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Nicole Scherzinger for Cosmopolitan
· 31 August 2017 · Magdalena

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“Babes, I am exhaauusssted,” she groans, when we sit down later over a glass of Chardonnay. “I have been working on The X Factor for the past month non-stop. We have very late nights because we are all on Mr Cowell’s schedule. I thought I was a diva until I got back on set with him!”  This month will see Nicole return to screens as a judge on the 14th series of the reality TV show, alongside Simon, Louis Walsh and Sharon ‘Mrs O’ Osbourne. While some would argue that the panel has lost some of its original dazzle and pith, Nicole, however, has been the one to bring the excitement. She’s the judge backstage hugging and hand-holding each of her acts, and it is her tremulous eyes the camera pans to when a young performer fails on stage. Why? Because Nicole has been there. She knows the sting of rejection and the hardship of struggle. She understands the complicated burden of fame and the lacerating treatment from both the industry and the media. Nicole is a hustler who slogged it out for years before becoming a household name with The Pussycat Dolls in 2005, following the release of Don’t Cha. She has made her own money, built her own brand of fame and found her own unique way of navigating it all. Born in Hawaii, Nicole’s parents split when she was very young. Her mother later relocated the singer and her younger sister to Kentucky, in the US, where she married Nicole’s stepfather. It was there that she realised she wanted to be a singer. So much so that at primary school she investigated secondary schools she could attend that would forge a path for her to be accepted at Louisville’s nearby Youth Performing Arts School. From there, she went to the Wright State University, and was later hired as a backing vocalist by rock band Days Of The New. Two years later, in 2001, she auditioned for a new reality TV series called Popstars, which followed the creation of a girl group, Eden’s Crush. She got onto the show and made the band. It was off the back of their success that she auditioned for The Pussycat Dolls – after turning down will.i.am’s offer to join the Black Eyed Peas. “I’m completely different now to when I first started out,” Nicole laughs. “I was a precious dainty hibiscus, and now my hibiscus has teeth and thorns.” Here, she shares what she wishes she’d known about life in her twenties.

 

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT…MONEY

“It’s not like I grew up in a third-world country, but I didn’t come from money. My father was a welder, and my mother had me when she was 18. She did so many jobs to raise me. I really value money now because I saw how deeply stressed my parents were about it when I was growing up. I never got to buy clothes at a normal shop – we had to get them from garage sales and second-hand shops. My mum still styled me up really cute, though… I remember the first time I went to a Gap warehouse [as a teenager] where everything was half price – she was like, ‘Who spends £25 on a pair of jeans?!’ She was so upset with me. “To put myself through college, I did everything from working on a make-up counter to singing opera at an Italian restaurant called Macaroni Grill. [The poorest I’ve ever been] was at college, and I used to give blood to get money. For food, I used to make these pancakes where you just added water, because they were filling. But it’s given me an appreciation for everything in life. Everyone makes fun of me because I’m still very careful with my money. I never take anything for granted. “The most exciting thing I’ve been able to buy is my house in Beverly Hills. And right after that I bought my mother somewhere in Hawaii, because I’ve always said that everything I have, my mother is going to have, too.”

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT…MY BODY

“I’m way more accepting of my body now. I was always very critical of myself from a young age, and when I was 14, I started running. I would go outside in the middle of the night and run, because I thought I had to be thinner and that my thighs should look a certain way. When I got The Pussycat Dolls, it really amplified that because it had so much to do with showing your body off. If you look at pictures from back then, I was the one wearing trousers or a suit – although I would show my shoulders or wear a bra top. But you should embrace and accept yourself more. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and love your curves. “[I suffered from bulimia when I was younger.] It was very imprisoning and it stole all of my happiness, confidence and memories. A big part of that was during The Pussycat Dolls. I have a lot of fans and I never wanted to come out about it, because I was ashamed. It’s a sickness and I suffered it for years and nobody knew about it. But once I finally did come out about it, I realised how many people it had helped. When you’re in the public eye, you have a voice. I don’t have it any more, and I feel like it’s a miracle. “Every woman has good and bad days. Mrs O and I were joking the other day that sometimes we wake up in a puddle of cookies and crisps! But what really helps me is working out. Even if it’s not for very long, [I love] to get a sweat on to keep me focused and positive.” WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT… FAILURE “I try not to use that word. Failure is not an option, which is why I always put 110% into everything I do. I’ve always been a perfectionist – as a little girl, if I drew outside the lines when I was colouring in, then I would tear up the paper and throw it across the room. “At high school, I created a demo tape, and my boyfriend, who was studying photography, shot me [for the sleeve] so that when I auditioned for Popstars, I had something to give them – music and pictures and information about who I was. After that, I was trying to get a solo deal and I went to New York with my demo tape and I was shopping it out, trying to get a break and I couldn’t. But I never gave up – that wasn’t an option. “Around that time, will.i.am asked if I would be in the Black Eyed Peas – I knew him through Eden’s Crush. But my then-fiancé [Nick Hexum, lead singer of former boyband 311] turned it down, bless him. I’m grateful he did, because I wouldn’t have been in The Pussycat Dolls. Everything happens for a reason, and Fergie made the perfect Pea. “It’s about how you look at things – who is to say you’ve failed? Everything is a learning curve and these things happen to guide you to your ultimate destiny. I always think of Walt Disney who went to 300 banks to get support [for his Mickey Mouse idea], and he got turned down by every one. That’s not failure, that’s preparing you for greatness.”

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT… CAREER

“I wish I had actually enjoyed being in the moment more in my twenties. I was always thinking about what I could do next and how I could be better. But then I am a hustler – anyone who is successful has to be, because it’s not going to happen on its own. You always have to look forward and stay on top of things. “We couldn’t afford for me to go to vocal or dance lessons, so in primary school, I found out that if I went to a specific secondary school that was in the projects [an area with social housing] in Kentucky, then I could get into the performing arts school I wanted to go to. I love my family and they have lots of love, but I never had anybody to buy me a car or put me through school. I did all that myself by working, so that’s grafting in itself, making it happen on your own. “When I got offered The Pussycat Dolls, I said, ‘I will be in the group, but I want a solo deal as well.’ I knew that was my dream. I didn’t realise how big The Pussycat Dolls was going to be. Anybody who has made sacrifices knows that you have to do it on your own. Ambition is incredible, you need it to get anywhere in life.”

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT… LOVE

“You need to love yourself first. That is the key to true happiness. It’s the most clichéd thing, but you can’t be happy with someone else until you are happy with you. And that’s honouring yourself, getting to know yourself and embracing yourself. I actually just did a workshop [with the life coach Tony Robbins], called ‘Unleash The Power Within’. Only then can you love the other person. I’m still working on that. “[It’s also easy] to lose yourself in relationships. And I did. I have completely lost myself [at times]. It’s unhealthy. If you listen to my album Big Fat Lie, you’ll hear all about it, because a lot of my songs on there are about that. But then that’s not to say that great things aren’t worth it. If they are, then you should stick it out, but it takes hard work. I’m all about that and so are my family – they all believe that once you get married, you stay married!”

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT… DISCRIMINATION

“When I started out, it was hard because I was often typecast for acting roles due to my skin colour and what I looked like. That was very frustrating. I wouldn’t get the part I was after at auditions because [the casting agents] wanted me to be the quintessential Spanish person, or the all-American girl’s sidekick. I was never the all-American girl [to them]. I even wrote a song about it, called I Left A Piece Of Me For You [sic], which I haven’t sung in 20 years. You would think it was about the most heart-wrenching relationship – which it was, but it was my relationship with the industry, saying ‘I give so much of myself to you’. “I remember calling my mother and my tutu [grandmother] in Hawaii when I first moved to Los Angeles, and saying, ‘I’m done with LA. I’m coming home.’ But I didn’t and I never gave up. Music worked out better for me. Over the years, though, I’ve had to [earn] people’s understanding and respect for what I do as an artist and vocalist. “People don’t realise that The Pussycat Doll albums were my babies – I did everything from executive producing to vocally arranging them. It still frustrates my friends and family when they hear people say, ‘Oh, wow, she can sing?’ I have studied my craft and there is meaning, heart and soul in what I do. People can overlook you and think you’re just some senseless pop star who can’t really sing. If you come to one of my shows, you would never think that. I feel like girls have to work extra hard to earn respect.”

ABOUT THE X FACTOR

“I can empathise with the contestants, because I’ve been there myself. But, because of that, I am tougher on them – I know what it takes if you want to make it.”

ABOUT VOICE OF SINA, MOANA

“I have always wanted to be a Disney character. It was a riot recording in the studio. There was one scene where I needed to sound like I was running towards Moana to give her a hug. I closed my eyes and lost myself in the moment and ended up on the other side of the room nowhere near the mic. Everyone laughed.”

ABOUT SOLO ALBUMS

“After The Dolls, I recorded so many albums and I wish I could have put them out for the fans. They were my babies, and I worked with everyone from Kanye West to Timbaland. It would have been nice to share them. It was hard when that music didn’t come out, but I got to release a few in the UK.”


ABOUT  THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS

“I wish I could go back in time and take it all in more. It happened so fast. The Pussycat Dolls are a big part of who I am I would love to tour at the right time – I miss having a girl gang around.”

“I heard about the auditions through my friend Anna-Maria from Eden Crush. She asked to stay with me in LA because she was trying out for this band. I said, ‘I want to auditio too!’ Without her, I wouldn’t have been in the The Pussycat Dolls.”

ABOUT EDEN’S CRUSH

“I moved to LA with Eden’s Crush and had to grow up a lot. We went on tour with Jessica Simpson and *NSync, and I got a lot of recording experience out of it. I learned a lot.”

ABOUT POPSTARS

“It was a jarring experience going from a sheltered life to living with a group of girls I didn’t know and having a camera there. But it was awesome.”

ABOUT EDUCATION

    • Major in Theatre, Minor in Dance, Wright State University, Ohio

“I started to get lead roles, and the other students were like, ‘We’re not having that.’ I spoke in a high-pitched voice to be less threatening. I wanted people to like me.”

    • Youth Performing Arts School, duPont Manual High School, Kentucky

“I’d always felt different, but here, everyone was so accepting of each other.” Bowen Elementary, Kentucky “I was incredibly awkward and shy. People used to call me a cry baby at school, because I was so sensitive. Sensitive and a perfectionist – a toxic combination.”

 

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