Kiana Ledé Is Embracing Both Growth And 'Grudges'
This feature is in our Summer '23 "Music" Issue. Click here to subscribe.
All photos by Katia Temkin
Kiana Ledé is shedding negativity and stepping into a more self-assured light with her sophomore album, Grudges. Following the release of her debut album, 2020's KIKI, the singer has not only reflected on how to better her mental health, but also actively making changes to do so. "I had to release a lot of relationships and ties to just objects and commitments I had made before to be able to love myself more," she explains to EDITION. "I started from ground zero and kept going building for myself, while at the same time needing to acknowledge that I love myself enough to do that."
Grudges is a beautiful encapsulation of self-reflection, from embracing romance on "Deeper" to calling out an ex-flame on "Gemini Slander". Below, the singer lets us in on her non-linear journey.
What are some of your core values?
Loyalty is at the top of my list. And being just a quality person, but also a person that’s dedicated to their friends, their family and their loved ones. I might have a close circle, but I go 110% for those people. The Aries part of me does not give a f–k. I will cut it off if I feel like it’s not good for me. I think for a long time I made excuses for other people. I let myself allow people that weren’t good for me into my life. Now I’m at a point where I’m not making excuses for anybody. Life is too short. I gotta live in the moment and make sure that those people and those moments matter.
Do you feel freer now?
I feel genuinely free. I’ve created a safe environment with people that make me feel protected and comfortable so that I can be vulnerable enough to explore the world and explore myself.
I’m curious to know the reasoning for the title change from Closure to Grudges.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot more problems in this album than there is closure. It is talking about all my grudges with the world and with men, women, with myself. And I just wasn’t ready to talk about chapters that I’ve closed yet, because I didn’t close them. It didn’t feel authentic to call it Closure. So centering the whole album around all the sh-t that I was trying to shed is just way more authentic than calling it Closure. I think the on next one, we’ll be able to hear a little bit more about closing those chapters that I previously talked about. But I think this one is more just about naming those things and being able to shed them through each song.
I like that because it takes a long time for us to find closure. We’re constantly learning about ourselves and going through this wild journey of life. I think it’s a good self-aware moment to know that you haven’t found closure just yet. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. You’re continuously learning lessons along the way. You putting these grudges out in the open is a good way to get closer to that closure.
Exactly. And they say healing isn’t linear. So I really am working on accepting that and not rushing myself to feel like I need to close this chapter right now. I think that’s also part of why I was ready to call it Closure because I wanted to rush through that. I wanted to just feel better, but I’m not there yet. And that’s okay.
I remember listening to “Deeper” for the first time and thought it was electric. We’re obviously both R&B lovers, and that song encapsulates the sensuality that only R&B could bring. At the time, you were letting me know it was your first time really expressing yourself and embracing the sensual side of yourself in a positive way. Do you still feel that way?
I definitely feel that way. And I feel it even more. We just shot the visualizer for it. And I have never felt that comfortable with my body in front of a camera. The way I was moving on that floor was crazy. It was definitely supposed to happen at this time.
“Irresponsible” is also a beautiful song. Did you tweak or fine-tune the vocals? Because you sound much stronger on this new version.
Thank you. I’m pretty sure I recut it after I showed you. Over time your voice just matures. And you learn so much more the more you sing and also learn from other R&B artists. Performing at festivals and going on tours, I’ve learned so much. So implementing those things, my voice has grown so much over the last three years. I really just want to make those vocals not only sound better but feel better.
The way that I’ve interpreted this new era by following you on Instagram, it seems like you’re embracing self-love, and just giving yourself a little bit more grace. Would you say that is the case?
I think it’s chicken in the egg. Because I think I had to release a lot of relationships and ties to just objects and commitments I had made before to be able to love myself more. I started from ground zero and kept going building for myself, while at the same time needing to acknowledge that I love myself enough to do that.
It takes a few years. There’s some pockets within your mindset where those insecurities may still come up, or you’re second-guessing yourself. But as you get older—and let me know if you feel the same way—you’re learning to be more selfish and to shut out not only your own insecure voice but the voices around you.
100%. Making decisions more for you. And not just because you want to please other people.
All photos by Katia Temkin
Since you are on medication, do you feel more confident about living with bipolar disorder?
Yeah, for sure, for taking medication has really changed my life. And it’s not that it just happened overnight, and all of a sudden— boom. I am not feeling the same side effects as I would as a neurodiverse person. But it allowed me to, like you said, tackle those voices that were going on in my head. It just quieted everything a little bit more and allowed me to be able to focus on what’s present. I feel a certain type of calmness where it wasn’t affecting not only my mental health but my physical health also. I was really able to start journaling, focus, and start sifting through those negative and positive thoughts. Of course, there’s times where there’s not so great days, everybody has not-so-great days. But now, my not-so-great days are way less frequent and also manageable. I can handle them.
When we last spoke, you shared that being on medication for your bipolar disorder helped your songwriting.
The reason a lot of people, especially creatives, stay away from medication is because they’re so scared to lose their creativity, because being ‘different’ is what makes us special. It’s very much also an ego thing to allow yourself to break all those thoughts down and not be so afraid to be at the top. I want to note that medication is not for everyone. I don’t think people have to take medication to be able to grow or cope with them.
People could do what suits them the best.
Exactly. So I just want to note that. But, personally, taking the medication has allowed me to be more creative, because I’m not overthinking every single thing I’m writing or saying in a room, because it’s calmed my ego down. I’m not having so much negative self-talk. I’m [no longer] afraid that people are going to judge me when I really just need to be more open and honest about what I’m feeling. I’ve always been very vulnerable and honest. But there’s always been a deeper level of honesty that I haven’t been able to reach. So processing a lot of my trauma has been super helpful too, because I’m able to look at [these songs] from a different lens and remind myself of how I felt rather than sitting in it and overthinking it.
I appreciate you sharing that with me because not only can it help you with the music but it also helps you as a person. Learning how to let go and how to cope with trauma. But the more you talk about it, like how you’re talking about it with me. is definitely important with the overall conversation.
Also, I want to say, I feel like there's a lot of fear about medication. And it’s totally valid and understandable. Medication has affected people and their families and negative ways for sure. But the reason I like to emphasize medication when I talk about mental health is because there is such a big fear. It’s changed my life completely and allowed me to really be able to grow and really understand myself and really be able to be present in my life.
I would love to acknowledge that mental health is such a privilege. And I am so grateful to be able to have the resources and the support and be in a financial position to be able to put an emphasis on mental health in my life. There’s a lot of people that don’t get to do that. I’m working on bringing those resources and speaking to people who wouldn’t be able to afford them or have no time to even think about mental health. So I know that it is a privilege, but everyone deserves it. And I think we all need to work together to at least share with each other. And that’s the biggest way that we can learn, it’s the cheapest way we can learn, the easiest way we can learn. Just to be there for each other and share our experiences.
I am loving this new Kiana. Do you have any other wellness practices?
My favorite thing that I’m doing lately is a technique where if you’re having anxiety about something, you write down what is causing you anxiety or what it stems from. What is the worst-case scenario? Then, what is the best-case scenario if that thing happens? What are you going to do if it goes how you would love it, or whether it goes in the way you’re the most afraid it would go? Either way, you’ll see at the end it’s all going to work out. Because it always does.
You just taught me something, actually. I’m a little overwhelmed with getting this issue together. So I’m definitely gonna practice that just to ease my mind because I’m a little tense right now.
Yes, please do.
What have you learned about yourself through the process of making this album?
That’s a good question. I’ve seen how strong I actually am. A lot of times, I’ve minimized what I’ve been through in my life, thinking that it made me feel better because it made me feel like I had more control. It was completely an illusion. But when I really take a look at the reasons I wrote a lot of the songs, it reminds me of how much I’ve been through. I’m able to just look it in the face, pat myself on the back and say, ‘You really did that.’