Kelly Rowland talks about raising a black son in Trump’s America and whether Destiny’s Child will reunite.
Growing up in the ’90s, it was amazing to see the trio of powerful, creative women in Destiny’s Child launch their career. From the first time I heard “Bills, Bills, Bills,” I wanted to be as confident and cool as the young women singing about refusing to pay for some scrub’s flip phone. I admired Beyoncé Knowles and Michelle Williams, but what made Rowland shine was her empowering attitude, determination, and powerhouse vocals.
In 2002, each member of Destiny’s Child began to pursue solo careers, something that has continued for the past fifteen years. Rowland stood out because of her ability to be genre-fluid; she showed she was able to transition from hip-hop to pop to R&B and EDM seamlessly, care of collaborations with Nelly and David Guetta and her own material. In 2009, she boldly made the choice to cut ties with longtime manager and father figure Mathew Knowles to instill full creative control in her profession.
When it comes to Rowland’s career, one thing is clear: she’s never been afraid to take risks and try new things. Rowland has four solo albums under her belt (with a fifth on the way), led a TV search for the next big girl group on Chasing Destiny, and had a recurring role on Empire as a young Lucious Lyons’s mother. Now a mother to a two-year-old son, Rowland has gone down another career path, this time as the author of Whoa, Baby!: A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened), a book she co-wrote with her OB-GYN, Dr. Tristan Bickman. Rowland wanted to provide comfort to new mothers who didn’t know how to handle the physical and emotional effects of post-pregnancy.
2017 is looking to be a big year for Rowland with the release of her book, an album coming down the pipeline, and even a makeup line for women of color. I spoke with her about living in a Trump world, the impact of her new book, and reflecting on Destiny’s Child.
ILANA KAPLAN: What was your reaction to the news that Hillary Clinton didn’t win? Were you expecting it?
KELLY ROWLAND: I was stressed. I kept rubbing my head and touching my heart and trying to figure out how this happened. It was disappointment, wonder, and anxiety. I just went and had a glass of wine. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. All I could think about was women, my friends, a job in the future I might want to have … do I want to have another child? I thought about my nieces, my family, and this country. It terrorized me for a second. I was really praying for the best and trying to be hopeful. I was trying to find a silver lining somewhere, which is really tough. I was trying to figure out what I could do to not be a lazy citizen. Don’t sit by and watch things happen. You see things coming on in the news and there’s different information, you need to listen and keep your eyes open. Once you have the knowledge, and you realize there’s a responsibility to change it, you have to act right in that moment.
IK: Have you thought about how you’re going to talk to your son about this?
KR: Yes. My son is two years old. I don’t even know what to tell him. I had these conversations with my friends who have older kids. One of my girlfriends said her daughter went to sleep before Election Night saying, “I’m so excited tomorrow we’re going to have a female president. I could be president.” She was so excited. My friend said, “I literally cried when I heard my girls moving because they were going to be ultimately disappointed.” Then I talked to a friend of mine whose son is eleven years old, who is a beautiful, young black boy, and he asked about his safety. We’re all trying to figure it out. I think our president-elect doesn’t make us feel safe. We have to do whatever we possibly can. It’s important to protect myself and protect my family.
IK: Onto a brighter topic: Can you tell me about your upcoming book, Whoa, Baby!: A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened)? What made you want to write about the time after having your son?
KR: After I had my son (and this is no exaggeration), I had at least a thousand questions and at least a couple of visits with my doctor. I would call or text her in the middle of the night. I didn’t have that many questions before I had [my son]. I was wondering why there wasn’t a book like an answer to What to Expect When You’re Expecting. That book made me feel very comforted and safe. I was talking to my OB-GYN, Dr. Tristan Bickman, and she was just like, “You’re not the only person to tell me that. All of my patients say that all the time.” So I said, “Let’s write a book.” That’s exactly what we did. There were so many things happening to me mentally, physically, and spiritually that I wanted answers to the questions I had. I’m so happy I had an awesome team to do this with me.
IK: You have your hands in so many different projects right now. What made you want to create a makeup line that was more diverse than your standard brands?
KR: I’m a fan of makeup — I always have been. I think that was passed down to me through my mother. She would go to Target and spend so much money. I’ve always wanted to do a makeup line. I felt like there weren’t proper colors for women of color — not just black women, but women of color as a whole. I just wanted to be a part of changing that.
I feel like when we look in the mirror, we need to embrace what’s already there. You need to start with a beautiful canvas, and I think it’s important for women to embrace. It’ll be out in 2017. It’s an acronym for FACE: “For All Created Equal.”
IK: What’s been the best part of working on Chasing Destiny? What’s been the most important lesson you’ve been able to teach young women?
KR: The whole experience was awesome, and it was really a blessing to watch these ladies evolve and learn about themselves. I’ve watched it happen right before my eyes. With one girl specifically, I had to walk outside the room because I was just so moved, she first walked in so broken, and now when I look at her, she’s just a different person. She’s remarkably talented and so sweet. She doesn’t take the opportunity for granted. It’s a tough card she’s been handed in life, and she’s just made lemonade out of lemons.
IK: That sounds like a familiar statement to me. Did watching these young girl groups come together make you think of your days in Destiny’s Child?
KR: It just makes you humble because you think about what it took and how far you’ve come: the passion and sacrifice it took to get there. You don’t want to forget that. When you hold onto that, it makes you appreciate everything more.
IK: There has been talk for years about a Destiny’s Child reunion. Is it likely to happen in the near future?
KR: I haven’t heard anything about it. We don’t even talk about it. I give the same answer to everyone. We talk about everything else: we’ve got kids, we’re trying to get Michelle married off. We focus on other topics.
IK: You have a new record coming out. What can we expect on this LP?
KR: It’s happy. I said I wanted a record full of up-tempos. A lot of my albums and songs have been slow, except for tracks like “Commander” or “When Love Takes Over.” I said I wanted this record to be happy because we need that right now, more than ever. That’s where my heart is.
IK: What were you listening to when you were making the record?
KR: I was literally listening to everything: old ’90s R&B and these old records my mom put me onto.
IK: A lot of young women look up to you. Who is someone you look up to?
KR: Michelle Obama is my ultimate icon. I love her. I love what she stands for. I love how classic she is. I love the mother she is. I love the wife she is. I think that she speaks from a very genuine place, especially in meeting her so many times, she says what she feels. She doesn’t hold her tongue for anybody, and she doesn’t have to.