Our favourite pop star has guts, grit and fiercely gorgeous tresses! Here she talks life, love and how she’s cranking up the volume again.
Among those gazing at Fergie with admiration during her cover shoot is the actor Josh Duhamel (who likes to refer to his wife of seven years as The Fergs) and, cradled in her arms, is her son Axl Jack, who has a great deal in common with his mother besides his blonde wavy hair and stylish wardrobe. The bright lights of the studio, the adoration of the strangers – they are welcome to both.
The singer dances to the background music – a waltz – which could be seen as a sign of her evolution. Fergie, 41, is in the middle of a calibrated comeback – careful, exhaustive and painstaking: one that began in earnest just after her son’s first birthday. Although her group, The Black Eyed Peas, released albums in 2009 and 2010, and performed at the 2011 Super Bowl in the US, it’s been over nine years since Fergie’s solo album The Dutchess, which sold 3.9 million copies.
In the interim, there’s been no shortage of newer, younger talents to step into Fergie’s stilettos. Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj are among them – about whom Fergie says as little as possible except to point out that “healthy competition is always good… I don’t think that
people ever need to be pitted against one other.”
Motherhood, fairly or unfairly, hasn’t traditionally been linked with rebellion, heat or throbbing sexual innuendo – all of them Fergie’s trademarks. Indeed, the arrival of young Axl (named after the musician Axl Rose because she was dreaming of him at the precise moment her baby first kicked inside her) basically kept Fergie at home in California.
“Did I feel some sort of pressure to come back out?” Fergie asks. Yes, in fact she did. “I felt that it was either going to be another baby or another album,” Fergie explains. She wanted to produce something. “And I had to decide which one first.” It was the album.
There certainly is an undeniable sweetness to Fergie, a readiness and a desire to please that belie that last dismissive response. Fergie is friendly, almost bubbly, and her face, with its green eyes and wide mouth, is intriguingly innocent, which is at odds with the earthy toughness that often emerges from her lips.
In order to understand Fergie now, you must understand Stacy Ferguson, as she was once known then. A child actress from the age of nine, Stacy, as her parents discovered, was practically born to entertain – and part of entertaining, she knew from the start, was to be a people pleaser, a role she assumed “by nature”, Fergie explains. As her career evolved, she was determined “not to be confrontational”.
She found she couldn’t quarrel with a director or a fellow actor. Professional submission would be her hallmark, and not simply while she was young. Even at 41, she admits that she still struggles. “I have a problem saying no in my career when they just want to pile things on. I’ve had to be strong, stand up for myself and express when I’m not OK. It’s a constant work in progress for me.”
The only two people young Stacy managed to rebel against were her parents. “Well, there were a couple of gangsters that – I don’t know if you’d call them dates – I had relations with in
high school… definitely some heavy petting going on!” she says.
Gangster boyfriends? Like guys with guns and knives?
“Yeah.” She thinks about that one a bit. “My dad wasn’t happy about that at all, especially as he was a high school football coach,” she says. “The guys that he was having to discipline, those were exactly the ones that I was attracted to and wanted to fall for.”
Once Fergie left high school, she embarked on her musical career with fierce determination and a very strong will. At 21, she was singing what she calls “bubblegum” pop music with a girl group called Wild Orchid. She acknowledges that for years she was incapable of bowing out of the group because she was fearful of offending. But by her mid 20s, disgusted with both the bubblegum and the boyfriend of the moment, she plunged into crystal meth and became, within a matter of months, broke, halfstarved and completely paranoid, certain the FBI was tailing her.
Her weight dropped from 52 to 40kg. And it was in the midst of this misery that Fergie wrote ‘Losing my ground’, a ballad which includes the lyrics “Who am I now? Where does it end?”
In fact, that rough period ended soon after she wrote the song.