Kat Graham may be best known for her award-winning portrayal of teen witch Bonnie Bennett on The CW’s hit teen drama The Vampire Diaries. But the young star wants her fans to know she is nothing like – and so much more than – her TV alter-ego. With her first major-label pop single “Put Your Graffitti on Me,” the actor/singer/dancer is breaking all the way out of the box.
EBONY: You’ve been creating music and releasing singles for years but this is your first project with a major label. How would you describe your sound and evolution as an artist?
KAT GRAHAM: I would describe it now as strong vocal and heavy drums, melodic 90’S bitch pop. It’s definitely grown into fun, self-empowerment, self-ownership kind of music.
EBONY: You’ve mentioned that your new single is about women owning their sexuality, but there’s been some debate about what exactly the lyrics “Put your graffiti on me” mean. Can you clear that up?
KG: “Put your graffiti on me” just means “if you want me, come and get me; say I’m yours.” But I don’t want to be so definitive about it because people like to personalize songs, so I’d rather keep it open for interpretation. It’s just a fun, sassy song and however and whatever it means to you, it means to you.
EBONY: Many of your fans are really embracing and enjoying your focus on music right now but there are always a few people who just want you to stay who they know you to be and don’t want you to branch out and grow. How do you deal with those people who want you to just be Bonnie Bennett forever?
KG: I don’t let that get to me. I like Bonnie, but I’m a hired actor and I am hired to play a character, whether a good or bad one. I try to be unbiased and middle-of-the-road about the character and just become them [on set] and then leave them. So, it’s like the more work that I do [outside of acting] people start to learn who Kat Graham is [as opposed to] a TV character who I am so different from and who I don’t even control.
EBONY: Yes! The writers of The Vampire Diaries are known for their jaw-dropping plot twists and unexpected character developments. Speaking of that, can you offer any spoilers on the season three finale that’s coming up in a few weeks?
KG: There’s going to be a major death in the finale — but isn’t there always? There’ll be a major death and that’s all I can say!
EBONY: You’ve got some serious support in your corner with [blogger] Perez Hilton. He’s definitely the reason I got into both The Vampire Diaries and your new single, and there are probably countless other fans who have also been connected to your work because of his support. How did your relationship with Perez come about?
KG: Perez is just incredible. I sent him some music awhile back and he just wanted to meet me. I was unsigned at the time and he just gives a lot of new artists a platform to get their work out and we just get along really well.
EBONY: You also seem to get along really well with your Vampire Diaries co-stars [Nina Dobrev and Candice Accola].
KG: Nina is so grounded and so real; there’s nothing fake or cheesy about her and the whole cast is like that. It’s great to be on such a good show with such incredible reach, but to then get to work with such wonderful people too –we just got really lucky.
EBONY: You once said in an interview that you’re not going to allow yourself to get nervous before performances and be consumed hoping that people like what you do and instead you’re just going to put your all into it and have a good time. That just seems like such a well-adjusted, healthy attitude to take on when you’re in an industry that is driven by people’s adoration. As a young person in the entertainment industry and being a newly-signed artist, how did you get to this place of peace with your craft so quickly?
KG: I just don’t really think that [being consumed with people’s opinions of you] is the healthiest mentality to have. I used to read the criticism on blogs about other people — mostly female actresses and singers — and even when they are extremely perfect and harmless, people still go after them. So I figure, if I’m going to get negativity regardless, why do I have to worry about what somebody thinks of me? That’s just not a smart way to live my life. I’m going to be doing this at least another 10 years, so where does all that time go and what does it mean if I didn’t really enjoy it while I was living it. You just can’t afford to care that much about the negative things people say about you. You just can’t!
EBONY: In the making of the “Put Your Graffiti on Me” music video, your boyfriend, [actor Cottrell Guidry who co-stars in the video], mentioned that the thing that drew him to you when he first saw you was the fact that you weren’t drinking alcohol like others around you presumably were.
KG: Yeah, I just don’t drink alcohol. I never have, I never will. I’ve never done drugs. And I’m not like an overly religious person or anything, I just really believe that I have a creative mind to maintain and I like being focused and feeling like myself. It’s about more than just being a good role model. I’ve seen so many negative things come about in this industry because of alcohol and drugs and I just don’t want any part of that. I’m not into it. If that makes me not cool, then I’m not cool.
EBONY: So you’re devoting at least 10 more years to this industry. What do you hope to achieve in that time period?
KG: I can’t even answer that! In 10 years I don’t really know what I’ll be and I like not having any idea. I like the idea of being so passionate about everything I do and the fact that I might wake up tomorrow and say “I want to be a chef,” and just pour myself into that. But I believe in having a passion for what I do. Nothing is certain, but I definitely want to do more music and more film and I want to have a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of reaching my definition of success is in this industry.
EBONY: What’s your definition of success?
KG: To me success is making a positive difference through art – making art that affects the world and that changes the way people feel about themselves and the world. That’s what I’m working towards.
You can catch Kat every Thursday on The CW’s The Vampire Diaries at 8/7c and buy her new single, “Put Your Graffiti on Me” on iTunes.