Grammy-nominated R&B singer Keri Hilson may be the gorgeous new face of Avon, and her recent sophomore album “No Boys Allowed” may boast a hit single called “Pretty Girl Rock,” with a video that morphs her into mighty musical Aphrodites like Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross and “Rhythm Nation”-era Janet Jackson.
But she has some decidedly progressive ideas about beauty.
“This is how I believe every woman should feel about themselves — you should not seek validation with expensive heels and handbags,” she says. “In real life, I rock Target clothes and I don’t give a f---!”
Hilson — who opens for Lil’ Wayne at Shoreline Amphitheatre on Friday — is just sharpening her claws. “I’m not a full-on feminist,” explains the 5-foot-9 Amazon, who quietly penned hits for Usher, Ciara, Ludacris, Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls before flying solo with 2009’s “In a Perfect World.”
“I’m just a student of wanting to empower women in my own little way, through song — giving them the courage to not be run over in relationships, and to not seek approval from others’ opinions, be they other women, online sources, or men. We need to exude the confidence that’s been taken from us,” she says.
Hilson, 28, worries about today’s racy role models for young girls. She has noticed an uptick in cleavage-emphasizing Facebook photos, and 13-year-olds trying to pass for 19 in the sexy cyberworld.
In two decades, she believes, feminism has regressed from a Susan Faludi-Naomi Wolf heyday to an era “where you can be famous just for having a sex tape. And with reality TV, only the scandal gets to No. 1 — it’s very rare that a positive portrayal of women wins these days. So we’re looked up to for all the wrong reasons in society.”
That’s why Hilson carefully chose the ladies she would become in “Pretty Girl Rock.” Like the Bronze Venus Baker, who rose from the slums to be the toast of Paris. “She said, ‘I’m going to dance the way I dance, dress the way I want — I’m going to do what I feel in my heart I should do,’” she says. “And that’s an inspiration to me as an entertainer and a woman — walk your walk, do what you feel. Just be comfortable in your own skin.”
The singer — who has accrued a stack of new songwriting requests while on tour — never meant to sound pedantic. “But my video did spark a lot of interest,” she says. Mothers, teachers, students alike complimented her on its educational value, which she wasn’t expecting. “Since I always do things from a perspective of ‘Everyone would understand this, because it makes perfect sense!’”
IF YOU GO
Opening for Lil’ Wayne
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, One Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $38.75 to $171.75
Contact: (800) 745-3000; www.livenation.com
Note: Meet-and-greet packages available at www.kerihilsonvip.com