SI: You were a triple jumper at Glen Cove (N.Y) High School, and you also ran the 100 and 200 meters. When's the last time you raced somebody?
Ashanti: I raced my cousin in Virginia in the dead of winter a couple of years ago, right after my first album. We had a bet. He's about 6'6", and I'm about 5'3"--and I beat him.
SI: You could have gone to Hampton on a track scholarship. How close were you to accepting it?
Ashanti: It was like, if it didn't happen for me musically, I was going to do it. At first I deferred the scholarship. I kept coming close to going to school because I had two record deals that failed. But I kept deferring because I felt that it was going to happen in music.
SI: What advice do you have for professional athletes such as Ron Artest who are trying to break into the music business?
Ashanti: Especially for people who already have lots of money, be really cautious about the people you're around. It's very cutthroat.
SI: A couple of years ago at the MTV Video Music Awards you presented the award for best hip-hop video with LeBron James. What were your impressions of him?
Ashanti: When I met him, I was like, Oh, man, he's how old? I couldn't believe it. He looks like a man.
SI: You held your high school triple-jump record for a couple of years with a leap of 33'9". Can one still be an R&B diva while jumping into a sandpit?
Ashanti: Maybe if it's a sexy jump--if you're barefoot and you have on some really cute shorts. -- Richard Deitsch