Destiny’s Child: Talented, fearless and gorgeous, the trio soundtracked our lives. With scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthems like “Survivor” and “Independent Women,” they were girl power defined. Kelly, Beyoncé and Michelle were more than one of the most successful groups of all time — they were best friends in our head. Now, Kelly Rowland is on the hunt for the next great girl #squad. Let’s be honest, it’s been forever since we’ve had a girl group to rally for. “Everything has a beginning…I’ve been in one of the greatest girl groups of all time and I want to see it happen again,” Kelly says. In Chasing Destiny, we get a backstage look at what it takes to be a star. Kelly lays down the law from the beginning, saying, “I’m expecting hard work, dedication, girls who live and breathe music.” Forget what you think you know about music reality shows. There will be no throwing drinks or pulling wigs. No treks to Brooklyn for cheesecake. With a contract at Epic Records and her own professional rep on the line, Kelly is focusing on the music. “I don’t want reality stars,” she says. “I want stars.”
*Episode spoilers to follow*
In the first episode of Chasing Destiny, we see her philosophy in action. After personally sifting through hundreds of submissions from YouTube, Instagram and pretty much everywhere in between, Kelly and legendary director /choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. hold auditions for finalists in New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Kelly’s the sweet, understanding judge while Frank is the tell-it-like-it-is-even-if-it-hurts-your-feelings judge (with a resume that includes Michael Jackson, TLC and Destiny’s Child, he’s kind of earned the right to be that guy). Anything can happen in the audition room. The girls sing solos and those with the lungs, as well as glittery star quality, advance to a group sing-a-long to see how well they play with others. Kelly and Frank’s mission: Get down to 15 girls.
It’s tough. Each of the girls brings something unique. Khylah B from Chicago is a 22-year-old whose family put everything on the line for her to attend the audition. Literally. After her vocals crack during “The Greatest Love of All,” she reveals that she had to sleep at the airport the night before. Usually tough-as-nails, Frank softens to her story. “I thought it was [because of] a stupid a** man. You girls gotta throw those stupid a** men away,” he says and then gives her a chance to try again. Good advice, Frank.
Candace, a 23-year-old from Philadelphia, melts Kelly’s heart. After her rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’ Nobody,” Kelly gushes, “You have great soul. She was so sweet. Her spirit felt good. She reminded me of Michelle!” Candace’s gorgeous looks makes Kelly swoon. “Chocolate skin makes me insane. I want my chocolate! I’m really rooting for her.” Frank, on the other hand, ain’t all that impressed. He doesn’t mince words and calls her “homely.” Ouch! Clearly, he doesn’t realize that a good makeup artist and face beat can make anyone #fierce.
Both Kelly and Frank agree on the dopeness of Mayah. A student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Kelly calls her a “Nubian goddess” and she legit looks like she came off the pages of Vogue. Her rendition of John Legend’s “Ordinary People,” especially those sultry low notes, has us melting. Watch out for Brienna from New Jersey, too. She brings an acoustic guitar player to accompany her version of Rihanna’s “Stay.” I’ll admit, I was ready to give her the side-eye until I heard her sing. Bri’s powerful vocals and the Spanish remix strangely work (Note to Rihanna, who’s on tour right now). “She’s original,” says Kelly.
Another unique performer is Gabby from Glendale, California. The quirky 19-year-old is the quintessential dork. She stumbles and tumbles through Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!). “You’re boring physically,” says Frank. Ouch x 2. But she’s sooo adorkable that you can’t help but root for her — cardigan sweater and all. Kelly and even Frank agree that she gets bumped to the next round.
Most of the girls are understandably anxious and some totally fan out over Kelly. “Thank you for showing young Black girls you can be in the industry and still maintain your class,” says Shyann in Atlanta. “Michelle. Beyoncé! Look what y’all did! Look what we did,” Kelly says adorably to the camera. But nerves can kill the audition. Take Alyxx. The pretty blonde from Los Angeles (who kind of resembles Beyoncé) has experienced being in a girl group and being a soloist but her cover of “Sweet Love” would send Anita Baker screaming with her ears covered. Kelly recommended Alyxx for the show and she’s one of the most polished hopefuls. Still, she needs to work on those vocals and nerves if she wants to make it in the group.
“There’s so much talent,” says Kelly after the last audition. This is going to be a hard decision. She’s looking for the complete package in the finalists. Vocals, rhythm, style, "It" factor and, most importantly, the ability to sing in a group. “We only get to pick 15.”