Denise “Penni” Wilson began her career as professional R&B singer in a female trio with her sister at the young age of fourteen, in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After a string of singles and two tri-state hits, they appeared at various arenas along the east coast, opening for various R&B musical icons such as Lou Rawls, Della Reese and Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, and many more. Penni, who simultaneously pursued her college education, would leave her studies at the University of Pittsburgh for Los Angeles with her sister to in pursuit of a music career. The group has performed in Canada, France, Italy, and the Caribbean, for the likes of Julian Bond, Bill Clinton and Congressional Black Caucus as well as on television shows or such as The Tonight who with Jay Leno, the “Grammys”, etc., with such greats as Barry White, David Foster and Ed McMahon. As co-managers of her Grammy nominated niece Shanice, Penni also worked on projects with various entertainment companies such as Disney’s Hollywood Records, Motown, Columbia and La Face Records as well as the Cameron Mackintosh Broadway production of “Les Miserables”.
Growing increasingly disillusioned with the disempowering characteristics of the entertainment industry for women, Penni returned to her studies, completed her BA in Pan African Studies and her Master’s degree in Critical Studies in the department of Communication Studies at CSULA. While seeking to understand her own life experiences and challenges in the entertainment industry, she focused on the historical impact of race, class, gender and other intersectional identities of marginalized groups in the stratified U. S. culture and the effects of their representations in various media platforms. In the summer of 2004, Penni was selected as the “Best Part-Time instructor” for the Communications Studies Department after teaching her first class with over a hundred students enrolled. She has since served as adjunct faculty, in the Television, Film and Media Studies Department. For the past ten years she has taught in the Equal Opportunities Program’s Summer Bridge and Transfer Bridge programs in addition to seven years for the Pan African Studies Department at CSULA. In 2011 Penni was named “Lecturer of the Year” by the California Faculty Association and graduated from the Los Angeles African American Public Policy Institute, hosted by USC. In 2016 she received the Black Community Honors Award, sponsored by the Pan African Studies Department at the University.
For the past 15 years, Penni has also served as a co-producer and co-host of Pacifica radio’s “Beautiful Struggle” which airs on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm on 90.7 FM, Los Angeles and 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara. She has provided entertainment commentary on several episodes of TV One’s “Unsung” and made various appearances on her family’s reality show, “Flex and Shanice” which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network for several seasons. In addition to teaching, Penni continues to perform with her sister in their vocal group “Crystal Penny”. In 2016, Penni co-produced and co-directed a one man play entitled “Magic 8 Ball: My Life with Aspergers” which has been honored with 3 Hollywood Fringe Awards, one North Hollywood Fringe Award and was selected “Pick of the Fringe” in Edinburg, Scotland. She has recently co-founded an entertainment company and is currently in the process of developing a talk show for television.