It’s been more than two years since June’s Diary first burst onto the music scene. In 2016, the group formed right before viewers’ eyes on the BET television series “Chasing Destiny” created by Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child. Along with renowned choreographer and June’s Diary manager Frank Gatson, Rowland directed the 10-episode reality show that would change the lives of five young women who dreamed of becoming the next big girl group.
Although they started out as five strangers with a similar dream, June’s Diary has since become known for their incredible vocals, soulful R&B and positive message of sisterhood that keeps them close despite being miles apart.
The quintet includes Ashly Williams (Compton, CA), Brienna DeVlugt (Trenton, NJ), Gabby Carreiro (Glendale, CA), Kristal Lyndriette (Charlotte, NC) and Shyann Roberts (St. Petersburg, FL).
This summer, to the delight of their hundreds of thousands of fans, June’s Diary released their first official EP titled “All of Us,” which quickly reached #1 on iTunes.
I recently met the ladies at the BET Her Awards in Los Angeles and instantly knew they were the kind of women more women need to know about. We set up a phone interview (Kristal wasn’t able to make it) to dish on what it’s really like being in a girl group, how to work through life’s ups and downs, and what advice they have for women of all shapes and sizes.
Hey Girls! Thanks so much for getting on the phone with me for Homegirl Talk. I’m excited to hear what it was like being on “Chasing Destiny,” how the show changed your lives and what it was like to work with Kelly Rowland.
Brienna: It definitely was a life-changing experience because we were on national television and it was also the first building block of getting some serious experience in the business, at least it was for me. And then obviously getting to work around people who we aspire to be like—Kelly Rowland and Frank Gatson—and building a sisterhood with other talented women. Although it was a competition, it was team-building because you never knew who you were going to be in a group with. It was nice to be in a competition where you still had to be friendly and do your best at the same time.
In addition to being colleagues and peer artists, you are all friends. What do you think about the stereotype that deep down women can’t really create a sisterhood because we are always competing with each other and secretly comparing ourselves to each other?
Ashly: I think Frank and Kelly did an excellent job of picking women on the show who had true integrity, real dignity and poise. These phenomenal women all had a goal and worked toward that goal. I think once we all got in a group, we realized how important it was for us to achieve success with the group because we each had worked practically all our lives to be singers. I think at the end of the day, we knew how important it was for us to get along in order to make that happen.
But it wasn’t a forced effort. We genuinely like each other. People are sometimes amazed by that, but the girls in this group value friendship, value love, value God and value music. So it’s very, very important for us to disseminate those types of images to young girls because you get on Instagram and you see all types of false perceptions. We talked about what we wanted to achieve as a girl group and being true friends and sisters was at the top of our list.
You bring up an important point, which is that because you have a public platform, you are becoming role models to other women, especially young women. How important is that to you?
Brienna: It can be kind of scary to be thought of as role model because a lot of times there’s a misconception that being a role model means you have to be perfect. And one thing that I’ve learned is that you grow from your mistakes.
It’s important for us to do our best, be as positive as possible, not curse or wear certain things that might be inappropriate, and to be on our best behavior. At the same time, we have to maintain our integrity as individuals—it’s important for us, and for our sanity, to just remember to be human, too. I think that gets lost a lot when it comes to the idea of role models.
I wish there were more messages out there about just being yourself and that you don’t always have to be perfect. We definitely recognize that we are role models, but we are women in our 20s who are going through life just like everybody else and there are going to be roadblocks.
I love what you’re saying because that’s at the heart of Homegirl Talk—being real and honest enough to show the not-so polished sides of life and persevering. We have a lot of pressure from ourselves, not to mention society at large, to achieve perfection.
Shyann: I’m the youngest in the group, so people sometimes say that I’m the one who would make the most mistakes because I’m not wise enough. But I think it’s important to show yourself, flaws and all, because it’s relatable and real. That’s how we inspire. We learn from our mistakes. Like Brienna said, it’s not always going to be perfect. I wish women would talk more about being true to who you are and where you came from, and never forget about that. Because of your trial and error, or our trial and error, somebody might see that and get inspired.
What has been the most surprising part of your journey over the past several years?
Ashly: It’s a lot of things. One is the fact that we have diehard fans. One of our fans got our squad tattooed and we were like, ‘What? Is this real life? Are you serious?!’ To me, that’s a huge surprise, because we never expected people to like, idolize us. I’m not saying that we are idols, but it’s just crazy that somebody would go that far to tattoo JD squad on their arm!
Brienna: To piggyback on what Ashly said, definitely the response from fans has been the most surprising thing. Being so busy and going through your own drama in life, you sometimes forget the reason that you’re doing this. So when you have a fan come up to you and say, ‘You saved my life. I wanted to commit suicide and then your song came on and it stopped me,’ those moments are just like, ‘Wow, I had no idea this song could impact someone in that way.’ Those moments and those surprises make you want to keep going ‘cause you feel like if you stop, you’re going to let those people down.
Shyann: One thing I would say is this: You always know that you’re going to have to work really, really hard to achieve your goals, but you never know how hard until you’re actually in it. It’s been a lot of sleepless nights and we’ve never stopped working. The difference between our jobs and regular jobs where you clock in and clock out, is that we never clock out. Everyday we are working, every hour … whether it’s talking on the phone, having an interview, going to our individual pages and posting about our EP or whatever it is, it could be a lot for someone who’s not used to that. When you have to be on at every given moment, it’s like, OK, this is our lives, this is what we have to do.
Tell me about what’s going on with June’s Diary—albums, tours, singles?
Ashly: We dropped our first EP in June, that’s our birth month, so typically every June we try to do something special for the fans. We’re promoting our EP, releasing videos, posting on our pages as much as possible. Whenever we get the chance to get together, because we all live in different cities, we spend as much time promoting our EP and letting people know that we actually have our own music out there! So have a listen, tell a friend, tell a cousin, and follow us on social media at June’s Diary everywhere!
How do you maintain a sense of closeness when you all live far apart?
[All clamor to answer at once.]
Shyann: A lot of text messages and a lot of phone calls like this! We’re actually sponsored by Spirit Airlines, so whenever we have to do something, we can just hop on a flight and Spirit’s #MusicForMiles program takes care of us.
Is there one overall message with the music you make as June’s Diary?
Brienna: Since the beginning, I feel like our message has been women empowerment. I know that sounds really cheesy, but where it comes from is that we’re stronger together than we are apart. Shyann always says that. A lot of times, especially with social media, everybody is focused on self and sometimes you forget about helping other people, helping other women, helping other black women. Lifting each other up, keeping each other positive, helping each other wherever we can is important. Frank Gaston always says, ‘Share the light, sparkle brighter.’ That’s something we really live by.
Shyann: Something that me and my mom came up with when I was a little girl really represents June’s Diary. You + passion x hard work + dedication – excuses = Success.
I’m not good at math, but that equation makes sense! Let’s talk about fun stuff for a second. What are your go-to makeup brands or beauty tips?
Ashly: Our go-to makeup brand right now is Beauty Bakerie. They have amazing products and it’s the cutest packaging because everything is related to food. We love food, and we love sweets, and we love their line. It was created by a woman named Cashmere who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in the midst of remission she had the idea to start this makeup line not only for African-Americans, but for all shades. She has everything from foundation to eyeshadows to glow palettes to lip scrubs to brushes to blenders … it’s similar to Fenty Beauty who sees the importance of being all-inclusive with how many shades are offered.
What do you ladies have to say about body positivity? You’re all gorgeous and you’re all different shapes and sizes. Is this important for you to represent?
Brienna: Of course it is. Promoting body consciousness and body positivity is very important. For me personally, it’s something that I value because I grew up in a black community where thin women were never envied. Nobody who was skinny was happy about it because in the black community, a lot of times we praise thick women. And I love thick women! But sometimes us thin girls can get lost, so that’s definitely a sensitive topic for me.
I also think with social media and so many people getting plastic surgery to look more voluptuous, it’s important for slim girls to love themselves so that other girls who are slim can love themselves and not feel like they have to have larger breasts or get butt implants to feel beautiful. I’m not saying those things are bad—if that’s something you want to do for yourself, then you should do it. But there are those who feel like they have to do that to be beautiful, and it’s important for there to be representation of all shapes and sizes of women.
Ashly: I’ve actually had the opposite experience. Although I’m not a super thick girl, I’ve always been a bit too overweight for the industry. It’s been a constant battle for me to lose weight and look the way that society thinks I should look when it comes to the music industry. I was OK with myself at the age of 12 and 15 and 22, but being constantly told I need to look like this or that takes a toll on your self-esteem. I’ve had to work hard in terms of just looking in the mirror and telling myself, ‘Yo, you’re beautiful regardless of your stretch marks or regardless of the little gut you might have after eating a piece of pizza.’
People need to hear that you’re beautiful if you’re skinny, if you’re big or if you have bumps on your face. Body positivity is definitely something serious because the rate of suicide is on the rise and there are so many young women and young men who get told every single day that they’re not good enough. One thing that we want to tell everyone is that you’re OK to be who you are. And if you want to go the gym and put that pizza down, then do that. It’s all across the board.
Shyann: To piggyback off of Ashly, it is important to feel good in your own skin, in your own body. It doesn’t matter if you’re slim or thick, being healthy is important. Women in my family are thicker so I have the thicker gene, so our thing is that every day or even twice a day we all get together and walk. It’s not only to feel and look good but it’s also a way to socialize and be healthier.
[At this point, Gabby joins the phone call.]
Gabby: Body positivity is always kind of tricky to talk about because everyone has their insecurities. You can be the person who’s like, everybody should feel beautiful and fine as you are, but it’s a lot easier said than done. But I really never know what to say about body positivity because I’m still going through a journey of finding myself and being comfortable with what I have.
And maybe that’s the beautiful part of it—that we’re all going through this journey. Is there ever a time where you’re going to feel perfect in your body? No! And maybe that’s OK. Maybe that’s what we need to work toward—being OK with that journey, being OK with that everlasting journey of finding yourself. We’re all in this together and that’s the bright side of it and that’s what’s kind of wonderful. We’re all our own person and we all have our own unique experiences and all we can do is support each other and hold each other up.
You’re always going to find your own flaws, but the idea is to love yourself even if you haven’t reached that goal you have set in your mind.
Gabby: Exactly. And encouraging other people to love themselves as well.
Is there a piece of advice or words of wisdom you want to share with all the homegirls out there who might find it helpful?
Brienna: The most important thing for people to know is what Gabby was saying. Everything that you’re going through, just know that you’re not the only one going through it. We have a song on the EP that talks about domestic violence and asks the question, have you ever been in love with someone that you’re scared of?
I think not being afraid to communicate with somebody about what you’re going through is really important whether it be your body positivity issues or if you are in a violent relationship or you’re depressed or feel alone. Not being afraid to talk to somebody is something new that I’ve been trying, too. A lot of times, especially in this industry, you try to be strong but sometimes you have really low moments and you just need to reach out to somebody, whether it’s a mom or an aunt or a cousin or a best friend.
Ashly: I was actually looking at an old picture of myself of when I was like 12 or 13, and I remember the picture very vividly because it was at a time when I was being teased at school, in addition to having a performance where I was completely terrible and got booed off the stage. And I was thinking, if I could go back in time and tell her one thing, it would be: Trouble doesn’t last always. It’s not going to be that bad forever. If you just stick it out, be resilient in your goals and be passionate about the things you love and really want to do, you will be just fine. Have fun, focus on getting to know yourself, focus on loving yourself and don’t think too hard about life.
Shyann: We go by this rule in our group and we call it the three C’s: Communication, Consideration and Commitment. I’ve been using it in my personal life. It’s important to communicate just like Bri said, and to commit to stuff and not be inconsistent. Also, having consideration helps you look at things differently and see things from somebody else’s perspective because you never know what they’re going through.
Gabby: Dang it, with all these great answers now I have to try to be the deepest one! OK, well, with questions like this I never know what to say because I’m lost myself! Who am I to tell you how to live your life when I don’t even know what I’m doing right now?!
There you go! That level of honesty could help someone.
Gabby: Maybe my thing is like, it’s OK to be confused. It’s OK to not know what is going on quite yet because that in and of itself is the beauty of life. It’s waking up and knowing that anything— literally anything—can happen today. I can meet the love of my life or I can meet the worst person in life who teaches me the biggest lesson. Or I could run into a dragon. Who knows? Maybe dragons are real! I don’t know. I don’t know, OK? And I think that’s the beautiful part.
Anything can happen so don’t be afraid. And don’t think that you have to be prepared for everything … because in reality, you don’t have control. And that’s the one thing that we have so many problems with, that we don’t have control over things. The need for control and the longing for control is what holds us back. If you just let things happen and let things be, that’s when life is the most beautiful and enjoyable. Don’t try to be perfect because no one is perfect.
Brienna: See, look at you! Didn’t even mean to be deep and you were deep.
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