The Untold Truth Of Kehlani

As protests and unrest spread across the nation following the killing of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police, some celebrities are also facing scrutiny for their responses to the volatile situation. Among those famous faces is singer Lana Del Rey, who shared a series of controversial posts on social media and tangled directly and indirectly with fellow artist Kehlani. 

In one Instagram post, Del Rey discussed a perceived double-standard in the music industry, making her argument by essentially name-checking other artists, specifically women of color. "Question for the culture," Del Rey wrote (per the Los Angeles Times). "Now that Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f***ing, cheating, etc — can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money — or whatever i want — without being crucified or saying that I'm glamorizing abuse???????" 

Del Rey said she was not trying to detract from the success of the women she'd named. In fact, she said they were her "favorite f***ing people," but that sentiment certainly isn't mutual for Kehlani, who directly called out Del Rey for subsequently posting what Kehlani called a "dangerous" video of looting in Los Angeles.

But Kehlani is much more than her headline-making exchange with Del Rey. She is a successful artist in her own right. Let's dig into that, shall we?

Kehlani took her album release into her own hands

Kehlani rose to prominence in 2014 with a free mixtape titled Cloud 19. She has since become a Grammy and BET-nominated superstar who's kept busy while laying low during the coronavirus pandemic. She even executed a DIY new music release from her home. 

Kehlani was disappointed when her label postponed the release of her album, It Was Good Until It Wasn't, right before social-distancing and self-quarantine got underway. "I was pretty bummed, but they're the label, I can't fight that," she told The GuardianIn response, she used her own skills to produce a video and drop her "TOXIC" single in March 2020. The sensual video features Kehlani in different outfits swaying to the music and feeling herself. "I put it out, just wine drunk, in the middle of the night and things went crazy," she said. Her label reportedly phoned the next day. "They were like: 'If you've decided you want to take everything into your own hands you're welcome to drop [the album].'"

She's continued her grassroots promotions and DIY videography. "I've learned a lot of new things off YouTube," she told The Guardian. "I'm actually really busy."

Kehlani dishes on her big breakup with YG

Kehlani came clean in 2020 about what exactly went down between her and her ex, YG. The rapper was reportedly one of the first artists in the industry to express interest in her work, but YG was also allegedly caught with another woman outside a club in Los Angeles shortly after their relationship went public in 2019. 

In May 2020, Kehlani talked to The Breakfast Club about being in an open relationship and facing betrayal. "I think you get to a certain point where if you set certain boundaries for your relationship, then that's the boundaries that you guys should hold yourselves to..." she told the radio show, noting that infidelity can feel like a part of the music biz. " some point I have to hold that standard to myself and honor myself and dip out."

According to Kehlani, YG was cheating on her, and the details are in her track, "Valentine's Day." She said the "outside the club thing" [YG kissing another woman] wasn't the reason for their split. To her, the communication breakdown was key. "It was a lot of lies and a lot of covering up," she said. "It was deep, and it was intricate." She said they're both on good terms now, but she's moved on.

Kehlani had a difficult childhood

Kehlani overcame a difficult start in life. She was reportedly born prematurely to a mother who was on the run. Her father, who died when she was 1, talked her mom through labor on the phone from prison. Shortly after Kehlani was born, her mother returned to prison. "...I was hella premature because she was on drugs," Kehlani told The Guardian. Baby Kehlani was placed in foster care. Her aunt eventually adopted her, but Kehlani said she became homeless as a teenager, reportedly drifting from couch to couch and stealing food to stay alive until around 2012. 

Kehlani endured another horrible circumstance in 2016 when she was mercilessly criticized over a single social media post. Rapper PartyNextDoor shared a photo with Kehlani in bed. At the time, most folks believed she was dating NBA player Kyrie Irving, so that snap triggered an onslaught of infidelity chatter. Though both Kehlani and Irving said they were not together at the time of the post, the hate directed at Kehlani got so bad that she may have attempted suicide

"I wanted to leave this earth," she said in an Instagram post, per MTV News. "Never thought I'd get to such a low point. But...Don't believe the blogs you read. No one was cheated on and I'm not a bad person." She added, "God saved me for a reason, and for that...I must be grateful.. Cuz I'm not in heaven right now for a reason."

Kehlani believes looks can be deceiving

Kehlani described herself as a mixed-race person, saying she has black, white, Native American, Mexican, Spanish, and Filipino roots in her family. Her love interests also don't discriminate. "I'm queer. Not bi, not straight. I'm attracted to women, men, REALLY attracted to queer men, non binary people, intersex people, trans people. Lil poly pansexual papi hello good morning," she tweeted in 2018, per Billboard.

After she announced that she was having a baby with her guitarist, Javaughn Young-White, Kehlani was criticized by some who claimed that she'd used her sexuality for clout. She dismissed those critics. "I've had girlfriends in front of people's faces, right under their noses, and they weren't famous and so nobody cared to make it public. So they automatically assume that I must like men more than women," she told The Guardian, warning that labels of any kind can be problematic. "A lot of people think I'm a rapper," she said, because she has face tattoos. "Or that I'm 'F**k this and f**k that', and as 'F**k this' as I can be," she quipped. In reality: "I'm pretty sensitive," she said.

Looking to the future, Kehlani is focusing on raising her daughter and helping create positive opportunities for other kids too. "One thing I'm thinking about a lot lately is all the children whose safe haven was after-school programmes and dance class, who have it really rough at home," she told The Guardian in May 2020. "My happy place when I felt misunderstood or alone was in these programmes where I got to express myself."

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, please contact SAMHSA's 24-hour National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.