Whatever happened to Kelis?

Any teenager of the early aughts knows of Kelis Rogers, or simply Kelis, the New York-born singer responsible for letting our imaginations run rampant with her sexually ambiguous hit track, “Milkshake.” Known for her female-empowering hits, such as “Bossy” (and the unfortunately-dyed poodle found in the music video), “Trick Me,” and “Caught Out There,” Kelis was once an R&B icon — until she disappeared.

“Anyone who knows me knows I can take fame or leave it,” the songstress told Essence in 2018. “I can walk away from all of this and never look back. Being famous has never validated me — ever. I’ve never cared if people liked me or didn’t like me. Either way, I’m cool.” One thing Kelis does care about, however? Doing things to the beat of her own drum. “One of the biggest things I reiterate is self-care,” she told the outlet. Remarkably enough, Kelis really has looked after herself, steering clear from the tabs that quite literally destroyed A-listers in the years that surrounded her fame.

At the end of the day, anyone who thinks Kelis may be a one-hit-wonder is sorely mistaken. Ever since her 1999 debut album, Kaleidoscope, the starlet hasn’t really stopped working. Simply put, just because she isn’t in the spotlight, doesn’t mean she isn’t busy. Let’s discover whatever happened to Kelis.

Kelis, the farmer

We’ve all heard stories of celebs running normal side businesses away from their A-list endeavors. From Steve Carell’s general store in rural Massachusetts to Armie Hammer’s bakery he shares with estranged wife Elizabeth Chambers, stars simply love to dabble in the ordinary. Kelis, on the other hand? She decided to make the mundane a part of her everyday life.

According to The Guardian, Kelis moved “about two and a half hours out of LA, deep in wine country,” to go live on a 24-acre farm, as of 2019, with her husband, Mike Mora, and two sons, Sheperd and Knight. “Over in that front corral is where the vegetable garden is, and then I’ve got my seedlings here,” she gushed to the outlet. “I’m waiting for my greenhouse to be built. We have chickens coming and also baby goats,” adding that she’s also mulling over a “cow situation.”

A far cry from her “Bossy” days, Kelis has swapped the microphone for domesticity. “It’s pretty much my husband and me looking after the farm,” the starlet explained. With no passing cars going by and the nearest shop “half an hour away,” this celeb is living in total isolation — and she loves it.

Unlike most celebs, Kelis hates Los Angeles

One reason Kelis hasn’t released an album since 2014 may have something to do with the fact that she isn’t a fan of the city where stars go to shine. “I hate LA,” she declared to The Guardian in 2020. “I was only ever there for work. Because it’s not like New York or London, there’s nowhere to go after 10 at night, so suddenly you’re getting up early in the mornings and you’re juicing and you’re hiking.”

It turns out, when Kelis was a part of the “scene,” record companies didn’t exactly know what to do with her. The Guardian summarized this notion perfectly, writing, “Kelis was often called ‘hard to place’ … Refusing to be restricted to the R&B and hip-hop boxes into which young black artists are often shoved.” While her independence may be seen as an accomplishment (she and Macy Gray were seen as the “first [black women] to be considered alternative”), refusing to be put in a box may have “worked against her.”

“The issue of race has been such a big part of my entire career,” the singer told The Guardian. Kelis echoed a similar sentiment to her Instagram account that same year, sharing a photo which read, “If the music industry wants to support Black lives, labels and platforms can start with … retroactively paying back all the Black artists … they have built their empires on.”

Kelis made a surprising appearance on The Masked Singer

2020 saw Kelis making a highly televised comeback — something that came as a total surprise and “delighted” her long-term fans (via the Independent). That January, the “Milkshake” icon appeared on stage dressed as a giant daisy in a black sequined suit on Britain’s singing show, The Masked Singer UK.

The show’s premise sees a colorful assortment of celebs dress up in costumes and conceal their identities while judges guess who’s hidden behind the masks. In Kelis’ episode, judge Rita Ora correctly guessed the singer’s performance, and once her veil came off, the crowd went wild. “Can I just say, [you’re] one of the most important artists from when I was growing up, ever, you really were,” gushed Ora. At the same time, Johnathan Ross quipped, “I mean, Rita even said, ‘I’m convinced it’s Kelis, because I know the way she breathes.’ … If I were you, I’d get a restraining order.”

While the episode looked like it was truly a blast to film, the crooner later explained it wasn’t all fun and games. During an interview with Lorraine, Kelis revealed (via Express), “It was really hard … it’s awkward and it’s hot!”

Kelis released a cookbook in 2015

We all know Kelis’ milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, but her culinary talents exceed sugary desserts — by a lot. The singer actually took a break from recording albums to train “at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu as a saucier,” writes a 2020 Paper magazine feature on the starlet. Yes, the Cordon Bleu.

“I have seven albums under my belt and I’ve never felt so accomplished,” the former chart-topper told Time in 2015. “It’s funny, though, because even having gone to school and having done everything that every other trained chef has done, people still want to question or discredit [me] or make it like, ‘Oh, cute!'” At the end of the day, Kelis’ accomplishments are nothing to scoff at. That same year, the songstress released a cookbook titled My Life on a Plate, which tells “Kelis’ personal story through the food she creates.”

According to Cuisine Noir, as a kid in New York, “Kelis watched her mom, who was a chef, run her catering business out of their home.” That alone was the groundwork that inspired her to pursue her own culinary ambitions so many years later. As the outlet noted, along with her acclaimed cookbook, “She has appeared as a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, [and] starred in her own shows on the Food Network and Cooking Channel.” Damn right, Kelis’ cooking is better than yours.

Kelis claims Pharrell ripped her off

Pharrell Williams is the sort of celebrity that the whole world seems to love. He’s collaborated with countless artists, including Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, and even Ed Sheeran. With his own feel-good hits, such as “Happy,” under his belt, Williams genuinely seems like an all-around nice guy. One person, who may not exactly be a fan, however? Kelis.

Speaking with The Guardian in 2020, Kelis gushed about her greatest success — her debut album from 1999, Kaleidoscope. Still incredibly proud of it, the songstress especially recognizes “the femaleness of the album, of the freaking outspokenness of it, the blackness of it, the alternativeness of it.” Unfortunately for Kelis, Kaleidoscope also brings back bitter memories of her once-friends, The Neptunes, and in particular, Williams and Chad Hugo.

Revealing that she met the pair “through a mutual friend at performing arts school,” Kelis jumped headfirst into working with them. “I thought it was a beautiful and pure, creative safe space, but it ended up not being that at all,” she mused. “I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” claiming that she was “blatantly lied to and tricked” by “the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff.” Heartbreakingly enough, the “Trick Me” singer alleged she “made nothing” from the sales of her first two albums — which were produced by the Neptunes.

Kelis spoke out with claims that ex-husband Nas abused her

It seems like for every Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, there’s a garbage Hollywood relationship that the tabs lap up. In 2009, photos of a bruised Rihanna surfaced, with punches dealt by her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown. Four years later, Emma Roberts was arrested on a domestic violence charge for allegedly beating up her beau, Evan Peters. And while these incidents were all highly-publicized, Kelis found herself in the dark — when she was at the top of her career.

Once an A-list couple in the hip-hop community, Kelis and Nas were married in 2005, with their union lasting until their divorce in 2009. Speaking to Hollywood Unlocked in 2018, the songstress revealed their marriage was anything but perfect. “There was a lot of just mental and physical abuse,” Kelis admitted. ” … I probably would have stayed longer had I not been pregnant, because I really did love him and because we were married.”

Naturally, all eyes were turned on Nas after Kelis’ exposé. Finally, after five months, Nas responded to the accusations in a since-deleted Instagram post (via People), declaring, “You insulted any and everyone whoever was around me. Not a single person in my life loved or could even stand you,” adding that he does “not beat women.” Cue, the chorus from Kelis’ debut hit: “I hate you so much right now!”

Kelis experienced an album revival

Hot on the tails of her successful debut album, Kaleidoscope, Kelis didn’t wait long to jump back into the studio for her second release, Wanderland, in 2001. “I think it’s a very clear step up from my last album,” she gushed to MTV News leading up to the release. “It’s a really personal record. It’s the kind of record that, like, the entire world could hate it and I’d still be in my house, going ‘Woo-hoo!'” It’s a total shame then that Kelis never got a chance to properly see the public’s reactions.

According to UDiscoverMusic, “Wanderland has its own fabled story behind its release. Amid a series of label mergers and other industry upsets, Kelis’ experimental sophomore album got lost in the shuffle. Right when it was released in Europe, Kelis parted ways with her label, and the album was never released in the US.” Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was entirely produced by The Neptunes — who Kelis claimed monetarily ripped her off.

Suddenly, in 2019, thanks to the popularity of streaming platforms, Wanderland was finally available globally. “It’s been a long time coming, I had given up … well almost,” Kelis said in a statement (via Pitchfork). “All the politics of it aside, it feels good and I’m happy.” As The Telegraph summarized, “Kelis remains a once-in-a-generation visionary and one of the most important influences on modern, female alt-R&B.”

Kelis' personal brand is quite saucy

Just because she’s stepped away from the microphone and isn’t serving us with hit after hit anymore, doesn’t mean Kelis has given up on her personal brand. In fact, she’s actually managed to combine her two other passions, fashion and the culinary arts, into an entire lifestyle brand.

According to her website, Bounty & Full, Kelis’ professional journey as a foodie began after she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2008. “I didn’t go in thinking about specializing in anything although I graduated without a doubt knowing that I am a saucier,” she wrote, adding, “I believe everything is better smothered, dipped, and poured.” Sure enough, the songstress jumped headfirst into launching her own full line of sauces — branded with the same name as her website (via Page Six).

It turns out Kelis’ training at the prestigious school really did pay off, with her name as a saucier only growing. In 2018, she purchased her farm. “I need a space where I can actually be creative and I can do this on a daily basis,” Kelis told The Founder Hour podcast (via Page Six). “We found a property. And we’re going to start to grow everything.” At the time of this writing, Kelis’ brand has added a line of olive oil, ready-to-eat chicken, a YouTube channel, jam, tips on cooking, and handmade Columbian handbags. Whoever said she could only make milkshakes?

Kelis is the host of a Netflix series

With her culinary training and sauce line under her belt, Kelis’ next obvious step was to show off her cooking chops on television, right? Well, that’s exactly what she did in 2014 when the Cooking Channel picked up a limited series starring the crooner titled Saucy and Sweet. Per Consequence of Sound, the show “[tossed] in elements of reality shows into the mix,” steering clear of the “traditional model of cooking shows ala Julia Child or Rachael Ray.” As the outlet summarized, “The result is a slightly more organic endeavor that gives you a realistic look into the singer’s fascination with food.”

It looks like television and Kelis were the perfect pairing, as in 2020, Netflix released Cooked with Cannabis, which saw the “Bossy” singer acting as co-host. A cooking competition that sees its contestants cooking with — you guessed it — cannabis, Kelis proudly told Entertainment Weekly, “We are able to put something that has been demonized, and that is still not completely legal, and we’re bringing it to the forefront to show that it is not about loser stoners.”

While the singer made a point to tell Thrillist that she personally isn’t a marijuana chef, she does believe there’s one vessel that works best for the plant. “I think sauces work really well … I’ve had some amazing infused olive oils and butters that complemented everything really well.” Are you hungry yet?

Kelis is simply busy being Kelis

Between running her own farm, raising her kids, hosting a cooking competition, and gearing up to become a regular in the music scene again, we’d say life for Kelis is going swell. It’s the sort of thing anyone can notice after spending time with her, which is precisely what The Guardian did during a 2020 conversation with the crooner in her rural abode. “I’m absolutely fine,” she declared as she hugged the interviewer.

So, does Kelis miss being in the spotlight on the regular at all? During an interview with SSENSE, it sure didn’t appear that way, and her current style is a far cry from the glammed-up music videos of the aughts. “I couldn’t care less,” she admitted to the outlet, before gushing, “I love house clothes. I live for a luxurious robe.” Instead, Kelis’ source of inspiration now comes from unexpected themes: “I’ll [watch] Peaky Blinders or something and all of a sudden I want to dress like a man in the 20s.” To be fair, she’d probably pull it off.

At the end of the day, it looks like Kelis is simply doing what Kelis wants to do, and with her farm spanning a whopping 24-acres, she has all the space in the world for her creative endeavors. “It feels like I earned this,” she declared to SSENSE, cheekily adding, “I can walk outside butt naked.”

Kelis is working on a new EP

While Kelis’ cooking endeavors show no signs of stopping (she’s even looking at opening a restaurant close to her farm!), it doesn’t mean the crooner has stepped away from the microphone for good. In fact, it looks like she’s actually heading back into the studio.

“I have a clear understanding of where I’m starting, but I don’t know that it’s going to be that when it’s done,” the “Bossy” singer mused to SSENSE about the EP she’s been working on. “I’ve written a good portion of it, but I had to be away [to do that]. You know like you give a baby a pacifier? It’s soothing.”

While at the time of this writing, the starlet still hasn’t given the public a set date for the album’s release, it’s clear her passion for music hasn’t gone away. “The energy you get from people on stage, or sometimes, you’ll hear a song you’ve heard a million times, but it strikes you differently,” Kelis passionately told the outlet. “It happens often when performing. All of a sudden I’m like, ‘Why didn’t I ever sing that harmony?’ And now I can’t fathom this song without that harmony.”

A global pandemic got in the way of Kelis' touring

In 2019, to celebrate 20 years since the release of her debut album, Kaleidoscope, Kelis announced she would be going on tour in the UK and Europe (via NME). As her label released in a statement, the album feels “as fresh and relevant today as it did on release and not only influenced, but defined music, culture, and style for generations to follow.”

Sure enough, Kelis’ fans never left her. Commanding over 500 thousand followers on Instagram, the artist also has A-listers gush about her, too. “What she offers as an artist and a person is authentic and genuine, you don’t have to guess,” explained Kelly Rowland to Fader, while Sage the Gemini added, “I most admire her originality and ability to stay true to herself in this industry.”

Unfortunately for Kelis, her tour never got a chance to finish — thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “It’s really bad out there,” the singer told Entertainment Weekly in April 2020. “Our whole business is based around people. This is festival season. All my shows got canceled. People forget it’s not just the artists. Like, yeah I was affected, but I had an entire band out with me and I had crew. It all has a domino effect.” We’re confident that the moment she’s able to, Kelis will be hitting the stage yet again with more tasty tunes.

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