The Beat fans in Philadelphia know Kendra G.'s voice all too well. They listen to the popular radio personality on 100.3 during the work week as she plays the latest in hip-hop and R&B and interviews the hottest stars in the music industry. But when the microphone turns off, Kendra G.'s focus is a bit different. She wants to personally change the image of women in the hip-hop industry starting with helping teenage girls from feeling pressured to have sex. In other words, she wants them to say no. So far, 170 girls have pledged to be apart of her "Abstinence Is Kool" campaign. Teenage girls who sign up pledge not to have sex for an entire school year. ESSENCE.com caught up with Kendra G. right before she went on air to find out why this issue is personal for her, the criticism surrounding it, and why she's decided to "walk the walk" by taking the pledge herself.
ESSENCE.COM: How did you come up with the idea to do this?
KENDRA G: I always say that God just put the idea in my heart. I remember last August just thinking about it because the face of women in the hip-hop industry has changed so much. I think back to the days when Queen Latifah was rapping about U.N.I.T.Y. and now it's just a common a thing to call women bitches. I just want girls to care more about their bodies. I have nothing against teen moms but there was nobody with a voice to the ears of those that needed to hear that this is not cool.
ESSENCE.COM: Were you abstinent in high school?
KENDRA G: I was a virgin in high school and I remember feeling like an alien, like something was wrong with me. I got cheated on because I wouldn't have sex with my boyfriend and he actually got some other girl pregnant. It was really difficult but I'm so happy it was her and not me. Now that I'm older, I thank God for saving me from that life-altering situation. Plus, I feel like times have changed so drastically. I can only imagine how these girls feel today. My goal is to change their perception. I'm not saying you shouldn't teach girls how to use a condom or about Planned Parenthood but we never have anything for the girl who doesn't want to do it. We automatically assume that everybody is having sex and so we have to teach them the right ways to have it.
ESSENCE.COM: Your sister was a teen mom. How did her situation affect you?
KENDRA G: My older sister has two kids. She was 15 years old when she got pregnant, had my niece at 16 years old and my nephew at 17 years old. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to go away to college. My sister got pregnant and I saw how every dream was suddenly put on hold. All I could think about was if I had a baby, I wouldn't be able to go away to college. It just made me so focused and nervous because I didn't want to fall into the same situation. But I go to schools and have to be sensitive to the fact that many of the girls are mothers. I don't want them to feel like their life is over. I just want us to go back to the time when it was cool to have a husband instead of a baby daddy.
ESSENCE.COM: What are your listeners saying?
KENDRA G: It's been remarkable. There has been some criticism that I'm preaching and I'm against teen moms but I want people to know that I'm not. This is really just a club for the girls who don't want to have sex.
ESSENCE.COM: How do girls sign up?
KENDRA G: You can go to 1003TheBeatPhilly.com and sign up to be abstinent for a complete school year. Originally, this was for high school girls but then I started to get a lot of requests from middle school girls. I guess I didn't realize this was going on in middle school too. My hope is that the girls who do sign up will wait until they get married but I live in 2009. I know that making a commitment like that would probably be unrealistic, so I gave them a goal of nine months to learn about themselves, be in control of their own bodies and make wiser choices.
ESSENCE.COM: Has anyone fallen off the wagon?
KENDRA G: One of the girls e-mailed me to say she'd messed up. This is totally on an honor system and I take them at their word that they will remain abstinent but I tell them when you lie, you're really lying to yourself and that's the person who'll suffer the most.
ESSENCE.COM: Why did you decide to take the pledge yourself?
KENDRA G: At the time I didn't realize how much it was going to be, but like I said from the beginning, I felt like God put this in my heart. Please believe me, it hasn't been easy for a sister's personal life, but the cause is worth it. The girls are now inspiring each other. I've actually received requests to come to other cities and start the initiative. The girls are excited and have been so grateful to have one another for support.
ESSENCE.COM: Must be pretty hard to find a relationship?
KENDRA G: When I started the pledge last September with the girls, I thought it was going to be easy. But now I'm more willing and open to dating and I'm like, Dang, this is really hurting my personal life! I don't really have to explain it to most of my dates because they already know from me talking about it on the radio. It's actually kind of cool because I know when I'm on a date that the guy really wants to know all about Kendra. I don't want to be a hypocrite, and at the end of the day, if you're the kind of guy who doesn't want to talk to me because I'm doing this, then you're not the kind of guy I want to talk to anyway.