MANILA, Philippines—Her father is Filipino.
“I’m Filipino-Russian-Hawaiian, but people think I’m from Pakistan,” Pussycat Dolls’ lead vocalist Nicole Scherzinger quipped, laughing as she spoke to the Philippine Daily Inquirer after a jampacked press conference Tuesday.
The Dolls are in Manila for a one-night concert Thursday on the Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City.
Nicole was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Filipino father, Alfonso Valiente, and a Russian-Hawaiian mother. Her parents separated when she was still a baby. When she was 6, she relocated with her mother to Louisville, Kentucky.
Although she adopted the surname Scherzinger from her German-American stepfather, she said she felt a natural affinity to the Philippines, Lea Salonga being one of her musical idols.
In an interview Tuesday night with ABS-CBN news show “TV Patrol,” Nicole even offered to sing the National Anthem in the next fight of Filipino boxing idol Manny Pacquiao.
This is not the Pussycat Dolls’ first visit to the Philippines. Nicole said her group performed at Araneta Coliseum two years ago and ran out of songs.
“The people asked for an encore so we did [another number]. But then they asked for more. We didn’t know whether to sing the same song all over again,” related the 30-year-old dusky beauty during the presscon at the 7 Pecados of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.
Aside from Nicole, the group’s other members are Ashley Roberts, Kimberly Wyatt, Melody Thornton and Jessica Sutta. They were all present at the press conferehce except for Jessica, who’s reportedly suffering from a back injury and won’t make it to the gig.
Although criticized for their “overtly sexual image and explicit dance routines,” the Dolls—originally a burlesque act that first performed in 1995 at The Viper Room, a club in Los Angeles once owned by actor Johnny Depp—gained international success after recording its debut album, “PCD,” released in 2005.
The CD spent almost a year on the Billboard charts and sold over 7 million copies worldwide.
A follow-up record, “Doll Domination,” came out last year but didn’t fare as well. However, it reentered the charts this year, giving the Dolls the momentum to kick off their “World Domination Tour,” ongoing for the past seven months.
Renewed interest in the Dolls’ latest album gave their handlers the idea of reissuing it in two repackaged versions recently. They contained several new tracks, including “Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)”—a modified version of an Oscar-winning song that was used at the end credits of the celebrated film Slumdog Millionaire
A more disparaging remark hurled against the Dolls is that the group is not really a proper singing group, since it’s only Nicole who provides most of the lead and background vocals.
The truth is the Dolls would not have been this successful as a recording act if not for Nicole, who joined the group in 2003. She came in with impressive credentials, having been a backup singer for a rock band, Days of the New, and a member of an all-girl pop group, Eden’s Crush, that recorded a single which cracked the Billboard Top 10 in 2001.
Nicole said she grew up singing and learning classical music.
“Later on I started liking Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Sade, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald … all of them inspired me,” she said.
In high school, she got involved in musical theater productions and discovered Lea Salonga.
Asked to describe herself, Nicole said she was “a perfectionist” in the studio, adding that she believed she is able to express her full musical potential with the Dolls.
“A lot of my solo stuff, songs that were part of a plan for my own album, ended up in ‘Doll Domination,’” she said.
The past four years have meant a lot to Nicole. “When we started recording the first album, we didn’t even know what the Pussycat Dolls were and what we would sound like,” she revealed.
“But in the second album, it was a little easier because we had something to start from. At the same time, it was still a challenge because we wanted to be just as good, if not more successful, than the first album,” she said.
Strength through music
Nicole said that “Doll Domination” was special because “I was going through a lot of [personal] transitions in my life, and I got to show that strength through music.”
She is currently in a relationship with 2008 Formula One world champion Lewis Carl Hamilton.
Asked whether she keeps in touch with her biological father, Nicole replied: “Yes, I do. He grew up in Hawaii and still lives there with a family of his own. It’s a beautiful family, very warm people who follow their hearts. My father works for the Hawaii government. But it was my mother who raised me. She’s my everything and she’s the reason why I got to where I am today.”