Last Saturday afternoon (Dec. 5) in Los Angeles, Rowland and Gatson put a contingent of hopefuls through their paces at Henson Studios. It was the third in a series of casting calls, preceded by stops in New York and Atlanta. Repping key chapters in the diva songbook, candidates emoted their way through hits by Aretha Franklin (“[You Make Me Feel Like] A Natural Woman”), Anita Baker (“Sweet Love”), Whitney Houston (“I Want to Dance With Somebody”), Alicia Keys (“If I Ain’t Got You”) and Sia (“Chandelier”).
“We’re seeing rough cuts of diamonds right now. That’s how I like to picture it,” says Rowland during a break between auditions. “You can’t expect somebody to come in polished. And that’s the most exciting part: being able to be part of that molding process.”
How did the idea for Chasing Destiny come about?
This was my and Frank’s idea. We were going to do this whether TV cameras were with us or not. We were going to have our own cameras. But after talking to Stephen (BET president of programming Hill), he said he’d like to be a part of the show. I was just happy that he saw how necessary a girl group is just as much as we do. Because there’s only only one out there now, Fifth Harmony.
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Why are girl groups still necessary?
One of the things I loved about being in Destiny’s Child was little girls seeing us travel together, sing together, talk together, hang out together. It shows camaraderie, friendship and to me that’s missing. This is such a selfie-absorbed society. We need to see more of girls getting along. It’s not just about being an individual. You need friends to depend on. And I need these young ladies to know that still exists. And if they can see that in a group… that is the ultimate goal.
What’s surprised you the most at the auditions?
Just how many girls want to be in a group. Like today, I saw this one girl, who needs it. It’s not about for her talent as much as it is for her spirit. That’s what Destiny’s Child did for me. My mom was a nanny and we moved from place to place. For me, being in a group was stability. That was something I needed in my world. So it’s not just about what we can possibly do for these girls but what these girls can possibly do for themselves -- and changing the rest of their lives.
From this point, what are the next stages in the quest?
This is the overall audition. Then the next stage is grooming, while also further narrowing down the number of females. We have so many right now, but it’s exciting. And to be honest, we’ve been playing some of this by ear.
This is not orchestrated. It’s something we’re allowing to happen organically. That’s the way it should happen. We haven’t put a particular age on this, a certain look or sound. It’s just going to happen. And drama’s going to happen naturally, too. I remember the producers asking if I’m planning anything. I’m not planning nothing because the public already has that show. This is a real journey.