Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Sophie B. Hawkins had a big secret when she shot to fame in 1992 with her hit single, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Her music was a form of therapy, easing the pain of ongoing sexual abuse from the age of 10.
“The biggest thing you feel,” said Hawkins, 43, during a phone conversation from Los Angeles, “is the incredible lack of confidence -- and shame.”
When the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children asked her to perform at its gala tomorrow at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, Hawkins offered to sing free.
The 135-year-old nonprofit, the first of its type, helps victims recover from the trauma of abuse and counsels child care professionals. It also set up a program in the New York City schools that teaches some 1,700 children the difference between proper and harmful touching.
“This gala is very important for me because the society really knows how to take care of children,” said Hawkins, whose emotional struggles were chronicled in “The Cream Will Rise,” a 1998 documentary directed by her manager and filmmaker, Gigi Gaston. “I didn’t have that until I was in my 30s,” she said of the therapy provided by the society.
African Drum Beat
Gravitating to music and learning how to play African drums in her teens helped Hawkins. “Drumming saved my life,” she said. “The minute I put my hands on that African drum, I put away drinking.” She learned the art of African drumming from two masters, Godson and Babutune Olatunji, and went on to perform with such icons as Bryan Ferry. Later, she would begin channeling her pain into song lyrics.
In the last decade, the platinum record-selling Hawkins has emerged as an advocate for abuse victims, animal rights and environmental causes. She’ll help the society raise $500,000.
After moving to California from New York in the late 1990s, Hawkins started contributing to environmental and animal causes including Ocean Conservancy, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists and Heifer International Foundation, the Little Rock, Arkansas-based organization that helps the poor become self-sufficient through farming.
At the gala, Hawkins will sing “As I Lay Me Down,” one of her biggest hits, “Savior Child” and “Lose Your Way.”
Her audience will include gala honorees Steven J. Golub, Lazard Ltd.’s vice chairman, and “Dateline” correspondent Chris Hansen, whose “To Catch a Predator” series for the NBC News program exposed Internet sexual predators. “Inside Edition” anchor Deborah Norville will be the evening’s host.
“In the last album she released, Sophie was very candid about the abuse she had experienced,” said Mary Pulido, the nonprofit’s executive director. “For her to donate her time is inspiring and a logical fit for a nonprofit that’s trying to make inroads into child sexual abuse.”
Now a mother and owner of three long-haired daschunds, Hawkins said she takes a grass-roots approach to finding homes for strays and shelter animals.
“When I go out with my son, we might find a cat under a car, and we’ll take it in,” she said. “Saving animals has become part of my life.”
Hawkins performs at the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Annual Gala tomorrow night at the Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South in Manhattan. Tickets begin at $600; $300 for those under 35. Information: +1-212-843-1714; http://www.nyspcc.org/nyspcc
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