The Grammy award-winning artist opened up about toxic tabloid culture, fighting comparison and the reality of raising two black sons in America.
In a new movement started by Framing Britney Spears, the toxic media culture of the early 2000s, particularly towards women, is now being illuminated by those who were victimised by it.
Calling it “the wild west”, where there were no boundaries when it came to tabloid culture and what they wouldn’t print, Grammy award winning solo artist and former Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland opened up on Jameela Jamil’s IWeigh podcast about “being pitted against” her former bandmates Beyoncé Knowles and Michelle Williams since the age of 17.
Reflecting on her experience of colourism within the entertainment industry and the impact its erasure of dark skinned black women did to her self image, she spoke about how her own existing insecurities were heightened by her treatment in the media. “It’s already enough when you come into the industry with your own insecurities,” she told Jamil. “All of it feeds into it – whether that’s somebody comparing you [to someone else], or not hearing that you’re enough or doing good.”
Comparison is something Rowland has experienced throughout her career, and she spoke honestly about the pressure she felt in being compared to her bandmates, Beyoncé in particular. “It would be ludicrous of me to say I loved it when people compared me to Michelle and B and other females in the industry,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Rowland has revealed she was impacted by comparison. Whilst appearing as a judge on The Voice Australia, she spoke to a contestant about carving her own way after feeling overshadowed. “I would just torture myself in my head like, ‘Well, I can’t wear this dress ‘cause they’re gonna say it’s like B. Or, ‘I can’t have a song like that because it sounds too much like B.’ They’re gonna compare anyways.”
She added that her fear of being compared to Beyoncé followed her for a long time. “I would be lying if I said, ‘No, it’s never bothered me.’ That’s bull,” she continued. “There was a whole decade – if I’m being completely honest, decade – that it was like the elephant in the room, the thing that would constantly be on my shoulder.”
It was her strong sense of self that allowed her not to be engulfed by the industry and media lies. Recalling a time she felt goaded by an interviewer to talk negatively about Mariah Carey, Rowland said as soon as she realised the direction it was heading she cancelled the interview. “We should not be each other’s source of entertainment in a negative light,” she said, sharing that she thinks women need to take a stand against not talking badly of other women. “It starts with us.”
Elsewhere in the candid chat, Rowland discussed her anxieties about raising two young Black sons in America, recalling a recent incident where her husband was pulled over by the police with their six year old in the car. “I was scared and I was angry,” she said. “You can’t be upset with people when they’re saying defund the police. It’s just them saying ‘I’m angry and y’all need to analyse this whole shit and restructure it.’”
When asked by Jamil about how the band were able to survive and not turn against each other, Rowland spoke about the importance of identifying triggers, managing them and talking about them. “You have to talk about the uncomfortable stuff,” she said.
The conversations clearly worked as, over 15 years on from their separation, the group remain close. Noting that many of the other girl groups from the 90s and 00s fell out and disbanded, Rowling said “I’m so happy that we have each other still and we were able to ride through those moments.”