Kelly Rowland Won't Let the Rest of the World Tell Her Who She Is

The singer, actress, and cultural icon tells Broadly about overcoming life's obstacles and learning to let go of other people's criticisms.

|
Jun 12 2018, 5:38pm

Photo by Newspix via Getty Images

Kelly Rowland was just 19 years old when Destiny’s Child received its first Grammy nomination for “Bills Bills Bills” and won “Best Artist of the Year” at the Billboard Music Awards in 2000. And though 2001 brought the release of their third album Survivor and a Grammy win for “Say My Name,” the group announced that they were taking a brief hiatus to embark on solo projects. In 2002, Rowland collaborated with Nelly on the hit single “Dilemma,” which earned her a Grammy and made her the first member of Destiny’s Child to achieve a number-one single. Once poised to become the breakout star of Destiny’s Child, Rowland’s path to success has involved more recesses from the spotlight than expected.

Her 2002 album So Deep and 2007 album Ms Kelly saw success, but failed to produce chart-topping singles like “Dilemma.” Still, Rowland remained a beloved cultural icon, landing acting roles in movies like Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and reuniting with Destiny’s Child for their final studio album Destiny Fulfilled in 2004. In 2005, she teamed up with Beyoncé to found the Survivor Foundation, a charity that provided transitional housing for storm evacuees in the Houston, Texas area.

In 2009, Rowland extricated herself from her Destiny’s Child roots by officially parting ways with Columbia Records and manager Matthew Knowles. This move propelled her next two compilation albums, Work: The Best of Kelly Rowland (2010) and Playlist: the Very Best of Kelly Rowland (2011). Sadly, neither of these albums took off, despite her reunion with Nelly in “Gone.” (To their credit, “Dilemma” is a tough act to follow.)

Rowland’s 2011 album Here I Am brought her back into the spotlight with the success of her steamy Lil Wayne duet “Motivation.” In 2013, Destiny’s Child released the compilation album Love Songs and reunited for Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, and Rowland replaced Britney Spears as a judge on The X Factor. That same year, Rowland released her fourth solo album Talk a Good Game and made headlines for her single “Dirty Laundry,” which candidly referenced being in an abusive relationship and having fleeting feelings of jealousy toward Beyoncé. The raw and personal song showcased her musical skill and lyrical vulnerability, and launched her album into a billboard success.

Over the last few years, Rowland has remained a beloved public figure, popping back into our lives with a role in Empire, hosting that 2016 BET docu-series Chasing Destiny, and publishing her humorous parenting book Whoa Baby in 2017. This year, she reunited with Beyoncé and Michelle during Knowles’ headlining Coachella set, and now, Rowland is the fact of Schick’s Unstoppable campaign about overcoming obstacles in life.

Broadly sat down with Rowland to discuss the hardships she's overcome and get advice for upcoming women artists.

Rowland at the "Unstoppable" event in NYC. Photo by Edelman

BROADLY: What is one moment you remember in your career that you’ve had to overcome?
KELLY ROWLAND: Believing things that people said about me. That was probably the hardest one. If someone says something negative, nine times out of 10, it’s usually a situation where it’s something they secretly feel they are, and they project that onto you. You have to know not to own it. It’s so funny, because I’ll tell young girls that now, [though] I know that they don’t understand in that moment. I pray that some of them do. You really have to remind yourself how much people project. You can’t allow the rest of the world to tell you who you are. Otherwise, you’ll internalize all of the insecurities of the world.

Do you and Beyonce and Michelle have special traditions you like to do when you hang out?
We love to eat, we love our food. Always have, always will. Beyoncé and I are southern, Michelle is midwest, we like our food. We love just chilling and finding a meal to pore over.

What’s your most embarrassing memory of a time you were performing and forgot the lyrics to one of your songs?
This happens all the time, (laughs), probably every performance. If you see me put the mic out, I’ve definitely forgotten the lyrics. Sometimes I’m doing it on purpose to be interactive, but most of the time if I’m directing the mic to the audience it’s because I’ve forgotten. If I’ve got a blank face, then you know I’ve forgotten.

If you had to sum up your 2018 mood in one song, what would it be?
Right now, it would probably be Titanium by David Guetta. I love what that song represents.

The current political climate is stressful, to say the least. I’ve heard you emphasize the importance of voter involvement, do you feel hopeful about the midterm elections?
I think we have to take more physical action in regards to the midterm elections. I feel like this new generation is filled with vigor and they mean business. Of course, I also mean business, but they make me feel like—if I don’t gear up and figure out how to get involved, I failed them. I do not want to fail them. I don’t wanna fail my son (Titan), I want to have another child, and I don’t wanna fail my unborn child. You know what I mean? I just feel like we have to do right.

What advice would you give young artists coming up in this political climate, especially young Black women?
I think my word of wisdom would definitely be: Don’t apologize for who you are. Don’t apologize for anything. Don’t apologize for the curls of your hair, don’t apologize for the color of your skin, don’t apologize for the sway and swagger and urbanized moments we have with our speech that end up becoming trends. The woman is the matriarch, and I think that in my community, black women have always been the center and the matriarch of their families. When it’s time for you, and you’re learning how to be that, don’t apologize for having a voice and speaking up. This goes not just for Black women, but of course, other women as well. Just, all around, don’t apologize.

For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Based on your experience in the music industry, what is something you wish white artists, particularly white male artists, would do to help redirect the power dynamics?
I think that you give credit where it’s due, you know what I mean? I think there’s a responsibility to loudly appreciate those artists that have come before you and are opening up the doors for you. Artists need to recognize that this opportunity we have is not to be taken for granted. Say something when you’re making music, there needs to be a heartbeat to it, so people can actually align with something. It’s a responsibility you have as an artist. Yes, we have to sell records, but there needs to be more. That’s how I feel.

Your son Titan is really cute by the way. I know he’s only three years old, but can you sense if he has the music bug?
He does feel like he loves music. Right now he’s all about music all the time. His favorite song right now is “Say My Name,” it’s really cute!

Speaking of “Say My Name,” do you have any new music currently in the works?
I do! I am very excited, after this I am rushing back to LA to finish some tracks.