Say It Right - Elio Iannacci


Say It Right - Elio Iannacci
5:00 PM
Page 72
HYPE star
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.
“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
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 downhome 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-TimHortons 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
Nelly Furtado needs to teach a course
Promiscuous girl? Hardly. Canada’s hottest pop export,
Nelly Furtado, may rock her body, but she’s all soul
By Elio Iannacci Photography by Max Abadian
5:01 PM
Page 74
HYPE star
All Good
At the 2002
A shining
arrival at the
Music Awards
smiles with
Gwen Stefani
in 2001
Hue At
the 2001
Star in Stripes
Making a statement
at the Teen Choice
Best in
up the World
Music Awards
goes glam
in a bias-cut
to Earth
Misty Blue
Colouring up
the 2006
Music Awards
a hip haute
look with
fellow Nelly
Surf’s Up
Street chic
at the Teen
Awards with
Shiny chic
at the 2002
Wearing Arthur
Mendonça at
the MuchMusic
Video Awards
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.”
It’s an interesting philosophy in light of
the progressively provocative image projected by Furtado’s third album, Loose.
Her most successful disc to date, Loose
suggests a trajectory much like Jackson’s.
When Jackson’s sexually charged recording was launched, its cover featured a
sexy, shirtless Jackson snapped by Vogue
photographer Patrick Demarchelier. The
album’s imagery and sound were the
exact opposite of Jackson’s preceding
disc of 1989, Rhythm Nation 1814—a
masculine, military-styled musical affair.
In 2006, Furtado broke from her multilayered cocoon style of dressing from
Folklore and burst onto the scene again
with Loose. The disc’s title, intended to
bring to light Furtado’s loosening up
of musical genres—i.e. electro, hiphop, world beats—was paired with a
much sexier image of the Portuguese–
Canadian. The midriff-baring and skinny
jeans–flaunting Nelly was revealed in
the video to the Billboard number one
hit song “Promiscuous.” The video has
a now-iconic Furtado flaunting her
diamond-cut post-baby body in a warehouse club of sorts, shaking her hips
like a vindicated vixen (not like a tipsy
yummy mummy on a girls’ night out).
Her current tour, which she brings
home to Canada on March 21, is set to be
just as stylish. “[I’m hoping that] Giorgio
Armani will be outfitting all of us,” she
says proudly. “I’m focusing on the slick
aesthetics of Loose, and I’ll have four
dancers, so I want the sensual visuals, but
people should know going in that I am not
just going to play my new songs; I’ll play
my hits.”
Since Madonna seems to be taking
a hiatus to adopt kids and write
children’s books, women and girls across
the globe craving a libertarian persona
have turned to Furtado. Maybe this is
because, at the height of today’s red-carpet role models à la the Jessicas (Alba, Biel
and Simpson), Furtado is a woman who
does not have typical starlet features or
the slew of breakups (divorce by text message comes to mind) that have inspired Us
Weekly covers. What has kept Furtado’s
fan base growing is that she is intent on
not being predictable or perfect—visually
or musically. Her theory is that perfection is an illusion—definitely a sign that
she is in tune with what is going on in the
world today.
“People want to relate to each other
more. The day of the supermodel will
never come back because of things like
YouTube. [Trends] are becoming about
raw, unpolished, uncoventional beauty.
There’s too much reality that the Internet
provides, so everything is indie and [culture] has gone totally DIY. We see it when
there is a musician on the cover of a magazine who doesn’t have a typical body.
People can think, ‘There’s a person with a
story or a struggle I can relate to.’ ”
Her much-flapped-about fiery
makeover—both on video and now
onstage—is something she wants people
to know is no marketing ploy. Furtado
insists she is just following her “artistic
whims” and implores new artists to
follow their own path “or you’re not
going to end up in the right place
because you’ll be unfulfilled.
“You’ve got to liberate yourself,” she
presses. “You just can’t worry about what
the kids from your old block think.
You’ve got to take risks and make yourself
happy. If running around in your
lingerie makes you happy, then do it. After
having a baby, I started to appreciate my
body as an instrument—something that
has more merit than the exterior. You
have to recognize your internal processes
and the beauty of being a woman.” ■
Love Nelly’s look? Get hair and makeup tips at
TRUE: This year, Furtado has won a
Brit Award and has been nominated
for a Grammy and five Junos (she
already owns five Junos).
TRUE: She declined Hugh Hefner’s
offer to be on the cover of Playboy.
“They wanted me to pose in clothes. I
thought about doing it and giving the
money to a women’s shelter, but my
manager thought it could be used
against me.” Mariah Carey, however,
did pose for Playboy’s cover.
FALSE: Furtado’s three-year-old
daughter, Nevis (her father is Furtado’s
former boyfriend—DJ Jasper
Gahunia), was not named after the
Caribbean Island upon which she was
conceived. Nevis was named after the
Latin word Nevi, which means
“spinning or interweaving.”
FALSE: Although the New York Post
did write about it, she never dated the
very-married Canadian MVP Phoenix
Suns basketball player Steve Nash,
about whom she sings in “Promiscuous.”
TRUE: She and Justin Timberlake
share a love…of Jeff Buckley. When
Timberlake first played “SexyBack” to
Furtado, she told him it sounded like
Buckley. Nelly: “He was, like, ‘(Gasp) I
named my dog Buckley! I love him!’ ”
They are also both featured on Timbaland’s latest single, “Give It to Me.”
FALSE: In Europe, a rumour was
spreading via the British tabloids
that Furtado loves getting tantric
massages before each performance.
“I wish I had the time,” she quips.
TRUE: Furtado is the 48th hottest
woman on the planet, as decided
by the readers of popular lad site She trumped the likes of
JLo (75th) and Jennifer Aniston (76th).
TRUE: She is trying her hand at acting
and has already appeared on CSI: NY,
as a shoplifting murderer, and has done
a cameo for the soap opera One Life to
Live. She would also love to be in a
Pedro Almodóvar film, as she feels a
kinship with him: “He tells his stories
from his homeland—which is what I
have attempted to do with my music.”
FALSE: Furtado is not recording a
full-length Spanish album. She says,
“It’s more like bonus material. I don’t
have a concrete album yet.”

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