Op-Ed: Show Kelly Rowland Some Respect

Arturo Holmes/WireImage

The mainstream media is working really hard right now to paint Kelly Rowland as a raging diva. I peep game, and I’m not pleased.

For those who haven’t kept up with the Hollywood gossip rags, Rowland has been everywhere promoting the new Netflix film she stars in, the Tyler Perry project Mea Culpa. It’s probably her biggest leading role, though she’s appeared in films since 2003, when she played the Black BFF in a Halloween favorite slasher film, Freddy vs. Jason. To make the moment all the more special, she gets to share it with actor Trevante Rhodes of Moonlight fame. Why is that so special? Because who wouldn’t want to be side by side on set with a man who looks and sounds that fine!? (She’s married, not blind.)

As the two have hit their promotional press tour to roll out the film, which is now available on the streaming service, the questions about the project have been there — as well as the questions about Beyoncé.

I’m sure you’re thinking, why are people asking Rowland about Beyoncé when she’s promoting her own film? If you aren’t, you should be.

But that’s been the reality of Rowland’s experience for far too long. Whatever she has going on is measured next to what her former bandmate and best friend has just done. In this case, it’s release a country song (two actually) and watch it go number one on the country charts, a first for a Black woman. In the past, she’s been asked about Bey’s foray into dance music, about the superstar as a mother, about their similarities, their friendship, if she played second fiddle to her, and on and on and on.

Even I, in my earlier years working as a journalist, asked her about a possible Destiny’s Child reunion while she was in between music and taking part in a project with T.J. Maxx to empower women, and she handled it gracefully. The star, who is so warm and kind (and even more stunning in person), smiled, looked me square in the eye and without giving an air of please-get-that-sh-t-out-of-here defensiveness, politely told me that people shouldn’t hold their breath for that. I could only laugh and moved on from such questioning.

Six years later though, it hasn’t stopped. And it’s not just the questions, it’s the effort to treat Rowland as if she hasn’t earned the opportunity to let people know they need to do right by her. 

Enter in all the debate about her walking away from a commitment to co-host host the Today show with Hoda Kotb recently, to promote her film, because of a subpar dressing room she received for herself and her team. (Reports claim when Rowland’s team inquired about a bigger room available on another floor, they were told it was given to Jennifer Lopez, who arrived before her.) I was traveling abroad when this news came out, and the white men in my group were the first to let me know about it, empathizing with the Today show and chastising the star’s choice to abruptly exit. I wasn’t crazy about that.

And then this morning, while struggling with a terrible pancake recipe for one that I found online, I scrolled across a story on Deadline about the star making clear during an interview with V-103 that she wouldn’t be answering questions about Beyoncé’s new country turn.

“That is her business to talk about, not mine,” Rowland said when asked.

The interviewer noted that Rowland was probably tired of getting those questions “every time we see you,” but fans wanted to know her thoughts about Beyonce’s next chapter and the possibility of a Destiny’s Child reunion after all the members, including past groupmates LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson, came together during a Renaissance Tour stop.

“I know, but just ask them,” Rowland replied. “I’m here talking about Mea Culpa, out Feb. 23, and that’s what I’m most excited about right now. I think that, that’s that.”

Article continues after video.

Again, she handled it well. But I couldn’t help but wonder how a V-103 interview from Atlanta ended up on Deadline? And Page Six? It felt very much like they were capitalizing on this new idea that Rowland is a diva, knowing people would read on to further affirm negative opinions about her. And granted, being a diva can be a celebrated thing. Some are lauded for their larger-than-life stature, from Diana Ross the Boss to the late Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige. And yes, Beyoncé, too (it is the female version of a hustler). But being accused of displaying “diva antics,” in the mainstream, is deemed a problematic thing. That’s why comment sections that ran with the story were filled with people calling her “unprofessional” and disrespecting the star, who has never been accused of such behavior before. I doubt anyone other than loved ones have even seen her release real anger. That’s why many came to her defense, including previous collaborators like Marlon Wayans.

“Yall stop with these false narratives. I’ve worked with @kellyrowland as a Star/producer i will honestly say she was nothing short of AMAZING. Sweet, kind, professional. On time, great energy, impeccable manners and professionalism,” he wrote on social media. “She was nice to EVERYONE on set. Not one diva moment.”

He added, “Sh-t happens in Hollywood. Get both sides before you castrate anymore legends. Love this woman. Yall stop this BS. This woman was nothing short of a humble loving queen… PERIOD.”

He said what he said. 

But I’d just like to note, that if indeed Rowland was upset that she was given a cube for a dressing room as a guest host expected to stay throughout the entirety of the program (not just for her one segment of it), is that so wrong? This is Kelly Rowland, folks. 

Seriously though, she’s been in this industry since 1995. She’s sold more than 40 million records as a solo artist, had a number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (the first member to do so from Destiny’s Child), has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with her former group, as well as four Grammys, is an NAACP Image Award winner for her acting, been in films, judged popular talent series, written books, and in the midst of all that, been a mother of two children who balanced everything, including those never-ending Beyoncé questions, with poise.

Let’s stop trying to downplay her, treat her like a sidekick after almost 30 years of work, and relegate her to the tiniest of rooms when she has a spirit, and talent, too great for that. And let’s not do her like that when we all know how hard it is for everyday Black women to be heard when we speak up and advocate for ourselves in all facets of life, letting it be known what we won’t tolerate and what we deserve. And that happens at work when we’re seeking fair compensation and even in the doctor’s office when we’re looking for the best treatment for what ails us. So if the girl didn’t want to get the shitty room they didn’t even think to give J. Lo, then she didn’t have to accept it. And she didn’t. And she should no longer accept any more efforts to treat her like a Z-list Tik Tok dancer like our good sis isn’t an icon, a gem of a woman, and the best kind of diva there is. Nice try though.

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