Kelly Rowland on new song 'Crown,' Normani's power and overcoming self-doubt (Exclusive)

Kelly Rowland has gotten to a point in her career where she simply wants to have fun and inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

The former Destiny's Child member dropped her latest single, "Crown," which she recorded in collaboration with Dove, along with a music video directed by the most in-demand director in the business, Hannah Lux Davis. 

"Now I just want to make music that I’m having fun with," Rowland told AOL exclusively. "If I feel it in some sort of way, someone else is going to feel it."

During an in-depth conversation with AOL's Gibson Johns, Kelly Rowland opened up about her latest material, including "Crown" and previous song, "Kelly," her own journey to self-acceptance and the new generation of artists that she's so excited about, including Normani and SZA.

Check out our full interview with Kelly Rowland below:

You're dropping a new song called "Crown," in collaboration with Dove, and its message feels very much in line for everything that you stand for when it comes to representation, embracing individuality and empowering women. 

I was really excited when I heard about the campaign surrounding hair and having women celebrate their hair, no matter what color or texture or type. It reminded me immediately of the little Kelly, who went through a lot of stuff as a kid with her own hair. To be able to partner with a big brand like Dove and for them to give me the freedom to be able to write the song and have the opportunity to instill confidence in these young girls has been amazing.

It’s so important to let them know that they don’t have to stand for other people setting a standard of what hair beauty is. The actually dictate it. It puts them in a position where they embrace their own and embrace others’ beauty as well. I love what it represents, so to be able to call it "Crown" actually came from my mother. When I was in the studio, they said they wanted the song to celebrate hair, but I didn’t want to just say "hair," so I thought about what my mom said: "Baby, your hair is your crown and glory." So I was like, it’s going to be "Crown," and it went from there. 

 

Was that a message that your mother instilled in you from a young age?

It was something that she told me, yeah. I remember she said that, because she had a beautiful thick crown on her head, and I always took it with me.

You mentioned little Kelly's struggle to embrace her hair. Talk to me more about that -- was there a moment that you were able to accept your hair, or was it more of a gradual change?

It was when Tina [Knowles], Bey’s mom, cut my hair short for the very first Destiny’s Child album. I remember feeling like I was the sassiest, flyest thing ever, because I looked like me. Everybody had these different styles in the group and everybody could tell us apart, and that made me so happy. It’s like, "That’s Kelly, the one with the short hair!"

It became one of your defining characteristics.

Exactly. I think that that’s the dialogue that we have to start creating for girls to allow them to be excited about it.

And, as you proved, you don't have to be defined by your hairstyle, either -- you can change it up, as you've done throughout your career. 

You don’t have to be defined by it! There have been so many artists that have loved to express their freedom in their hair. Kelis sticks out, India Arie wrote a song called “I Am Not My Hair,” Eryka Badu is always changing up her hair. Gaga is also always changing her hair. It just goes to show that you can have fun with it, and I want girls to see that and have fun with their crowns.

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Kelly Rowland out and about
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 04: Kelly Rowland arrives at Bondi Icebergs on February 04, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Hanna Lassen/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - JANUARY 28: Kelly Rowland arrives for Paramount Pictures' 'What Men Want' Premiere held at Regency Village Theatre on January 28, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: Kelly Rowland attends Rose Inc. x Beautycon POP Intimate Dinner With Rosie Huntington-Whiteley on January 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for Beautycon)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Kelly Rowland and guests attend Kelly Rowland Celebrates the Launch of her Capsule Collection for Fabletics at Casita Hollywood on January 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Fabletics)
THE VOICE -- 'Live Finale Results' Episode 1519B -- Pictured: Kelly Rowland -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Kelly Rowland attends Spotify's 2nd annual Secret Genius Awards at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on November 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/FilmMagic)
CULVER CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Kelly Rowland attends the 2018 Baby2Baby Gala Presented by Paul Mitchell at 3LABS on November 10, 2018 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
CULVER CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 10: (L-R) Eloise Broady DeJoria, John Paul DeJoria, Julie Bowen, Baby2Baby Co-President Kelly Sawyer Patricof, honoree Amy Adams, Baby2Baby Co-President Norah Weinstein, Kelly Rowland, Leslie Mann, and Jennifer Garner pose at the 2018 Baby2Baby Gala Presented by Paul Mitchell at 3LABS on November 10, 2018 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Baby2Baby)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 11: Singer Kelly Rowland attends the City Of Hope Gala on October 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Kelly Rowland teams up with T.J.Maxx to host a workshop and announce the launch of The Maxx You Project How To courses - encouraging women to embrace their individuality together at The High Line Hotel on September 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for T.J.Maxx)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Kelly Rowland attends front row at the Prabal Gurung fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Spring Studios on September 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 8: La La Anthony, Kelly Rowland attend the women's final on day 13 of the 2018 tennis US Open on Arthur Ashe stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: Kelly Rowland attends the 2018 Harper's Bazaar ICONS Party at The Plaza Hotel on September 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 08: Kelly Rowland attends the Premiere Of Focus Features 'BlackkKlansman' at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on August 8, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/FilmMagic)
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25: Kelly Rowland attends �Refinery29�s 29Rooms: Turn it Into Art,� on July 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Refinery29)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Kelly Rowland arrives at the 60th Annual Logie Awards at The Star Gold Coast on July 1, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 25: Kelly Rowland poses in the backstage photo room during the 2018 NBA Awards Show at Barker Hangar on June 25, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
MAY 16, 2018: SYDNEY, NSW - (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Singer and 'The Voice' coach Kelly Rowland poses during a photo shoot in Sydney, New South Wales. (Photo by Dylan Robinson/Newspix/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Kelly Rowland attends the Nine All Stars Event on May 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Kelly Rowland is seen in Soho on February 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Alo Ceballos/GC Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Singer Kelly Rowland attends Billboard Women In Music 2017 at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on November 30, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Singer/actress Kelly Rowland arrives at the 2017 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 19, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
CULVER CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Kelly Rowland attends the 2017 Baby2Baby Gala on November 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/ WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03: Musician Kelly Rowland attends RIchard Lawson and Tina Knowles' Lawnson's grand opening at WACO Theater Center on November 3, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Brandon Williams/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 23: Kelly Rowland arrive at the 3rd Annual InStyle Awards at The Getty Center on October 23, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Kelly Rowland performs during RNB Fridays Live at nib Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Perth, Australia.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 11: Kelly Rowland poses during the Channel Nine Upfronts 2018 event on October 11, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Kelly Rowland arrives to VH1's Hip Hop Honors: The 90's Game Changers at Paramount Studios on September 17, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: Kelly Rowland attends the 5th annual Beautycon festival at Los Angeles Convention Center on August 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Kelly Rowland, Grammy award-winning recording artist and heart health advocate, teams up with Burlington Stores and WomenHeart to educate women about the importance of their heart health, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, at Burlington Stores in Union Square on January 31, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Burlington)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: (L-R) Young M.A., Pusha T, La La Anthony, and Kelly Rowland attend the Big Sean 'I Decided' Album Listening Event at Garage on January 31, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Kelly Rowland is seen at LAX on February 01, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by starzfly/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26: Cardi B and Kelly Rowland attend VIP Event Hosted By Migos on January 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Kelly Rowland visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square on January 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 23: Kellee Stewert, Meagan Good, Keri Hilson and Kelly Rowland attend the screening and panel for Lifetime's 'Love By The 10th Date' at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills on January 23, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12: Kelly Rowland attends the premiere of Magnolia Pictures 'I Am Not Your Negro' at LACMA on January 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
FLORENCE, ITALY - JANUARY 09: Kelly Rowland walks the red carpet of Firenze4ever 14th Edition Party hosted by LuisaViaRoma on January 9, 2017 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images for LuisaViaRoma)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 09: Kelly Rowland attends the 2016 March of Dimes Celebration of Babies at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on December 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) President of the March of Dimes Foundation Stacey D. Stewart, singer Kelly Rowland, honoree Jennifer Hudson and reverend Jesse Jackson attend 2016 March of Dimes Celebration of Babies at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on December 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for March of Dimes )
WESTWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 07: Singer Kelly Rowland attends the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Office Christmas Party' at Regency Village Theatre on December 7, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images for Fashion Media)
WESTWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 07: Singer Kelly Rowland arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere of 'Office Christmas Party' at Regency Village Theatre on December 7, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08: Kelly Rowland attends the GQ Men of the Year party at Chateau Marmont on December 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 01: Singer Kelly Rowland attends 2016 Ebony Power 100 Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 1, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Singer Kelly Rowland arrives at Variety and WWD 2nd Annual StyleMakers Awards at Quixote Studios West Hollywood on November 17, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Kelly Rowland is seen on November 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by wowcelebritytv/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Singer Kelly Rowland arrives at the 5th Annual Baby2Baby Gala at 3LABS on November 12, 2016 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
CULVER CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Kelly Rowland arrives at the 5th Annual Baby2Baby Gala at 3LABS on November 12, 2016 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 7 - (L-R) Kelly Rowland and Hailey Baldwin,and Scott Studenberg attend the 13th Annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards at Spring Studios on November 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rebecca Smeyne/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24: Kelly Rowland arrives at the 23rd Annual ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on October 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 06: Singer Kelly Rowland arrives at Drai's Beach Club - Nightclub at The Cromwell Las Vegas on November 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Kelly Rowland attends 2016 Costume Couture Party at TAO on October 31, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Kelly Rowland is seen on October 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by BG001/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
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In the music video for "Crown," which was directed by Hannah Lux Davis, it looks like girls that appear in it with you really fed off of your energy and gained confidence simply by being a part of this project. What was it like filming the video?

Hannah is so bomb. Let’s give her her credit! But it was also interesting to watch the girls be shy at first and then watch them come out of their shells. There was this one scene where we’re dancing with our arms up, and I had to start off the dance, but then I was like, "Alright, Faith: Your turn!" I put them on the spot and then they would just have fun. Everybody is so sensitive these days, and I get it, but let's be silly! I think we’re forgetting to be silly. There was an era where silly was still expressed in the ‘90s. It was okay, and it’s a trend that needs to come back.

"Crown" comes about a month and a half after you surprise dropped your latest song, "Kelly." What was the concept behind that song? What else can fans expect from you when it comes to your music this year?

[It's about] just letting my giant out. Yeah. There’s more to come. That’s all I can say. I want to say so much -- you have no idea. It’s just spilling from my lips. I’m so ready to release new music -- you have no idea!

When you drop a song, do you monitor reaction to it online?

No, you just do it because you love it. That’s been lost -- or at least for me that was lost at one point in time. Now I just want to make music that I’m having fun with and if I feel it in some sort of way, someone else is going to feel it. At one point in time, I remember looking at charts and paying attention to everything, but at this point I’ve noticed that artists are sharing music because it’s on their hearts. For a second -- I can’t front -- I forgot that. Watching Khalid and H.E.R. just dropping music is amazing. It proves that it works. People take things in so quickly now that you just have to stay on top of it. That’s exactly what I’m doing, as well.

Without worrying about chart performance or reception?

Don’t get it twisted, if I get another No. 1 or award ... we want that. [Laughs] But the reward for it can be different now.

What do fans say when they come up to you? Do they tell you that you've inspired them in any particular way?

Some girls just left and one of them is chocolate-coated like myself and she said, "I just want to tell you that I really appreciate you embracing your skin and being comfortable, because it made me comfortable in mine." That just makes me feel amazing, because there are so many times where I was told that I was too dark to do something. That’s bull, and it was people who were close to you sometimes, which leaves you shocked. You also learn to switch those people out and keep it moving, because obviously they don’t see your vision.

And by you doing those things and sticking up for yourself, you're fighting a fight for people that are coming after you. You're a trailblazer for so many artists following in your footsteps.

Exactly. Normani was so sweet in that Billboard interview. I was so thankful to her. She’s such a sweet Texas soul and she’s chocolate like me and representing for a newer generation. We have to continue to make sure that it’s us, it’s SZA, it’s Janelle Monae. There are so many beautiful brown girls that have to be celebrated like everybody else. Sometimes people pick and choose which one, and that can cause friction and competition. That’s not what this is: We’re all shining on our own.

I've noticed that younger artists are also actively pushing against that by supporting one another's music, especially young female artists.

Absolutely. You have Teyana Taylor throwing “Fade” wide open and Normani throwing her leg behind her head -- just show me how to do it, honey! Everybody has their space and there's room for everybody. I don’t want society to continue to do that to black women, period, and I don’t want us to fall for it. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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