Estelle Talks Love and Pain in ES Magazine
I’ve been a huge fan of Estelle since she first hit the scene with “American Boy.” She’s starting of the year on a high note bringing sophistication to the cover of London’s Evening Standard. But things weren’t always so glamorous for the British singer. Inside, she talks what it was like growing up with six siblings and one parent and how she transformed from a “skinny, black girl in the ghetto” to the stunning black woman she is today.
After her first label dropped her in 2007, Estelle moved to New York City to try to breakthrough in America, and a chance run-in with Kanye West led to the production of her Grammy-winning single “American Boy.” Estelle is busy promoting her new project ‘All of Me’, and she shared her emotional connection to her newest single “Thank You,” written by Akon.
On how she met Kanye
“I’d been working with a producer in Los Angeles and it hadn’t been going well. So I flew to New York and listened to Kanye West’s ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing: The Official Mixtape’ in my hotel room. Then I went out for a walk and saw him in a fricking restaurant. I prayed to God for him to come out. And he did. We chatted. I said, ‘I love you. I also want to meet John Legend; I want to work with him.’ Kanye told me that John was inside, eating.
[West gave Estelle his number and invited her to his studio. When she turned up Legend was there, too.] “He was probably wondering who this random British girl was. We chatted about music, I rapped a bit. I gave John a CD of my first album, The 18th Day, and told Kanye that I had to go; I couldn’t be a groupie. Seriously. I’ll never be the girl who’s dancing naked in an R&B video. I won’t get my tits out to sell music. Never.
“John Legend emailed to say he loved my record and he ended up executive-producing my second album. Now we’re really good friends. I call him Brother John. He’s cool as hell. I’ve worked with John, Kanye, will.i.am and Cee Lo and there’s consistent love and respect with these guys. That’s all I ever wanted; I certainly never wanted to be the best of friends with them.”
On first hearing Akon’s “Thank You”
“My heart started pounding. My chest hurt. And guess what? Two weeks later I broke up with this guy. And now I can’t sing it without crying. It’s my life. It’s a mess.’ She pauses, brimming with tears. ‘I’ve never cried on stage before. But every time I sing ‘Thank You’ the tears are ready to come. I’m not going to do that ugly face in public. OK, I am…
“When I first met him I asked him not to mess with me. I asked him to be 100 per cent with me. Please! Three years down the line he did the exact opposite.” [Her eyes flash with tears again. Her voice is croaky.] “So “Thank You” is about growing up, turning into a woman and not being bitter. Not being angry at myself for choosing the wrong guy.
“My American friends – an actress, a glasses designer, a school teacher and my homegirl – came round and physically held me up. They took me bowling. I didn’t have a chance to cry; they wouldn’t let me. They kept telling me I did too good by him. ‘You’ve left him; f*** him!’”
Will she ever trust again?
“I might have to prepare a ten-page questionnaire for each potential lover to answer. Otherwise I’m going to end up that girl who gets hurt again, gets depressed and starts drinking. And no one wants that to happen. It’d be a mess.”
On her newly found swagger
“I’ve never been that girl the dudes flock around. I’ve always been awkward and weird and skinny. My mum calls me every day and often says she can’t believe what I’ve achieved; she remembers me as this shy, tired, timid child. But all of a sudden I’m attracting models. The break-up is over!”
Estelle’s new album ‘All of Me’ is due out March 5.