When the world first met Kelly Rowland, she was part of a trio of sweet-faced teenagers, soon-to-be global superstars Destiny’s Child. Fast-forward ten years, however, and a lot has changed for Rowland, now 26. Make that everything. Her post-DC years, while perhaps not as distinguished as musical sis Beyoncé’s, have decidedly been about mature living, loving and letting go (she broke off an engagement in 2005). The songstress, who has a funky new solo album, Ms. Kelly, opens up about what it means to be a brown-skinned beauty and how it feels to move on.

Essence: It’s been three years since we’ve seen you. What’s been happening in your life?
Kelly Rowland: An engagement. A breakup. Coming into my own. As you get older, you think you know yourself. But every day you learn something new.

ESSENCE: Would you say you’ve been on a roller coaster?
K.R.: A roller coaster of emotions-especially after making the announcement that Destiny’s Child was disbanding. You know after that it’s like, what am I going to do? I remember taking a walk by myself on the beach and just crying so hard. I remember calling out, “God, where do I go from here?”

ESSENCE: So you were having a “quarter-life” crisis. How did you imagine life at 26 to be when you were 15?
K.R.: I pictured myself married with my first child, still working. But God is like, nope! I realize how engulfed I am in music. I love to work. But when I slowed down, that’s when I actually got a grasp on everything. I feel like right now, I’ve seen so much of the world; I’ve done so many different things. I told God I’m ready for consistency now, I’m ready for you to send me a husband. But whenever that happens, then it happens. I’m not putting any time on it, because I did that before.

Essence: What happened with your fiancé, Dallas Cowboy safety Roy Williams?
 K.R.: I was young. I was making my own plan, and it wasn’t God’s plan. I still think he’s a cool guy, just not the one for me.

ESSENCE: So this new song, “Still in Love with My Ex,” what’s that about?
K.R.: I try to make all of my songs something universal. I feel like some of the things that I think, a lot of women think. It’s really important for me to relate to everybody and for people to know that I’m real. When you lay your head down on your pillow you have all these different feelings, so why not put it in a song? Music connects us all. But I’m not still in love with any ex’s, and I thank God for that.

ESSENCE: Does making music now feel very different from the DC experience?
K.R.: It’s by myself. I don’t even like to think about the pressure, because the rest of the world has already thought about it for me.

Essence: Being a brown girl in a music industry that has subtly rejected brown beauty in many ways ironically makes you noticeable. What do you think?
K.R.: The world categorizes women’s beauty, when for one, it’s something that should actually be interior and shine through your exterior. But I went to a school that was predominantly white and I remember looking at myself in a mirror and being like, that’s not pretty. I have read some blogs and have seen girls complain that I don’t have magazine covers. It’s said that brown-skinned girls don’t sell magazines and that’s so sad. Now I would never say anything like that to a child, but what do you tell them? I remember being a little girl and sometimes wishing I was more fair-skinned, but Tina [Knowles, Beyoncé’s mom] would say, “Do you know how beautiful you are?” She made me come into my brown beauty. I didn’t get it, but I do now. I am chocolate brown and beautiful and loving it!