Kat Graham Kat Graham

Kat Graham Tags Her Name on the Music Biz, Talks Heartbreak and Style

's got attitude.

Currently, this 22-year-old singer-dancer-advocate-actress has enough sassy fearlessness and talent to steal the spotlight from a few adored pop stars. Dubbed a Janet Jackson-Lady Gaga hybrid (and a dash of M.I.A.), Graham creates music that appeases 90's R&B purists and the lovers of all things electric. With singles like "Put Your Grafitti On Me" and "Heartkiller," the Vampire Diaries breakout star has captivated a rapidly growing fanbase with her four-track EP Against The Wall, and even super producer will.i.am has taken notice.

Between taking up producing at the age of 14 and honing engineering skills at 17 years young, she discovered her love for back-up dancing under the mentoring of choreographer Fatima Robinson. Although acting ultimately became the launch pad for her blossoming music career, the art of sound has always been her first love.

"I’ve been fighting for this for so long I’d be damned if someone tells me I can’t do it," she says. "It's a different kind of fight people see in me. With music, it's harder. I don’t care what anyone says. It's harder to be a music artist than to be an actor in this day and age, way harder."

Vixen caught up the highly flammable singer to talk her funky style, her non-"Heartkiller" boyfriend and why she's determined to tag her name all over this entertainment biz.--Niki McGloster

VIBE VIXEN: What has been the response been for the "Against The Wall" tour?
KAT GRAHAM: It's been insane. Literally, I’ve had two shows where I’ve cried on stage because they knew every word to the songs. It's interesting meeting fans that have the EP, know the choreography and are just so happy to come to an actual performance.

You've had a few false starts in music to date, but as of late, the new stuff is catching like wildfire. Do you cringe at the old stuff?
No, I’m happy that I was even in that position that I was in. It gives me a history, ya know. If I had all of a sudden released music and it was all of a sudden so amazing, it kinda takes away my history and a bit of my progress, so even if it's not the best music I could have came out with originally, it shows the world this is where I started and this is where I’m at. Even in a year from now or two years for now, it's going to get even better, bigger and stronger. I’m actually happy that it’s out on the web and I release music independently without a label and that I really paid my motherfuckin' dues.

That's exactly what it is. What's making you focus on the music more now than ever?
I love acting, don't get me wrong. I work my ass off at whatever job I do, and I’m grateful I can get the opportunity to be a creative performer in that way. That's an aspect of me, but I was never given a chance in music. I have to fight tooth and nail to get even an inch in music and I’m still fighting. The fight has grown in me to do music even more than anything before because I haven’t gotten to where I wanted to get to. I have goals in my life and I feel like with music it's just another beast in me that's refusing to back down and refusing to say that I can’t do it. Fuck that! I’ve been doing this; I’ve literally been making beats in my room since I was 14. I’ve been engineering since I was 17, I’ve been dancing as a backup dancer since the age of 14. If I were to compare it to acting, it's basically if I wrote a script, produced it myself, got it to Cannes, got it completely distributed and it was a hit. That’s basically what you're doing in music, you're starting from scratch, you're making it all by yourself and then you're shoving it out there for people to see. You hope and cross your fingers that it's a hit, that it will be well-received. If I were to compare it to film that's what it would be.

Why do you want to do music?
Because everyone told me I couldn't. I’m not doing it because I think it's going to be easy; I’m doing it because I just want to make music. I want to be a successful artist.

You've been open about your love for Janet and how she influences you. If you could sit and have a convo with her, what would you say?
I would just thank her because she really was one of the only African American women that did pop, so performance-heavy, all about the dancing and she came from the TV background that I did. She wouldn't probably understand exactly what she contributed to my journey; I don't think any celebrity or person understands. I was getting compared to her as a little girl and that's what turned me towards Janet. People were telling me I look like her, telling me I dance like her or different people in the industry were like I was the next her. I was a baby, so I had to go in the archives to see what she was doing when she was my age so I could figure out why people kept saying that. It makes me want to be this amazing performer and be kind too. One thing I noticed about some of the most amazing performers and people that were these triple threat that did go from one thing to another but were known as performers like Sammy Davis Jr. or Will Smith and people that really trained was that they were really kind. They came across as unaffected and anti-bullshit, and I want to be that. I’m not interested in ego.

Your activism with GLAAD reflects that. How did you become such an advocate and activist for the LGBT community?
I’m actually apart of the GLAAD community. People that supported me and people that helped me create what I am now have been primarily apart of the gay community. For me, my father was this Liberian who was dating this white woman, my mom. They suffered so much discrimination because they were together. From being the only Jewish black girl and being teased and my family being teased, I look at discrimination--it’s so stupid. Any form of it. I don’t care if you're black or white or whatever.

When I was paying to perform, the only people that would book me were gay clubs. That was it. One of my biggest supporters is apart of the gay community, so it's like I always felt home there and felt supported. I feel that I owe a huge piece of my life and my time for however long I’m on this earth to breaking a lot of these injustices. It goes beyond just the gay icons--the Grace Joneses, the Chers. There’s a lot of discrimination and there’s still inequality, and I just definitely feel like the world can’t afford discrimination.

Switching gears a bit, speak on "Heartkiller." Were you referring to a recent situation?
I’ve been in a relationship for almost four years, but before I was with the person I’m with now, I had one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life. It has completely laid me down. I couldn’t find my power when I was in the relationship because I was just in love and gave my power away. But now that I’m out of it, I am saying the things I wish I would’ve said when I was in the relationship. I sometimes feel that there are girls who are in the middle of the situation that they can’t remove themselves from, so I still write about it. I know I should’ve spoken up when things weren't right.

When was the last time your heart was broken?
It wasn't a love relationship, but my heart was broken about two weeks ago. The person was in my life for a long time. Hearts break all the time, and for me, it's a good thing because I can write great songs about it. Most of my songs aren’t about mushy love; my songs aren’t about being in love. It's about getting through it, getting through hard times.

How are you and your current  boyfriend doing?
I’m really happy. I'm in a completely solid place where I can be creative and I can focus on my music. I never had that before.

Define your style in three words.
90's, mature femme, pop.

Why do you describe it as that?
I always talk about the 90's being the era where people embraced the different sides of an artist. I felt like if I was dressed like how everyone is dressed now I would be doing what everyone was doing, and I’m not. I always kind of dressed so weird. My mom dressed me until I was 14, then when I finally had access to clothes, I went a little crazy and never came back form it. I love being fashion-forward and having style and wearing things nobody else would wear.

Do you feel like your style will evolve and change a little bit, or are you pretty much set in what you want your style to be?
I think I’m pretty set. I hope that my style matures. Like, right now I’m wearing American flag tights and hopefully I’m not wearing them when I’m 80! [Laughs] I think I always want to be me.

Now, your body is insane. How do you stay in shape?
I just dance. I'm really bad at going to the gym.

So you're naturally petite, you don't have to work at it.
Yeah, I only have an ass I don’t really have anything else.

Lastly, what are you bringing musically to the table that we haven’t seen?
Since the 90's, I don't know if there's really been a performer, other than maybe Chris Brown and Britney Spears. I really think Ciara is a great artist. But as far as doing it all, I don’t really think there is one. I want to bring it back; I want to take it back to the old school.

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In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

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On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

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Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

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"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

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"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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