She recently enjoyed a No. 1 hit with "Dilemma," a duet with rapper Nelly. She's just released her first solo album, "Simply Deep," and has scored another hit with the single "Stole."
And like Knowles -- who co-starred in this summer's Austin Powers in "Goldmember" -- the 21-year-old Rowland is making her own forays into acting, with a guest appearance on TV's "The Hughleys" and a role in the forthcoming horror film "Freddy Vs. Jason."
Clearly, it's Kelly Time.
"I felt like I wanted to grow a lot more," says the Atlanta-born Rowland, who began singing in church in her native Atlanta and moved to Houston during the early `90s, where she met Knowles and her father, Destiny's Child manager Matthew Knowles.
"On the album, especially, I wanted to give people something to talk about, like 'I never heard her do something like that before,' and that's what I did. I actually took risks on this album."
Those risks, she says, included singing in higher registers than she's attempted in Destiny's Child, as well as co-writing several of the songs and incorporating more of a rock flavor than is normally associated with the group.
"Above anything else I wanted to make it different from Destiny's Child," explains Rowland, who also worked with Knowles' younger sister Solange on two of "Simply Deep's" songs. "A lot of people are saying that it is, and that it just reflects Kelly, so that's great."
The pairing with Nelly on "Dilemma" -- a reworking of the Patty LaBelle song "Love, Need and Want You" -- was fortuitous for Rowland's desire to step out on her own, giving her a high profile platform to launch her solo persona.
"I didn't know at first that it was a Patti LaBelle remake," recalls Rowland, speaking by telephone from her record company's New York City offices. "When I found out, I went back into the studio and said 'Nelly, I have to put something else in this song.' He thought I was crazy, but when I finished, he was like 'You know, baby girl, that's even better.'
"I was kinda walking on egg shells 'til I heard Patti LaBelle finally say, at a video shoot, 'Baby, you sang that song!' I felt so much better when she said that, 'cause when you do remakes you want them to sound just like the original did."
Having hits is nothing new to Rowland, of course. Destiny's Child has had plenty of its own -- including "Say My Name," the "Charlie's Angels" theme "Independent Women, Part I," "Survivor," "Bootylicious" -- on the way to selling more than 20 million copies of its four studio albums and becoming the best-selling female group of all time. But Rowland says she never takes the success for granted.
"Every No. 1 single you get is a blessing," she says. "This song with Nelly is a blessing 'cause you don't come across No. 1 singles every day. I'm just glad to get another one under my belt."
Rowland wouldn't mind a hit film, either. "I visited Beyonce on the (`Austin Powers') set," Rowland recalls, "and I was like, 'Oh, man, I want a movie.' And she was like, 'You'll get a movie. You've got too much personality not to.'"
But Rowland didn't think a horror film would be her cinematic destiny.
"I'm actually scared of (horror) movies," she says. "I can't even see movies like 'Hannibal;' I'm won't go see 'Red Dragon' or anything like that... 'cause I'm a little bit of a chicken.
"But I had so much fun on the set, and I'm happy I got this opportunity."
Rowland won't reveal whether her character, Kia, lives or dies, but she did say that, after some time, she mastered the art of screaming. "It's really bad for my singing voice, but I had to make it right," she explains. "I took two or three days and made sure it sounded like a real scared, girly kind of scream.
"Of course, I was hoarse the next couple of days, but I still learned how to scream."
Rowland says that she's pursuing more acting opportunities, and if "Simply Deep" is successful she's consider some solo concert performances. But she's also looking forward to hooking up again with Knowles and Michelle Williams -- who released a Christian-themed album earlier this year -- for the next Destiny's Child album, which should take place next summer in time for a fall 2003 release.
"We're coming back together; our first priority is Destiny's Child," Rowland says. "We'll have to get into the studio and set the tone, and I think that we'll be bringing a while bunch of elements of what we've been doing individually back into Destiny's Child.
"I actually can't wait; none of us can. We talk about it every time we get together. It's gonna be beautiful."
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