If you’ve heard the name Kristinia DeBarge before, it could be from the days when American Idol was in its youth. There used to be an age limit on both ends of the scale; pretty annoying for kids in school who wanted a shot or those who felt it might be too late and were told so.
That’s when American Juniors came to be, and American Juniors is where we were introduced to Kristinia.
Born in 1990, Kristinia has been singing since she was tiny, but it was only at 12 when she realized that music was something that she wanted to take seriously. Her dad took her into a recording studio with him at 4 am and the rest, they say, is herstory.
Signed at 19 to Sodapop Records — a division of the Island Def Jam Music Group — Kristinia released her first album, Exposed to commercial, US success. In 2013 came Young & Restless and this year, she’s back with Pink Love and we got to talk to her about all of it.
You got your first real taste of the industry in 2003 when you appeared on the junior version of American Idol, “American Juniors.” Can you tell us about that process, like what inspired you to audition and try out?
Wow, that was soon long ago! I was a baby!! I was ecstatic to hear that there was going to be a junior version of American Idol, as I watched the show all the time and always wanted to try out but I was too young at the time. American Juniors was ages 9-13 so I had barely made the cut off! It was a dream come true that I had made it that far in the competition.
How did you get into music and, even more, how did you get into singing?
I first started writing and recording music when I was 12 with my dad in the recording studio. He would always take me to the studio with him and I had the opportunity to go on tour with him at a very young age and seeing him perform every night inspired me so much! I thought, “ Wow, I want to experience that!” My dad looked his happiest on stage. It was so amazing watching him do his thing and putting on an amazing show! He’s such an incredible performer!
Which artists that inspired you when you were younger? After you knew music was a thing you wanted to be involved in, were there any artists that inspired you in the steps you took or the way you sang?
Oh Heck yeah! I LOOOOVED and LOVE Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Aaliyah, Britney Spears, The Spice Girls! Oh my God, I was obsessed! I had all of their posters on my wall and my writing style, ‘til this day, is inspired by Mariah Carey. I always felt like we shared similar tones.
“One of the worst things you can do is give up.”
When I first saw your surname I said, “Rhythm of the Night!” to myself. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased to see that it actually is your name and your dad was actually in DeBarge. That’s pretty awesome. Was he supportive of you wanting to pursue a career in music?
Aw, thank you. Yes, he is very supportive! Although he didn’t want me to be in the music industry at first. He knew the pains and tribulations that come with it and he wanted me to stay pure and protected from all that. Luckily I’ve had a pretty great experience thus far.
Did he and the rest of your family have any worries about the judge-panel-show kind of TV treatment that was American Juniors? Especially as you were so young when you appeared on the show and with them knowing how the music business can chew a person up, did they have any trepidation?
Absolutely they did! Especially because they were rumors I only made it as far as I did because of my last name. My family wanted me to have a fair chance but they also wanted to protect me from any drama. I have always been a sensitive person and I had never lost or won anything before, so getting voted off the show was pretty devastating for me at that time.
You’re now onto your third studio album. How is this record different to your others? When can we expect to hear it?
Yes! I can’t believe it. Well, technically fourth if you want to count Thinking Out Loud. That was more like a long EP but I felt like it was an album because of how personal it was to me and how much time and effort I put into making it. This new sound is more pop-oriented. Thinking Out Loud was more Urban POP, Plus I had some things I needed to get off my chest. I feel like this album will be more mature and sexy, lyrically. Still fun! But definitely more grown and sexy feeling.
“Pink Love,” your new single, came out in July. What’s it about? Can we expect the next record to follow its lead musically?
“Pink Love” is about a woman being pleased by her significant other in an intimate way. Need I say more! Musically, yes; lyrically, no. The next single I am putting out is a fun, carefree record talking about how when I’m with you, you make me feel like I’m tipsy or high off love. Cute record, can’t wait to show you guys!
Another cool thing about you is that you’re an actress, as well. How do you maintain that balancing act? Do you love music more than acting or vice versa, or is it a “love both but different” thing?
I honestly love both! Acting is just another form of self-expression. I like that I can be someone else for a little while and go to another place. It’s so fun!
What will we be able to see you in next?
“Conundrum“, a movie I am filming next spring with Twilight actor Cameron Bright. I am very excited! I haven’t acted in a film since 2014. I am so ready to put my acting pants back on!
Do you have any advice when it comes to pursuing your passions? What would you say to younger girls that want to sing or act or both?
I would first say, GO FOR IT! Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing what you really are passionate about. Second: Make sure that this is something you really want to do because you’re going to hear a lot of NO’s before you hear a YES. Don’t let that discourage you, though! Out of ten “No”s you WILL hear at least one YES! Trust me. One of the worst things you can do is give up, you never know how close you are to your next big break! Keep pushing through and learn to enjoy the struggle. You won’t enjoy getting to the top of the mountain as much if you didn’t work that hard to climb it first!
What music are you digging at the moment? What songs make you get up and dance?
I LOVE Shawn Mendes “There’s Nothing Holdin’ me Back” That song makes me want to get up to sing and dance every time!
Lastly, what are your hopes for the future? Both personally, professionally, and on a universal level?
I hope to become a household name, and a worldwide brand. I would love to see my music, acting career, makeup line, app, and hat line ( “Cupid” ) really take off! My makeup line is in the works right now but everything else is up and running and right now I am in the very beginning stages of my app and hat line ( sold on my website, but I am hoping people really love the app and my hats!
I also would love to start signing artist’s to my Label with Priority/Capitol Records. I would to develop acts and help other aspiring artists succeed! I see myself becoming a real entrepreneur.
I also have a children’s book (“How Joe The Monkey Got His Tail”) that I would love to get published. The book focuses on bullying and my dream is to start a foundation and have a portion of the proceeds of the book go back into the art departments of schools lacking supplies, teachers, instruments, and more for the creative arts.