The wunderkind awakens from her slumber six hours after passing out the night before. Not from an overindulgence of substance, mind you. Exhaustion is the culprit here, as usual. Upon awakening, she meditates. Then she’s at it again: scripts, studios, meetings, photo shoots, interviews, more studio time, filming and more meetings and maybe an event. All this in the name of artistic promulgation and self fulfillment. Trying to extricate Katerina Alexander Graham away from her daily business is like trying to keep a bear from hibernating. To do so would be bad for all parties involved.
That’s because Graham, 19, has been in it since she was six. Born in Geneva, Switzerland to a Liberian journalist father and a Jewish-Russian mother, Graham’s views are nothing if not assorted. She grew up in London and Hollywood, adopting a fashion flair replete with vintage 1980’s, early 90s funky new (read: obscure) designers, in the Gwen Stefani meet MIA mold. Flea markets are her best friend and – to the delight of many men – she doesn’t really like shopping. She knows what she wants before she goes into store.
“I do my own thing. I’m very much in the paradox of things,” said Graham, who admits to having few friends. “I enjoy the little things in life, what’s big is small and what’s small is big. It might not be the coolest thing to do, but it’s important to me.”
Such as devouring Indie films and classic 1950’s and 1960’s music. Skateboarding. Listening to Audio Bullys. Forgoing celebrity events to stay at home to play with her Chihuahua-Terrier. And watching Anderson Cooper. (What 19-year old’s favorite show is Anderson Cooper 360?). Graham is the voice, the original one, in the chorus of will.i.am’s “I Got it From My Mama”. She has starred in numerous commercials, television shows (Movie Surfers, Lizzie McGuire, Malcolm in the Middle, CSI and The O.C, to name a few) and music videos (Musiq Soulchild’s buddy in “Buddy”, John Legend’s “Used To Love You”, et al). She is a singer who just dropped a single, “Boyfriend’s Back”, which is a remake of a 1963 hit by The Angels.
What about her movie credits, you ask? That part of her resume will get a huge boost in 2009. She will be starring in not one, not two, but three films, including 17 Again with Zac Efron and Matthew Perry and Cedric The Entertainer’s directorial dramedy, Chicago Pulaski Jones. 17 Again, which hits the theaters on April 17, is about a man (Matthew Perry) whose life is in the doldrums and wonders what his teenage children think about him. He mysteriously turns 17 again and is able to go to school alongside his children and revisit his “glory days.” Graham is playing the best friend of Perry’s daughter. She’s also one the leads in Boogie Town, a Chris Stokes film that is, what Graham calls, the “Matrix of the underworld.”
“Absolutely insane,” she says. ” This is one of the dopest (sic) projects I’ve ever been a part of.”
For the moment, her roles are of the cute girl-love interest variety. This is something that she expects to evolve with age. “Because of my age, the roles that I’m in doesn’t have as much depth as I would like, but that will change,” Graham intimates. “Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, they play heavy, meaty roles, which are the sort that I want to play…because of what I look like, I play with my looks, which is cool, but I’ve done it so many times. But one day I would love to play against my looks.”
Her current schedule is a malinger’s worst nightmare. Benefiting from two parents who have seen the industry and its freeway-like tendencies, Graham knows that the future, as trite as it sounds, is heavily reliant on her own efforts. She controls her label and artistic process, singing, mixing and engineering on her own records. She lords over the fine points that most artists delegate to their lieutenants. She’s a multitasking aspirant who just wants to come home at the end of the day and watch Anderson Cooper before she passes out from exhaustion.
“I’m an extremely hands-on person,” said Graham. “I hate to say it this way, but we’re still in a time when there’s not that many roles for African-American women. It’s competitive. So I write a lot of scripts and try to put myself out there or I’m working on acting scripts that I’ve received. My manager tells me to relax. That’s always gonna be a part of me, that hustler mentality. I don’t want to ever rely on anyone for my career. I want to help a lot of people and I can’t do that if my hands are out pleading for help.”
“Don’t ever stop working. Just keep going. Keep going.”
Those were Ne-Yo’s words to an inquisitive Katerina Graham at the single release party to “She Get It From Her Momma”. The ephemeral nature of the Hollywood and the music industry is well-known. M.C. Hammer serves as Exhibit A. Katerina knows this all too well – while it does nothing to settle her down, it does lends credence to the R&B singer’s counsel. She insists on making her dreams come true, through diligence and passion, and one day, through the fruits of her own labor, she hopes to run charities, ameliorating the hardships and travails of many children that she has seen through her teeming experiences.
By doing it her own way, wearing one vintage outfit at a time.