India Love: Turning pain into promise

What a time to be alive.

For some, that Drake and Future declaration serves as a well-worn caption for life’s most shareable moments. Put another way, it’s the forefather to Lil Duval’s current “living my best life” mindset.

For social media personality and newly minted rap artist India Love, the words take on an entirely different meaning. From the moment she was of legal age (and perhaps before then), she was thrust into the social media spotlight. People couldn’t get enough of her. Mix in a BET reality show featuring her family, and you have before you a teenager trying her hardest to navigate the rough terrain of celebrity.

Now at 22, Love is entering a new phase in her life, where for the first time she indeed feels alive. Under the tutelage of Black Eyed Peas maestro will.i.am, Love is for the first time discovering her authentic voice. She discussed as much during a recent sit-down with rolling out.

What a time to be alive, indeed.

I’m glad that we are getting this chance to sit down and talk. The first time that we had you on the cover, it was with your sisters promoting your television show. Fast-forward to the present day, and you’re here embarking on a new career as a music artist. Describe your evolution since our last conversation.

Since you last saw me, I’ve been going through this process of getting to know myself and trying to peel different layers of me that I never knew existed. I had some self-doubt issues that probably held me back from getting to know what I could do in this world. But I started working with will.i.am, and he began to see things in me that I didn’t even see in myself. I viewed that as God placing that situation in my life at the right time because becoming an artist and working with him has definitely helped me gain a better sense of who I am.

How did the connection with will.i.am begin?

I did a music video for Will, and that was the first time that we worked together. Two weeks later, he sat me down and asked me to be the brand ambassador for his Apple headphones. I’m on the box, and it’s sold worldwide, so we went on this tour together. It was during that tour, that I really got to know him, and he gave me so much wisdom as it relates to getting to know myself and not being so antisocial. We had a lot of great conversations that helped me as we were building a genuine friendship.

And then he approached you about being an artist.

Yes, he sat me down again and was like, “Yo, I see a lot more in you than you probably see in yourself, and I want to try to bring that out of you. Would you trust me in the process of me transforming you into an artist?” At first, I was taken aback by it, but I said a little prayer and felt good about it. I went into the booth that night and recorded my first single “Loco.”

Describe the transition of becoming an artist because it’s not just the music that you have to be concerned about. There’s also the very public side of life that you have to account for.

I’ve been in the industry for a long time just as a public figure on social media, so I was used to that part. But becoming an artist has taken [me] some time to get adjusted [to]. You have to instantly turn it on for the world and let them get to know you. That was hard for me because I was never one to be talkative and speak out. I’m extremely shy and don’t speak a lot, so it’s a huge transition for me to go from that to rapping on a microphone. Eventually, I know that’s going to turn into me performing one day, and that’s a lot of pressure. But I know that God wouldn’t place all of these opportunities before me if he didn’t want me to excel. So all I’m doing is challenging myself every day to make the most of this moment.

Talk about the first moments when you stepped inside the booth. What was that like?

My heart was beating really fast, and I didn’t think that I was doing good at all. I had both headphones on, so I couldn’t really hear what I sounded like, so I had to take one off. So I’m not really feeling good about what’s happening, but [will.i.am] is behind the glass going crazy. When I see that, I’m like, “I guess it’s going good.” I had to loop two to three bars at a time because I didn’t know how to memorize s—. It was a gradual process of me improving, but he was patient during the process. I’m just really lucky to have Will be so in tune with the process. He doesn’t just have a team around me, it’s actually him as the engineer, so I really appreciate that.

It’s interesting to hear you speak about how shy you are. When I look at your social media profile, I don’t see a person who is shy at all.

I knew you were going to say that. [Laughs]. It goes like this: you only give people what you want them to see, and I always gave them pictures. I’m very comfortable in my own skin, and I thank God that I’m blessed to look like this on the outside and that I have just as good of a heart on the inside. So, all around, I’m just blessed. I look at myself as a piece of art, and I’m very comfortable with what I look like in my skin. On social media, I showcase that in an artistic form. People can hate and say it’s raunchy, but I really look at it as art.

When did you become comfortable in your own skin?

If you really want to get down to it, it didn’t happen until I started taking pictures without any clothes on. That forced me to become more comfortable in my skin because I was exposed at a young age. Somebody exploited a nude picture of me on the internet, and it broke me down really bad. So from there, it fueled me to push past the moment and use my body in an artistic way instead of how it was exploited.

I feel like now is the time where people can see my personality and really get to know who I am. There are so many people who will tell me that they’ve never even heard me speak before, so this is just a really good time for me to show all of me.

What does the public consistently get wrong about you?

That I’m b—-y and have a bad attitude. They probably got that from me being on that BET show, but that’s reality TV, and they edit it a certain way to entertain people. Another thing people get wrong is that I’ve dated all of these men. That’s probably the No. 1 thing that people have gotten wrong about me. Since I was young, my family has always taken pictures. So as I’m experiencing different things in life, of course, I’m going to take a picture, and sometimes I’ll post it. But just because I might take a photo with a guy doesn’t mean that I’m dating him, f—ing him, or none of that s—. That just means that I’m getting to know the person, having a good time, and wanted to share it with the world. Sometimes, it’s not even worth addressing all of the rumors.

How did you arrive at the place in your life where you can just ignore the rumors? We’re all human, so I have to imagine that’s not an easy thing to do.

Growing up as a teenager on social media, I started getting tattoos. I was getting the tattoos because I felt so much sadness inside from people talking about me. They didn’t know me, but they were judging me, and it hurt. The hurt that I was feeling on the inside, I wanted to feel on the outside. I began to get tattoos to feel that pain. But as I’ve matured, I’ve learned that there are better ways to cope. I can’t control the way that people feel about me. I can only control my brand and working hard to make a name for myself in this world. So that’s what I’m focused on, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Interview and images by DeWayne Rogers

DeWayne Rogers
DeWayne Rogers

I write. I create. I take photos. In my spare time, I'm also a part-time super-hero. Go figure.

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