NEW YORK — They come from different backgrounds — one is a minister’s daughter from Harlem, the other is from Tampa of Puerto Rican and German descent.
But when two young starlets — Tina Novak and Kelis — met for the first time, they found common ground in their shared passion for music and fashion.
It’s been almost two years since Kelis, the 22-year-old singer who is signed to Virgin Records, launched her career with a smash album called “Kaleidoscope,” which secured three top-40 hits and won critical acclaim for its style of “psychedelic sci-fi soul.”
Now, she’s releasing her second album dubbed “Wanderland,” which goes in a different musical direction.
“I am leaving it up to the listener as far as the music style is concerned,” Kelis said. “It’s not up to me to come up with the category it falls in.”
Her first single for “Wanderland,” “Young, Fresh N’ New,” describes exactly what Kelis is offering: new music for existing fans and for fans to come. Even with the album yet to hit stores, Kelis has started and finished a variety of tours, including an opening for U2. Also in the past year, she has collaborated with artists such as Busta Rhymes, Moby, Foxy Brown, LFO and NERD.
Kelis said her diverse styles in music come from the inspirations of so many singers, notably Nas, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ella Fitzgerald and Faith Evans.
“As an artist from Harlem, I have been exposed to so many different music types,” she said.
Moving away from the music set, Kelis is concentrating on her new line of belts, handbags and costume jewelry, named Mizrebelle, which she designed recently. Now in production, Kelis said she plans to have the line in stores by the summer.
“So many celebrities do clothing lines,” she said of her choice in accessories. “I think accessories are great. They can make or break an outfit. They’re fun.”
Kelis has already seen some interest in the line from boutiques where she frequently shops.
“I like to shop everywhere and anywhere, from Fendi to Kmart,” she said. “I believe that if you have a good style, you can find clothes anywhere.”
Among some of her favorite designers, Kelis cited Manolo Blahnik for shoes, as well as “some not-so-well-known designers” such as Matthew Williamson and Tristin Weber.
As far as her personal style, Kelis said she tends to go through mood changes, and her fashion sense for the day will reflect her mood.
“My mom is the complete opposite of me,” she said. “When she is feeling down, she likes to dress up to make herself feel better. When I am down, I want to dress that way. I am a very emotional person, so my style shows that.”
With that in mind, Kelis said that her style is anything but practical. Everything in her closet is full of color and style, but she is lacking the basics.
“I am the type of person who has not one practical item in my house,” she said, “which sometimes ends up a problem, since I need a few plain pieces to layer my clothes. Overall, I am very theme oriented. I like to wake up in the morning and pick a theme for the day. Sometimes I can be my own version of a 1950s pin-up girl, and other days I tone it down a bit.”
The Tampa-born-and-raised Novak is a newcomer to the music scene. Her yet-to-be-named album is due to hit stores April 23. As the first artist signed to Arista’s Spere Records division, Novak was discovered by the Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Kevin (Shek’spere) Briggs, who brought her to Arista’s attention.
But before this, Novak’s talent for music was evident since she was singing at the age of two. She was a finalist in the Miss Florida pageant in 1999, performed for NBA and NFL halftime shows and at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. According to Novak, it’s her love of performing that keeps her going.
“I am not a pageant chick,” she said. “I really did it because it was so entertainment oriented. It was held at the Hard Rock and there was a lot of performing involved.”
Now, Novak is starting to see her hard work pay off. With her upcoming album, “things are just starting to come together.” She said she will start promoting the first single soon and will begin to plan a video shoot. She described the album as having a “popular groove” sound.
“I think that popular groove is a good description,” she said. “It’s a feel-good record, with some tracks that are danceable and others that are mellow. But this is not pop music.”
Novak said her music is influenced by the likes of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner. She is working on her dance moves with Fatima Robinson, the choreographer who worked closely with the late Aaliyah.
“I like looking feminine and natural when dancing, and Fatima is very good with that,” she said. “The way Aaliyah moved, that’s what I like.”
As for her fashion sense, Novak said she likes to look feminine and pretty, calling her look “sexy bohemian.” She loves the peasant-inspired trend, as well as the vintage influence in fashion. Above all, she enjoys styles that are fitted and flattering to her curves.
“I really don’t pay much attention to the labels,” she said. “I do like stores like XOXO and Arden B., but I also like designers like YSL and Valentino.”
Novak said that she prefers to customize her own clothes, and shopping for vintage clothes is a favorite hobby. She would like to start her own cosmetics line one day and maybe a clothing collection, but it would have to be a line that is specially made for women with curves, she said.
“Women like me are curvy, and it is very difficult for us to find clothes,” she said. “I hope to change that.”