Storming the charts


Kelis Rogers has just been to see the fisherman flick A Perfect Storm in Leicester Square – and she can't believe the cost of a ticket: "Absurdly expensive!  It's insane how expensive the movies are in Britain."


Perhaps the enormous blunt she’s toking is suspending her disbelief.  The 21-year-old hip-hop star, whose trademark multicoloured shock-mop is today restrained in comparatively conservative braids, is also annoyed with the ending of the George Clooney movie.


"I didn't know the story either and I didn't know that they died. That pissed me off. That piss you off?"


No – it would have been too schmaltzy if they'd lived…


"No, honestly, I don't go to the movies to see the true story – I go to the movies to be entertained, OK?  Entertain me. Don't tell me what really happened: I don't wanna know.  Show me on television, that's a good programme, sure.  I'll watch the whole thing and I'll have facts for you and I'll tell you about it tomorrow."


As you may have gathered, this is no shrinking violet; Kelis does intimidation very well. 

Unsurprisingly, she has a drama school background, studying at the Manhattan Fame 

school, Fiorello La Guardia School of Music and Performing Arts. She even auditioned for a Broadway role – but decided to go on a world tour instead. She does concede that a part, however, would be "ideal. At some point in my life it's something I have to do."


Predictably, she is often asked to play strong, aggressive female roles. This defeats the object of acting, says Kelis. 

"I could play a little old lady or something … I'm not just gonna play Kelis."


Do you think you got pigeonholed into this persona of a manic, hysterical diva because of the single Caught Out There: I Hate You So Much Right Now?


"I think at first, yeah, but I'm not really worried about that now. At first I was a little like, 'Oh my God, they're only gonna know you for screaming.' But, no, now I've realised that like anyone that looks twice realises that I actually have a really great album.  And if you don't then I don't care, you know what I mean?


Kelis's genre-spanning music blends elements of hip-hop, soul and R&B, though there’s a decisively rocky element to her live shows.  Of her UK tour dates, she liked London because “it reminds me of New York ten years ago.  New York has progressed but I don't know if it's for the better. London still has a lot of things that New York doesn't have.”


She relays an anecdote from her recent TV slot, recording Top of the Pops. She talks in terms of disbelief of that strange British phenomenon: the post-work-pint.  After the day's recording had ended, the BBC crew mysteriously sloped off and:

"I realise they're all headed to the bar. There's a bar -- in the BBC!  Do you understand this is unheard of in America?"


Really? Why?


"What?!  Everyone go to drink together after you've worked? Are you crazy? That's the most unheard of thing in the world! I was shocked: I couldn't believe it! [in America] No-one wants to drink with you. It's like, 'I'm going home – ha, ha, ha – to my cubicle!'


"It's great though: it was really interesting. Just the whole concept of everybody sitting there, like: 'OK, let's have a drink together and just relax and talk about the day.' I'm like: 'cool.'"


Tabloid favourites Oasis have courted global fame, yet say New York is the only place they can go and not get hassled. Not so for Kelis -- Harlem is her home town and there's no escape from attention in The Big Apple.


"You have good days and bad. Maybe I have my period and I just feel ugly, like 'Ugh!' and then some little girl will come to me and be like, 'You're the best thing ever.' It can totally pick up your day, whereas other days, I'm like: 'I've done a million interviews; I'm exhausted; all I wanna do is go home; I cannot bear to answer another question,' and someone'll say, 'Kelis, wait, what about your..? And I'm like [yells] 'WHAT? [pretends to sob] I can't take it anymore.' 

I'm a regular person so I'm not thrilled with it every day, but it doesn't tick me off every day either."


"People are very weird really," she muses, before attempting to convey how it feels to be confronted by a random nutcase, intimidating AOL considerably in the process. Kelis leans in suddenly,  wearing a saucer-eyed quizzical expression, speaking softly and slowly: "Are. You. Serious?  You can't be serious, 'cos that doesn't make any sense.  What the f*** is this?'"


She leans back, pleased, snapping back to exuberance.  "That happens to me very often. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Honestly, I can't even tell you man; it's crazy! There's really no words for me to tell you, cos there's really very few normal people to me right now.


"No-one treats me the same anymore. All the clichéd things that you hear are very true. Like I have family members that have never spoken to me, all of a sudden, truly, seriously, call me now and you know what's really weird about it? They don't find it odd. Like, they'll pick up the phone and call me and be like, 'Hey girl, long time no hear from.'"


Do you meet them?


"I'm like: 'You know what? You wanna come round my house? Sure.' And I sit there and I look at them and I'm like 'Listen. You've not called me for the past 21 years. I have no idea what we have to talk about right now.'"


So it just makes you suspicious?


"Of everything. Yeah. [reflectively] It's sad, actually. It's pretty sad, you know, it's like that's what happens, it's unavoidable, y'know.


-- Published by AOL-Time Warner, 2000 


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