By Jordan Reisman
Photo by Kate Ballis.
Kendra Mckenzie of Los Angeles, Calif. seems to be a morning person. It might just be that she is an “every time of day” kind of person and that radiance never sleeps. It’s her sunny attitude that finds its way into her music, a kind of adrenaline-heavy posi dance pop. On the April 2013 release Addicted To the Dance Floor, Mckenzie’s official debut, song titles such as “Never Coming Down” and “Wake the World Up” act as little 3-minute motivators for the listener to keep going, at whatever it is they’re going for. BTR had the chance to speak with Mckenzie over the phone during a California morning, fresh off a P90X workout, which she claims is her obsession.
The workout that Mckenzie sticks to as part of her morning regimen and the enthusiasm (though slightly masochistic tendencies) that she feels toward it seem to form her collective vibrant personality. She describes P90X as “amazing, it makes me feel really strong and fit like I can punch through walls.”
Kendra is originally from San Diego, though when she was “a teenager” she moved to New York City to attend NYU and ended up staying for ten years. Growing up she played piano and enjoyed singing. However when she lived in New York, Mckenzie got lost in the grind of the “high fashion” world. She says her reason for leaving the fashion industry was that she “worked a lot and I wasn’t really sleeping at night.”
“You know when you have that feeling like something is missing? I loved my job, I loved the people I worked with; they’re so beautiful and talented and inspirational but I just was missing that little spark. My body and mind were super there but my heart was like, ‘You know what? Your passion is about something else, honey. Why don’t you put some of that effort into that?’ And now every day is like Christmas,” Mckenzie says about her movie moment.
That kind of “inner monologue” telling you to follow your dreams almost sounds like a cliche but with her, it just seemed so simple and natural. It wasn’t so much that she was trying to make her life more movie-like, it’s just that life warrants those pivotal decisions sometimes and it comes down to working a sleepless job or exploring the outlet you’re most passionate about. To get herself started on her new life, she called musicians that she grew up around to tell them, “Hi. I’m doing it.” She says the people who knew her thought, “If she’s doing it, she’s doing it 1,000 percent and I trust that.”
Part of the reason that Mckenzie has such a powerful inner strength to actually go out and achieve is the existence of Janet Jackson. She says that growing up as an only child, her parents were forced to sit through her “performances.” The most notable being a VHS copy, where she would “pop that into my parent’s bedroom and just memorize every move, every song, every everything. I would just perform the entire tape for them.”
“As a child, in my eyes Janet was just powerful and still elegant. There was just something about her where I looked at her and she looked gritty, she looked street, she looked cool and edgy but at the same time she looked so soft, delicate, and classy. Her message through her music was always really strong and always really powerful. For some reason, it lit a spark in me and I was like, ‘I want to be able to spread a powerful message. I want to be able to change the way that little girls grow up and believe in themselves. She really spoke to me, she was so beautiful and so cool!” says Mckenzie.
Mckenzie was able to take the power that she felt Janet had and apply it to her own world of music. Her empowerment isn’t exclusive to girls either, she says that she feels we’re all “really beautiful and innovative creators.” Though, sometimes it takes to someone to “tap you on the forehead and be like, ‘Hey…hey, you’re amazing and you can do whatever you want.’”
Specifically though, she wants to be there for young girls because “having Janet as a role model was a big deal for me so I’d like to be a big deal for young girls.”
Her debut EP, Addicted to the Dance Floor stems from Mckenzie’s nearly reflexive passion for moving her feet. To her it seemed like a question with the most obvious answer, but what is it that she finds so addicting about the dance floor? Dance floors themselves possess no chemical stimulants nor do they warrant withdrawals, but we are to take Kendra at her word.
“People when they dance, they’re just so free. They let it all go and they are having the best time…ever. Every song is their song, every moment is their moment. They’re looking for their friends, they’re having fun, their eyes are closed, their hands are up. I love that about people because whether you believe you can or you can’t dance, when you dance you are in that moment. You are completely present and you’re having a blast. No one can turn that down. That’s what I find addicting about the dance floor,” says Mckenzie emphatically.
With this encouragement to get on the dance floor, Mckenzie takes issue to the phrase, “Dance like no one is watching” as it speaks to our insecure nature of how we want to be seen. In the first song off the EP, “Never Coming Down”, she sings that she wants to dance like everybody’s watching. Mckenzie sings this proudly because she feels her best moments are with other people, while all eyes are on her and not the other way around. When asked how she wants to be remembered if a historian were to catalogue her career, she says “a light” that touches everything and “brightens a room, brightens a day.”
Like Gatsby’s green light, we have Kendra Mckenzie’s. So we beat on, ceaselessly onto the dance floor…
Feed your dance floor addiction by clicking here.
Check our Kendra Mckenzie’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.