Topsfield native Sabrina Kennedy is on her way to becoming a household name. The 21-year-old singer graduates from UMass Amherst this May and just wrapped up season 31 of MTV’s The Real World, which premieres March 17—just a week before she releases single “If Only” off her debut album Lioness. Kennedy took a quick breather to bring us up to speed. / Brigitte Carreiro

The theme is “Go Big or Go Home.” Each week is a different mission, but we also have our own personal mission. Mine was to locate and find my biological mother. They hired me an investigator, and I had to go through this whole season trying to find her.

I was under the impression I was living in a house with seven to eight people and just living my life. And that was not the case. The first day I got there, I had to jump out of a hot air balloon, and if you don’t complete the mission, you go home. I’m a very confident girl, but by the end of it I really had a strong idea of who I wanted to be.

I saw my sister get bullied throughout high school, and when I went to college myself, I was bullied by sorority girls. I’ve always been very comfortable in my body, but when I was faced with girls who didn’t like the way I looked, I said to myself, “Why am I changing for people?” I believe that women should own their body; women should be sexual beings and not be afraid of what society says. And I’ve always had a love for exotic cats and all animals. It’s been something that I’m very passionate about, and when you find a cause that you’re passionate about, you go for it.

That’s been my nickname, Sabrina the Lioness. I never truly felt like I could hold true to Lioness because I didn’t feel good enough myself, and then coming off the show, I said, you know what, with this album I can show young girls that it’s okay to feel this way. My whole album is a progression of being so low on myself to finally getting to that point where I feel fierce. I feel confident, finally, and I’m back to the person I truly want to be, and I think The Real World helped me get to that.

It’s a very strong song. I’m teaming up with an organization that deals with depression, and each song is going to adhere to a different charity or organization. “If Only” tackles depression, and I actually did the video yesterday. I was on set, and I had an artist come in who deals with a depression charity for young adults, and she drew trees all over my body. The branches symbolize each hardship you go through. The album isn’t just about me singing and bringing my music out. I think more artists need to portray issues that are going on in society today instead of just releasing music to release music.

I’ve always loved the House of Blues, and it would be a dream to finally headline there one day. Someday way down the line we would love to do Gillette, but for now House of Blues is a good start.

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