Keri Hilson’s role in the new TV One movie, Don’t Waste Your Pretty, turned out to be quite a personal learning experience for the talented songstress. The “Pretty Girl Rock” singer stars as Mykah, a successful executive who has spent her years building an impressive career portfolio but did not put in the same amount of energy into her love life. With the encouragement of her tight-knit group of friends. Mykah finally stops making excuses and takes a chance to find love.
Photo: TV One
The film is an adaptation of Demetria L. Lucas’ novel of the same title. But Hilson admits she did not read the book in advance of filming in order to preserve her own impression of her character.
“I had never heard the book prior to getting the script and I chose not to read it before doing the film and that was an intentional choice because I didn't want anything that I had learned in the book to sway my idea of my character,” she said during a chat with Shadow and Act. “I just wanted to be able to portray Mykah Jones as I view and feel that she is. It was important to me that I really transform into my character in the purest way and not be swayed.”
Despite her hesitation to not read the book in its entirety ahead of filming, Hilson did “cheat and read a few excerpts” during filming, which she said gave her a different perspective. Something that she did have to get past while filming the project was her dislike of the use of the word pretty in the title.
“I love the story and I love the character. I love the nuances of the way the story plays out but the word pretty for some reason really bothered me,” Hilson said. “I was nervous about that word. I kept asking myself, ‘What does that mean?’ I already feel there’s such a focus on outer beauty in regards to women. So to me, what I initially took from the title was ‘Don't waste your good physical years’ - as if that's all we have to offer anybody.”
Luckily, by the end of filming, Hilson was able to look at the title from a different viewpoint. “I realized that it's really more about allowing yourself to share, to give and receive your inner beauty. What I took away from the process was not to waste your life, especially with my character who is so career-driven and there’s more to life than work. There’s so much beauty in the world and focusing on one aspect can make you miss out on the rest.”
Photo: TV One
And that’s not all Hilson learned. One of the things she relates to her character most about is the journey to finding balance in life, love, and career. Hilson admits to sometimes putting her career before love - or vice versa. As a Grammy-winning songwriter, singer, and actress, Hilson has struggled with making room for everything at once.
“There was a time where I didn't make room for my career because of love, or I didn't make room for love because of my career, and I just couldn't find that balance,” she reflects. “You have to care about both equally. I realized some things after that film too. I was like, ‘Yeah, I've got to really turn up the sexy in my life. I've got to open myself up to a little more exploring.’”
Aside from her character, Hilson says viewers can also learn from the other characters in the film. Deborah Joy Winans stars as Jeanné, a divorcee who has completely blocked out the desire for love because of her previous situation.
“I learned that you can not transfer your fears from one man or one failure into the next relationship,” Hilson declared. “You really have to do some self-work. In the film, you see Jeanné processing a lost love in the context of this new love and - and you see her kind of shedding and letting go of those fears.”
Photo: TV One
Hilson’s on-screen twin brother Michael, played by Kaye Singleton, is the epitome of a bachelor. For Hilson, she says men need to begin to view relationships as an asset rather than imprisonment.
As for what Hilson’s plans are for her own love-life, she vows to keep her romantic relationships private.
“I would prefer to have and build a foundation in privacy and when it is the right one and the full commitment is completely there, then they deserve to have that platform and that spotlight,” she said. “I share so much through my art - whether it's music or it's acting. I think has become so important to me make to keep something sacred. It keeps it special and it also protects it, making it more special.”
Don’t Waste Your Pretty premieres on TV One on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. EST.