The Cheetah Girls member has blossomed into a woman with true convictions
Kiely Williams is a sophisticated lady. Forget the 15-year-old-girl who grew up in the music biz and was introduced to the world as a member of the disbanded R&B trio 3LW, or the actress and member of The Cheetah Girls, the Disney series based on the critically acclaimed, coming-of-age book series of the same name. She recently costarred as a college sorority member in the comedy "The House Bunny." This young lady is definitely about empowerment and growth. On the second day of The Cheetah Girls tour, Williams talked to ESSENCE.com about the finger she broke in India, why her group will never receive the same props as the Jonas Brothers, and whether or not she is truly color struck.
ESSENCE.COM: So The Cheetah Girls have kicked off their tour and filmed their latest movie in India. Is there any truth to the myth that women can't get along, especially after spending so much time together?
KIELY WILLIAMS: Not at all. We have so much fun together (Raven-Symoné isn't with us because she chose to pursue a solo venture). We kept on going and we're having a great time even though I broke my finger on a steel door of our trailer. Adrienne and Sabrina were freaking out. I was trying to play it off but I end up wearing gloves in certain scenes, it looks ridiculous.
ESSENCE.COM: As a female artist, it's all about your look because "sex sells." Do you ever feel unpretty in an industry of plastic beauties?
WILLIAMS: I feel like that every day. I have at least one time a day where I think, Do I look okay? I'm in an industry that judges everything you do. And really there's no right or wrong because one girl can do porn and become the hottest chick in the game and the next girl can do the same and she's labeled a whore. It's like playing a guessing game where you're asking yourself, Is this is the right move? It's such a hard business.
ESSENCE.COM: It is tough and let's not forget the double standard between men and women. How has that affected you?
WILLIAMS: Me and the other two girls were talking about the fact that we'll never get the same exposure as the Jonas Brothers even though we probably do the same things as far as our marketing success with consumers. As female entertainers, society wants to marry us rather than focus on us being a brand. I'm proud of our success, but I'm telling young people to empower themselves, fulfill their dreams, and to be kind to one another. And that's the reason why I like being involved in the group, because we share that common goal.
ESSENCE.COM: You were also a former member of another female group, 3LW, which reportedly experienced a lot of controversy when Naturi Naughton left the group and reportedly accused your management of colorism. Was that true and how did it affect you?
WILLIAMS: It was heartbreaking, not only because of the accusation but to know that someone who was your best friend and spent every single day with you would say something like that. This was somebody who lived with me and in my mom's house for years. We didn't put that much weight into her claims because it wasn't true. I was shocked how many people wanted to believe that, but no one ever gave us the time of the day to hear us out. It was such a learning lesson on how people can shift it.
ESSENCE.COM: Wow. So why did she really leave?
WILLIAMS: Honestly, I have never spoken to her about it because I've never seen her again. It's crazy that someone can be so involved in your life, cry, and then in one moment you never talk or see them again. Other people who spoke to her said she just wanted to pursue a solo career and wanted to go out with a bang and make a big story so she had some major buzz to promote her solo career. I wish she would have talked to us and not disgraced me and the girls because what she did defied everything that 3LW was about and that was about uniting people. I didn't really think about how bad it would become for the group. I remember reading the message board on our 3LW Web site when I was 15, and all these people had negative comments, and I'm thinking, I didn't do anything! We didn't want to bash her because that would be doing exactly what she did to us so we took the high road with silence rather than be salacious.
ESSENCE.COM: What would you do if you saw her today?
WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't think I hold grudges, but whenever I think about it, there was a lot of damage, because everything is so personal. I would like to think that I'd be very mature about it, but I've wondered what my reaction would be to her if we happen to see each other. I just don't know. What I hope is that the people will remember what the group stood for and what I have always stood for and that's empowering young women.