Like many 90s kids, I dreamed of being best friends with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Never in my wildest dreams though, did I think I’d meet an actual Sabrina. But as she rightly points out, she wasn’t named after the beloved TV character. “My mom actually named me after the Audrey Hepburn film. It really annoys her that everyone thinks I’m named after the witch.” Semantics aside, it’s obvious that this young woman was born to be a star.
In an intimate moment, Sabrina even shows me footage of the judge at her adoption announcing this fact. Kennedy was less than a year old at the time. Despite being destined for stardom, Sabrina hasn’t always been so self-assured. Like many adopted kids, the sense of abandonment never dulls. Temper this with early fame on MTV’s” Real World”, and you could have had another burnt-out reality TV star bound for rehab. Too sensitive for fame, too unstable for normality. But Sabrina defies the odds. She candidly admits that “It [self-love] has been a constant struggle for me.” Unflinching she continues. “As a woman in the entertainment industry, there’s an image that you have to uphold. When I was younger, I wouldn’t eat before some shoots because I wanted to look a certain way. ” Then with no small amount of triumph, she tells me: “It’s not about that now.”
Star Power Women
Her honesty is refreshing, undoubtedly echoing the experiences of many other women in pop such as Britney or Demi Lovato. While Sabrina’s star power is undoubtedly on a par with these women, Kennedy is infinitely savvier than her forbears. She is under no illusions of how exploitative the industry can be, stating that: “the people at the top are still predominantly upper-class white men.” Rather than being daunted by this grim reality, Sabrina has found a way to navigate this. Maintaining artistic control has been key, as has seeking out projects and a team that shares her values. She puts it simply: “If I feel confident in myself then I am sexualizing myself for myself and not for the eye of someone else.” Kennedy has also begun to incorporate this mentality in her personal life too, saying “Since getting into my spiritual practice, I’ve realized when I feel good when I’m working out to be healthy that it radiates into self-love.”
Set Them Up And Knock Them Down
It’s something that Sabrina has been rediscovering as the UK emerges from lockdown. Like many of us, she struggled as the world closed around her. She openly admits that: “I love working out; it sets me up for my day and I lost that during the lockdown. I’d wake up trapped in the same place, doing the same routine and I just lost that love for it.” I emphasize completely, having been trapped on my own for over twelve weeks during the first lockdown. It’s only recently that the trauma of that has begun to heal. As we discuss the future though, there is a lot of positivity and excitement. The smile on her face says it all, as she tells me: “I’m glad everything’s opening now…I’m falling back in love with going to different classes and my boxing. You know the body holds so much energy; from past trauma, from pain, even happiness. Working out is a release of that energy.”
Invest In Yourself First
I admire her tenacity but with a full schedule of shows until late August and a bevy of major record labels knocking at her door, I wonder how sustainable this is. In typical Sabrina fashion though, she is unfazed. Her spirituality has been key in this and even with growing fame, she remains grounded by her daily practice. Carving out an hour each morning, Sabrina meditates, listens to Marisa Peer before sitting with a black coffee and just allowing herself to be present. It’s the one thing she won’t compromise on, saying that: “It’s those little things, day by day, that lead to our bigger manifestations.” Ever the pragmatist though, she emphasizes the importance of making peace with yourself first. “..it’s not just about the affirmations, meditations, and journaling. You can do all of that and still feel so empty inside. It’s about digging deep and doing the inner work. It’s about embracing the darkest parts of myself that society deems unlovable and knowing that I’m enough right now.” It’s then with a wry smile, she tells me: “You know the Native Americans say that you have two wolves, you get to decide which one you feed.”
The Key is self-love
I can’t help but ask her is that the key to self-love then, accepting both sides of ourselves? Uncharacteristically, she hesitates before answering. “I think for me I’m always working on it [self-love]. But if I can get to a place where I’m so sure of myself that if I do something that I know is good for me and it bothers other people, I’m not sorry. I think that’s the point I’m working to getting to.” I can understand her hesitation. Being in the spotlight is not easy and sadly, the entertainment industry delights in putting people on a pedestal, only to pull them down in the next breath. Especially, in pop music where a bad review from a critic can derail an entire album and online trolls lurk in the comments on your Instagram post. Strangely though, Sabrina has used this criticism as a measure of her own growth, telling me that “…you know you’re working on yourself and upgrading as a human being when you realize that a lot of the way people treat you, it’s just their projections. Don’t take it personally.”
The Price of fame
It’s clear that Sabrina has won her own internal battle, or at least she has for the most part. Of course, this has taken no small amount of energy on her part. Separated from her loved ones during the pandemic, Kennedy had plenty of time to reflect during COVID. It’s what spurred her on to seek out a holistic life coach and a trainer, as well as focus on healing herself. “[Healing] it’s beautiful, it’s ugly and it’s tragic but it’s messy….you just have to put the work in and you have to look at it yourself and think do I really want to live this way anymore.” Like all things though, it’s a delicate balance. The price of fame is too often one’s wellbeing or social life. Sabrina is keen not to fall into this trap. “That doesn’t mean I’m not gonna drink, have fun and let loose with my friends, but I want to feel good. I want to be living the life that I want and the only person that has the power to do that is me.”
Be Your Own Hero
Knowing that she is the one dictating her path is a huge motivator for Kennedy. It’s something she hopes to instill in the next generation. “We need to stop teaching our little girls that some knight in shining armor is gonna come and rescue you.” She speaks with such passion that I notice her fists ball up. “No, the only person that can save you is you. Enough with this. Be the princess that saves herself.” It’s this sense of self-direction and motivation that has also helped her to silence her worst critic: herself. “…I think it’s something like one in 10 million is the likelihood of you being born. We’re miracles, so why are we sitting here complaining?” She half laughs and is so infectiously positive, I feel like I’m at my own TED talk. The interview starts to wind down, so I ask her: “Any final words of advice?” She looks me in the eye and says: “Remember fairy tales don’t exist, but miracles do and you can make your miracle yourself.” And as I walk down Portobello Road, a few moments away from where we met, I can’t help but wonder what miracles I may create.
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