Kelly Kiara: Shaken or Stirred?
The release of Kelly Kiara's 'Sex Faces' video has got us adding 'martini glass-shaped bathtub' to our interior inspo Pinterest board.
Kelly Kiara answers our call in dulcet, indisputably Leeds tones, sounding as excitable and humble at our compliments on her new video as your mother would if you admired her recent cut and blow dry. She possesses a modesty that strikes me as rare from an artist doing so brilliantly, and sounds genuine when she tells us that she didn't expect the initial idea for her new music video, 'Sex Faces', to translate onto camera quite as flawlessly as it did. Kelly had been dreaming of basking in a gigantic martini glass for quite some time, and 'Sex Faces' finally giving her the opportunity to do so is something that quite frankly - we didn't know we needed.
Kelly Kiara shot by 35OnMe (Instagram @35onme)
Kelly credits her upbringing for a lot of her success, subtly sliding her foot in the musical door when she left school and started going clubbing. "I would just go up to DJ's and be like: 'Do you need a singer? Can I sing on anything?'" she tells us, holding her Leeds foundations accountable for her tenacity to succeed, or her "Pitbull mentality". Things really got going for Kelly when her and a friend's cover of Justin Bieber's 'Love Yourself' (the word 'love' craftily being swapped out for 'fuck'), blew up on YouTube. Given that social media had such a huge role to play in launching her own career, I'm interested to hear whether she thinks it's a driver for the music industry today. Her answer? Yes, if used correctly.
When her cover went viral, Kelly's reaction, rather than to sit and stare at the streaming numbers in awe, was to Google the managers of some of her favourite artists at the time and get dialling. "I just started calling up companies and asking to meet with them," she recalls. "What I'm trying to teach some of the younger generation [is that] all they've got to do is look for it. You've just got to ask, or search – you'll find what you're looking for." Kelly is, of course, referring to the hundreds of artists, record labels and managers that are at our fingertips if we were only to search their names on Instagram. Admittedly, the aforementioned Pitbull mentality probably helps – Kelly isn't suggesting that in order to kickstart your musical career, all you have to do is slide into the right person's DM's. Well, actually she is, but with a degree of perseverance, and without a fear of rejection.
Kelly Kiara from her instagram @kellykiara
Although the timeline of her career wasn't quite what she'd expected as a sixteen-year-old wannabe musician, she also had the added benefit of entering the music industry with an armful of life experience, unlike many of today's big stars. Having worked in offices for a number of years prior to her big break, suddenly having to deal with lawyers, accountants and music industry folk "who can sometimes be unempathetic" was made that bit easier for Kelly. Her pre-music career plans zigzagged between everything from fashion buying to cleaning for a bit of extra cash, "I love cleaning. I really, really just love cleaning," she says, deadpan. In all seriousness, this somewhat haphazard array of career options came from an element of pressure Kelly put on herself: "I felt like as a young twenty-something there was a level of expectation on me. So, I thought of all the different jobs I could do – music, at the time, I didn't feel was working for me." When she did eventually set sail into the music industry, she began song writing for other artists. The recipe for which, she reveals, is understandably different to that of writing for yourself. "I always ask [other artists], if they could have written any song that's already been released – what would it be?" This, a quick synopsis of the artist in question's current life situation, and "taking in their energy", is how Kelly has wound up writing music for the likes of Mabel and Gorgon City. Take notes, aspiring song writers.
In previous hits 'Tornado' and 'Set Me Up', Kelly has covered topics such as self-love, confidence and being unapologetic. But what is the main message she is aiming to portray in her music? "You don't have to put a filter on the things you say or do." She says. "That's the ultimate message." She's also a strong believer in what is commonly referred to as 'sharing your truth'. Right now, Kelly's truth is for everyone to feel confident, sexually positive, and accepted no matter who they are or what their life choices may be. "When you put a message like that behind a song, that song is naturally going to feel good," she elaborates. "And that's all that really matters within music – music is just here to make us feel something. So why not make people feel good about themselves?"
As a young girl, Kelly also noted an absence of disabled bodies represented in mainstream media. "A lot of the people I grew up around were physically or mentally disabled," she explains. "I was very acute to the fact that [those people] weren't represented on TV. It felt like the only time they were brought to the media's attention was for pity or comical value." Keen to ensure minority groups are represented in a way of their own choosing, the 'Sex Faces' video features trans and disabled models, as Kelly wants to normalise seeing all people across all facets of our modern lives. After all, it's hard enough trying to make it in the entertainment industry without years of oppression behind you (if we discount for a moment the fact she is a woman, of course). Kelly isn't a minority, but she understands the feeling of rejection that comes from being told you don't look or act a certain way. Her thought process seems to be that if it was tough for her to make it, how tough must it be for those who are structurally disadvantaged by society?
Kelly Kiara from her instagram @kellykiara
It wouldn't be a 2020 interview if we didn't address the elephant in the room. In our current climate, everybody seems to be looking for advice on how to do life right now. Kelly's hot take? "Take comfort in knowing that everybody's in this together. When you feel like [COVID-19] is a setback, you're taking it personally. If you take a pandemic personally, you're always going to feel negative," she muses. "There is nothing really positive about the situation, the only way to [make it so] is to ask yourself what you want from life after lockdown." Her own methods for this include meditation, visualisation and manifestation. Granted, those things don't work for everyone, but they seem to a win for Kelly, who has another single, an EP, and a video all lined up for the next couple of months.
So, if you're lusting after 'Sex Faces', rest assured that there's plenty more where that came from. Kelly's also working on a clothing line due for release this year, and if that's not enough, keep your eyes peeled for her IGTV with PrettyLittleThing this week.
Check out Kelly Kiara's latest music video for 'Sex Faces':
Words by Pippa Simmonds
Cover by Katie Janes