Spotlight

Growing Up Hip Hop Kristinia DeBarge on Music, Being a Debarge and Children Books on Bullying

the Virgo Girl is excited to present an interview today with the gorgeous and gifted performer Kristinia DeBarge!

The stunning, talented young woman is paving her way to the top, delivering awesome music as well as modeling and acting! These days it takes the total package, and Kristinia seems to be blessed with just that. With a striking face, signature overall look and style, strong vocals, and a pleasant demeanor, it’s hard not to sort of fall in love at first sight, so to speak.

What isn’t magnetic about Kristinia? Nothing. She is the essence of charisma, and holds that special star-power quality that is sure to help her rise to the top. It’s not surprising then that by three she claims to have known she would be a singer, idolizing stars such as Aguilera, Carey, and Keys.

Her debut album, Exposed, was released on July 28, 2009. The album debuted at number 23 on Billboard’s Top 200. Her first single, “Goodbye,” debuted at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and later reached number 15. And in Canada it reached number 15 on the Canadian Hot 100. The single sold over 2 million copies, reaching platinum status and later reaching gold twice. The music video received an MTV VMA nomination, and her second single, “Sabotage,” was sent to radio a week before the release of Exposed. The remix of “Future Love” (featuring Pitbull) was released as the third single. This remix was released on November 2, 2009, in the UK and November 10, 2009, in the States. Exposed received positive reviews from major websites, such as Blues & Soul, People, and AllMusic.

DeBarge opened for Britney Spears during the 2009 world tour The Circus Starring Britney Spears, and received an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Artist.

It’s a safe bet to say she is becoming a force of nature, as she works hard to expand her brand and musical talent. We are thrilled to introduce her to our readers, and Welcome DeBarge!

Your third album is for your fans, by the fans, and with your fans: What was the inspiration behind this? 

My inspiration was that I have never done anything with my fans. I thought it would be really cool to involve them in the project. I followed my heart and wanted to do something different to include my fans, have them hang out with me, get their opinions and feedback, and just have them involved in the entire process. I could invite people over to my house, tell them about myself, and they could listen to unreleased music. We could share a personal connection. Everyone wants to be a part of something and be involved. SO it would be a really cool idea!

What’s your biggest challenge doing a full album independently? 

Money! So many things require money. People don’t realize how much money is needed to make an album. Mixing, mastering, photo shoots, content, marketing, and more. There are so many different pieces to the puzzle, and doing this independently I want to ensure that I put out the best body of work. You also need money to hire the right people for project management, radio promotions, and social media marketing. I don’t have a label that I’m attached to, so the fun part is I’m in full control and able to do what I love. I’m very fortunate and blessed.

Do you find it harder to get through doors because you’re a woman, an attractive woman at that? 

Yes, sometimes I feel that way. There are plenty of men in the industry who will say this or that, whatever you want to hear and then say, “Okay, but you have to sleep with me in return.” As an artist this can be very disheartening and disappointing, but I continue to handle myself and the situations that come up with poise and a grain of salt. I move on from the situation, learn from it, and realize this person will no longer be a part of my life because they just want this. I think as women, no matter the industry or profession, we’ve had times when we’ve experienced something of this nature. And of course there are those women who have and will give in to the demands of men, and it doesn’t make them a bad person, but they have to live with their decisions.

How do you empower women to use their voice instead of their bodies to be heard? 

This is such an uncomfortable situation, because I have been around these situations and it’s awkward. You can get blackballed if you don’t comply; me personally, I would just leave. At the end of the day, you have to stay true to yourself, have dignity. I don’t believe God would put you in situations you can’t handle or get out of. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, create different opportunities. I encourage women to speak up and have the confidence to say no, because so many women have unfortunately fallen victim. But people in the long run will respect you more if you say no.

Having the name DeBarge, appearing in movies, reality shows, performing, people looking in would think “she has it all.” What’s the biggest misconception out there about you?

The biggest misconception about me is when people say “how do you feel being rich and famous?” I’m not rich, I have fans and have been on tours and television, but I’m a normal person. People don’t know this because at one point I was so disheartened by the music industry that I decided to take a year off. I worked as a waitress and bartender, and I became so humbled by life. I felt it was so important that I was able to experience the highs and lows of life. You appreciate the highs that much more when you’ve hit rock bottom. I’m a different person because of it. Every opportunity that comes my way I’m extremely appreciative of and don’t take for granted.

Outside of music, what is your passion and what would you be doing if music wasn’t in the cards? 

I can’t imagine my life without music but if I had to say it would be beauty. I’m such a girly girl into makeup and fashion. Funny thing is though, I really feel like I would be a life coach or therapist too. I really enjoy telling people about my experiences and seeing people’s views on things. I’m such an open-minded person, I don’t judge, I enjoy listening to people’s stories through my friendships and people I meet. I love people empowerment. I get a lot of joy from helping others. No matter what I’m doing or have going on, I have to make sure I carve out family and friend time. I love throwing friendsgiving dinner, cooking for my roommate, and walking my dog every morning. It’s good to have a humbling foundation and people to give my heart and love to.

Many may not know this but you have a lifestyle brand called Cupid, launching fitted hats to start: What’s next for Cupid and what products will you sell? 

Yes, I do. I’ve taken a backseat on Cupid until I have a full team to help me run it, but it’s definitely something I want to continue building. I’m actually starting a makeup line and the Cupid hat will possibly be a promotional item I may incorporate with the makeup bags.

Growing Up Hip Hip: Can you share with us a little bit about how you were introduced to this project or brought on? 

I was introduced to the show by one of my old managers and thought it would be a good idea. I did a few interviews at first and honestly, they weren’t feeling me. The first day of interviewing wasn’t the best and they needed to see more. The second interview, however, went amazingly well and we signed the contract to move forward. The first season of the show we were learning about each other, building bonds and friendships. Now in the third season you get to see the growth of our friendships, more support, and us being focused on dreams, goals, and collaborations.

Were you nervous at all about doing a reality show with all the different effects it can have on a person? 

I was very nervous. I had been approached to do a reality show a few years ago before I went on tour with Britney, but something in my gut told me not to do it. I went to dinner with the producers and let them know I couldn’t do it; they were a little disappointed that I was backing out, but I had to follow my feelings. I was super skeptical about doing this one, but when I heard it would be about family, legacy, and music, I felt a little bit safer doing it this time. I was excited, plus I knew I had so much support in my corner.

Has being on the show been a positive platform for you and your music career? 

It has helped tremendously; Thinking Out Loud (released in January 2016) and Peaceful Understanding (released in October 2016) has almost one million streams. And this is with very little marketing and promotions outside the show. I’m really excited about the growth and continuous opportunities. I believe in myself and my dreams, no matter how long they may take to accomplish. When J.Lo dropped her album On the 6 she was in her late twenties, so I don’t care how long it takes. I’m here to stay!

How do you balance it all: music, family, friends, personal life, the show, etc.?

I’ll put it on the schedule that I’m going to the spa or going to hang with my friends and family. I make time for myself. A lot of my friends are workaholics and I can tell they are exhausted and not thinking clearly at times. We think we’re invincible but we’re not. Sleep is important, as well as having downtime, even if it’s just an hour a day where you read a book, take you car to the wash, or wash it yourself, meditate; whatever you think will make you feel good, do it, so you can enjoy the rest of your day. It will help.

Social media is one of the biggest marketing tools right now, especially for creative artists. In what ways do you use it to your advantage?  

I actually just hired a PR company to help me with that. While I have a good fan base on social media I know with the right content and team it could be a lot bigger, so the proper strategy has to be put into play. I need help and I’m not afraid to ask for it. So, I’m in the process of revamping my social media platforms. I have a lot of content that I haven’t showcased that’s on my YouTube channel showing me singing and I want to share more of that and show the fans that side of me. Get more creative with my platforms; come up with more ways to partner with digital influencers. I’m still trying to figure this stuff out, and there’s definitely a bit of a learning curve. My brothers and sisters are more hip to the game of social media than I am (chuckles).

What advice can you offer someone growing up in this age who wants to be an artist? 

Depending on their path, and what they want to create, I would say don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Let the world know what you want and what you’re about. Put your music out there on all platforms, it’s so easy today to have your music heard—Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud, etc. Tanisha and Travis Scott are two of several people who have a large number of streams and you haven’t heard them on the radio. Also, don’t be afraid to fail—failure is good! You are going to fail a million times before you succeed, but pick yourself right back up, again and again. That is the difference between going after something you really want and something you just like. If you like it and fail, you’ll walk away from it. If you really want it, nothing will stop you. Not everyone is going to have love for you or your music but that’s okay. One day someone will say, “I love it and I get your vision.” Then another person will say “Let me take you to that place you need to be.” I’m still in that place where I wake up and say “Should I still be doing this?” and I say “Yes, let’s do it!”

What do you hope to accomplish within the next three to five years? 

I feel like I’m constantly evolving, so it will most likely change but I want to own a few different businesses; I want to start a nonprofit organization; write some children’s books on bullying and get them published, read them in classrooms all across the world, and the proceeds would go to music and art programs that lack funding. Help with programs to create creative outlets for kids who feel like school isn’t for them. I had to have a tutor and work really hard to be good at my studies. So, I want to help other kids who aren’t that great in everyday school subjects, and give them an outlet for writing, music, art, etc. I want to create new things. Winning a Grammy at one point meant a lot to me, but that won’t fulfill me. I’m more concerned with helping others, giving back, and trying to see outside myself; being a selfless person. Living in L.A. you can get caught up in being selfish, so it helps to be thankful, give back, and have more to your everyday life. I pray and hope that brilliant energy will come into my life.

***

the VIRGO GIRL FIVE THINGS TO ASK:

What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

I was very broken at this time. I would have given myself a hug and told myself not to give up on my dreams; I’m worth it; I’m beautiful. You’re going to fight through this. You’re going to be fine. I was so lost and depressed, I would’ve said this is not the end.

I start my day with . . .

My dog, taking him for a walk to have a bonding experience. I do a selfless act—cooking for my roommate, breakfast or lunch.

If you could invite any woman to dinner, who would it be?

Michelle Obama.

Best advice you have received?

Stop leading with your heart. Lead with your mind. I’m a very heart-driven person; don’t lead with your heart, love yourself, be patient.

Life motto you live by?

Live every day like it’s your last. Spontaneous. I will be the girl who says, “Did you go hiking today? Let’s go.” Or “Let’s go to the zoo.”

Live in the moment. When in Rome do as the Romans do. I live moment to moment.

 *Co-written by Nicole D’settēmi*

Missy Bonet is the Virgo Girl Editor-in-Chief and Content Writer. Missy is passionate about empowering creatives to turn their passion into profit and build a community through social media. When she’s not writing, she can be found drinking coffee, listening to music, or deeply tuned out enjoying the sounds of soulful music.

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