Sandra Jacqueline Denton (born November 9, 1964 or 1969) , better known by her stage name Pepa or Pep, is a Jamaican-American hip hop rapper and actress, best known for her work as a member of the Grammy Award-winning female rap trio Salt-N-Pepa. Denton starred in The Salt-N-Pepa Show, a reality TV series focusing on reforming the group which aired on the VH1 network in 2008. Since January 2016, Denton has appeared as a supporting cast member on the music reality television show Growing Up Hip Hop which airs on WE tv.
Early life and education
Born in Kingston, Jamaica to Jamaican parents Charles and Enid Denton (née Hyacinth), Denton was the youngest of eight children. Denton lived on a farm in Jamaica with her grandmother until she was six years old. Denton's family moved to Queens, New York when she was three; and she later joined them. Denton has been a performer since childhood. Although her personality was full of joy growing up, Denton was molested as a child. Denton released a book about her life in 2008 entitled "Let's 'Talk About Pep'" in which she talked about being molested, her many abusive relationships, and how Salt-N-Pepa formed.
In 1979, 15-year-old Denton was sent to live with her older sister Patsy in Logan, Utah when her family home in Queens caught fire and so she could have a better life. According to Denton, she was the only Black student attending Logan High School during that time. Denton became inspired by rock music; citing AC/DC and Led Zeppelin as her inspirations during her time in Utah. After a year in Utah, Denton returned to New York, later graduating from Springfield Gardens High School. After high school, Denton enrolled at Queensborough Community College to study nursing. While attending college, Denton met fellow nursing student Cheryl James.
With the production by Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor whom she and James met while working as customer service representatives at Sears, James and Denton released a single called "The Showstopper" which became a moderate R&B hit in late 1985. They were joined with Latoya Hanson who was the original DJ of the group. Shortly after in 1986, Deidra "Spinderella" Roper joined as the group's DJ as a full-length debut album, Hot, Cool & Vicious, was being released. The trio released a total of five studio albums: "Hot, Cool, and Vicious" (1986), A Salt with a Deadly Pepa (1988), Blacks' Magic (1990), Very Necessary (1993), and Brand New (1997), plus several greatest hits albums. Salt-N-Pepa disbanded in 2002, several months after their Brand New album was released on Red Ant Records. Denton's group member Cheryl James had stated she was ready to leave the music industry. The trio reunited for a performance on VH1's Hip Hop Honors program on September 22, 2005. In 2005, Denton was a cast member of VH1's The Surreal Life (season 5).
Denton's acting credits also include the motion picture Joe's Apartment, an appearance in the HBO movie First Time Felon, and a stint as Officer Andrea Phelan on the HBO drama, Oz. She also starred on The Surreal Life: Fame Games. Salt-N-Pepa reformed in 2008, and are still in the process of releasing an album since reforming as they work out past issues. Denton teamed up with James for VH1's The Salt-N-Pepa Show. Denton also starred in her own reality show on the network entitled Let's Talk About Pep, a name play-off the group's hit song "Let's Talk About Sex". She can also be heard speaking Jamaican Patois in the song "Need U Bad" by Jazmine Sullivan. In August 2008, Denton released her autobiography, which was also entitled Let's Talk About Pep. It was co-written by Karen Hunter, and it offered a look behind the fame, family, failures, and successes of her life in one of hip-hop's most successful groups. It features an introduction by Queen Latifah, and an epilogue by Missy Elliott. To accommodate the book, Pepa launched her own social network for her fans. On October 23, 2008 Salt-N-Pepa performed at the BET Hip Hop Awards. In January 2011, Denton appeared in an episode of the TBS sitcom "Are We There Yet?" as Tammy, a woman who falls for the Terry Crews character of Nick. Denton joined the reality television show Growing Up Hip Hop as a supporting cast member in January 2016 along with her daughter Egypt (who's a main cast member) and niece Tahira Francis.
Denton once dated and was engaged to rapper Prince Markie Dee sometime during the mid-1980s. On July 6, 1990, Denton gave birth to her first child, a son she had with New York rapper Tyran "Tah-Tah" Moore whom she named Tyran Jr. Denton. She made a guest appearance on Ricki Lake in 1994, teaching teenage girls the responsibilities of being a mother. Denton was the owner of HollyHood, a retail clothing store in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia which opened in November 1995. On April 2, 1999, Denton married Treach (whose real name is Anthony Criss) of the rap group Naughty by Nature at a Kansas City tattoo parlor after dating on and off for seven years. Their wedding ceremony was held at their home in Morristown, New Jersey on July 24, 1999. Denton and Treach had one daughter, Egypt Jahnari Criss (born September 2, 1998). After allegations of physical abuse by Treach, they divorced in 2001.
- Studio albums
- Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986)
- A Salt with a Deadly Pepa (1988)
- Blacks' Magic (1990)
- Very Necessary (1993)
- Brand New (1997)