Jordin Sparks’ accomplishments are many: she was the then-youngest-ever winner of American Idol, has sold millions of albums, was nominated for a Grammy, and had her film debut in Sparkle,which opened last weekend. And on Saturday, after performing at the event in 2009, 22-year-old Sparks will return to co-host the 17th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Presented by Hess alongside TV personality Quddus.
The NYC event, which kicks off the U.S. Open, honors the memory of tennis pro Arthur Ashe, who passed away in 1993, and his commitment to social causes. In that spirit, the annual Kids’ Day event features free family activities at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a chance to watch the pros practice, and the ticked stadium show, which will feature live performances by such artists as Carly Rae Jepsen, Owl City, and The Wanted. (It’s a return of sorts for the event itself: last year’s Kids’ Day had to be cancelled because of Hurricane Irene.)
“You have all of these kids together in one place so to have it be something that is so fun and so interactive, to see these live performances, it could potentially inspire them,” Sparks said. “It’s a way to introduce kids to music, without bashing them over the head or making it seem like it’s a classroom setting. It allows them to soak it in without really realizing it.”
And Sparks is quite the music fan herself, obviously. She excitedly chatted with EW about all the acts she was looking forward to watching perform right alongside the kids, from knowing that people are “going to go crazy” for Jepsen’s Song of the Summer “Call Me Maybe,” to Sparks’ personal fave performer, Rachel Crow. Like Sparks, Crow is a reality-competition alum, competing on the first cycle of The X Factor. “I remember watching her and thinking she’s so talented,” Sparks said. “She was way younger than I was [when I was on a reality show.] You felt for her. I’m excited to just be standing there and be a fan.”
Rocking out to Crow will cap off a pretty exciting week for Sparks, who is earning great reviews for her performance in Sparkle, which opened last Friday. “I’ve never gone to a movie premiere for my own movie,” she said. “That was new and different. We”re proud of everything that is happening with [the film] and I’m sure Whitney [Houston] would be so proud [as well].”
And getting the chance to work with an icon like Houston is a memory she’ll always treasure. “She was just always herself,” she said about her co-star. “She was so funny and silly, she was always 100% herself and she wasn’t afraid to be herself. To get that kind of example and reminder from somebody who I’ve listened to [my whole life] was incredible, and I’ll always keep that with me.”
You can catch highlights of Sparks’ gig as co-host of Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Presented by Hess on CBS this Sunday at 12 p.m ET.