Sandra “Pepa” Denton on Soles4Souls’ Shoe Donation Drive, working daughter Egypt Criss, Salt-N-Pepa, and more

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Photo by Rodin Banica

Photo by Rodin Banica
Sandra “Pepa” Denton & Egypt Criss – Photo by Rodin Banica

As one-third of the legendary hip-hip trio Salt-N-Pepa, Sandra “Pepa” Denton has been recognized multiple times by the Grammys, MTV Video Music Awards, and American Music Awards. She has sold millions of albums with Salt-N-Pepa’s first five studio albums all achieving RIAA-certified sales plateaus. Songs like “Push It,” “Shoop,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Whatta Man” and “None Of Your Business” are only a few of the Salt-N-Pepa classics that charted, and they remain staples in clubs and on radio stations worldwide.

Sandra remains active and visible these days on a variety of projects. Salt-N-Pepa is currently headlining the I Love The 90’s Tour — also including Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc, Coolio, Young MC and Color Me Badd — which makes an area appearance at Newark’s Prudential Center on Sept. 1. She had her own series on VH1 a few years back, Let’s Talk About Pep, which also led to a 2010 memoir of the same name. Now she is currently filming for the WE series Growing Up Hip Hop, which she participates in with daughter Egypt Criss, who has an album in the works. Sandra also does a lot of charity work and invests in start-ups.

Following her appearance with Egypt at the DSW at 79th & Broadway on Aug. 10, Sandra caught up with Downtown for some Q&A. In such, she discussed their involvement with Soles4Souls, which is currently leading a shoe drive at DSW through Aug. 21. Customers can participate in the shoe drive by donating new and gently-used shoes to DSW stores nationwide.

Beyond www.saltnpepa.net, Salt-N-Pepa remain active on Instagram and Twitter. Pepa herself is on Twitter as @DaRealPepa. Egypt is on Twitter as @EgyptCriss and on Instagram as @EgyptCriss98. More on Soles4Souls and the good it does around the world can be found at www.soles4souls.org.

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How did you first get involved with Soles4Souls?

Sandra “Pepa” Denton: I got involved with Soles4Souls when [husband] Gurps [Singh Rai] invested in Bicion on behalf of my daughter Egypt, and the company decided to launch with a mind-blowing project centered around a charitable auction.

How would you describe this organization to someone not yet familiar?

SD: Soles4Souls is one of the coolest non-profit organizations. To think they provide disenfranchised people around the world with not just footwear and clothing but dignity and hope is amazing.

I saw that Egypt and Gurps also previously partnered with Soles4Souls to auction off the most expensive sneaker! Can you tell me a little about that as well?

SD: Well, Gurps is crazy and comes up with ideas that sound impossible to achieve, and then bam, there it is the world’s most expensive sneaker. When he and Egypt told me about the project, it really went over my head, but then when I saw the sneaker at a private viewing I was really blown away! I know it’s scheduled to go into the Guinness Book of World Records soon and then auctioned off for S4S so I hope it achieves the financial results to help Soles4Souls’ mission.

Photo by Rodin Banica
Photo by Rodin Banica

What’s coming up next for you career-wise? I know you are currently touring with the I Love The 90s Tour as well as doing some private appearances. Any New York City dates on the schedule?

SD: This year has been a whirlwind for the band and the I Love The 90s Tour has been absolutely crazy! We are selling out arenas all over the States. It’s like 10K to 15K crowds ranging from millennials to people born in the 1950s and 60s. It’s just amazing to see our music transcend all these generations. We have TV shows, reality and fictional, in the works and I’m personally on a TV show with my daughter Egypt called Growing Up Hip Hop, which we are currently filming season 2 of.

You have broken barriers, shattered glass ceilings in the music industry and won many awards. Is there anything you’re still hoping to accomplish that you haven’t yet, professionally or personally?

SD: I’m currently investing in private technology companies, like I’m looking for the next Uber — aren’t we all? (laughs) I have just recently invested in a tech startup from London called Kleek, which is like the Uber for nightlife. I’m also looking to help disenfranchised youth in the inner city areas and give back to my people who support our music and culture. This is also a big passion of Gurps, so together we mentor young kids from a tough up bringing. We are giving back to the ‘hood!

When you’re not busy with your career or your philanthropy, how do you like to spend your free time?

SD: We bought a lovely home in the middle of nowhere and I get to be with nature and just relax. I love how calm our home is and when I get to be there which, is not very often. (laughs) We all make the most of it as a family. Meditation is also key for me to have a good centered mind-frame for when I’m out working. I’m also working on my daughter Egypt’s album and her career — that generally that takes up a lot of my time!

Finally, Sandra, I know you are here today promoting the Soles4Souls back to school donation drive with DSWKids. Any last words for the kids?

SD: You guys are the next generation of world leaders, business owners and tastemakers, and we need you to live with love and support your friends, family and the less fortunate with your great energy and successes.