Keri Hilson is glowing. This is true both literally—her skin boasts of a youthful golden tone— and in a deeper sense: she’s retreated from the spotlight to focus on herself and has found a genuine joy in the process.
For many that have long lived there lives in public, giving up the attention can leave some worrisome. But for the 34-year-old singer-songwriter, it may have been one of the best decisions she’s made. Of course, Hilson surprised us with acting gigs on Almost Christmas and Love By the 10th Date, but for the most part, she’s been pretty camera shy.
However, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been hard at work, preparing for a comeback that will both motivate and inspire the masses to look inward for than often and take care of self, whether that’s working out at your local park or picking up a few new hobbies.
During a tour of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, as part of the National Park Service and National Park Foundation’s Parks 101 series, Madame Noire explored lesser known stories of national park site for the 101st birthday of the parks and chatted with Hilson about everything going on in her world.
Madame Noire: To begin, your Instagram bio is probably one of the best I’ve seen: “I play for a living… words, melodies, and make-believe on film.” How does that feel for you, being able to do what you love and still make an impact and support yourself financially?
Keri Hilson: That’s the best part. Work is play, you know. I think that was my goal growing up, just to make sure that my quote, unquote job was fun for me. And I wasn’t going to settle, which is how I operate. I always had a job in the entertainment field. I was in a group and was into songwriting for like eight or nine years before I was famous. It was just like, that’s the goal no matte what. Even if I worked at radio or was singing in a lounge or singing on a Disney Cruise, I would be just as fulfilled because it feel likes play to me and it’s what I love to do.
What have you been up to lately? We’ve seen you delve into acting with Almost Christmas and Love By the 10th Date. Is this a serious transition for you?
I began with just a cameo in Think Like a Man and was also in Riddick, a sci-fi film with Vin Diesel. But I don’t really feel like I’m transitioning. I just take everyday as it comes. I wear a different hat everyday whether it’s screenwriting or acting or songwriting or decorating or doing real estate. I have all these different modes. Everyday I wake up with a goal and it’s not necessarily in the same realm and I love it. So, I don’t feel like I’m transitioning, not in the sense that people traditionally think. I was also a theatre major so I actually feel like I’m just getting back into it. I’ve always appreciated all aspects of the arts from behind the scenes and anything in between.
Is there anything new you’ve taken on as a hobby for lucrative opportunity that you’re enjoying?
Screenwriting. I go out there and work every few weeks. It’s fun because you can say a lot through your characters. There’s a lot of room for dialogue so perspective is widened when you compare it to a song, where you only get about three minutes and you’re restricted by melody and rhyme. In screenwriting, you don’t have that.
So, we just took a tour of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and went rafting, which was more fun than I expected. I know you’re from Georgia, but did you know that something like this existed in the metro-area?
Yes, born and raised. I think I came here for a field trip when I was younger. I don’t think I went on the river though. But I for sure have been to Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Because I was a kid when I first came, I didn’t realize just how close it was to Atlanta. It was literally a 30-minute drive for me today. I’m just excited to have somewhere like this to frequent and begin my partnership with the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service to help everyone find their park. I love parks. There’s so much to do from fly fishing to exercising to drafting like we just did. I’m always barbecuing with family and friends or going out for walks with my dog, or taking my nieces and nephews out for a fun day in the sun. I definitely want to encourage our people to get outdoors and be active. Take your families out and bond that way.
Aside from taking in the beautiful scenery, that rafting excursion we just had seriously felt like a workout, too. Parks are always a great place to break a sweat. I’m wondering how dedicated you are to working out.
At least two to three times a week. I could be bike riding or working out. Personally, I prefer outdoor workouts no matter what the weather is—except for winter, like the dead of winter. But during Spring, Summer, and Fall, I’m outdoors. I don’t love gyms, but I love the fresh air. It doesn’t matter what city I’m in, I’ll find somewhere to get a workout in. I’ve hiked in Arizona and California, ran around reservoirs and done steps. I’m always at a park. I’m a people person, too, and at the gym it’s really just you and your headphones. I also love being outdoors because it’s an opportunity to engage with people and you never know who you’ll come across that could teach you something,
You’ve been away from the music industry for awhile now. You’ve spoken about working on a new album, L.I.A.R. (Love Is A Religion), and a fan recently asked about it’s whereabouts…
Yeah, I said there’s some business on the way.
Can you share anything else?
Nope (laughs), that’s it. That’s all I got. There’s some business to handle before I can do that but I do have great music. There’s just nothing more to say at the moment.
It’s been seven years since you released your last album, No Boys Allowed. During your hiatus, what’s something you learned about yourself?
I learned a lot about myself, mostly through the lessons that a failed relationship can teach you about yourself. Or the lessons a bad relationship can teach you about yourself. So, I put it all in my music, you know, that growth had a lot to do with that. But then also professionally, too. I learned that’s it OK to have all these interests. I don’t have to put all my eggs in one basket. I am multi-faceted. I am this, that, and all of it, and that’s OK to be all of me. Although the world is only aware of one or two aspects but it’s OK because I don’t do it for that. I just think fell in love with myself. I really did. I fell in love with myself: the good, the bad, the ugly. I’m far from perfect but I’m a work in progress everyday and I’m grateful for the time I had away just to feel normal. Like, I love going to the grocery store, I cook everyday. My sense of normalcy is at an all-time high so I love it. My freedom.