IN CONVERSATION WITH NICOLE SCHERZINGER
Multi hyphenate talent, Nicole Scherzinger is best known as the lead singer of one of the world biggest girl bands ‘The Pussycat Dolls’. Grammy nominated Scherzinger has accrued number one singles globally with expansive music accomplishments across a multitude of genres; including performances with opera legend Andrea Bocelli and an Olivier Award nomination for her role in the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’ in London’s West End. Nicole maintains a global presence with multiple television formats; after being a judge and mentor on ‘The X-Factor’ in the UK, she is now a panelist on the US TV show ‘The Masked Singer’ on FOX, which premiered its 7th season on 9th March.
Aside from pop music, you have worked closely with opera legend, Andrea Bocelli, joining him at Madison Square Garden in 2018 for a strong of sold out performances. You’re actually a trained opera singer, which is something that not that many people know about you. How was the experience of singing together with such a legend for you?
I’ve had the honor of performing with a lot of great artists and musicians. I feel like when you perform with Andrea Bocelli, it’s kind of like an accolade in your life. It feels like such an achievement because he’s one of the best of his kind in that world. I think he’s really special. My dear friend, David Foster, who I’ve worked with for many years, introduced me to that relationship with Andrea and I’ve had the honor of performing with him on several different stages now, in Europe and in the UK and even here at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. It’s unlike any other person I’ve ever sung with on stage, it’s almost like an angel type presence.
He trusts you fully and you have to trust him. And he’s got this really great calming presence about him. It’s just other worldly when you’re performing with him, because when you are performing, he cannot see you. He literally goes off of feeling and breath, so your senses are really heightened and you’re really just in tune with the person on another level. Because he can’t see you, you’re wanting to try to match the vibratos when you don’t know when the other person is gonna end the note. So you’re really in tune and in feel of when they start the note, they start the phrase or end the word, end the note or the vibrato. It keeps you on your toes, but it’s really, truly magnificent and special anytime I get to share the stage with him.
What is it about Opera that is so special to you?
I just love music, period. All styles, all genres. I feel like I was kind of blessed with this first soprano voices and so it’s something that always just came very natural to me. It kind of feels like you get to be a songbird when I sing in that style. It can be very powerful, especially singing in other languages. And I really love hitting those high notes. It just takes you to another place. But other than singing operatic or classical, I just love music in general. It’s the greatest way that I know how to communicate. I much rather sing and communicate with people than speak.
Who is your biggest musical infuence and inspiration?
I have a lot of musical influences and inspiration, very eclectic, but I will have to say Whitney Houston is the one who I really connected with. At the age of six, I heard her sing and I felt like it was the voice of what God would sound like. I just felt an overwhelming power and love. The first time hearing her sing made me feel a little bit more comfortable, I felt like I understood the world a little bit more, understood my place in the world a little bit more listening to her and I just loved her and admire her so much. So literally from the age of six, that’s when it all changed for me hearing her sing ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and then having that tape on repeat.
You have also made a name for yourself in the world of musical theatre. By far one of your greatest achievements was a nomination for an Olivier Award for your debut West End performance as ‘Grizabella’ in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival of Cats. What made you start your career in theater?
I knew that I love to communicate and express myself through song and dance and acting at a young age, which was great for me because I felt like I kind of found my tribe. I went to Youth Performing Arts School in Kentucky where I grew up and that’s where I found my kind, my tribe. My family couldn’t afford for me to do any voice lessons or dance classes or anything, but I knew that if I worked really hard in my grades, it would allow me to go to this school. And that’s what happened. And in that school, I got the training and I learned about voice and theater and music theater and dance. I loved to be able to tell story through song and dance. Like I said, it goes back to how I communicate, it’s the only thing that ever came natural to me.
A lot of people don’t realize that’s my background, that I started out in theater, in musical theater. I was cast in one of my first plays when I was 14 years old and it was a professional play called ‘La Bête’, a French play at a real theater in Louisville called ‘Actors Theatre of Louisville’. And I got to be around all these amazing stage actors and I learned so much. I always loved the stage.
After a couple of critically acclaimed, intimate performances of ‘A Night With Nicole Scherzinger’ in New York and London at the end of 2019, you are now working hard on your debut project for Broadway. Can you share a bit more about this project with us?
It’s a work in progress. I am getting back to my roots of theater and musical theater and singing. Recently I played the role of Grace Farrell in ‘Annie Live’ in December of last year. I got to work with Harry Connick Jr., Taraji P. Henson, Tituss Burgess and Celina Smith and it reminded me of how much I love theater.
So back then in 2019, when I did these shows, I just wanted to get back to the heart of singing again. Not trying to find a pop song and sell it, but the heart of telling a story through song. And that led me to do Annie. Now I wanna create a show, just getting back to singing my Broadway and pop and rock and jazz and blues and classics, and to not have anything pigeonhole me because I love music and I love to sing and I don’t want to have to be defined by any category or style or genre and what I do. So I’m creating projects that have meaning to me, that have purpose to me and where I’m being able to use all of my potential and all the sides of my talents and my voice.
You were a judge on ‘The X-Factor UK’ for over a decade, where you were responsible for the successful careers of artists like One Direction and James Arthur. What are some of your favorite memories from your time on the show?
Probably my most favorite year was the year that I had the boys several years back. I had James Arthur, Jahméne and Rylan and I was actually in the quarter finals with all three of them. And it was such a really unexpected, magical year. And to be able to find artists like that, that were three completely different talents and they’ve all gone on to do such successful things, is so special. But I don’t wanna take away from all the other years and all the other talents.
I think selfishly other than working with the contestants and trying to bring out the best in them on stage and off stage, my favorite moments, I hate to say, were just being able to perform. When Sharon Osbourne had me perform with Sam Bailey singing ‘And I’m Telling You’, when I got to perform ‘Purple Rain’ with Matt Terry, singing with Jahméne ‘I Will Always Love You’ even when the mic went out and singing Adele with James Arthur, I think all those moments were really special to me, because on stage is where I feel the most at home.
Currently you are a panelist on the US hit show ‘The Masked Singer’. The show has been a ratings success for FOX network since it premiered in 2019. Which masked celebrity was the biggest surprise to you after he or she was revealed? Who was your favorite performer on the show so far? Who would you love to see on the show in the future?
To be honest with you, on our very first season was T-Pain and I think that no one guessed T-Pain. I think we’ve all gotten a little bit wiser since then, but I I’m still surprised every time we have one of our awesome rappers in the industry on our show. I’m always like “Wait, what? That’s Lil Wayne, that’s Tyga”. I really loved T-Pain, I loved everybody who’s won our show for different reasons. I’m really proud of all the talent that we’ve had on our show. LeAnn Rimes had some very haunting performances, Wayne Brady did a freestyle rap and just got to show that his talents are limitless. We’ve just had an incredible roster of iconic, legendary talents and new upcoming people in the industry. I love that it’s a platform for a lot of people that we may not know have these singing talents and that they’re able to come on our show and surprise us all. And I love the fact that they’re wearing masks and there’s no stereotypes, there’s no preconceived notions, there’s no judgment. It’s just pure singing and letting through your heart and your soul and your spirit tell you who you are under the mask, not who we thought you were. It’s fun.
In the future, I think i’d love to see fun talents, like Jack Black who can really sing. I’m such a big fan of Will Ferrell, I think I’d freak out if he was on our stage. I’ve got a really twisted sense of humour, so just someone like Will Ferrell or John C. Reilly or Jack Black. If they came on our stage and did something, that would be great.
Outside of the entertainment space, you work closely with ‘Special Olympics’, ‘UNICEF’ and ‘CAST LA’ as a Global Ambassador of their international relief efforts. Why are these projects so dear to you? Which cause would you say is the most important currently in the world and would need a lot more attention than it does?
I come from a family who instilled in me from a young age the power and the importance of faith. And that’s kind of what’s kept me solid as a rock in the industry even now, still today. It’s kept me sound. I feel like we’re all here for a purpose and we’re here of service and I wouldn’t be doing what I was called to do, if I wasn’t giving back. We have such an unbelievable platform, to reach so many people. It’s our job to be aware of some of these things that speak to us, that are important to us and to share and educate others because we have that platform. I believe it’s our responsibility to give back, to be a part of something, to do something. Imagine if we all did something, the world could be in a better place.
I wish I could do so much more, like Special Olympics and I’m now an ambassador of Best Buddies as well. Things that help educate people and spread love and inclusivity and integration in this uniquely disabled world. I have done a lot of work with UNICEF and taken a lot of trips around the world to help the children on the streets in Kenya and Guyana. I think that it’s so important. Like I said, if all of us would give back to the world, it would be in a different place. It helps to get out of our heads and stop thinking about ourselves and give back to others.
I think right now the oppressing issue is an epidemic that this world is human trafficking and sex trafficking, especially among children. I was educated on that a decade ago and once you know about it, it’s hard to turn a blind eye. It’s something that you don’t wanna think about because you can’t even fathom it. But I think it’s important that once you are aware of something, to be the voice for others who don’t have a voice, who aren’t being helped. I hate to say it, I believe drugs are the biggest issue that’s going on in the world. But other than that, the second biggest issue is human trafficking. You can only use drugs once, but you can use humans over and over and over again. It’s such an epidemic and it’s just the worst thing imaginable.
I’m working with CAST LA, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Human Trafficking, and I’m working even with the attorney general here in the state of California, because there’s lots of human trafficking even on our doorstep here in Los Angeles. It’s all around the world and people could educate themselves, look it up online, see what they could do, share, because we can end it. It breaks my heart to think about it and it’s hard for me to speak about it, because it’s horrible and it’s wrong. And if everyone knew what was really going on, then they would hopefully wanna be a voice of reason and help stop this.
You are of Hawaiian, Ukrainian and Filipina descent and were born in Honolulu. What are your 5 favorite things about Hawai’i?
My top five favorite things in Hawaii. The first thing is my family. I’m of Hawaiian blood and I have a massive, huge family. Just to give you an idea, my grandparents have 81 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The second thing is the beaches. I love our beaches, I think they’re the best beaches in the world. Then the water. For some reason the water in Hawai’i, when I’m in the ocean, it’s cleansing and it’s refreshing. We have this thing called Mana power and I just feel powerful from it. And then I’d have to say the food, I love Hawaiian food obviously. And I love our waterfalls. That’s where I get my Mana. Sometimes I’ll go on these waterfall hikes and I’ll let the waterfalls just beat down over my head or my back. And I just feel rejuvenated and like brand new and reborn. It’s very powerful, it’s very healing, it’s very spiritual.
I think Hawai’i is the best place ever. There’s no place that has the majestic green beautiful mountains that we have, that go straight into the most beautiful beaches. I love how you can go to the island of O’ahu and have everything, have the shopping, have the diversity of the people. And then you can go on the same island of O’ahu to the other side, the North Shore and it’s more like countryside and you can watch the surfers and it’s more laid back. It’s just got everything in one place and I love that. I love that all of our islands are so different, have a different character and have their own beauty and have their own story. And the main thing is our Aloha spirit. Our people are so special. You will never find another people in the world who have the Hawaiian spirit and heart that we have, for others and in one another, in each other.
Talent: Nicole Scherzinger @nicolescherzinger
Photographer: Frederic Monceau @frederic.monceau
Hair: Virginie Pineda @virginie.Pineda from @thevisionariesagency using @RandCo
Make up: Cedric Jolivet @cedricjolivet from @thewallgroup
Stylist: Brandon Nicholas @brvndo
Artist (painting): Retna @retna_art
Editor: Timi Letonja @timiletonja
Interview by: Jana Letonja @janaletonja