Kelis facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Kelis performing in 2007
August 21, 1979
New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||Le Cordon Bleu (BA)|
Kelis Rogers-Mora (//; born August 21, 1979), known mononymously as Kelis, is an American singer, songwriter and a professionally trained chef. At age 14, she was admitted to New York's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she learned to play the saxophone and won a spot in the Girls Choir of Harlem. After she graduated from high school in 1997, Kelis took on a variety of jobs before landing a backup vocal slot on an album track called "Fairytalez", released by the American hip hop group Gravediggaz. She then began working with music producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, known as The Neptunes, which ultimately resulted in her being signed to Virgin Records in 1998.
Kelis released her debut studio album Kaleidoscope with Virgin Records on December 7, 1999. Inspired by jazz and disco music from the 1970s, the album was a critical and international success. It spawned three singles: "Caught Out There", "Good Stuff", and "Get Along With You". The album reached number 43 in the United Kingdom while also becoming her first album to be certified gold. She left her label Virgin Records after its follow-up Wanderland (2001) received little sales attention and no U.S. release until 2019. In 2003, Kelis released her third studio album Tasty. The album produced the singles "Milkshake", "Trick Me", "Millionaire" (featuring André 3000), and "In Public" (featuring Nas). The album earned the singer commercial prominence. Her fourth album, Kelis Was Here (2006), was preceded by the lead single "Bossy" (featuring Too Short) and reached number 10 on the Billboard 200. Kelis took a hiatus from music after its release, venturing into culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu. She later signed with will.i.am and began recording her fifth album, Flesh Tone, which was released in 2010. The album spawned four singles, including "Acapella" and "4th of July (Fireworks)", which were successful on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart and the UK Dance Singles Chart. Kelis' neo soul-inspired sixth studio album Food (2014) became her second top-twenty album in the UK and spawned three singles: "Jerk Ribs", "Rumble" and "Friday Fish Fry".
Kelis has been recognized at the Brit Awards, Q Awards, NME Awards, and Grammy Awards ceremonies. Her musical output, both as a lead and featured artist, encompasses various genres. She has collaborated with R&B and hip hop acts including Busta Rhymes and Clipse; electronic and dance producers such as Calvin Harris, Timo Maas, and Richard X; pop and rock acts Enrique Iglesias and No Doubt; and indie and alternative musicians including Björk and Dave Sitek. She has sold six million records worldwide and has had particular success in the United Kingdom, where ten of her singles have peaked within the top ten of the UK Singles Chart.
- Early life
- Other ventures
- Personal life
- Awards and nominations
- See also
Kelis Rogers was born and raised in the Frederick Douglass Houses in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. Her first name is a portmanteau of her father's name, Kenneth (1944–2000) and her mother's name, Eveliss. Her father Kenneth was an African-American jazz musician and Pentecostal minister and was formerly a professor at Wesleyan University. Her mother Eveliss is a Chinese-Puerto Rican fashion designer who inspired Kelis to pursue her singing career. She has three sisters, Kelis being the third-born of the four girls.
As a child, Kelis sang in church choirs and played violin, piano, and saxophone while attending Manhattan Country School, a private school. At the age of 13, Kelis shaved off all of her hair. In an interview with Charlotte Roche, Kelis says she was kicked out of her parents' house at the age of sixteen for bad behavior, stating that she would sometimes clash with her mother, but continued her education at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she formed the R&B trio BLU (Black Ladies United). Kelis was also a bartender and a sales associate at a clothing store before graduating high school.
1997–2002: Kaleidoscope and Wanderland
In 1997, Kelis provided background vocals on "Fairytalez", a track on hip hop group Gravediggaz' album The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel. Afterwards, a friend introduced Kelis to The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo); they formed a strong bond, and with their support she landed a record deal with Virgin Records. According to Kelis, Virgin Records advised her that publishing royalties would be split evenly between Williams, Hugo, and herself, but this turned out not to be the case; Kelis made no money from sales of her first two albums on the label. Kelis has also said that Williams was credited as a songwriter on songs of hers that he had not written.
Kelis began recording her debut album, Kaleidoscope, in mid-1998 and was finished within a year. Produced by The Neptunes and released by Virgin Records in 1999, Kaleidoscope peaked at number 144 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and reached the top five on the Top Heatseekers chart. As of 2006, the album has sold 249,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its lead and most notable single, "Caught Out There", became a top ten Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs hit and peaked at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The album performed better in Europe, where "Caught Out There" was a moderate hit in most European countries except the United Kingdom, where the song saw massive success, peaking at number four on the UK Singles Chart. A second single, "Good Stuff" (featuring Terrar of Clipse), reached number 19; the third, "Get Along with You", was less successful, reaching number 51. The British Phonographic Industry certified Kaleidoscope gold for sales of 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 43 on the UK Albums Chart.
In 2001, Kelis won the Brit Award for International Breakthrough Act and the NME Award for Best R&B/Soul Act before joining Moby and U2 on their Area:One and Elevation tours, respectively. Kelis and the Neptunes' output at this time was heralded as foreshadowing an innovation in contemporary R&B, but she later said, "I was never an R&B artist. People coined me one but that's because, especially if you're in the States, if you're black and you sing, then you're R&B". Her colorful style in both clothing and hair received considerable attention.
Kelis's second album Wanderland was released in 2001 in Europe, Asia, and Latin America but did not receive a North American release until 2019. According to Kelis, her U.S. record company at the time, Virgin, had laid off those that worked on Kaleidoscope; their replacements did not understand or believe in Wanderland. Eventually, Kelis was dropped from Virgin in America around the time of the album's European release, though she remained on the label's roster in Europe. A commercial failure, Wanderland peaked at number 78 in the UK; its sole single release, "Young, Fresh n' New", managed to crack the top forty on the UK Singles Chart. The album, which was produced in its entirety by the Neptunes and features collaborations with members of Clipse and No Doubt, received a subdued critical response. NME wrote: "In our collective fantasies, Kelis Rogers is already the ghetto-fabulous queen of discodelic future-funk pop-rock-soul [...] But beyond the initial shopping-and-funking dazzle, there is way too much filler here for a hotly hyped alterna-soul princess with her eyes on the big prize". The Fader later referred to Wanderland as "Kelis’s long lost masterpiece".
In 2002, Kelis recorded "So Be It" for the Red Hot Organization's Fela Kuti tribute CD, Red Hot and Riot, from which all proceeds were donated to AIDS awareness charities. The same year she had a top 20 US club hit with a remix of "Young, Fresh 'n' New", produced by Timo Maas, who subsequently featured Kelis on his single, "Help Me". She hosted the DanceStar USA Awards ceremony at that year's Winter Music Conference.
In 2003, Kelis achieved a second top ten hit in the UK as a featured artist on Richard X's "Finest Dreams", a reworking of the S.O.S. Band's 1986 single "The Finest", and a European club hit (and UK top 40 single) as a featured artist on "Let's Get Ill" by P. Diddy, her manager for a brief period. She found mainstream success in the U.S. later in 2003 with her Hot Dance Club Play number one, Billboard Hot 100 top three single "Milkshake"; this helped to propel her third album Tasty to gold status in the U.S., where it peaked at number 27 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 533,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Milkshake" also went gold, selling over 500,000 copies, and earned Kelis a Grammy Award nomination in 2004 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
Although the Neptunes contributed several tracks to Tasty—the album was released by their label Star Trak Entertainment, a joint venture with Arista Records—Kelis also collaborated with other producers such as Dallas Austin, André 3000, Rockwilder, and Raphael Saadiq. She stated in an interview: "I felt like I had a lot to prove with this album. People had started messing with me along the lines of 'Is she REALLY any good without The Neptunes?' — which I knew was ridiculous. And so I was like, 'I'll take that challenge'." The album was well-received critically; Entertainment Weekly wrote that Tasty is "Kelis' past—big beats, out-there imagery, and appeal—refined [...] much of the beauty of Tasty is in witnessing Kelis rise to the challenge of working with multiple imaginative maestros."
"Milkshake" and Tasty immediately found success in Europe. According to the BPI, Tasty went platinum in the United Kingdom, selling over 300,000 copies, and "Milkshake" went silver, selling over 200,000 units. The album's second single, the Dallas Austin-produced "Trick Me", went to the top ten in many European countries during mid-2004; it did not, however, garner success in the U.S. in the absence of promotion by Jive Records, the label Kelis had been transferred to after Arista Records folded at the time of Tasty's release. Kelis' success grew in Australia, where Tasty went gold and where "Milkshake" and "Trick Me" went platinum. Kelis followed the success of the third Tasty single, the BPI silver-certified "Millionaire" (featuring André 3000), with the Rockwilder-produced track "In Public" (featuring Nas), which reached number 17 on the UK chart.
"Not in Love", Kelis's collaboration with Enrique Iglesias from his 2003 album 7, was released as a single the following year, reaching the UK top five. Although the single failed to chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, it topped the country's Hot Dance Club Play chart. Also in 2004, Kelis collaborated with Björk on a remix of the latter's track "Oceania" (from Björk's album Medúlla), which appeared as a B-side to the Björk album's second single, "Who Is It". Kelis toured as the opening act for fellow Jive artist Britney Spears's The Onyx Hotel Tour before headlining her own tour of Australia and New Zealand. In 2005, she was featured on the soundtrack to the film Just Like Heaven with a cover version of The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket" (1979).
2006–2008: Kelis Was Here
Kelis contributed a track titled "80's Joint" to the soundtrack of the 2006 dance film Step Up. She collaborated with Busta Rhymes and will.i.am, the second single from Rhymes's 2006 album The Big Bang. This was the second time Kelis collaborated with Rhymes, the first being his 2001 song "What It Is".
Kelis's fourth studio album, Kelis Was Here, was released in 2006, and debuted and peaked at number ten on the Billboard 200. Despite the career-high debut, the album has sold only 157,000 copies in the United States as of 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In the UK, Kelis Was Here charted at number 41 and has sold 60,000 copies, earning a silver certification from the BPI. The album was Kelis's first not to feature contributions from The Neptunes, as she had left Star Trak by this time; instead, she recorded with Cee-Lo, Max Martin, Raphael Saadiq, Scott Storch, and will.i.am, among others. According to Kelis, she received no support from Jive Records for the recording or promotion of Kelis Was Here and argued heavily with the label, later describing the period as "[not] the most creative atmosphere" and "the only time where I felt like I was being pulled in different directions. There were too many cooks in the kitchen". MTV characterised critical consensus of the album as "intriguingly intelligent, if unjustifiably disjointed and long" and wrote in 2016 that "it remains her most creatively anarchic project". Kelis Was Here was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 2007 Grammy Awards.
Kelis Was Here's lead single, "Bossy" (featuring Too Short), was a moderate hit in the U.S., peaking at number 16; it additionally went multi-platinum as a mobile phone ringtone, according to the RIAA. The second U.S. single, "Blindfold Me" (featuring Nas), reached number 91 on the R&B chart and did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Kelis's European label, Virgin, instead released the Cee-Lo-featuring "Lil Star", which was another top ten hit for Kelis in the United Kingdom (peaking at number three on the UK Singles Chart). During mid 2007, Kelis toured in Europe, appearing in numerous festivals across the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, such as Wireless, Rise and Gurtenfestival. Ford chose Kelis to help advertise the 2007 Ford Edge, and she recorded a theme song for the commercial, titled "Push It to the Edge", with help from producer Scott Storch.
Jive Records dropped Kelis in late 2007. Her manager at the time said that the singer was working with Cee-Lo Green on an alternative dance album and would be shopping a pop album produced by songwriter Guy Chambers. Scottish electronica producer Calvin Harris was also said to be collaborating with her. Kelis subsequently took a hiatus from music: "I was like, 'I will never put out another record again, I hate this business, I hate all these people.' I was in this race that I didn't even realise that I was in. I woke up and ten years had passed. That was never my plan".
After Kelis left Jive, the label released a fourteen-track greatest hits album titled The Hits in 2008. The album does not contain any previously unreleased songs; N.E.R.D's "Truth or Dare", and Richard X's "Finest Dreams" appear on the album alongside every charted Kelis single to that date, with the exception of "Blindfold Me". Also in 2008, the Kelis Was Here album track "I Don't Think So" became a top 40 hit in Australia after being used in promotion for the 2008 season of the reality series Big Brother Australia.
2009–2011: Flesh Tone
In 2009, Kelis signed to Interscope Records via the will.i.am Music Group to release her fifth studio album, Flesh Tone, which included production from Ammo, Free School, Benny Benassi, Burns, Boys Noize, Benny Benassi, DJ Tocadisco, will.i.am, and David Guetta. Flesh Tone marked Kelis' transition into dance music. Kelis said she was hesitant to sign to another major label after her experiences with Jive Records but did not want the album to be "swept under the rug with a smaller label". Coinciding with her change in musical direction, Kelis appeared on Basement Jaxx's 2009 album Scars on the title track, on Benassi's 2010 single "Spaceship" (with apl.de.ap and Jean Baptiste)—a top 40 U.S. and UK club hit—and on the Crookers single "No Security" from their debut album Tons of Friends.
Critical reception to Flesh Tone was generally positive, with Pitchfork naming the album Kelis's best since her debut, Kaleidoscope. The first single from Flesh Tone, "Acapella" (produced by David Guetta), debuted in the top five on the UK Singles Chart and reached number one on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Songs and the UK Dance Chart, eventually receiving a BPI silver certification. Flesh Tone peaked at number 48 on the Billboard 200 and at number five on the Dance/Electronic Albums. The second single, "4th of July (Fireworks)", was accompanied by a video co-directed by Kelis herself (with Rankin and Nicole Ehrlich) and became a top ten club hit in America and Britain. Subsequent singles, "Scream" and "Brave", made minimal chart impact.
During mid-2010 Kelis embarked on her first U.S. tour, titled All Hearts with Robyn, amid a selection of club, festival, and solo dates that continued through 2011 – these included Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Good Vibrations Festival, and Lovebox. Kelis appears on the Mark Ronson-produced track "The Man Who Stole a Leopard" from the 2010 Duran Duran album All You Need Is Now, a song she and the band performed in a concert directed by filmmaker David Lynch. She co-wrote the song "Waiting" for British pop singer Cheryl Cole's Messy Little Raindrops. Kelis then collaborated with Scottish producer Calvin Harris on the 2011 single "Bounce", the lead single from Harris' third studio album, 18 Months. "Bounce" debuted at number two on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Kelis's tenth UK top ten single and her biggest selling in the country (as of 2017). It eventually received a platinum certification from the BPI.
In 2012, Kelis's management firm at the time announced that her sixth studio album would be released in late 2012 and feature production from Skream, BURNS, Tom Neville, Dan Black, and Caspa. The first single, the Skream-produced "Distance", received its UK radio premiere in mid 2012. Kelis said of the album, "I've been on a real 1990s vibe with this record, it's kind of trip-hoppish [...] it's more electro, it's a little deeper and darker". Kelis was featured on Dan Black's single "Hearts" and Skream's "Copy Cat" (both 2013), the latter of which led to a dispute after Kelis alleged that Skream refused to have her appear in the music video. She subsequently opted to move on from dance music: "when everyone else starts doing it, it's not as much fun [...] too much time went by. That [sound] wasn't a new idea any more". The rest of the material from these recording sessions remains unreleased.
By 2013, Kelis was working with producer Dave Sitek, and it was announced that she would release two albums via Sitek's label, Federal Prism. A new single, "Jerk Ribs", subsequently premiered online. Kelis then signed to British independent label Ninja Tune for the release of the album, titled Food, in 2014. Produced entirely by Sitek, Food entered the UK Albums Chart at number 20, becoming Kelis' second highest-peaking album after Tasty in 2004. In the U.S., it reached number 73 on the Billboard 200 and the top twenty on the Independent Albums. Subsequent singles were "Rumble" (a top 40 hit on the UK Independent Singles Chart) and "Friday Fish Fry". Food received positive reviews from critics, including a five-star review in The Independent: "Kelis's sixth album is a moveable feast [...] If music be the food of love, Kelis has cooked up something tasty enough to satisfy all but the hungriest of hearts." Mic named Food the best album of 2014 and of Kelis's career, while Rolling Stone listed it as one of the year's best R&B albums.
A limited edition version of Food included remixes by electronic producers such as Actress, Mount Kimbie, Ben Pearce, Breach, Machinedrum, and Will Saul. Breach reworked his remix of "Rumble" into a new track featuring Kelis, "The Key", which was released as a single later in 2014. Kelis' performance at London's Somerset House was recorded and released as an album, Live in London, in late 2014. In 2015, Kelis featured on veteran disco producer Giorgio Moroder's album, Déjà Vu, singing on the track, "Back and Forth". In 2017, she featured alongside rapper Sage The Gemini on English house DJ TCTS' single "Do It Like Me (Icy Feet)" and on Dan Black's single "Farewell". Also in 2017, she released a new song, "Who's Lovin' You" (originally sung by The Miracles), on the Danger Mouse-produced compilation, Resistance Radio: The Man in The High Castle, for the television show The Man in the High Castle.
2018–present: Kaleidoscope anniversary tour and new music
Kelis contributed vocals to the dance track "My Milkshake", a rework of her 2003 single "Milkshake" by British producer Freejak, in 2018. Kelis embarked on the Kaleidoscope 20th Anniversary Tour, a UK and European tour celebrating the 20th-anniversary release of her debut album Kaleidoscope, in March 2020, though this was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelis was featured on a Disclosure song titled "Watch Your Step" in 2020 and on "Deal with It", a track on the debut mixtape by Ashnikko, Demidevil, in 2021. The former single, from Disclosure's Grammy Award-nominated album Energy, received frequent airplay on BBC radio stations in the UK and reached the UK dance chart top 40. In October 2020, a biographical animated short about her life as a singer and chef was released on YouTube.
Kelis revealed to i-D magazine in 2019 that she was working on an EP that, at the time of the interview, was intended for release in 2020; in 2021, she said an album, Dirt, would be released in 2022. Kelis released the single "Midnight Snacks" in 2021 and "Feed Them" in 2022, the latter in collaboration with the meal delivery service Daily Harvest.
An interpolation of Kelis's "Milkshake" was used in the Beyoncé song "Energy", on her 2022 album Renaissance. The song was updated on some streaming services to remove the interpolation after Kelis said that she was not notified nor asked for approval for the song's use. Kelis said that Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, the credited songwriters on "Milkshake", had "stolen" and "swindled" her publishing rights for the song.
Between 2006 and 2010, Kelis trained part-time as a saucier, eventually graduating from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. In 2013, Kelis debuted her sauce line, Feast, at the Beverly Hills Food & Wine Festival. Kelis has described sauce as "what accessories are to a woman's outfit. Sauce defines where the dish is from and who's making it [...] I think everything is better smothered, poured, or dipped." The line went on general sale in 2015 under the new name of Bounty & Full. Kelis's first cookbook, My Life on a Plate, was released in 2015; Kelis describes it as "an exploration of tastes and cultures, and my experience as a chef, musician, mother and wife". Kelis had previously written an unreleased cookbook with Lauren Pesavento in 2006.
In 2014, Kelis set up a food truck to cook for attendees of the American music festival SXSW. She promoted her 2014 album Food by sharing her recipes for apple farro, jerk ribs, New York vanilla bean cheesecake, and more on the Spotify app Supper. In 2016, Kelis and cooking duo Le Bun opened a pop-up restaurant in London that she subsequently adapted as a food truck to tour around UK music festivals. In 2017, she released a milkshake recipe in collaboration with Baileys. In 2019, Kelis developed an exclusive menu with a local street food vendor for Jam on Rye Festival in London.
In 2014, the Cooking Channel aired a cooking TV series starring Kelis, called Saucy and Sweet.
In 2006, Kelis designed her own line of fashion accessories, called Cake. In 2007, she was in talks to host a Project Runway-esque show for VH1 and auditioned for various film and TV roles.
In 2017, Kelis joined BBC One's singing contest Pitch Battle as a judge of the competition alongside Gareth Malone. In 2020, Kelis competed as the Daisy in the British version of The Masked Singer, where she was eliminated in the fifth episode.
Kelis met rapper Nas at an MTV Video Music Awards party in 2002; they dated for one year before becoming engaged in 2004, and marrying in January 2005. In April 2009, she filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She was seven months pregnant at the time. In July 2009, Kelis gave birth to her first son, Knight. The couple's divorce was finalized in May 2010. They are involved in an ongoing custody battle over their son.
Kelis married photographer Mike Mora in 2014, and she gave birth to her second son Shepherd in November 2015. Since January 2020, Kelis has been living on a remote farm outside Los Angeles that she manages, when not performing around the world. In September 2020, she gave birth to a daughter named Galilee, her second child with Mora and her third overall. In September 2021, Mora revealed publicly that he was battling stage-4 stomach cancer. In an Instagram post, he stated he had been diagnosed with advanced gastric adenocarcinoma in September 2020 and given eighteen months to live. Mora died on March 14, 2022, at age 37.
AXS called Kelis a "punky, rebellious" singer-songwriter. The New York Times considered Kelis's vocals "dynamic" and commended her for being "well schooled in the intricacies of heartache". IGN described Kelis as being "strange, weird, and eccentric". The Chicago Tribune stated that Kelis made the most of "a voice that lives in the basement".
Kelis's debut album Kaleidoscope took influence from a variety of 1970s genres, which included urban, rock, jazz, hip hop, R&B, soul, and disco music. Kelis cited early Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington as major influences for the album. Several of the album's tracks were designed for clubs, and contained electro beats meant for dancing. Her second studio album Wanderland resembles musically its predecessor while exploring more modern funk sounds, dabbling heavily into genres such as soul and rap. It carried on the same themes developed in Kaleidoscope, and was criticized for doing so.
Kelis's sixth album, Food (2014), contains influences of soul, funk, gospel, and Afrobeat—Kelis said of the album, "You know, those records in your life that your parents played and they resonate with who you are? They make you nostalgic. I wanted to find out how to get that feeling."
Awards and nominations
- Studio albums
- Kaleidoscope (1999)
- Wanderland (2001)
- Tasty (2003)
- Kelis Was Here (2006)
- Flesh Tone (2010)
- Food (2014)
|2003||Volcano High||Song (voiceover)||MTV dub TV movie|
|2004||Saturday Night Live||Musical Guest (Herself)||"Drew Barrymore/Kelis" (Season 29, Episode 12)|
|2007||Me and Mr. Jones||Herself||Reality television/Executive producer|
|2010||Freaknik: The Musical||Tyra Banks (voice)||TV movie|
|2011||Duran Duran: Unstaged||Herself||Direct-to-Video documentary|
|2011||Top Chef Masters||Quickfire Judge (Herself)||"Everything Old Is New Again" (Season 3, Episode 2)|
|2012||Fashion Police||Herself||Guest judge|
|2013||Brazzaville Teen-Ager||Herself||Short film|
|2014||Saucy & Sweet||Herself||Cooking special|
|2014||Hell's Kitchen||Herself||"12 Chef's Compete" (Season 13, Episode 7)|
|2014||Holiday Feast with Kelis||Herself||Cooking special|
|2020||The Masked Singer||Herself / Daisy||Contestant, UK version|
|2021||Selena + Chef||Herself||Guest star|
In Spanish: Kelis para niños
Kelis Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.