NATASHA BEDINGFIELD is just 23, but already her critically acclaimed mix of pop and R&B has topped the charts in over a dozen countries. (Her first U.S. single, "These Words," is racing up the Billboard Hot 100 and is one of the most downloaded songs in America.) Still, the U.K. import hasn't let celebrity go to her head. Offstage, she's a down-home girl who likes nothing more than getting sweaty and sitting down to a nice big plate of meat. And really, what more can you ask for in an up-and-coming pop star?

Your album, Unwritten, is out now. How do you describe your sound?
It's a mix of styles, really. I have a lot of different influences. The most important thing to me is connecting with the soul of what I have to say. Giving a song character and personality. And a sense of humor. Hopefully, listeners get that.

What's your favorite CD of all time?
Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. It's also the first album I ever had. You always get asked in interviews what the first album you bought was, and it's always something really embarrassing. But mine happens to be something quite cool. The thing is- what's funny is-I didn't buy the album when I was a kid. I stole it from the library. [Laughs.]

You're kidding! Really?

Well, I guess they had it coming. They did give it to you for free.
Exactly. [Laughs.] I just never have had time to bring it back.

The fine must be huge by now.
You're right-they've got me. I'm just waiting for the bill.

Aside from looting libraries, what else do you do for fun?
I'm mad about Jet Skis. I love to go as fast as I can. I love to ride them up [into the wake] behind a boat and jump up into the air. I'm really good at it. I did an interview on a Jet Ski once.

That's crazy. You've got to be more careful.
I love all that stuff. Riding in helicopters. I'm crazy about action sports. Climbing, caving . . .

What about when you're on the road and can't get outside? How do you stay in shape?
I try to really eat very healthily. Lots of girly food: vegetables, fruit, and meat. I love meat. I try to keep it balanced. I don't want to be stick-thin and have no brain. Know what I mean?

Any other secrets?
I try to work out three or four times a week with a trainer. And I do lots of extra cardio. I'm actually crazy about it. [Laughs.] I love it because it's something completely different from music. Anything that makes me sweat, I like. I can't get enough of.