviour portrayed in the final series of Making the Band caused concern to grow for Que’s mental health not to mention his future. However, he assures us that there is nothing to worry about and that reality TV does not necessarily depict reality. ‘I definitely think they did some crazy edits with that. I’m not crazy at all; but when it comes down to me and my money, I will get crazy. I didn’t react properly to business situations, because I was young, and I will take some of the blame for that; but as far as everything else, I can’t take the blame, because I am not a bad person. I’m very cool, I’m very humble, I have respect and I was raised properly. My parents raised me in church. I have morals.
‘So I am not the crazy guy they made me out to be. But… I did get crazy, because the money wasn’t right. They tried to make it look like I was making up things and all the time I was telling the truth.’
In discussion with the R&B star, his main bone of contention seems to lie with the band’s former manager, Screwface. ‘Yeah, we [Que and Screwface] had a lot of big arguments about the business side of things. The money wasn’t right and the sums just didn’t add up. Basically, he was trying to make it look like I was crazy and I was making these things up.
‘He had two contracts that he had us signed to, an A26 contract and a Star Struck Management contract, and he was sending cheques from both contracts. I was like, wait a minute, I didn’t even sign an A26 contract. I only signed a Star Struck Management contract, so why am I getting cheques from both of these companies? That is illegal. You are not giving us the right money… it just wasn’t right at all.’
Even though Que was technically fired by his former bandmates, he makes it clear that he has no issue with them. ‘It had nothing to do with the guys, our friendships or our brotherhood; we all were fine. It’s just that the business wasn’t in order and I was just like, this shit doesn’t make sense. I’m not about to be a slave to his system.’
As much as no one wants to be ripped off, doesn’t it appear strange that only Que took issue with the business side of things, whereas the other four members of the group seemed to have no problem with their finances or management?
‘You know, that’s a good question. I don’t know why they didn’t have a problem with it. I’ve always wanted to make money. I’m all for the illusion of hustling and doing it for fun, but I don’t like pretending. I have a family; I like to eat; I like to go on vacation… so I had a big problem with not making money. I don’t know why they didn’t want the business in order.’
Did Diddy give him the chop?
Initially scouted by Diddy – who is renowned for his relentless work ethic and unsympathetic iron fist when dealing with any kind of troublemakers or time-wasters to his camp – people automatically assumed he was responsible for the chop decision. However, Que explains that this is absolutely not the case. ‘That’s the thing, it was never Puff. It was Screwface. Making the Band made it seem like it was Puff, because that is Puff’s show. Everybody thought it was Puff, but it wasn’t him; it was always Screwface I was talking about and that I had the problems with.
‘I never had a problem with Bad Boy’s contract – I understood that. I never had a problem with Atlantic Records. My problem was solely with the manager. When we had meetings at the label, I wasn’t invited to meetings. I have a problem with that, because I’m an artist, this is my life. I need to be in those meetings, I need to be in those conference calls, I need to know what’s going on… How much money are we getting? Where are we going? I need to know these things. I signed a contract. That contract is like your life.’
We have so far established that Que is not crazy, that Diddy wasn’t behind his sacking, and that his only issue was with the group’s management and the business side of things. Yet even though the dust has now settled between Que and his former bandmates, their relationships remain slightly strained.
When asked if he is still contact with Willie, Brian, Mike and Robert, Que responds with a slightly mournful tone. ‘Not all of them. I mean, we actually got into a conference call a couple of weeks ago, Willie set it up. I got in contact with Willie on Twitter. I sent him a message basically saying, “Yo, I want to atone with you guys. I know we kind of left on bad terms, but I want us all to be successful and I want us all to make it.” And Willie set up a conference call with the guys. We all got on the phone and we all said our piece. We are all cool, I guess. I have no bad feelings towards them.
Being part of such a tight unit, who we saw laugh together, cry together and grow from boys to men, as they embarked on the rags to riches journey that many young artists dream of, surely it must hurt not being a part of that anymore and also to lose four of his closest friends? ‘I miss performing with them, I’ll be honest. Day26 changed my life. That is how I became (for want of a better word) a celebrity. That’s how I won the BET award, that’s who I got nominated for all these awards across the world with.’
Diddy Dirty Money’s Dawn Richard
Another very close bond formed on Making the Band, was Que’s relationship with Dawn Richard. We watched their first kiss and also saw the very closed and private Dawn finally open up to someone. Since Que’s split from Day26, the gushy Twitter messages between the couple almost instantly dried up and the rumour mill with regards to a split has since been in overdrive.
Although his answers to our questions about Dawn are slightly evasive, we can confirm that Dawn and Que (affectionately dubbed ‘DQue’) are still very much a couple – hooray! However, after falling in love on TV in front of the world’s scrutiny, both parties have decided on more of a ‘Jay-Z/Beyonce’ type of approach to their relationship from now on.
‘Dawn has her projects – she is with Dirty Money – and I am a solo artist now. We both have respect for each other’s careers; we are still talking. Everything is good.’ Evasive as you like, there is just no hiding certain things. So are they still in love? The tone of Que’s voice says they are. ‘Of course I’m still in love with her. I love Dawn. I always will.
The pressure of falling in love on TV and having to live out your relationship in the public eye hasn’t made the DQue love story any easier. ‘At first it was fun on TV and having that experience, but after a while it gets overwhelming. You are trying to live a normal life and people are constantly in your business. When the cameras turned off, we got to a point where we were like, OK, we really like each other; everybody just calm down a little bit and let us live our lives. This is why we are not so open about our relationship anymore. I want that to be private and I want that to be special. I really like Dawn and I don’t want the media to get into that and strain it.’
With the dramas of 2009 firmly behind him, we focus on the Que of 2011. Fully in control of his career and finally getting the artistic licence he so desperately craved while in the group, Que’s solo career is beginning to take shape and he is in better form than ever.
‘I am in a very happy place right now,’ he says, ‘and I’m in charge of my vision. When I say something, I don’t have to say it twice. People listen. I am very happy as a solo artist.’
Despite no formal promotion or record label behind him, Que’s mixtape Guitar Her still managed to receive an overwhelming response worldwide – in fact, 300,000 downloads in just three weeks. ‘I know that people support me and love me. I was surprised to see the numbers, though – and that was just through Twitter. I thought, wow, that’s like records that could have been sold [laughs].’
The more you speak to Que, the more you realise that he really is all about the music. When describing the concept behind Guitar Her, his enthusiasm and passion is hard to contain. ‘Basically, the guitar represents the woman, and her body is my muse. It’s like having sex with a guitar. If you look at the shape of a guitar, it’s like a woman and the little circle part that you play… that’s kind of… represents… her erm… female parts. The way you strum the strings and it makes noise and stuff… [laughs]. I’m sorry I… This isn’t going live is it…? [Laughs].’
These statements only further emphasise how much of a free-spirited artist Que really is, and this makes you begin to understand why he was so frustrated at being trapped in a boyband bubble, with camera lenses capturing every move.
Up until now, he was ‘the nice one from Day26’ and ‘Dawn Richard’s boyfriend’. With Guitar Her Vol 2 currently underway and plans for a documentary programme about his life, Que certainly has big ideas for the future. The troubles of 2009 have shifted and he’s in a much better place, demonstrating that if you are no longer with that guy/girl, you lost that job, or missed out on what you thought was a golden opportunity, it doesn’t have to spell the end.
As a Christian, Que takes a more spiritual look at these instances. ‘I believe that everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe that God makes mistakes. He has a plan and a purpose for everything. I don’t feel that God has made a mistake with his decision as far as the place that I am in. I think it’s just for me to keep pushing forward in order to figure it out… be a man and just keep pushing.’ Like a phoenix rising from the ashes…
Que is now getting all the things he so desperately wanted while in the band: full control over his career and his finances, all the artistic freedom he so desires and the choice to keep his personal life personal. Maybe now this will be the making of him…
Words by Trina John-Charles
Photographer – David Linton
Stylist – Christina Roman
Make-up – max makeup pro