Cover: Kelly Rowland | Women On Top Issue | Fall 2011
Photos by Randall Slavin
Interview by Ashley P. Williams
What’s your AMMO?
Life inspires me. Other women inspire me. Whether it’s watching them work, like there are so many women on the set of X-Factor that are so strong – the producers, the executive producers, and everyone up there. They are just so driven, and they know exactly what they want. They’re powerhouses. I love to meet women who completely inspire me.
Your latest video for the single “Motivation” shows a sexier, edgier side of Kelly than we are used to seeing. What made you want to reveal this side of yourself now?
I wouldn’t say that it is a new me. When Frank Gatson, my choreographer and creative director, and I came across this treatment, we both were like this is just really fly. From the choreography to the bodies just looking like liquid, to just everything about it. The lighting was just so beautiful. So, when we finally got through the video, there was just something that kind of oozed over the whole [thing] – just very sensual and sexual – the whole vibe, period. And it just kind of happened. It wasn’t anything [we] tried for or anything like that. It just kind of happened, to be honest with you.
Let’s talk about this new sound from you and your new album Here I Am?
The vocals are definitely more mature, and stronger. And I think that’s just growth, like [with] any album, I think that [I] should definitely grow every time. I remember hearing Janet Jackson say that, and that’s always been a goal of mine – to grow every record. But also, the fact that I didn’t allow myself to be put in a box, as far as sound is concerned. Because so many people heard “When Love Takes Over” and “Commander”, and said, “Oh my God, this [new effort] is a totally different Kelly Rowland,” and my comment to that was “No, it’s absolutely not. It’s the same person, I’m just an artist.” I think that you shouldn’t put yourself in a box, or allow other people to – sound-wise. If you can do it all, why not?
You’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the airwaves. What have you been working on, outside of music, since we’ve last heard you?
Really just making music, to be honest with you. I’ve been overseas. Doing some underground records, and that’s been fun.
What inspired you to go across the pond and what has that experience brought to your work?
I’ve been coming over to Europe since I was sixteen years old, and I think it always sparks a creative interest. You know, definitely switching up your surroundings sometimes can be a good thing. And, that’s exactly what I did. I came over here, hung out for a summer, and didn’t leave for a while. And [I] just had fun, above anything.
So, did you spend most of your time in London?
London and Paris. And, I went to Ibiza a lot.
What kind of perspective would you say you got from people overseas that the general public doesn’t necessarily have in the States?
It’s a completely different surrounding. There’s no [experience in America like] going to Paris. The accents and languages. I was supposed to learn French six months ago, but I haven’t quite opened up that box [laughs]. I’ll definitely learn it before the year ends. I promised myself.
You have an amazing body, and we understand that you just wrapped up the “Motivation”-inspired Get Healthy and Sexy for Summer (Bikini Bootcamp) DVD tied to the Twitter challenge you collaborated on with Jeanette Jenkins. How did it go? What else do you do to stay in shape?
First of all, working with Jeanette is not just working with a trainer, but I think what she’s taught me overall is that eating right and exercising is a lifestyle. And you can definitely find time and make time for exercise, if you want it bad enough. I like my clothes. I want to fit into my clothes, always. I don’t want [my] shoes to be the only thing [I] can keep in my closet. I’ve been given so many amazing clothes from designers and I really love [them]. But, I really love how I feel above anything. I feel so much better when I eat clean. I feel so much better when I’m juicing. I feel so much better when I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do for my body. And I can have my cheat days. [Jeanette] has this 80/20 rule that she taught me: you are strict 80 percent of the time on what you eat, and what’s a part of your lifestyle, and then 20 percent – you can go a little crazy. I’m obsessed with cake.
So of that 20 percent, how much of that goes to cake?
Probably 19! And one percent is a cocktail.
Are you as bag- and shoe- obsessed as so many women can be? If so, are there any designers that you love right now as far as accessories go?
I shop with everybody to be honest with you. I go the department store and just rummage through everything to see what I like and it’s a lot of fun to do that for me. I love my shoes though. I love, love, love my shoes. At Selfridges, in the UK, they have the best shoe department. You can find every shoe by every designer. And I plan on going there and spending half a day tomorrow [laughs]. I love finding pieces that I can have forever. Those pieces that you can see in your closet that won’t go anywhere, they just stay current – all the time. Or they come back – fashion is a circle really.
You were a part of one of the biggest female singing groups of this generation, Destiny’s Child. How has being solo compared to working with a group – both creatively and logistically?
Creatively [as a solo artist] you’re just depending on yourself. And I remember, when I was with the girls, we did everything together. [Solo], you just focus on yourself within your own creative space – to do whatever you want. Although [within the group], we allowed each other the freedom of ideas, and of everything – which was [what was] great about being with Destiny’s Child – the cool thing [about being solo] is that it’s really just you. You come up with everything, or you give ideas to the producers and tell them what space your in, and that’s a really cool feeling.
Is it easier or more difficult working by yourself?
At first, it was difficult because I was so used to being with the ladies. But it is easier now…now that I’ve gotten more used to my surroundings. They still support me, though. It’s still love.
You’re extremely philanthropic. And, you’ve given your time and resources to efforts that span from personal healthcare to child welfare. How do you pick which projects to support?
Honestly, whatever touches my heart. Whatever I feel the closest to, because I wouldn’t be real, or genuine, if I just went after everything. I have someone very near and dear to me who is going through breast cancer right now. And, I have someone very near and dear to me who’s going through testicular cancer. So, when it comes to anything that has to do with cancer, I usually want to be involved. And, anything that has to do with kids. My goodness, it’s the next generation. They are going to be our next doctors and presidents and teachers, and they’re going to fill this world; we need positivity for these kids to be happy and sane.
What charities are you working with now?
I’m actually doing my own charity. It’s called “I Heart My Girlfriends.” It’s been in my mind forever. I’m just happy that I finally got the opportunity to start working on it. And that’s been wonderful. Basically it’s where I go to different schools or foster homes and talk to girls, or bring other ladies with me. It’s about building young females up to support each other – love each other. You always hear “females can’t get along” and that bothers me. So, I want to change that.
What kind of impact has “I Heart My Girlfriends” had on the girls you’ve worked with?
Often, we can feel buried in our situation. And, it’s more so about girls feeling like they have someone to talk to – and that’s each other. When I go talk to the girls, and then they hear what each other is going through, they’re like, “Oh my God…you always walk around like you’re hard or you don’t want to talk to nobody, and I had no idea ‘that’ was going on with you. You can always talk to me.” That’s breaking down a barrier right there. And, that’s a lot within itself, because, you know, sometimes that never happens…ever.
What’s next for Kelly Rowland?
This album! Also, of course, X-Factor over here in the UK. And, I’m crossing my fingers…I would love to do a movie by the end of the year.
Be sure to pick up Ms. Kelly’s album Here I Am in stores and on iTunes NOW!