Dionne Warwick says that at the premiere screening of the new documentary about her life and career, Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, she was “taken aback to hear the applause" that came from the live TIFF audience. The rest of us, however, aren’t at all surprised. The superstar, who told reporters at a Festival press conference on Sunday that she’s "very proud of who I am and what I accomplished" has more than enough reason to feel that way.
And in Don’t Make Me Over, audiences who’ve loved her since her ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ days plus those who know her from her instantly iconic Twitter presence will understand exactly why Ms. Warwick is a legend loved by everyone from Snoop Dogg to Stevie Wonder to President Bill Clinton.
Warwick was already a chart-topping artist when the AIDS crisis swept across the globe in the early 1980s. At the time, people knew little about how the disease actually spread from one person to another and misinformation travelled at the speed of light (sound familiar?). As she watched friends die of the disease while little help was offered to them, the singer decided she had to do something about it.
The first step was to raise millions for the American Foundation for AIDS research by recruiting fellow superstars Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight to record the hit "That’s What Friends Are For." But Warwick didn’t stop there. Instead, she took her AIDS activism all the way to the White House where Bill Clinton (an avowed superfan of Warwick’s hit "Do You Know The Way To San Jose") sat down with her to discuss how the US could improve the fight against AIDS and HIV. As Clinton recalls in the doc, it was Warwick who acted as a catalyst for some of the work he ended up doing to address the crisis but, he says, she never stopped pushing him to do more.
Clinton wasn’t the only powerful figure to receive some valuable (albeit unsolicited) advice from Dionne. Snoop Dogg is also on the list of beneficiaries. As gangsta rap was becoming a pop cultural phenomenon thanks to artists like Snoop, Dr. Dre, and Tupac Shakur, Warwick found herself appalled by one specific element: the frequency with which these artists referred to women as “b--ches.” So she invited Snoop Dogg and some of his colleagues over to her house to talk about it. At seven o’clock in the morning.
Terrified to be even a minute late, Snoop said he rang her doorbell at 6:52 am that morning to be treated to donuts, coffee, and a challenge: “Call me a b--ch,” Warwick told him. The lesson was twofold, recalled Snoop: stop using that word and recognize that though he may be a “gangsta,” as he put it, Dionne Warwick was a bigger one.
With film production and release schedules being what they are, the doc didn’t include the words of wisdom Warwick publicly offered up to Offset and Cardi B earlier this year — so we’re crossing our fingers for a sequel to tell us what advice they were lucky enough to get from an absolute legend.
[video_embed id='2281253']BEFORE YOU GO: Canadians own the red carpet at the Met Gala [/video_embed]