Nelly Furtado

Say It Right
Promiscuous girl? Hardly. Canada’s hottest pop export, Nelly Furtado, may rock her body, but she’s all soul

Nelly Furtado needs to teach a course on how to be a celebrity. It’s been seven years since the Victoria-born pop star released her debut disc, Whoa Nelly! – which plunged her into the limelight with the hit “I’m like a Bird” – and, yet, she’s still Canada’s most down-home international pop star. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, she really is our Nelly-from-the-block, and not in a chinchilla-wearing, bling-flashing, keep-it-real-while-I-Escalade-to-Tim-Hortons kind of way. Oh, no. She’s the type of girl who goes straight to the DJ booth – not the VIP room – when she enters a club. If a fan screams adoration at her along the way, you can bet your hoop earrings she’ll scream back “I love you, too!” in seconds.

Watching her in action while getting filmed in Toronto this past January during a commercial for the 2007 Juno Awards (Furtado will be hosting the CTV-broadcasted event in Saskatoon on April 1) was an eye-opener. Picture it: a studio filled with more than 30 people, lights as bright as a football stadium and hours of the woman getting touched up, prodded and ordered around by the stylist, the director and one curiously hyperactive production assistant. It would have been enough to turn the most easygoing person into a ball of nerves. Not Furtado. Decked out in an Arthur Mendonça gown, she finished her last close-up and proceeded to thank everyone on set for being “so patient” with her. Shaking hands with a few tired crew members, Furtado went as far as hugging her beleaguered makeup artist, telling her she did a “great job.” Suffice it to say, this was no Naomi Campbell moment.

Twenty minutes later, after changing from her cocktail dress into a pair of Diesel jeans and a cream-coloured sweater, Furtado – who apologized for being late – explains the importance of living la vida anti-diva.

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“I really relate to Kylie Minogue’s strong work ethic,” she says. “She feels like she owes it to her fans to keep going. She’s always really gracious. I find it extremely honourable that, after she healed [Minogue has battled breast cancer], she headed back to finish her tour. I’ve met her a couple of times and she’s full of good energy.”

Not surprisingly, Furtado also made quite the impression on Minogue. After their last meeting, Furtado got a call from Kylie’s camp to see if she was available to collaborate with her for the Aussie pop queen’s next album. “We might do a duet,” Furtado says, smiling, revealing nothing else of her plans for the track. “We were supposed to hook up and write in London last week, but she was feeling a little under the weather. But we’re trying to make it happen.”

And making it happen – her way – is something at which Furtado is a pro. Although she has now amassed enough hit singles to rival contemporaries such as Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake and done her share of interviews with dirt-digging reporters, she’s cultivated a very private life out of an insanely public career.

If you think about it, what do most people actually know about Nelly Furtado? She’s beautiful, that’s for sure. The petite 28-year-old’s blue eyes are as stunning as her raven-coloured hair. She’s fit and radiates like someone who is clearly in her prime: “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life! The more I live, the better it gets!” Besides the fact that she’s managed to keep her hits hot and her head cool throughout her rapid success (three of her charted songs –  “Say It Right,” “Maneater” and “Promiscuous” hit the top-10 global charts), not much is known about her. Which is quite refreshing for a star of her stature. As of late, she’s had no blog breakdowns, no nights of intoxication-to-exhaustion, no hair-salon meltdowns, no erratic firings of management, no throwing of bejeweled cell phones at assistants and, most importantly, no panty-less fashion choices.

But the Furtado image has gone through some major – to quote another pop idol – ch-ch-ch-changes. From the Neneh Cherry-inspired jewelry and hip-hop hoodies in the video for “Turn Off the Light” (from 2000’s Whoa Nelly!) to her lacy vintage pieces in the video for “Try” (from 2003’s Folklore), Furtado has always tailored her look to her musical project. “There is a difference between being a pop singer and a pop artist,” she says, trying to explain the method to her magic. “When I think of pop artists, I think of Madonna and people whose art reflects their life – someone like Janet Jackson. When [Jackson] came out with her Janet album [in 1993], it was as if she were truly going through a transformation, a metamorphosis. Those are the albums that have most impact. You have to combine the music with the image and the life behind it.”

For the full article, pick up the April 2007 issue of FLARE – on newsstands now!

Love Nelly’s look? Click here for hair and makeup tips!