TACOMA, Wash. — Her voice has captured the attention of the world and now J'nai Bridges is set to perform her first concert in Washington state at the Seattle Opera.
"I feel like it's my homecoming," Bridges said. "Everything I've been doing for the past 20 years; I'm coming home to say thank you."
Opera Wire named Bridges one of its top 11 singers of 2022, calling her "Opera Royalty."
The Kennedy Center recently name J'nai one of its next 50, alongside other notable names like Megan Rapinoe and Amanda Gorman.
And since KING 5 Evening last interviewed her in 2020, the production of Akhnaten at the Metropolitan Opera, for which she starred, won a Grammy Award.
"It's still sinking in to be honest. I look at my Grammy on the shelf at home and I'm like wow, I have a Grammy!" Bridges shared. "It's nice to know that my hard work is paying off and inspiring people."
And that inspiration extends beyond the stage, where she also uses her voice.
She admits to being outspoken, calling herself an Artivist (a combination of Artist and Activist).
In 2020, after the killing of George Floyd, she turned a planned digital concert into a movement.
"I just thought, I can't sing. I don't have it in me. I'm mourning," Bridges said. "So you know, I decided in lieu of singing a recital, I would moderate a panel."
African-Americans in the opera world spoke candidly about their experiences and the conversations led to some changes.
More recently J'nai went public with the struggles all opera performers face traveling and paying for their own housing.
"I definitely have feared retribution or being cancelled because we're in such a cancel society," Bridges admitted. "But I think it's hard to cancel truth."
J'nai says she has a lot more to do on and off the stage. But now she's most excited about finally performing in her home state. It's a concert version of a "Samson and Delilah" at Seattle Opera.
J'nai's parents, Pam and Paris, are no doubt proud of their daughter. But they are equally blown away by how she's kept them and her Pacific Northwest community close.
"What I love is that she has included us in the grandeur of it all," explained J'nai's mom Pam Bridges. "So, the experiences she has exposed her family and her village, her friends. We do things that we would not have done without the fact that she invites us."
J'nai's dad, Paris, said it's not uncommon for J'nai to introduce them to audiences.
"She might say, 'I'm so proud of my mother and father. They flew to London, or flew to LA. Mom and dad standup!'" Paris said.
In addition to family support, J'nai credits her time at Charles Wright Academy for nurturing her. It was her choir teacher, Julie Kangas, who discovered J'nai had a natural gift and should pursue it.
It's safe to say, J'nai is so glad she did.
She will perform a concert version of "Samson and Delilah" at Seattle Opera Jan. 20 and 22nd.