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A new solo album and acting roles are just the start of her newest move—to become the music industry's next breakout star. But don't ask to work out with her. She's going it alone there too.

Nicole Scherzinger hates photo shoots. "It's probably my least favorite thing," she says with a laugh. Think about that for a moment. With her buttery complexion, knuckle-whitening physique, and smoky gaze, the camera clearly loves her. Hell, anything with an optic nerve adores her. So to hear Scherzinger say the feeling isn't mutual, that she doesn't much care for the medium that has conveyed her long-limbed, tawny-skinned message to such devastatingly successful effect...Well, it's a little like hearing Alex Rodriguez say he's not really into hanging curve balls. "I guess it's the static nature;' she says. "I usually feed off of other people. I like doing videos and live performances. Photo shoots are more about image."

It's telling that the question of appearances is on Scherzinger's mind. The 29-year-old multi-ethnic (part Filipino, part Russian-Hawaiian) singer has already found fame and multi-platinum success as the lead vocalist for the Pussycat Dolls, the burlesque-inspired girl group whose R&B-flavored debut CD sold 6 million copies worldwide and launched four Top 10 hits. And from the second she showed up on-screen,writhing around in a barely-there hoodie in the video for the groups debut smash "Don't Cha' it was clear that Scherzinger was the Dolls' meow. She was pushed into the limelight as the perfect embodiment of the group's ideology-an ethos that touted the virtues of female empowerment, sexual confidence, and tight-as-a-drum abs.

Having tested the waters of solo stardom with a few "preview" singles, such as "Baby Love" and "Supervillain," along with guest spots on CDs by 50 Cent and Diddy, among others, it's Scherzinger's solo album, Her Name Is Nicole-set for release later this month-that will determine the singer's true standing in the pantheon ofpop divas. She's already experienced both sides of success, as a superstar with the Pussycats and as a potential flash-in-the-pan, one-hit-wonder withher old group Eden's Crush (formed on the reality TV show Popstars), so she's well aware that this is make-or-break time.

It's her first—and best—chance to establish her own Doll-free identity. So although the bump-and-grindvideos, and comehither song lyrics (not to mention the sexy swimsuits she adorned for us) have served her well so far, the question still lingers: Is Nicole more than just a one-trick kitty? Our bet is that we'll be gazing at her for some time to come.

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Finely Tuned: How Nicole stays fit
Our exclusive Q & A with Nicole


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Finely Tuned
Find out how this Pussycat Doll stays fit

Nicole Scherzinger has such a crazy schedule that her trainer, Adam Ernster, C.S.C.S., isn't always sure how much time he has to work with the starlet each week. "Sometimes it's back-to-back days, other times it's twice a week with four days in between," says Ernster, who's based in L.A. Once Scherzinger gets in the gym, she'll warm up on the elliptical or treadmill for five minutes and then hit the weights. "We definitely do a lot of super-setting and keep the rest periods low, sometimes under30 seconds," says Ernster. He typically has Scherzinger perform three exercises in a row before resting.

"We usually have time for three or four units of work like that, three sets each, and we mainly work have the drive to work out day after day, year after year. When you see people who are fit, you can tell their level of determination. When I sworking with Timbaland, he was getting into building muscle and with higher rep ranges, between 12 and 20," he says. Ernster also has Scherzinger do unilateral movements like single-leg squats to counteract imbalances and has her work with kettlebells on days they go a bit heavier. But no matter what they do, core is always a priority.

"The core is always engaged, I don't care if you're doing heavy squats or 10-pound dumbbell curls," he says. They'll also do two or three specific core exercises, like crunches or leg lifts with rotation. And unlike some celebs who have to be pushed and prodded to work out, Scherzinger's dedication comes from within. "She really likes to push herself," says Ernster. "She's one of the most motivated clients I've ever had."

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Our exclusive Q & A with Nicole


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Our Exclusive Q&A with Nicole Scherzinger


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MF: What can we learn about you from your album?
NICOLE: That the Pussycat Dolls is just one side of me. My album is definitely more personal and more vulnerable. Its not just about being fearless and strong. Musically, I was able to go to a lot of different places. I worked with Timbaland and Ne-Yo and Akon and Pharrell and Sting.And I do music that's more representative ofme personally. It's not just about the [Pussycat] image.

So that sexy persona isn't necessarily a natural fit for you?
No, it isn't. I had to work really hard mentally so I could get comfortable in the wardrobe and find that inner Pussycat Doll. I came from a shy place. a very conservative Catholic family. You definitely would never have found me wearing a leopard print growing up. I wasn't used to wearing clothes that were so revealing, so I had to step up my game and find a healthy place for my body and my shape.

But weren't you already fit?
I'd always been conscious of my health because I grew up dancing. Dancing is an intense workout. But I never lifted until I started working with my trainer, Adam Ernster, three years ago.

How has your body changed?
I'm 5'6" and about 125 pounds right now. Before I started doing weights I was about 10 pounds lighter. I've definitely gained weight, but I know that's muscle.

What's your fitness routine?
I work out for an hour or two a day, at least five days a week. I do weights and interval training. I have to keep myself strong, especially my core, to keep solid as a dancer. I try to keep everything in balance: my abs, my legs, my arms, everything. And I jog a lot. On the road, I'll either run a whole hour before my show or I'll run half an hour and maybe train 40 minutes with weights. I have to keep my stamina up. Otherwise I'll never get through an hour-and-a half show of singing and dancing.

So live performances are really that grueling for you?
Definitely, especially as a cardio workout. Have you ever tried to talk while doing cardio? You get winded easily That's what singing live is like.So I run a lot. I train by singing while I'm on the treadmill.

Is the motivation to stay fit the same as what drives you in your career?
Without a doubt.It all works together. For working out isn't just about the physical. Not many people have the drive to work out day after day, year after year. When you see people who are fit, you can tell their level of determination. When I was working with Timbaland, he was getting into building muscle and losing weight, and he was training intensely. You could see the willpower. That says a lot for him and where his music's going to be. And now his career is taking off. It's because he put in the work he needed to make it happen.

That's interesting. A lot of stories about you point to your single-minded pursuit of success as if it were a flaw.
At the end of the day [my ambition] is what got me where I am, and it's what's going to get me to where I'm going. People look at me or watch a video and say, "Wow, she's blessed." I worked so hard for all of that. It was blood, sweat, and tears. But you know, everyone's got to say something.

Is that one of the drawbacks to fame?
It is. It's kind of hard that the more success you have, the harder they are on you. That's something I'll never understand. At some point they start to care more about what you're wearing than what you're singing.

Did you feel pressure from your label or others in the industry to stay in shape?
Not really. It was pretty much a given. Dancers know: Our bodies are our instruments. So we train.

Do you work out with the other Dolls?
No. Only on my own. Working out is kind of spiritual for me. It's my way of meditating. I love to work out. It keeps my creative juices going, it keeps my head on straight. It keeps my frame of mind strong when my body is strong.

So if you had a boyfriend, you wouldn't be working out with him?
Probably not. [Laughs] Maybe a jog.

Speaking of which, what do you look for in a guy? Is fitness important?
Yeah, but not overly important. It's more important that they're fit mentally.

So an everyday shlub has a chance?
Definitely. That's not the first thing I look at. I'm not one of those muscle girls.

Aside from you and the Dolls, who are the fittest female singers out there?
I love the way Beyoncé looks. She always appears healthy and strong. Gwen Stefani, she's unbelievable. And Madonna—she could probably kick all of our butts.

Clearly your sense of body and mental well-being are tied in together. Is that part of the message of your album?
Absolutely. It's about finding a balance and being healthy. It's about knowing yourself. Having a sense of individuality and dignity. I'm really about that, having gone through what I've gone through in the past 10 years of my life. Having been a shy girl whose eyes weren't as open to this world and to relationships and even to myself, and growing into a woman. It's all a part of being healthy— mentally, physically, and spiritually.

See Also:
Finely Tuned: How Nicole stays fit


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