For the December issue of InStyle Nicole Scherzinger talks to Hamish MacBain about Simon, social media and being silly. Plus check out the video below where InStyle’s Josh Newis-Smith AKA JoshingtonHosts quizzes her in the hot seat…
Nicole Scherzinger’s life is non-stop. If you want evidence of just how non-stop, consider that, for a large portion of our interview this late afternoon, she will also be getting her nails done and digging into a box of salad (also a large portion) Later, as we are finishing up, she tells me she’s about to jump into a car from our current location in Forest Gate to The Ivy in the West End. I tell her that Friday night traffic into London is not to be trifled with, and that it may take her a while. This doesn’t matter, she says – the time is going to be spent doing a Skype meeting with someone in the States, and also reading notes on another future project. Non-stop.
Not that the 38-year-old is unfocused or distracted; quite the opposite, in fact. Three of my questions are preceded with a polite ‘Whaddyou mean?’, while two of her answers to them conclude with a ‘Does that make sense?’ And it has to be said that she is extremely nice. Not just to me, but to everyone present with whom she will happily take – and retake, and retake until they are right – selfies, and make jokes and have fun. All day there’s loud music (‘I can’t take pictures without music’) of her choosing, from Banks to Grimes to Christine And The Queens (‘I’m in love with her’). Nicole doesn’t, she notes, always like shoots, but today’s is declared to be ‘cool, chill and a great vibe’. Only one line of enquiry – I’m sure you can probably guess which one (more later) – is rebutted and shut down immediately, but even then only with a light smattering of frostiness. Other than that she’s open, honest, self-deprecating and gives as good as she gets.
The ostensible purpose of today’s interview is to promote The X Factor, and quite early on in our conversation she says that she ‘really doesn’t like speaking on TV, because it gives me the heebie-jeebies’. I tell her that in that case she may have picked a strange job. ‘I didn’t pick it,’ she laughs. ‘They picked me!’ This is true. They – or as it always is with The X Factor, ‘he’ – did. Why? ‘Simon told me when he called me, “The fun’s gone out of the show,”’ she says. ‘He was like, “I just want to have fun this year”. I said, “OK”. And we are. Not stressed, or overthinking, or overanalysing, or over-anything. We have a nice gel. So I don’t think he means fun as in being goofier, or being silly. It’s just fun because everything feels really natural, and fits easily and well together.’
I ask her what she thinks of Louis’ gleeful assertions that the previous series wasn’t up to scratch and that the ratings were suffering because of this. ‘I think he’s just telling the truth!’ she hoots, while also adding that she never saw it (she says she doesn’t watch TV in general). ‘In all honesty, he would call me or text me and be like, “It’s hoorrrible!” I was like, “Oh, stop!” He was like, “Yes, it’s horrible!” But I mean that’s his baby too, and has been for so many years, so of course he’s going to have an opinion, you know?’ It does, certainly, feel like there is more of an unfakeable camaraderie between the four judges this year. Nicole says that she would ‘go out for drinks’ with Louis, and that she ‘looks up to’ Sharon (or ‘Mrs O’ as she calls her).
What about Simon, I ask? Does she hang out with him? ‘Uh-uh! No. I hang out with his… with Lauren.’ But would she regard him as a friend? ‘I mean Simon is… I’ve known him for years. But if I ever have a question or need anything, I can go to him.’ So he’s a nice man? A nicer man now? ‘Yeah. Yeah, he is. The past few years I’ve worked with him, he was a lot tougher and more ruthless. But I feel like this season he’s a lot softer. Like we all watched [an episode playback] yesterday and a few people were like, “Awwww!”. We got a few “Awwws” for him.’ And the reason for this? ‘Eric. Being a dad. We all grow up sometime. He’s at a different place in his life. We’re all at different places in our lives.’
That place for Nicole Scherzinger is, at present, a happy one. And not just because of her relationship with 25-year-old tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, which is (obviously) the single line of questioning that she will not go down. ‘I don’t like to put focus on that, because if I ever say anything, it’ll get written about, and it’s the headline and it’s like…’ she says, trailing off into a sigh. ‘I’m happy, and I’m in a relationship, and we like to keep it our own business. And that’s it. You talk about it, then people write about it like, “Ooooh, she can’t wait to be blah, blah, blah with blah, blah, blah” and it’s like, “No, I never said that!”’ She is referring (I think) to a recent story in which she supposedly said she was planning to start a family. ‘A few years down the line, yeah, it’s something that I’m going to be thinking about,’ she says. ‘But I feel like I haven’t scratched the surface of what I’m supposed to do and create, and that’s where my mind is at. So when I’ve got there, and it’s the right time, then maybe I’ll think about kids and a family.’
When I ask her what she thinks about people for whom all of that kind of thing forms part of ‘a brand’, she says that it’s not something she’s really interested in, and that she prefers to just ‘be a creative outlet, doing the work and being an artist’. But, for example, you’re pretty active and good on Instagram, I say. ‘Nooo, I could be much better! You have all these people who have millions and millions [of followers], but I don’t really know what they do. I’m rubbish at it. I have to work really hard, and it doesn’t come naturally. I don’t naturally want to share everything with the world like that. Each to their own, and I mean obviously the people who don’t hold stuff back, well, they seem to be quite successful. But it’s just the way I’m built, I guess. I want people to get to know me, but it’s more important for me to be known for something: for my art, for a legacy. That’s what I need to do the work on, as opposed to just farting around.’
So right now, it’s work, work, work, work, work, and a wide range of work, work, work, work, work at that. Nicole has just finished filming a role as Penny in the remake of Dirty Dancing (‘It’s a wider, more extensive look into some of the characters’ lives, like things you wouldn’t maybe have known’), and she also has a ‘really sweet’ role as the mother of the main character in Disney’s Moana. She has plans to do ‘a movie musical. And I’d love to do some indie stuff. And then I want to somehow be an action hero so badly!’
A year and a half on from her Olivier Award nomination for Cats, she is also keen to do more theatre, but not for a little while. She went to see Rebel Wilson in Guys & Dolls recently and was offered the role after she finishes, but turned it down for the same reason that she left (and royally pissed off Andrew Lloyd Webber), because theatre, she says, with its eight shows a week, consumes your whole life. It leaves little space for the things she really wants to do (she also says, by the way, that ‘everything’s cool’ with Lloyd Webber, that she can ‘understand why he was upset’, and that she has ‘one of his shows she wants to do next year’). The thing Nicole Scherzinger ‘really wants to do’ is, as you might expect, music. ‘Just because I haven’t put out new music in a while doesn’t mean I’m not making new music,’ she says. ‘I’m just taking my time to make sure the next stuff that I do represents me properly. Like I’m at an age now, and enough time has gone by where it’s not enough to, like, be a junkie and just try to get that next hit. It’s like, “What body of work am I really putting out, and what am I leaving behind?” It’s time to start thinking about something that has some substance and depth, and that tells my story. That says something about who I am. I’m thinking outside of the box this time. ‘This time I’m thinking, “How could I do it my way?”’
Credit: Hamish MacBain/ Instyle UK