Her World: As a woman who wears many very fashionable hats in the entertainment industry from acting, to singing, to dancing, and even producing, which avenue would you say is the most difficult? And which one is your favorite if you had to choose just one of them to do for the rest of your life?
Kat Graham: What’s interesting is that the avenue that is most difficult is my favorite thing, my humanitarian work. It’s brought me the most joy and the most heartbreak in my life. If I had to do just one thing in my life, it would be to work for the UN refugee agency.
Her World: You made your first TV appearance as a teen back in 2002, and continue to expand and showcase your talents to date. What advice would you give your teen self looking at how far you’ve come?
Kat Graham: I don’t know if I would give myself any advice. If I knew where I would end up and how hard and long it would have taken me, I don’t know if I would have actually continued. That’s the honest answer. I think that if I knew that it would have taken 10 or 20 years, or the things that I would go through, I don’t know if it would have scared me off the industry, and I would have just finished culinary school. I don’t think I would give my young self anything. I told myself exactly what I needed to tell myself back then, and that was to keep going. It was worth it, but let’s just say I’m glad that I’m not psychic.
Her World: Can you tell us who is Kat Graham essentially in just three words?
Kat Graham: Driven, kind, fierce.
Her World: Being that this is for Her World, what does a typical day in the life of Kat Graham’s world look like?
Kat Graham: I wish there was a typical day because that would make planning a whole lot easier. Everyday is a little different – sometimes I’m shooting to 3 in the morning, sometimes I’m getting up at 5, sometimes I’m traveling and doing work on a plane, sometimes I’m meditating with shamans for days. There’s no typical day. I would say that in a typical work day when I’m at home and not traveling, consists of me getting up around 4 or 5 in the morning, doing a bunch of work and having it all done by 8 or 9 am, doing a bit of meditation, and then heading to some rehearsal, training, coaching, interviews, calls. I like to be done around 3 or 4 so I can spend my afternoon with my family.
Her World: In your recent movie Heatwave, you play Claire Valens, a business woman who falls in love with their boss’s wife and ends up in quite a precarious situation. Can you tell us more about the film and what it was like for you to play Claire?
Kat Graham: Heatwave is a really fun thriller. I’m also the executive producer on it so I got the chance to not only help with casting but also have a hand in the writing of the film. I wanted to do something that spoke to the work that I do in real life, which was to normalize diversity, especially within the the LGBTQ community. It wasn’t enough that I was a female, black lead. I wanted to push it more and play a character who never addresses her sexuality, and just falls in love with someone who happens to be a woman. The risk and manipulation that come from that – I think that we’ve all gone through that with different people throughout our lives, and how things can quickly turn. My character quickly becomes a suspect in a murder. I thought it was a really fun concept, but also a way to bring my own activism into the LGBTQ community by normalizing same-sex relationships and that kind of sexuality, which I’ve never had the chance to do on my own.
Her World: Every character seems like an opportunity to dive deeper into connecting with different people from different walks of life. Who has been your favorite character to portray so far and why?
Kat Graham: My favorite character has been Julie in Love in the Villa. It has been closest to me in terms of personality as a super Type A person – a person who tries to plan every part of her life to only have things completely derailed and blow up in her face. The fact that I was playing a character so similar to me was kind of a wink from God to teach me to let go and not plan everything.
I learned a lot from that movie and that you could have an incredible, perfect experience on set. Throughout my history of filming, there’s always been either a difficult producer, or sometimes a difficult castmate, or I couldn’t stand the hair, makeup, or the wardrobe, or the other actors weren’t doing their parts. Love in the Villa was my favorite film, not just because of the script and the character, but because of the people I worked with. I did it with Netflix and my favorite streaming family. I had so many great actors to work with because of Mark Steven Johnson who has to be the best director I ever, and will ever work with. It was an incredible experience, and the best filming experience of my life hands down.
Her World: If you could play anyone in a film or TV show, whether real or fictional, who would be your ideal part and would you see them being played in a TV or film format?
Kat Graham: I’ve always said that I would play Tammi Terrell, a Motown singer from the 50s, and she’s someone who I have idolized my whole life. Making a biopic is not easy, making a black biopic is even harder. I have faith that it will happen when it’s meant to.
Her World: The entertainment industry can be a tumultuous path to follow for many people. How do you stay so grounded and humble amongst the chaos of fame and everything that comes along with it?
Kat Graham: I would say that I am kind. I can be humble with people, but I don’t necessarily think that I’m overall a super humble person. I think that I have a huge ego and that I know my worth, and I think that that is something that I have had to allow myself to embrace and that it’s okay. I stay grounded by remembering that I am very blessed, and that I am in a position that a lot of people aren’t in. Especially because of my work with refugees, I’m able to keep perspective. That’s the thing that keeps me the most grounded, but I wouldn’t call myself humble – I don’t know another person who does what I do personally.
Her World: You seem to have a truly caring and compassionate nature. As a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for for the Refugee Agency (UNHCR), an Ambassador for Rotary International, and also a council member for GLAAD, what is some of the work that you’re currently doing that you would like for more people to know about?
Kat Graham: My work with UNHCR, especially in a time now with what’s happening in the world, will inspire people to get more involved to donate their time and to be a service to this world. I hope that people will find their path, whether it’s climate change or human rights violations or animal activism, and see the way they can make a difference for the world. We all need to pitch in.
Her World: We love seeing the work you’re doing both on and off the screen. What projects do you have in the pipeline that your fans will be super excited to hear about? Can we expect a full Toro Gato album this year?
Kat Graham: Toro Gato already came out, and it’s a full album with a Part 1 and Part 2. It’s available to stream on YellowHeart, which is an NFT platform and the first of its kind. The focus right now is Long Hot Summer, which is out June 3rd, and movies including Collide, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Love in the Villa. I will also be releasing a refugee documentary with MSNBC and an episode with Trevor Noah. I’m really excited about all the projects and where this summer will take me.
Her World: And lastly, if you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take three items with you, what would they be and why?
Kat Graham: I don’t know if I would actually take anything. If I couldn’t take my people, my animals, and my career, then the whole point would be to meditate and to have that connection with God. If I can’t take everything, then I would take nothing.
Talent: Kat Graham
Photographer: Harold Julian
Stylist & Fashion Director: Schanel Bakkouche
Hair: Peter Gray
Makeup: L’oreal Paris
Editor: Vincent Tran
Production: Burgerrock Media
Cover look: Gregory Assad
Outfits: Dolce and Gabanna, Raquel Orozco, and Gregory Assad