Meet pop singer Kristinia DeBarge. As the daughter of James DeBarge, the 19-year-old hails from a big family of music makers responsible for '80s hits like “Rhythm of the Night.” Now it's her turn to shine: The half-Mexican beauty’s new album, Exposed, drops on Tuesday and she’s opening for Britney Spears’s Circus tour starting in August. I caught up with the rising star to talk about her decision to follow in her famous family's footsteps:
You're a DeBarge! Did you grow up in a house filled with music?
Yes and no. Yes, because my father surrounded me with family who are all very talented and singing 24/7. No, because I went through parts of my life when I wasn't with my father.
Your dad, James DeBarge, wanted you to be a doctor or a lawyer—why not a musician?
Because he believed there was too much pain that came with being an artist and musician: fame, money, betrayal, extreme highs and extreme lows. Your innocence can be robbed from you; some people can become jaded. But my father supported me anyway because he wants me to be happy and follow my dreams. But I always keep sight of those words he told me.
He put you to the test by taking you into the studio to record a duet till 4 a.m. How was that?
Amazing. I experienced something I wanted to continue to do nonstop—literally! From that day forward, I made sacrifices to pursue my career.
Once you decided that you wanted to be a singer, what advice did he give you?
He told me it's hard work and to keep God first.
Babyface worked on your new album. What was it like working with him?
I love working with Babyface! He's such a warm-hearted person and extremely talented. I am so grateful he gave me the opportunity to show him that I'm meant to do this.
You've known him for a while. What did he teach you?
A lot! One thing is patience and taking your time. He always enjoys his work, no matter how much or how little time we had, and he always made sure we were laughing and having a good time.
What’s the album about?
A young girl going through trials and tribulations. Being lost, confused, hurt, and then she's found and she embraces new chapters of her life. She discovers she's vulnerable, yet strong and confident and beautiful. The message? We're all human, not perfect. We all make mistakes. I'm just like everybody else.
The first single, “Goodbye,” was a big hit. It’s a pretty mature song about moving on from a relationship—was it inspired by anyone in particular?
I didn't write this song. However, I do write my own music, but when I heard “Goodbye,” I felt it was a perfect song for any woman, young lady or girl. No matter what the age, love is always relevant.
What's your favorite song on the album?
My favorites are in constant rotation. Sometimes it’s “Cry Me a River” and other times it's “Anti Love.” Right now it's “Speak Up.” Why? Because they're powerful!
You've said you're a hopeless romantic—what crazy things have you done for love?
I've done some pretty crazy things, but I'll keep those to myself. Just note: When I love, I love hard.
What singers do you admire?
Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor, Kurt Cobain, Mariah Carey, Sade, Babyface, Bob Dylan, Prince, Johnny Cash, Al Green, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Minnie Ripperton, Dorothy Dandridge. ... So many more, but here's just a little bit, and I really mean a little bit.