Kelly Rowland has a lot going on: launching a capsule collection with Fabletics (out now), playing Gladys Knight on BET’s American Soul (premiered this week), hosting the 12th annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards (two weeks from today), and debuting a brand-new song about learning to love your hair (just dropped yesterday morning).
The single is called “Crown” and it’s an earworm you’ll be glad is stuck in your head all day because it’s an uplifting, anti-bullying anthem with a built-in mantra. “Crown” was created in collaboration with Dove and the brand’s Love Your Hair campaign that focuses on embracing your hair regardless of texture, color, and what anyone else thinks of it.
When writing the anthem, Rowland drew inspiration from the experiences of real-life girls who’ve been discriminated against, like Tyrielle Davis and Faith Fennidy who were expelled from school because of their protective hairstyles. Davis, Fennidy, and other girls who’ve dealt with bullying like Sarah and Jorja Orrick also appear alongside Rowland in the music video directed by Hannah Lux Davis who gave us the “Thank U, Next” video last year.
The Cut caught up with Rowland before the launch of “Crown” to talk hair, love languages, and that iconic Destiny’s Child–era pixie cut.
The main refrain of the song is “My hair, my crown.” You’ve been in the spotlight for a really long time and even with Destiny’s Child you were the one with the “edgy” pixie — have you always been comfortable with your hair? Did you always see it as a crown, or did you really have to work to get there?
When I was a kid, I saw it as a process. But when I cut my hair before our very first single, I was so excited, because I knew that it was really important for us to express individuality within the group, and we were able to do that with hairstyles. One person had red hair, another person had blonde hair, another person had short hair, another person had dark brown long hair…
I loved my short hair — loved it! My whole attitude, walk, and talk changed. I’ll never forget, when that chair turned back around and I looked at my hair for the first time. I was like, you’re cute! We did it!
How would you describe your current relationship with your hair?
Oh, we are best buddies. We’ve figured each other out and we know that there are no boundaries. We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we like to make sure that we maintain a very healthy relationship. I like healthy hair.
Speaking of relationships, what do you think your hair’s main love language is?
What’s the first one?
Acts of service.
Oh God, that’s my least favorite part. What’s the next one?
That’s not really up there either.
I do spend a lot of time on my hair. Maybe once or twice a month, I put all these different oils — coconut oil, jojoba oil, castor oil — all together in this thing. I shake it up and I put it on my hair as a hot oil treatment.
I’ll put it in a shower cap and then put another hat over it and some earrings on, a red lip, and have my outfit to match. I’m give my hair a deep hot oil treatment conditioning for the entire day. At night, I rinse it out, two-strand twist my hair and call it a day.
That sounds amazing. And the other two are physical touch and words of affirmation.
I used to brush my hair a lot and then someone said, “Don’t brush your hair all the time!” So I stopped doing that. That was like, zilch.
Words of affirmation — I’m happy that now there’s a song like “Crown”! Also, when I finally get a new hairstyle that I love, whatever it may be, I look in the mirror and I’m like, Oh, we in there! I do that to pump myself up.
So, your son is adorable. I love when he pops up on your Instagram because he’s always wearing a cool style or really good accessories like a bandanna or a fun hat. What’s the relationship between you and him in caring for and styling hair?
It was difficult at first because his hair texture was even tighter than mine. I saw a girlfriend in Atlanta who made braiding her son’s hair look like the easiest process. When she braids it, they have fun, he watches his iPad. I was like, How did you do that? She’s like, Girl you just have to just relax.
I had to get somebody that knew how to do it a lot better than I did. She comes by, washes his hair, then braids his hair. After that he’s good for like a week to week and a half. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t pass my frustration onto him.
In terms of his protective styles, do you have a mood board of looks in mind?
I ask him what he wants. “Do you want your hair braided this week and do you want it like this?” I show him pictures of A$AP Rocky’s hair or Carmelo Anthony’s hair on Pinterest, and he’s like, I like that one mommy, that’s nice. Or if he wants to wear it in an Afro, because sometimes I’ll wear my hair out. It’s totally up to him.
I love the versatility that comes with black hair and I feel like you have worn so many different hairstyles. I love clicking through hair evolution slideshows of you—
And it’s like 100 different ones! It’s like Wait, was that the same day? … Yes, it was.
Yes! Is there a particular style that has a special place in your heart? That you look back fondly on?
Definitely my short hair because that was who I was when I was introduced to the entertainment industry. Having really big, curly hair was also warmly received and I feel like those were some of the best moments in my hair history.
Definitely. I remember watching TRL and seeing the red pixie.
Oh my, red! I’m about to explore more color this year. My hairstylist just pulled all these pictures up. So y’all will see me with some color soon!
Okay, rapid-fire round! What time do you go to bed?
It depends, especially now. Last night I went to bed at 10. That was awesome. 8:30 p.m. would be ideal.
What time do you wake up?
Way too early. I’m like a 6 a.m.-er. I just naturally like, Boop!
What song should I add to my workout/cool-down playlist after this?
Crown, just so you can have an extra strut in your step. I also love J. Cole’s … is it “Shea Butter?” [sings] Shea Butter baby … that one. It’s him and Ari Lennox. Khalid also has this song called “Motion,” that’s my shit. So amazing.
Last thing you binge-watched?
Justin Willman’s, Magic for Humans. I watched it on Netflix and then I actually called him to perform for all our friends at my husband’s birthday party. We’re obsessed with magic, we love magic tricks, and mentalist stuff like that.
How do you take your water?
Room temperature. I like to have it infused a little bit. Ooh, cucumbers are so good, like with mint or cucumbers. Cucumbers and strawberries is even better. Or just with lemon. In the morning, hot water and lemon is the first thing I’ll drink. My grandmother told me that it burns fat or something once but it just became a habit.
What’s your most-used emoji?
I’m laughing because right now it’s the … what is the face? It’s the eyes rolling in the back of the head, and hold on, watch this.
Oh, the face-palm!
Yes, I do that for everything. Also the exploding volcano head, because my mind is always blown.
Go-to karaoke song?
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith. Or “Hotel California” by the Eagles. Or “I Want to Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. Clearly, I never karaoke…
What’s your favorite snack?
This is going to sound so bad. I just had it because it was the holidays. My realistic snack is cheese and crackers. Like a good Gouda. But if I’m pushing it and I’m going on a calorie fest, caviar and potato chips. It’s so bomb. It’s really salty, so you should probably down a gallon of water after you finish. It’s just the greatest thing ever. So good.