Pink Panther

Oh no you don't! No matter what preconceptions you've gathered from watching Pink's videos or listening to her songs, you really don't know her. Sure, the girl looks fierce, sporting pink hair and an attitude that will have you cowering in the corner sucking your thumb. But that's not even half the story behind this 21 year-old artist.

Any preconception I might have about her quest to be a part of the glamorous R&B scene are quickly dispelled as I step into her swanky five star hotel suite. There are shoes and sunglasses and expensive clothes strewn all over the place, and a couple of PAs milling around. So far, so star. But instead of the pouting glamour-puss from the 'There You Go' video - you know, the one that drives a motorcycle through her ex-boyfriend's flat window - I am greeted by a sleepy homegirl dressed in oversized grey track pants and hoody, with a grey bandana wrapped around her head only just exposing a few shocks of pink hair. No make up and certainly no attitude.

"Please excuse my appearance, I've just woken up," she yawns, as she stretches herself onto the sofa. Even though she's only just flown into London this very morning, I'm her fourth interview of the day. That's showbusiness for you. That's what she's worked for since 1996 when she was first signed to LA Reid's LaFace label. Now that she's arrived, is it all driving her crazy?

"That's hard to answer without risk of sounding crazy," she laughs. "People really drive me crazy, not so much the fame. The fans make the fame and the fans are what make me happy, what sustains me, really. It's the politics and prejudices and society that drives me crazy."

What prejudices in particular?

"In this business? Oh my goodness. Just being a woman, being young, having pink hair but not being the lead singer of a punk rock band. Being young but wise and wanting to speak about it. Everybody hates the truth."

Especially from a woman. right?

"Yeah, thank you. Any woman that knows what she wants is automatically the devil. Other than that, I love it. I've seen so many places. I'm definitely a different person than I was last year."

From the outside, it looks like it happened for you overnight.

"Looks like it," she laughs. "I was 16 when I signed but I took singing lessons since I was nine. I was the lead singer of a punk rock band, I really was! I sang gospel in church. I was all over the place. I never believed in categories, never liked one type of music only. I was singing in a hip hop club, singing Mary J Blige covers and this DJ discovered me. After that I signed to LaFace. I was in a group for two years, we made an entire album but it was never released. We all decided to go solo, we all wanted to do different music. I stayed with LaFace, recorded a whole other album and there I was aged 20, four years had gone by, it felt like six months. Now I am 21. And it feels like eight lifetimes have gone by since I first signed on that dotted line."

Has it been worth it?

"I wouldn't trade it for the world. And although I've made mistakes, I'd make them all over again. I'm the type of person that's addicted to drama so this lifestyle is perfect for me. It's a very dramatic lifestyle."

What would you do if the drama ended?

"I'd create my own, which is what I did most of my life. Everything that goes up must come down. Nothing lasts forever. It's all about what you want. To the average person, maybe if you sell two million records your first time out and you only have 13 fans the second time round, you're perceived a loser. To me, if I have 13 people listening to me sing, I'm better off than I was as a kid, so I'm still happy. The fame, all that stuff, that's cool and all but when I get on stage and I have a mic in my hand and I get to sing and make people listen to me, that's what I'll do for the rest of my life, whether I'm selling records or not. It was passion before it was fame and it's always going to be passion for me, because music is the only thing that I can express myself with and not go crazy. My dad's a Vietnam veteran and every year we put together dinners for the homeless and different charity events. I love to do that, I would probably get into that. Teaching kids, people, veterans, homeless. I'm an activist at heart, that's probably what gets me into a lot of trouble."

Pink on the colour question:
"I don't pay them any mind, just like I don't pay anybody mind who says 'You're black, why are you making rock music?' I've always loved the different stuff. I love the stuff that makes people go, 'Oh my god, why did she do that? How dare her? Ooooh.' Hey, do what you do, I'm gonna do what I do. I've had the best of every world. I had the privilege of growing up around a lot of different kinds of people. I had the privilege of having money and not having money. For the first part of my life, we had money. When my parents split up, we didn't have money, and it was a drastic change for me. I appreciated the change and I began to appreciate real things instead of material things and the beauty in the differences of people, the likenesses. I think that gave me a lot of insight and it helped me to fight for what I fight for now.

"I'm fighting for freedom. For truth and being righteous and just being yourself. Not conforming to what society says is correct. Society's big on this whole black and white thing. What is that? Get over it, we're people. I can't get with that and I refuse to. Just because you wanna think you're better than somebody else doesn't mean that I have to. Because most of the world jumps off a bridge... I'm going to sit on the edge. I'm not jumping, I'm just not. There's nothing worth jumping for. Just a bunch of hate, and I'm not into it."

Pink on being real:
"After my American Music Awards performance - people were like, 'How dare you, who do you think you are?' I had three lookalikes on stage with me - Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. Basically, the Britney lookalike said, 'How can I be more hardcore?' and that was my idea. People were seriously pissed at me because they said, 'That's our princess! How could you go against our princess?' That is America's dream. But that's exactly what I was saying, I don't ever want to be America's dream. My point was to make a joke of the entire situation. I love Britney as a person. I've had the privilege of meeting her away from this business. She's innocent, she really is innocent. She's a naοve young girl. It's almost sad that she gets treated the way she gets treated. But musically? Musically, there's nothing to talk about. It's fraudulent. I don't have a problem with it and I can't sit here and say I'm any better. I just choose to stay away from it, not to go that route myself. I couldn't be fraudulent for nobody, for no paycheck, for no acceptance, for no power, for nothing. It's not worth it. I was raised by my dad, my dad's a soldier. I believe he raised me right. He took me camping, he showed me what's really important."

Pink on Eminem and the freedom of speech:
"I think he is making a mockery of what this world takes way too seriously. And that's what I'm doing on a not too deep level. I appreciate him for his honesty. I appreciate him for not being afraid. I appreciate him for not going along with society. That's it. I don't have to agree with everything a person says. I just have to let them say it. The freedom of speech is way more important than the view. Everyone has an opinion, it's better to grab your own than to borrow somebody else's. I don't agree with half the things he says. I'm not homophobic, I believe all people are good people. I keep gay men around me 'cause they're my favourite guys. I don't have to agree with him to let him speak. And I think it's the fact that he mocks it that's so funny to me. And it's funny that it's acceptable to come from a rapper but not from a singer. It's acceptable to come from a man but not from a woman. It's frustrating. But, hey, if he can do it, more power to him, I'll just listen."

Pink on musical influences:
"I'm all over the place, musically. Linda Perry from the 5 Non Blondes, Whitney Houston at a very young age, Madonna at a very young age. A lot of older stuff like Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Donny Hathaway, Shirley Murdock. Then there's 2 Live Crew. Tupac is a poet, a prophet, one of the most amazing souls that ever lived. He's a freedom fighter and I respect him for that."

Pink on her father:
"My idol is my dad. That's it, the one person in this world that I completely respect and admire. He's a soldier and he's very fair and he's very real. And he's very sarcastic. He always gets the last word. Growing up with a dad that's always telling people off has to be the coolest thing in the world. It gives you this confidence like no other."

Elia Rulli