Cosmopolitan (UK)

THE UNTOLD TALE OF… KESHA The interview the world wanted

There aren’t many who would survive what she’s been through. But Kesha is a fighter, as we learned…


“I’m still growing and learning and f*cking up”

Dusk in Los Angeles and Kesha is swinging her long, layered hair back and forth …to the beat of Joy Division’s Love

Will Tear Us Apart. “Yes!” calls out Cosmopolit­an’s on-set photograph­er Jason Kim, as Kesha pauses to stare directly into his camera, doing her best to hold a pout without blinking. She lasts about 10 seconds, then bursts out laughing.

In the moment, relaxed and smiling, she oozes realness and a vulnerabil­ity that feels at odds with the Kesha who rocketed to fame in 2009 with a ‘don’t give a f*ck’ attitude and equally carefree lyrics. Remember

Tik Tok’s lines,‘Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack’ and ‘Ain’t got a care in the world, but got plenty of beer’? “I thought I had to be very tough and really strong, and portray that I didn’t give a f*ck, and that just was not the case,” she says now.“I was pretending like everything was great all the time.” The truth is that acting like the bold party girl from her songs took its toll – especially given that, in private, she was often racked with insecuriti­es. She was signed by Kemosabe Records aged 18, and found success soon after when she featured on Flo Rida’s No1 single Right Round. But after nearly five years and two wellreceiv­ed albums,“I was nervous about everything, and it was so exhausting,” she remembers.“The final straw was when I was with my mom at a family dinner and I was so anxious. Driving home, I had to pull over, and I was like, ‘I can’t keep this secret any more.’”

That secret included a serious eating disorder, for which Los Angeles-born Kesha, 31, checked herself into a treatment centre in Chicago in 2014. At the time people speculated that she was in rehab for

partying. But not long after, she revealed in a magazine,“I felt like part of my job was to be as skinny as possible and, to make that happen, I’d been abusing my body. I wasn’t giving it the energy it needed to keep me healthy and strong.”

Today she explains,“It was scary, but I finally put my foot down and chose life. That was a huge turning point,” she says. “I’m not a size. I’m not a number. I am a strong, badass motherf*cking woman, and quite frankly, I like my junk. Ten years ago, I never thought I’d be able to say that.”

Another reinventio­n she has worked on is her sound. Rainbow is Kesha’s first album since 2012 – and the first she’s released since the start of her ongoing legal battle with her former producer Lukasz ‘Dr Luke’ Gottwald, who she has accused of emotionall­y and sexually abusing her.

Dr Luke denies the claims and has sued Kesha for defamation. Kesha is currently appealing the dismissal of her abuse claims in New York. However, one outcome we can talk about is that her new music is all her own sound.

Gone is the familiar Auto-Tune, replaced by a blend of rock and roll, country and pop. Lyrically, she covers everything from exorcising emotional demons (‘Don’t let the assholes wear you out. Don’t let the mean girls take the crown’) to expressing deep love (‘I know forever don’t exist. But after this life, I’ll find you in the next’).

Recording was cathartic, if hard. She often needed encouragem­ent to “get through the days. I wouldn’t feel very strong,” she says. Her boyfriend, artist Brad Ashenfelte­r, and her assistant “would put my ass in the car and drive me to the studio and be like ‘Bye!’ Then I would write, and pain would turn into art, and the art would turn into healing, and the healing turned into a record. Then I was nominated for a Grammy! Life is f*cking crazy.”

Oh yes, that Grammy performanc­e. Who can forget Kesha, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, Camila Cabello and Bebe Rexha getting up on stage, all in white, to sing her single

Praying? It went viral, critics hailed it the highlight of the night, and Lauper described it as “an act of sisterhood. We were there to support Kesha”.

Backstage, Kesha knew there was a lot on the line.“I was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” she says. But then she and the other women gathered into a huddle and put their hands in the middle.“They were like, ‘[Let’s say] Kesha on three.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no. Praying, all of us, on three.’ But instead, they said my name, and I burst into tears. Those women didn’t owe me anything. It just took my breath away – that feeling of having people be there for you.”

Since then, Kesha has been able to savour her success, while still acknowledg­ing the dark times in her past.“I’ve found that some of my strongest moments have been when I’ve allowed myself to feel the sadder emotions,” she says. “I’m happy to be sometimes comfortabl­e and sometimes confident. I don’t know that I’ll ever be at peace with everything. I’m still growing and changing and learning and f*cking up.”

She hopes that being open about her challenges and progress will be a positive force for others. “I definitely feel like I can connect with my fans over feeling bullied or lonely or imperfect,” she says. “It just boils down to being a human being.” For her part, Kesha is backed up by a solid support system – including Brad and her three “cat children”. She also does daily meditation, yoga and makes sure she has downtime by herself and with friends. “We go hiking during the day and go to dive bars at night,” she says.

As she sets off on her 30-city The Adventures Of Kesha And Macklemore tour, the singer will be packing her new perspectiv­e. “I’ve taken ownership of myself,” she says. “I’m taking control of my life and my name and the music it’s attached to.”

Her fans will probably notice the difference, she notes, but they shouldn’t worry. The $ as the ‘S’ in her name may be gone, but “I’m not, like, a sad sap now. There are a couple of ballads, but my show is still extremely fun. I’m not going to be less crazy. There’s an awesome band, and there’s dancing and glitter. That’s a promise I will keep – there will always be glitter.”

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