SOUL SEARCHING I was born in 1981 in Atlanta, Georgia [in the United States]. I got into music by singing in a choir and I grew up listening to the radio, being inspired by artists from Janet Jackson to Whitney Houston to Pebbles to New Edition to Babyface. I've loved music since I first heard it in church. At an early age I was exposed to such great artists - Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, The Doors, Aerosmith … music is my pulse, but, oddly, nobody in my family sings. I am the baby of the family. I feel like I've embraced a gift that God gave me.


FAITH AND WHITNEY My faith is a big part of my life - I'm nothing without it. When I was in Destiny's Child, we celebrated our faith in a lot of songs like Independent Women and Survivor. When you want to express yourself in a certain way, some songs are testimonies to faith. Whitney Houston is one of my biggest inspirations and I was devastated when she died. She died on my birthday [February 11]. I thought about her family first because I know how much I love her but can't imagine how her mother and daughter felt … I saved my tears for them and prayed for them. I remember the first time I met Whitney. She had this huge smile, very warm, like an aunt who only wanted you to be comfortable. When I was with Destiny's Child, she was always giving me advice or just sweet notes for nothing, sometimes just saying, "Hi". She was just a beautiful spirit.


SISTERS DOING IT FOR OTHERS Philanthropy is important to me. Some of the things I contribute to, well that's my business. You give because you want to. Whether you are giving time or giving back financially to things like [disaster relief], it's important to set an example for other generations. I helped set up the Survivor Foundation with the Knowles family [of Beyonce fame] after Hurricane Katrina, and in 2010, I set up the I Heart My Girlfriends charity. The idea is to empower women; to boost self-esteem, educate women about drug and alcohol abuse and to teach the importance of education. To me, women hold up the world. When we nurture each other instead of knocking each other down, it builds us up and we become this strong army of warriors.


ON A ROLE My film roles in The Seat Filler and Freddy vs Jason, my television role on The X Factor and even my part as ambassador for [watchmaker] TW Steel - they all piggyback off my music. I always return to music. I look back at my life and think, "Wow." When I was with Destiny's Child we were one of the biggest all-girl groups in the world. And when The Writing's on the Wall [album] was released with songs like Bills, Bills, Bills and Say My Name, things just started running so fast that I didn't get a chance to fully appreciate it. The moments I had, like when Michael Jackson sang to me, when I had tea with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, or [when I was] onstage with Stevie Wonder and Oprah Winfrey [was] holding my hand - [they are] all my heroes. Next thing I'm in Africa speaking to kids. So many things happened back to back that I feel I didn't take in those moments. The older you get the more you realise how precious time is. Those Destiny's Child days with Beyonce and the girls were good times. I experienced so much so young - we only scratched the surface. Now we're all grown up, we've learned stuff, we've conquered so much and there's still life to live and babies to have and marriages to have … Lord have mercy! Looking back at my work, it was [in the song] Motivation, from my third album, Here I Am, where I felt it come together. It just clicked. And my work with French DJ David Guetta on the hit Commander was so cool. It came at a perfect time.


THE TWITTERATI The industry has evolved a lot so it's important to embrace social media. I have about four million followers on Twitter and have a lot of fun with it. Whether it's talking trash or telling fans what's going on or just spilling my heart - that's what's cool about it. Some people use it for negative things, but when you use it for something positive then it's a powerful tool.


PERFECT FIT I was in Beijing in October for Fashion Week. It was really cool; and a concert in Hong Kong is something I want to do. I would love that. I just love Hong Kong - it's such a busy city. I love its energy. And I love shopping, so it's been really great. I don't follow trends - nothing's premeditated. I just pick up what I like and hope it fits with something in my wardrobe.


SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME I'm a single girl - I'm pretty boring in that area. My boyfriend is an album I'm not done with. It's R&B - my roots. I recorded about 50 songs but only 15 will go on it, so some tough decisions lie ahead. I want to make sure the album's perfect for my fans and I want them to feel every moment of joy or vulnerability or excitement - every emotion that I have put into it. It's out in the first quarter of this year.

I love staying in shape - oh, and I love Spanx (slimming bodywear). Working out for me is also about eating well. My family has health scares and issues that I want to avoid, so for me it's eating healthy - not going on diets, but adopting a healthy lifestyle. I'll have fish and vegetables during the week and at times I'll cut loose and have a cocktail … or four (laughs). There's still so much I want to do. Right now my make-up artist and I are talking about a cosmetics line. If you put your heart into it then you will make something great. The sky's the limit.