Actress & Singer-Songwriter Demetria McKinney Recalls Working On Her Debut Album, Officially Yours, Transitioning From An Actress To Artist, & More…
Award-winning actress and skilled singer-songwriter Demetria McKinney is out to show the world that she has officially arrived, and she’s officially here to stay. With a successful and extensive acting career and roughly fifteen years in the entertainment industry, overall, McKinney is a multi-talented triple threat, gracefully commanding the scene, both on and offset and straight to the mic. The 38-year-old has just recently premiered her debut album, titled Officially Yours, on October 6th. A sultry songbird with an uncut talent, Officially Yours showcases McKinney spreading her wings, dynamically giving us all things Demetria. She has crafted this album with no-holds-barred, authentically illustrating vocal transparency in a way like no other. Newly-released, the project features fourteen diverse tracks, each fit for every woman’s emotion. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that Demetria McKinney has, undoubtedly, outdone herself on this one.
You may have grown familiar with McKinney as she gained critical acclaim for her work with Tyler Perry, one, in particular, being her personage role as ‘Janine Payne’ in Perry’s TBS comedy series, House of Payne–which she will also be reprising in the 2018 reboot, The Paynes. However, McKinney has since appeared in a variety of other TV and film productions, such as The Rickey Smiley Show, Lifetime’s Devious Maids, and, more recently, Bounce TV’s Saints & Sinners, among others. Her latest happens to be in the awaited TV One-exclusive biopic, Bobbi Kristina, in which she will portray the role of the late, great Whitney Houston. The film is set to premiere on October 8th.
However, though acting is definitely a passion of McKinney’s, she boasts that music has always been a first love of hers. But, the transition from an actress to a full-time recording artist hasn’t been the easiest, she admits. Notwithstanding, McKinney’s only hopes are that, through her music, women can acquire a new sense of liberation, self-gratification, and self-appreciation.
Her lead single, “Easy”, did just that and has seen major airplay since its release, bringing in a large amount of social buzz, as it now serves as an empowerment anthem for women all across the world.
Accompanying “Easy” also came two other singles from the album, “Happy” and “No No No”, both widely gaining popularity throughout mass media, as well.
With this album, McKinney offers musical vulnerability to the listeners, as it represents ‘the spectrum of a woman’s life lived out loud’, fearlessly made with love, light, and great fortitude.
Indisputably, Demetria McKinney is showing that while everyone else is quiet, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being loud, and she, for sure, won’t be silenced.
Check out our exclusive interview with McKinney below…
Parlé Mag: Let’s take it back to the beginning. You came to prominence mostly being known as an actress through your work with Tyler Perry. So, how did the singer Demetria come about? Was music something that you always wanted to do?
Demetria McKinney: Music has always been my best friend. Ever since the first time I heard Whitney Houston’s voice, I knew I wanted to do that. Not like her [laughs], but definitely make people feel the way that she could make me feel, musically. Acting kind of came in as I was in pursuit of that, really heavily, and took over. The love for [acting] started to develop, but there has never been a moment where I did not think, ‘Okay, I have to get some music out; I have to make sure that my voice is out there. Even if I just have one person, then I’ve done what I needed to do.’ So, it’s always been about music, but I love acting, too, now!
Parlé Mag:Being that you did start out as an actress, and that’s what people know you for, in the beginning, was it more challenging to break into the music industry?
Demetria McKinney: Oh, super hard! It still has its challenges. There are so many times when people come up, and they’re like, “Hey, Janine!” It is great to be known for your work, but those moments where people are like, “Oh my gosh! You’re Demetria, the singer.” has such an impact on me. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! You heard me.’ You know what I’m saying?
Parlé Mag: Yes!
Demetria McKinney: It’s great when people can hear you as the Janines or Coretta Scotts–and the upcoming stuff that I have coming up as those characters, but when people relate to something that you’ve said from your heart, as your true self, is a whole other realm.
Parlé Mag: Definitely! So, tell me, how would you describe your style of music?
Demetria McKinney: My style of music is definitely R&B. I can’t say that it’s like anything else, but all inspired by so many different things. What I will say is, it’s the most real I’ve been in touch with myself, and it’s the most genuine me I can give to people. I own everything about myself—the vulnerable moments, the happy moments, the sad moments, the pissed moments. [laughs] You know? Whatever emotions I’m feeling, they’re all there. And, that’s why the title of [Officially Yours] is so fitting. When you see the album cover, it’s me, just naked; I’m being as vulnerable and transparent as I know how to be on this album. I’m praying that I help some other people kind of come to their true selves, as well.
Parlé Mag: Speaking of your debut album, Officially Yours, which just released. Did you have any first album jitters? If so, why?
Demetria McKinney: I did and still have them! I have them, right now, as we are talking! [laughs] Because it’s the first!
Parlé Mag: Right!
Demetria McKinney: You don’t really know how people are going to react to it. As an artist, first, as a Virgo, second, and as a woman, third, we’re constantly critiquing ourselves; we’re constantly second-guessing and wondering if we should’ve made a different turn or a different choice. At the end of it, I have no regrets. I’m super elated to see what everybody has to say. I think that’s the biggest part, helping me to get rid of the jitters, is to say, ‘Okay, you know, it is what it is.’ I’m looking forward to the response—who rocks with it, who jigs with it, what was it that they loved, how did it help someone overcome it. At the end of it, most importantly is, ‘Did I give my all?’, and I know that I did.
Parlé Mag: Officially Yours is executive produced by Kandi Burruss-Tucker. Tell us a little about the backstory behind her actually becoming apart of this project.
Demetria McKinney: Well, as people saw on Real Housewives of Atlanta, Kandi and I collaborated on a couple different things—including “Unnecessary Trouble”, and she wrote a couple other songs that I really, really love. There’s a song called “B.S.”, on the album, that is definitely by way of Kandi and The Kandi Factory. It is such an anthem in a whole other way than “Easy” is. It’s just about knowing that ‘I’m not going to take no ‘B.S.’ from you’!
Parlé Mag: Yes!
Demetria McKinney: It’s literally laying the law down. Fellas, if you need a rulebook of ‘what not to do’, “B.S.” is the one you need to listen to, and if you hear her playing it, you messed up! [laughs] Kandi is awesome in her penmanship; she’s awesome in her way of getting those words across, and it’s great to have her in collaboration on this album.
Parlé Mag: You previously mentioned that this album would show a more truthful and transparent side of you and how, in the past, you found it difficult to show any ounce of vulnerability. So, during the making of this album, what really helped you to become vulnerable and sort of pull you out of your element?
Demetria McKinney: The people I was working with—everybody from Kandi to Travis Cherry. Travis is an amazing producer. There would be days where I was in there, and he’d be like, “You are so half-ass!” or “I don’t feel anything you’ve said! Like, who are you playing with right now? You want to win or nah? You want to tell the story? You want to be vibrant? What are you doing?”
Parlé Mag: Wow! [laughs]
Demetria McKinney: My management, they would tell me what they did and didn’t like. Really, at the core of it, it had to be me going into who I was. You know what I’m saying?
Parlé Mag: Definitely.
Demetria McKinney: As you’re going through different things in life, it can knock you down, it can build you up. But, finding that Plato, in the middle, where you accept it all, and you understand that all of it is a part of your journey, all of it is part of your story, and all of it has its place and its importance was really important, for me, in getting to the point where I was like, ‘Okay, vulnerability is okay! It’s not weak.’ It’s not crazy to say, ‘ I loved him, and I lost him.’ It’s not crazy to say, ‘You know what? I kind of f**ked up on that one.’ It’s not crazy to say, ‘So, right now, I don’t feel like doing nothing but going to the club and twerking on somebody.’ [laughs]
Parlé Mag: I feel you! [laughs]
Demetria McKinney: Wherever you’re at, in life, that’s okay!
Parlé Mag: Going back to what I said about vulnerability, as an African-American woman, we are automatically expected to possess a certain amount of strength, mentally and emotionally, and when we don’t, we’re often seen as angry or belligerent. Through your music, how do you want to kind of break that cycle of barriers and show that ‘Yes, I am a strong woman, but I can also walk in my truth, unapologetically.’
Demetria McKinney: I think that strength has to be redefined, by all of us. Let’s take Real Housewives, for example, in an effort to show strength, a lot of the women choose shade. In an effort to show strength, a lot of the people choose to use other people’s situations as a stepping stone. Strength, sometimes, is being quiet; strength, sometimes, is being still. Strength, sometimes, is going in a room, away from your kids—like I know I’ve had to do before, and just having that good cry. Strength, sometimes, is that one day of the month that you pick where you just cancel everybody! I used to do it. Ladies, try it; it’s amazing. Like, ‘I love you, but, right now, you are not as important as me regaining a little bit of me to give so that I can be strong.’
Parlé Mag: Right.
Demetria McKinney: I think when we see tears, we’ve equated it to the wrong thing. Tears are an expression of a feeling, not an attribute to strength or weakness. It is a feeling. ‘Right now, I feel this, and I’m strong enough to admit that.’ That’s another problem that we have with mental health issues, health issues, in general. If somebody says, “My heart hurts.”, they don’t want to tell nobody because then they are looked at as weak. We have to change what that is! I think that will open up so many opportunities for the levels of help that we need, for the levels of care that we need, for the levels of support. In the same breath that we’re saying ‘you’re weak or you’re strong’, nobody’s helping us. We need that help, we need our fathers, we need our brothers. If we’re acting so ‘strong’ that they can’t get through, we’re just as guilty as them not being there.
Parlé Mag: As a female artist, what are some of the biggest challenges that you face or have faced?
Demetria McKinney: As a female artist—besides being an actress and trying to transition into a whole other realm, it’s trying to distinguish sultry from stinky, I think, has been the hardest part, for me. I’m a sensual being; I gets down! [laughs] I don’t have to be a thot to do it! I love my body; I love the women’s physique. I love the mentality that comes when I put on some lingerie, I put on my heels, and I’m strutting. But, I also recognize that I have a duty, to these other young ladies watching, to say, ‘There’s a limit to that.’ There’s a line that I just won’t cross. I think that when people see that I still have my morality intact, when they see that I still have my passion for myself intact, then that kind of puts them in an area that they’re not used to seeing. I’m cool with that! I love showing this whole other part of being sexy, without having to abandon who I am.
Parlé Mag: What song on the album would you say took the most out of you, personally, to record, and why?
Demetria McKinney: As you know, the album is a bunch of different dimensions of Demetria. There is one called “All Or Nothing”; it’s admitting so many different things about myself and the person who I loved, in a space that could be really scary. I think that was the hardest one for me to sing because I would get so choked up while singing it because it was so important to me. There’s another one called “Home”, which is on the album. It’s a remake, but it has so many childhood memories, it has so many nuances, it could be so applied to what’s happening today. You know? There’s a tribute that I did do to Whitney Houston, remaking “You Give Good Love”. That, for me, was powerful. She gave to me, in so many ways, without ever knowing that she did. The way that I remembered hearing that song for the first time, I was able to understand a little more about what it is, now, and sing it from a space of understanding and respect. So, there’s just so many of them; it depends on the mood. If I’m cleaning the house, and I just want to rock out, then I’ma hit “No, No, No” because chicks tried me, and they made me mad! [laughs] It depends on what mode you’re in. So, right now, I would have to say, “All Or Nothing” is the mode I’m in.
Parlé Mag: Other than your forthcoming album, you also have something else very huge on the horizon, which happens to be your role as the great Whitney Houston in TV One’s Bobbi Kristina biopic. Walk us through your audition process for the film.
Demetria McKinney: The audition process was unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I’ve been through some auditions where I was nervous; I’ve been through some kind of strenuous auditions, and I’ve kind of crossed my fingers, afterward. A part of being an actress is accepting ‘no’ as a part of your vocabulary. So, with this one, I did that audition for a good three hours.
Parlé Mag: Wow, really?
Demetria McKinney: Yes! I was not playing no joke. Getting the call that I got it, the initial emotion was excitement. I’ve always said I wanted to play her, even before we lost her; that was who I’ve always wanted to tell that story of. But, two weeks into filming it, there was this immense pressure. I remember calling my management, four o’clock in the morning, on a Saturday, ‘Man, I cannot stop crying.’ It was such a spiritual thing because I really feel like she and Bobbi Kristina are still with us. It was eerie; it was a lot. I don’t know how to even describe it. When I realized the gravity of what I was doing is when I realized the gravity of what I was doing, to everybody else, too, because we all loved Whitney. And, I realized the responsibility of telling Bobbi Kristina’s story, at the same time. So, playing such an iconic character is humbling as hell! It’s a lot! I pray that, if nothing else, I’ve given people an inspiration of her. That’s all I can ask for.
Parlé Mag: In addition to the Bobbi Kristina biopic, you’ll also be reprising your role as Janine in Tyler Perry’s new sitcom, The Paynes, slated for 2018. Is there any information you can share with us about the sitcom, itself?
Demetria McKinney: All I can say is that it’s more of what you grew to love, the first time around. You know? The faith, the family, the fun. There was a couple of sprinkles of real-life issues to start the conversation. It’s more of everybody that you loved, previously.
Parlé Mag: Well, we definitely can’t wait to see that! Aside from being a wonderful actress and singer, you’re the CEO of your own cosmetics line, The D Mckinney Collection. Give us a little insight on how this collection came into creation.
Demetria McKinney: As you build, as you grow, and as people take notice, different brands want to connect with you, to help their platform. That can be a win-win, as long as you believe in it. Celfie Cosmetics is a brand that definitely does partnerships with different people, but what I love about them is their integrity and their willingness to give me the opportunity to be kind of in the driver’s seat, as well. I picked my colors, I talked about the formulas, I named everything. It’s definitely a collaborative effort with them. The Demetria McKinney Line, I wanted to start off small because I’ve never really been in that brand of business before. I wanted to get the opportunity to learn, grow, feel, do, and then kind of expand. So, it’s been doing amazing. We have the metallic line, we have the original line. The colors kind of suit everybody; we have everything from the bold and the beautiful to the nude and the nice. I’m really, really excited about the relaunch because we’re actually sold out. [laughs] We have to get more products for the people!
Parlé Mag:Will you be adding more products to the line in the near future? Eyeshadows, eyeliners, anything of that sort?
Demetria McKinney: I’d love to! But, before I become a ‘Jack of all trades’, I want to make sure I’m really the ‘Queen’ of the one I have now.
Parlé Mag: Moving forward, what’s next for you?
Demetria McKinney: Ooooh! Well, we’ve talked about The Paynes coming back in 2018. Saints & Sinners on Bounce TV is coming back for season three; for everybody who’s been watching, we’re coming, and we got you! I’m also starring in a new show, called Superstition, which is going to be on Syfy. It stars myself, Brad James, and Mario Van Peebles. Oh my God! This is totally different than anybody’s ever seen me do. I’m doing stunt work; there’s a totally different level of relationships. I’m just really excited about the opportunity to continue growing, as an actress—working on a new network, with a new set of audience members. So, be on the lookout for that! That actually aired on October sixth, along with my album release.
Parlé Mag: So close! Right around the corner, actually.
Demetria McKinney: Oh, yes! Lots to look forward to.
Purchase Demetria McKinney’s Officially Yours HERE!