Through Pink coloured glasses
In her dressing room, Pink pops her neck and cracks her knuckles like a trucker. She is small and taut, like a neat, pretty bulldog, in black tracksuit pants, vest, and glossy, cropped, black hair. “I just had a cortisone shot and we took a picture of it!” she drawls, flourishing a Polaroid picture of her derriere, then lights up the first of many Newports, wafting the smoke with her hand and apologising.It’s easy to be a little suspicious of Pink. Into a music industry with central-casting cutesies such as Britney and Jessica Simpson, Pink emerged cast as the toughie, the commercially palatable tomboy. Just another marketing device? It’s hard to say.
Today she appears the quintessential rebellious American teenager. She keeps her vocabulary stunted and her conversation is speckled with a hundred superfluous “likes” and “f****”.
She wasn’t even in her teens when she began to go off the rails. Born Alecia Moore on September 8, 1979, in Doylestown, Philadelphia, she grew up in a house that was, she says, “like a war zone”. Her parents divorced when she was eight. “I remember when they told us, I was shocked and, yunno, we cried a lot, but as soon as my dad was gone I was like, ‘freedom!’ Coz my dad was the strict one, so I was like ‘I can do whatever the f*** I want now!”’ She reels off a shopping list of teenage misdemeanours: “Started smokin’, drinkin’, cuttin’ school, goin’ to clubs, runnin’ away... you name it, I did it. I was a f***in’ terror.”Much of this time was documented in her second album, ‘Missundaztood’, on which, as she puts it, “I f***in’ aired my laundry”. Perhaps the album’s most revealing track is “Family Portrait”, in which she sings: “I don’t wanna have to split the holidays/ I don’t want two addresses/ I don’t want a step-brother anyways/ And I don’t want my mom to have to change her/ Last name”. By the age of 13, Pink was dancing in clubs, and before long was permitted to clamber up on stage once a week to sing one song. She sang R&B then, though her background encompassed a love of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Guns N’ Roses and Mary J Blige. “And Phantom of the Opera,” she adds. “Loved opera. I trained classically. I would do a rock opera for sure. I just started, kinda, writing one now. But it’s just really hard, yunno?”
Her belting vocals soon caught the attention of a record label scout. “So then I started a group and we went to Atlanta and sang for LA Reid and he signed us that day,” she says in one breath. What would she have done if she hadn’t been spotted, if she hadn’t gone to sing for LA Reid, if she’d stayed put in Philadelphia? “I wouldn’t be in Philly,” she says fiercely. “I was gonna get out of there one way or another. My original plan was to get legally emancipated when I was 16, drop outta high school, hitch-hike across country to California and sing on Venice Beach boardwalk until I got discovered.”
Her first album, ‘Can’t Take Me Home’, went double platinum and resulted in three top 10 singles. When she came to make her second album there was considerable pressure for her to simply repeat the success by following precisely the same formula. Instead, she turned to Linda Perry of ‘4 Non Blondes’ fame (“I found her number in a book one day and I called her and I stalked her until she worked with me”).Together they produced the decidedly rocky ‘Missundaztood’, which also swiftly, and unexpectedly, went double platinum. She claims she was relieved when her most recent album, ‘Try This’, did not initially sell so well. (It did, however, go on to win her a Grammy for best female rock vocal.)She lights up another Newport and gives a guided tour of her tattoos. “My first one was this one,” she indicates a mystical symbol on her arm. “I got when I was 12, it means good luck and happiness, and I got that in Philly. I had my tongue pierced there the next weekend. This,” she shows the words “Sir Corky Moore” on her other arm, “was my childhood dog, who died last year. We called him Sir. Out of respect.” Around her wrist is a symbol meaning “what goes around comes around”. “I’m a big believer in karma. When I was about 15 I found my spirituality. I kinda found it on my own, on the floor of a club,” she adds, with gravitas. “But I always felt like there was a god or a goddess or whatever, like a higher power? I’ve always felt I had a guardian angel, so when I was 15 I got a guardian angel tattooed on my back.”
Her butch, short-haired, multi-tattooed image has inevitably prompted mutterings of lesbianism, rumours she herself fuelled by kissing another woman on a nightclub dance floor last year. “Ohhh yeah,” she says, “That was in Monte Carlo, and that’s pretty much all I can say. Monte Carlo is a place like it does not belong on this earth. It turns you into a f***in’ animal as soon as you get off that plane. It’s just a bunch of people with way too much money and way too much free time. And,” she leans forward and whispers, “I had a little too much to drink. It was just the sort of thing where... y’know... she tried to dominate me. We were dancin’ and she kissed me. I wasn’t gonna back down. You may be taller, but I’m stronger.”