'Growing Up Hip Hop' Kristinia DeBarge on Racial Bullying, New Music & Crying on Camera [Q&A]
You might know these iconic musicians, but have you met their children? On Thursday (Jan. 7), WE tv kicked off their new reality series Growing Up Hip Hop. The show features an eclectic group of famous offspring journeying toward individual success, including Kristinia DeBarge. The singer and actress spoke with us about growing up with a celebrity parent, her experience with racial bullying, new music, crying on camera, and so much more.
Growing Up Hip Hop mixes the teachings of their prominent parents with the lessons they've learned on their personal career paths. The series follows the lives of Kristinia (James DeBarge's daughter), Romeo Miller (Master P's son), Damon "Boogie" Dash (Dame Dash's son), Egypt Criss (Pepa and Treach's daughter), TJ Mizell (Jam Master Jay's son), and Angela Simmons (Rev. Run's daughter).
Kristinia comes from an entire family of musical talent, most of whom were signed to Motown Records in the late 1970's. The 25-year-old California native realized her voice could be used for more than typical conversation at a very young age. She recorded her first song with her father at the age of 12 and released her debut album Exposed in 2009. Since then, Kristinia has dropped two more albums and appeared in multiple films.
While her rising singing career is the focus of her storyline on the show, Kristinia is also faced with the troubling realities of her father's drug addiction. Read her full interview below to discover why she was uncertain about joining the cast and which scenes she's most nervous about viewers watching.
Morgan Murrell: Did you have any hesitations about doing the show?
Kristinia DeBarge: I was a little bit reluctant to because you never know what to expect with reality TV, but once I heard who was a part of it I wasn't as scared or worried.
What are you hoping viewers learn about you from the show?
I'm hoping that people see that I'm just like them. I'm a normal girl. I want people to know that things weren't just handed to us and everything that we're doing in our lives right now is because we're working for it. People have a misconstrued conception about our careers and how we're getting by in the industry, like everything was just handed to us on a silvers spoon and that's just not the case. It's exciting for me for people to see that we're really out here working and doing it all on our own.
Although it's a reality show, did you find it harder to be yourself in front of the cameras?
No, not at all. I actually forgot they were even there. The only time I noticed they were there was when the producers would give us direction, but other than that it was like they weren't even there. For the most part they let us do our own thing and be ourselves. Being that I've been in movies and done shows in the past, I feel very comfortable in front of the camera.
Are there any moments on the show that you're nervous or really excited for viewers to see?
Um, a little of both. I'm nervous because I'm definitely emotional on the show, so they'll get to see me at my most vulnerable state. That makes me a little nervous, just because I'm afraid people might judge me and maybe call me a crybaby. These are real things that I'm going through in my life, so I'm hoping people will be more sensitive to it. I'm more excited, because I'm singing on the show, my music is on the show, I'm taking big meetings on the show, and there's a lot of positive energy as well.
What three words would you use to describe the show?
I would say entertaining, inspiring, and fantastic.
You mentioned possibly receiving backlash because of your last name. Have you ever experienced any bullying solely because you're the daughter of a celebrity?
Yeah, actually. In elementary school I got bullied a lot, because no one believed I was a part of the DeBarge family. Kids would make fun of me and call me "white girl," because my skin is so light. I'm actually part European, so I guess I do have some white in me [laughs]. So yea, I got bullied a lot. Not just for my last name, but a lot of different things. Bullying is a very serious problem in this world and kids are committing suicide because of it. It really is a big issue that should be talked about more.
I actually wrote a children's book called, How Joe the Monkey Got His Tail, based off of bullying. I'm very excited about it and I really hope it gets published this year. I would also like to start a foundation where all the proceeds from the book help fund various art departments. A lot of school art departments are lacking in teachers, instruments, and just classes in general.
When it comes to your career, do you feel like people don't always take you seriously?
I don't feel that way when I'm in the studio and collaborating with people. Once people see that I'm actually talented, they're like, "oh wow she really can sing, she does write her own music, and she does know what she's doing." It's usually journalists who give me the impression they don't take me seriously. They'll definitely try to make things hard for me by assuming everything I have was handed to me. There are times when they'll ask very condescending questions and try to get a rise out of me, but I never stoop to their level or react. I've developed very tough skin over the years, so I don't let it bother me as much.
Speaking of your music, you released a third album called Thinking Out Loud on Jan. 7. How would you describe the sound of the project and what's your favorite track?
"Church" is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album. Thinking Out Loud is basically like a diary to me. As much as I loved making the last album and thought it was cute at the time, this album really shows who I am. You get to really hear who Kristinia is. It's very true to who I am as a person and not just as an artist. I have a song on there called "Ricky Bobby," where I'm pouring my heart out talking about a past relationship. We all go through the "it's not you, it's me" situations, but in reality it was actually "no, it really is you."
The whole thing is very personal for me and that's why I called it Thinking Out Loud, because I got to speak my mind. I didn't create the album with any intent of what I wanted to say. Whatever came out was what I was feeling. So if I was feeling really happy, I made a happy song or if I was feeling mad, I made an angry song or a sappy song. You know us women love those sappy songs. Overall, it's a very cool, fun, sexy, mature sound. I would describe the album as more urban with pop undertones.