THE TESTIMONIAL BIO OF JO

Joanna Eliza Raphael Smith is an American singer/songwriter, actor, and motivational speaker. Born on April 13, 1984, the Norwalk, CT recording artist is previously known as Rain Raphael. She changed her former pseudonym with her 2020 marriage to P. Smith, Jr.- an upcoming music producer and philanthropist- currently reserving the name “Rain Raphael” for her books, alone.

Prior to her new position as one-half of the gospel music duo, The BlackLoveSmiths, Jo had a moderately successful music career in the early 2000’s. Though never signed to a major label, she has released three studio albums (one of which was recorded in the Murder Inc. Studios, where multi-platinum artist, Ja Rule made most of his hit records).

As Rain, Jo has worked with many successful musicians, including Will Smith, with whom she collaborated on a group project that was disband after eight months in Burbank, California. She was selected as a finalist for The Real World twice (in cycle 20 and 21), and casted for a reality show pilot called Da Grind, led by Murphy Lee of Nelly’s St. Lunatics. Both projects fell through, but Jo remained consistent with her stage performance and opened for countless shows. Some of her most notable openings are for Lil Mo, Ne-Yo, Jagged Edge, Kurtis Blow, Juelz Santana, and Ja Rule. Her hard work and pleasant demeanor earned her a BET 106&Park Wild-Out Wednesday win and a second appearance on the show as a Favorite Performer. Yet, after such a high, life seemed to get the best of Jo and she lost her home in a three-day eviction due to her management team’s financial trouble in 2009.

Determined to make lemonade out of the lemons her music career was handing her, Jo returned to Housatonic Community College to finish her degree in Theater. Half-way through her completion, she became pregnant with her son, Legend and music became virtually impossible to continue. So, Jo focused on school and new motherhood and graduated in 2011, eight months pregnant.

Working a day job and styling hair as a side hustle, Jo managed to release her third album, after Legend was born, as a musical fair well, in 2013. She hadn’t released any music since. However, in 2018, Jo published her first book under her musical alias Rain Raphael. The book was the result of a spiked social media following, for her advice and unique perspectives on life. She titled her autobiographical book as, I Never Did Like Pink: An Intimate Interview. It is currently available on Amazon, today.

Social media turned Rain from a music artist to the sister so many people wished they had. Her sincerity struck a warm chord with her supporters and it seemed that inspiring others, was more and more of what Rain was being asked to do. This growth and vulnerability took Rain on a journey that eventually landed her right back where she started, but with an approachable authenticity that really served in uplifting people. It was who she truly was as a person, and it was not for show. Out of that need to simply, just be herself, Rain Raphael put away the alter-ego and revealed Joanna Smith, or as she would prefer, “Jo”- for short.

When asked why Jo instead of Joanna, she explains “God calls me Jo. It’s Hebrew for yes, and in everything I do… I strive to do what God says... God is my Homie,” she says. “God wears sweats with me.”  Jo’s adoration of God is prevalent in her personal life. Her book reveals an authentic relationship with The Creator. Yet, as a secular artist, Jo made the decision to switch to the gospel genre after she met and married her best friend, P.

P (whose real name is Pernel), was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist tradition. The two met by Jo’s social media invitation to “Take A Man Out” in September. Though, extremely different in their experiences, Jo and P connected deeply on the subject of God, music, and family. They became friends right away, best friends within months, and engaged two years after their first date.

Jo had a strict rule of no more boyfriends. Her hashtag, #TeamNoMoreBoyfriends went viral multiple times online, and made a memorable statement against the typical flow of relationships. Jo determined that the boyfriend/girlfriend phase was a complete waste of time and rooted in a false sense of security. P understood and agreed that relationships should be based in mutual respect and not obligation. So, P and Jo graduated from best friends to fiances, never calling each other a boyfriend or girlfriend along the way.

Their relationship’s uniqueness was further stretched, as the two abstained from sex until married and got married during a pandemic wearing black, purple, and gold, instead of traditional white. The BlackLoveSmiths are a rare find, but they credit their love story to The Author and The Finisher, God.

Jo believes God was always calling her to return her gifts to His service, but life made that calling difficult to see. She grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut in a suburban multi-cultural area, where drug abuse and alcohol disease ran amuck in her home. As a child, Jo would escape in afterschool creative arts programs, and discovered her talents in poetry, music, fashion, theater, and dance. Her dream is to, one day, create that kind of escape for other children to discover themselves, like she did. She hopes her music will inspire them.

As a songwriter, Jo has a relatable lyrical gift. Her phrases are the things listeners love to say, with or without music. So, when she partners with P. Smith Jr.’s cinematic production, the two, become awesome storytellers. The BlackLoveSmiths’ debut album, entitled The Work, is slated for release in the Fall of 2021. The seven song EP will hopefully attract a new audience to the love of God, as P&Jo are targeting the un-churched and church-less believers of the world. They promise music one can stargaze and skywatch to, and words that make listeners smile to repeat.

Their name, The BlackLoveSmiths, is a multi-definition of their purpose as a team and marriage ministry. Like blacksmiths, they work on rigid materials (tough opinions and defiant personalities), until they bend for the good. Committed to the “death do us part” the two are willing representatives of the good, imperfect and amazing truth about black love. They also call all those willing do the work, LoveSmiths. Their supporters know that the work is to love everyone, and by doing so, create more love and therefore, more of God in the world. P says, “We placed the word love between the work of a blacksmith, because love is the fire, he needs to get it done.” Jo seeks to do all things with love, and that is clear in all her works. Returning to music as a gospel artist seems to be a welcome home party for Joanna Smith, and everyone is invited to love God, with Jo.