Much has been said about the struggles of dark-skinned women trying to make it in the entertainment industry, and one person who’s very familiar with those struggles is Diddy Dirty Money member, Kalenna Harper. Before she linked up with Sean “Diddy” Combs and former Danity Kane member Dawn Richard to form Dirty Money, and even before she became an award-winning songwriter, Kalenna was a solo artist, but the Philadelphia native had to rethink her approach after encountering obstacles such as being told she was “too black.” During my recent chitchat with her for my web series, “Scene And Heard TV,” Kalenna said of the experience:
“I kind of started off as a solo artist, and I was doing that for a very long time. And you know, just coming up against obstacles; they was like, you know, ‘you too black,’ or ‘you’re not marketable.’ Whatever they came up with in their minds to say that I wasn’t artist material, you know. I just said I’m going to be a businesswoman, and I’m going to be like the Missy Elliotts, and the R. Kellys, and the Keith Sweats. I’m going to write for other artists, and they’re not going to have no other choice but to hear me, and to buy my music, and to respect me as an artist.”
When asked to elaborate on what “they” meant by “too black,” Kalenna said:
“That was complexion wise. It was complexion, and you know something, it’s a difference between chocolate and brown and peanut butter and even Snicker bar, you know what I’m saying. Chocolate is something different, you know. And so the way they made it seem was, you black as night girl; you crispy, burnt black, and that’s just not marketable right now. And it wasn’t at the time to be totally honest with you.”
Although it may not have been marketable at the time (or even now according to the powers that be), Kalenna’s determination to be successful in the industry never wavered, and her grind has paid off. According to Kalenna:
“And yeah, it was just like you’re not marketable; you’re just a little too brown. It was a little challenging, but here I am. I’m excited just to be in this position, and hope that all the little brown-skinned girls that’s out there that want to do it…they’re beautiful too.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for this successful brown-skinned sister’s other ventures…an upcoming fashion line called Love Your Wool, and the I Heart Kalenna Foundation, which launches this summer (the organization provides social services and resources to those with Lupus as well as homeless veterans, their families and youth empowerment). Check out Kalenna’s comments in their entirety in the video below (her segment begins at the 3:15 mark):
Mara The Hip-Hop Socialite got her start in the hip-hop industry when she accepted an offer to work on a temporary basis in the promotions department of Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records in 2006. It was there where she first began putting her experiences with the industry onto paper, utilizing the writing skills she acquired while earning her Juris Doctor degree from the law school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. .....read more.....