By: George Varga
There’s nothing elementary about conducting an interview with Fergie, the big-voiced singer and resident sex symbol in the Black Eyed Peas, one of the top-selling acts of the past decade.
Asked at the start of a recent phone chat if she’s done more interviews than she cares to recall, the pop star born Stacy Ann Ferguson let out a long, knowing laugh. “I don’t remember any of it!” she claimed, speaking from a tour stop in Houston.
Asked if her tongue-in-cheek answer simply confirmed the question, she laughed even more loudly.
But Fergie, 35, was immediately intrigued upon learning the questions that would be asked of her for this article came from some of her biggest fans in San Diego — a group of fourth- and fifth-graders who attend Grant K-8 School in the city’s Mission Hills neighborhood.
“Ooh, that’s a creative way to do an interview,” said Fergie, a Whittier, Calif., native who attended Grazide Elementary School in Hacienda Heights. “In sixth grade, I was voted class president. Grazide is a very well-rated school.”
So is Grant, where Fergie’s interviewers are among the 60 students in the combination fourth- and fifth-grade classes of Sherrill Joseph and Barbara Rasmussen.
Several of the students were planning on attending Black Eyed Peas’ April 3 concert at the San Diego Sports Arena, a sci-fi-themed extravaganza billed as “The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies) World Tour 2010” that continues through late August. As their enthusiasm for Fergie and the multi-Grammy Award-winning group she sings in makes clear, the kids from Grant were ready to get it started faster than you can say “Boom Boom Pow.” And with the questions coming from young fans, Fergie answered them with candor and a welcome degree of consideration:
Question: To begin, a fourth-grade boy named Max wants to know: Did you do well in school and when did you get into music?
Fergie: “Yes, I did do well in school, because both of my parents were teachers — not Catholic school teachers, as some of the reports have said. I did really well. I was in the GATE (Gifted & Talented Education) program and got to go by bus to a different school for parts of my school days. The GATE program was for very good students and I was a great student. I still am. I study everything and, sometimes, it’s overbearing. But when I got older, I lost some brain cells along the way, so. …” (laughs)
Q: Nicole, a fifth-grader, asks: How did you get discovered as a singer?
Fergie: “Well, in kindergarten, I actually narrated the entire elementary school’s Christmas play and got to sing ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop,’ the Shirley Temple song. I don’t know if that’s being ‘discovered’ or not, but that’s when I was first in front of an audience. I was a big fan of Shirley Temple when I was younger. As far as being really discovered, I got into the business at (age) 7 and got an agent. One of my first jobs was doing a Duncan Hines chocolate chip cookie TV commercial (she begins to enthusiastically sing): Cripsy, chewy / Cripsy, chewy / Yummy Duncan Hines is crispy chewy / Tastes just like my mom’s does / The only one that’s so much fun / The only one that tastes like mom’s does.
Q: Cita, a fifth-grade girl whose name is pronounced See-tah and who thinks you are “so awesome,” has two questions. The first is: Are you the best singer in Black Eyed Peas?
Fergie: (laughs) “Umm, I guess I was hired to be the singer, so I do most of the singing. But (Black Eyed Peas member) Apl.(de.ap) can hit way higher notes than I can. He does the big, high Mariah Carey notes, those opera-type notes. He can go up there; I can’t.”
Q: Cita also wants to know: What is the Black Eyed Peas’ song “Imma Be” about?
Fergie: “It’s basically about, well, creative visualization. It’s about painting a picture about where you want to be and then making it happen. It’s about (realizing your) dreams. Even though sometimes our lyrics seem very shallow at first listen, it really is about planning your future and then making it happen, which is interesting. Because, now, any American child of any background can have the dream and ambition of saying: ‘I’m going to be president one day,’ and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Q: Olsen, a fourth-grader, would like to know: What’s your favorite song, and why?
Fergie: (laughs) “A fourth-grader asking me that is interesting. Because a lot of the songs that are my favorites have themes that are probably inappropriate for fourth-graders.”
Q: Such as?
Fergie: “Well, I love ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Going to California’ by Led Zeppelin. I love ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles. And I love ‘Gangsta, Gangsta’ by N.W.A.”
Q: Here’s a follow-up question from Grace, who’s also a fourth-grader: What is your favorite song that you have written?
Fergie: “Hmm. What is my favorite song that I have written? I like ‘Voodoo Doll’ (a reggae-tinged number from her hit 2006 solo album, ‘The Dutchess’) and ‘Beautiful Dangerous,’ which is coming out on (Velvet Revolver guitarist) Slash’s (next) album.”
Q: Alexa, a fourth-grader who may have a bright future in mathematics or banking, asks: How many albums have you sold?
Fergie: “You know what? I’ll have to check that figure. I don’t know what it is, at this time.”
Q: Paisley, also a fourth-grader, would like to know: Why did you decide to sing in a group with other people, instead of as a solo artist?
Fergie: “I like being part of a group, I like to have friends, I like the camaraderie of it all. And it also takes some of the responsibility off it being only you. I’m not that type of person who always has to be in the middle of the stage and in the spotlight. I like to share it and be in the background sometimes, or to be able to step back and dance with the band.”
Q: John, a fourth-grader, has three good questions, beginning with: Who was your idol growing up?
Fergie: “I had many. My mom, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Tina Turner. And then — as I got older — (Guns N’ Roses singer) Axl Rose. Now, it’s my therapist.”
Q: John also wants to know: How much energy do you have when you go on stage?
Fergie: “A lot. It’s a pure adrenaline rush. The second I walk on the stage, something clicks.”
Q: John’s third question is: Why are some of your lyrics not appropriate for kids our age, when we are your biggest fans?
Fergie: “Well. …” (pauses) “I think some of the music I listened to growing up was inappropriate for my age; I didn’t understand it all. But you kind of understand the lyrics as you grow older. I don’t mean to be a bad example, I’m just being honest.”
Q: Last, but not least, a fifth-grader named Jacob asks: How many more songs do you think you’ll sing before you retire?
Fergie: (laughs) “Millions!”
To find out more about George Varga and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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