Natasha Bedingfield: These Words Are Her Own

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

“I’ve had hits, but I also just wanna live life,” says Natasha Bedingfield to our Contrast interviewer. “I wanna do what my songs say to do. Live life with arms wide open and experience things. I think that’s an important part of success.” It seems like Natasha has the formula for success written down and tucked away into her pocket full of sunshine. With tons of hit singles and a Grammy nomination under her belt, Natasha seems to be doing it right. “Hundreds of business men or women, they can do stuff, but you don’t wanna just have fun when you retire. You wanna have fun in your life.” Great advice to keep tucked away in one’s mind. 

 

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

 
Natasha on growing up: “I was just medium. I was a good kid. I didn’t find it hard to be good. I was smart, so I could figure it out. Some kids, it’s actually really a challenge, you know? Like, if you’ve got ADHD or something like that, it’s hard to know the social cues and stuff. For me it came naturally. I think grade wise, I was average. I actually had a teacher who wrote that I wouldn’t really amount to anything, because I daydreamed too much. I’m just average. I was really young, probably about nine or ten. I had to write lines, ‘I will not daydream.’ With song writing, you daydream all day.”

On being bullied and trying to prove herself: “I was home-schooled from the age of eleven. So, my teenage years, I was that geeky high school kid. Before that, I was just very outgoing and I had a lot of friends. I kind of got bullied. If you wanna be liked, you kind of get bullied sometimes. That’s the wrong way to say it but… People did make fun of me. I think I was a bit of a teacher’s pet. I think I developed thick skin and I learned how to brush stuff off and not hold on to it.” Considering how tough it can be to brush things off, having thick skin and ignoring the bullies is definitely admirable. A great trait to possess.  
 
“I would end up making friends with those people anyway. I was very determined to prove that I was smart and as a teenager I was doing a psychology degree. You know , I’ve been called a dumb blonde a lot, so it’s like no… I’m a smart blonde! My parents were counselors as well, so it was kind of how I was raised. Every person is important and every person is very valuable. So, I kind of have that at my core. I feel people’s energy a lot, so if I see someone who is suffering, I feel like I am suffering with them.”

 

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

“You know, if someone is bullied for being different or you know, not being a certain ‘standard,’ or what people would think is normal, it just makes me feel really angry. Like it’s sort of unjust. I think that’s why my heart goes out to people and I wanna be there. I wanna be a friend to people. I feel like people need to be heard and have their voice heard. That’s a big part of why I like to get involved with stuff like that, shining a light on that kind of thing. I want all my fans to feel like they have someone who is in their corner and is saying ‘Hey, you have a voice and you matter.’”
 
On getting into music and writing: “I was doing a psychology degree and I was doing music. Basically, I would go and study and I was doing music in all my spare time. So, straight out of school and go and get on the train late at night… The cool thing when you grow up in London is you can travel on your own, so I was very independent. I would just get on the train and go and write music with my friends. I was really hooked, very, very kind of addicted to music. I would travel home late at night and I would try and look tough, cause it was kind of dangerous in London, late at night. So, I was walking around like a tough girl, kind of like shoulders out and no smile on my face.” 
 
“I had my siblings, which I was very close with, my brother and my sister. We use to sing a lot together. We all love music. My brother, was really a genius, so I was kinda trying to prove that I was a genius too. He was a musical genius. I had a lot of people who just thought I was a ‘nice,’ ‘pretty’ girl and so I was really set out to prove them wrong.” She has definitely proven to be a clever girl when it comes to heartfelt lyrics and catchy hit songs! No need to prove brilliance here!

Natasha speaks on the song that embodied her soul purpose and message: “You know what? Unwritten, I wrote that for my youngest brother, but as I got older, I realized I needed to hear that song.”

It seems the whole world benefited from hearing the message laced in that song. “I was writing the song and I was thinking, ‘What does a fourteen-year-old need to hear?’ So, I wrote that song. As I have gotten older, I realized, that stuff, I still kind of need to hear it today. Like, I’m not getting too serious. I’m going out and having fun. You know, enjoying each moment, because sometime you can just get so obsessed with, you know, ‘One day when.’ Like, ‘one day when’ I get enough money, I can enjoy myself. I would tell myself to enjoy life a bit more. Breathe more. I wish I had started yoga earlier. It’s never really a bad time to start yoga, but it would have been a helpful thing for me to have that skill, because I had felt like I had to… I was always trying to please people a bit too much when I was younger and it would have been nice not to have that pressure.” 

Natasha on her lowest points in her life: “Well, there’s been many low points, you know, it really is a roller coaster. Career-wise, when I was like nineteen, I had been writing lots of songs and I didn’t have a deal yet. I remember, my brother’s manager, cause my brother had a huge hit and my brother’s manager listened to all my songs and he just didn’t like them. I just felt like I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. He said to me ‘You’ve got all the time in the world.’ I remember being like ‘No, I don’t have all the time in the world! This has to happen now!’ I’m feeling this urgency and feeling really kinda, like belittled. I know that was a moment that was really difficult, because I had to push through.”

“I had a few other people in my life, telling me I wasn’t good enough. Some other low times have been, like one time I put out a song and it didn’t work. Like quote, unquote ‘work.’ Like it didn’t get the same numbers. Like when you have a huge hit and you have another song afterwards that doesn’t have the same numbers of people liking it. That was really hard. Particularly because I loved the song.”

 

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

What Natasha learned from struggle: “It was a great lesson, too… on just being yourself. You just can’t control whether people like [you] or not. You just kinda have to do what you believe in. Personally, there are lots of other low points. I think it’s just particularly the things that people say to me that get stuck in my head. It’s really funny, but the person who tells you the bad thing is for some reason much louder than the people who tell you they love you. So, sometimes you just focus on those people and it really can be difficult. It can be very much a cause of anxiety. I had to really focus on the people that do love me.” 

Natasha speaks on her favorite songs: “These Words was my first song in America and that was my favorite, because of how fun it was. I did an English video and an American video, which I thought was really cool. One of them was with Sophie Muller, who directed a lot of things for Gwen Stefani. Which I was a big Gwen Stefani fan. She loves bright colors and it was just so fun to do that shoot, we did it in Spain.” It’s not surprising that Natasha likes bright colors, it’s actually almost fitting. “The next video for America, we did in Brazil and that was just incredible also. It was just a fun project and I think because it was one of the first, it held a special feeling for me.”

“I think the greatest thing about making music is that your songs should hit people in such a personal way. Hearing the stories from people, of what the songs mean to them, and they kind of mean different things to everyone. There’s another song called ‘Wild Horses,’ that I wrote and it was never released as a single, and it was just one of those songs buried in the album, but it became a lot of people’s favorite. I’ve read all these stories about kids and how it gave them the courage to come out. I wrote the song about when I was leaving a hard situation, a hard relationship. Which was really painful and I wrote the song about being free. I love that for me, if I write something personal, then it can mean something else to someone. It can encourage someone in a dark time of their life, in a way of just being open and free.”

 

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

On what the transition into motherhood has been like: “It has been so fun and so challenging. You know, I said to myself, ‘I think I can handle the sleep deprivation, because I’m so use to traveling all over the world and jet lag.’ It’s nothing like that. It’s a very different kind of sleep deprivation. It’s definitely a different thing. So, I have a whole new respect for mothers. I think the biggest surprise has been that you don’t have to transition from career woman to motherhood.”

“You actually can be a career woman and a mother. It’s so exciting right now to see, so many strong women. Even thinking about Cardi B, she just had a hit and she’s pregnant. In the past, a lot of women have been discouraged to have babies at the moment of their success. People have thought it’s one thing or another. You see people like Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, and Serena Williams. All these women proving that it’s not just one thing or another.”

“I know women are badass and we create life, which Is something men can’t do. I mean, I’m a feminist, so I kinda know women can do anything men can do, but actually we can do something men can’t do and that’s kind of cool. The other side of that, is that it’s a very vulnerable time. You find out that that vulnerability is actually a strength. It’s mind-blowing to me that my greatest weakness, could also be my greatest strength.”


 
On having her son on set and breastfeeding during her cover shoot: “We had fun doing the photo shoot! It was my first photoshoot since having a baby! I really didn’t feel ready in my body yet. You know, your body goes through a lot. Like I was recovering. It was so fun to take Solo on the shoot with me. He was my little buddy. You know, there was a moment in between where I had to breastfeed him. You know, it’s just getting really real. He got glitter stuck on his face, because he was feeding from me and I had glitter all over. So, I am going to have to tell him when he’s older, you probably swallowed a bit of glitter.”

On body positivity and self esteem: “You know, the weird thing is that in our culture, we spend most of our lives trying to hide breasts, and then suddenly it’s like a baby comes along and then it’s all okay. It’s definitely an adjustment. It’s weird. I’ve got quite a lot of good people around me, so it’s been pretty good. The thing that most people say is weird, is they get so much advice from strangers. I feel really lucky. It’s weird, but I feel really comfortable in my body, even though it’s not perfect. Your body takes a while to adjust. I still have to lose some weight. I’m absolutely amazed at what the body can do. I just didn’t realize. I mean I have had a lot of insecurities about my body, that I have never talked about. I have always been a very positive artist. I have always chosen to be very positive, but I haven’t really talked about the fact that I was very body shy.”

“I spent a lot of energy trying to hide parts of my body I didn’t like. Like my legs. It’s interesting for me to go, ‘Wow! My body actually made a baby and can actually make milk.’ Like it just blows my mind. Then it can bounce back and it kind of bounced back really well. I kind of just need to get like, that extra whatever… whatever you call it when you get really back into your fitness snapback. If I really focus and go to a trainer, I could get back into the shape of my life right now. That’s just miraculous, isn’t it?” 
 
What life was like for Natasha before motherhood: “I was very excited. I was very excited. There’s a lot of scary things about the world and bringing a life into the world. I’ve definitely had times in my life where I thought that route… That, you know, you can really focus on negative things, but you still wouldn’t find… You wouldn’t run out.” 
 
On her diet before vs after her pregnancy: “I would say I’m pretty clean. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke or anything. So, I don’t really think it was a problem for me. It’s more like, within the past couple years I stopped drinking. I love not drinking. I know it’s unusual, but I just love that feeling of going out and having fun and not drinking.”  

 

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

On meeting Kelly Rowland and receiving advice from the Destiny’s Child alum: “I actually did have a conversation with Kelly Rowland. I think it was a Live Nation event about two years ago, I kind of saw her at one of Jay Z’s parties after she had her baby. Everyone was there, it was before the GRAMMYs. I saw Kelly and I just adore her. We’ve touched base many times over the years and shared stories through events.  She recently wrote a book about having a baby. I was like wow, you’re so amazing. You’re still doing music and you just had a baby. You’ve had a baby at the same time as your career. Cause you know, a lot of the stories that I heard from the industry, was that that was kind of the end of your career, if you had a baby.”

Natasha continues, “I just look up to you, Kelly. She was like, ‘You just do it.’ You know, she just kind of encouraged me. She was like ‘It’s just the best thing I ever did in my life. It gives you a new thing to fight for.’” Fighting for your child seems like the top priority of many parents. “She was definitely radiant. ‘It’s the best thing you could ever do and it just expands your life.’ She was really just saying that it’s possible and amazing. Her and a few other friends have been such amazing examples of mothers who are working and badass. Including Serena Williams, who at one point said to me ‘Let’s have kids at the same time.’ I laughed at her. ”

“I was just really focused on my career and she is too, but I didn’t know… It’s definitely something I have never done before and it’s definitely something of a challenge, but I’ve got good women around me. We actually did get pregnant around a similar time. Kelly has an amazing son and she just continues to have this amazing life. Her son has an amazing life and goes ‘round with her. This whole thing was never really on my radar at that point. You can get so focused on work that you don’t really realize, you know.” 
 
Natasha speaks on where she is in her life and what’s next for her personal life and career: “I feel like I have always been a mother. I feel like it’s part of my nature to mother people. Looking after people and feeding people, and nurturing. So, becoming an actual mother is like I have tapped into a part of who I really am, that I didn’t realize. It’s just really natural. I was the oldest daughter, there’s four kids in my family, so I was like a second Mum. I was eight years old when my brother was born. I think it’s just part of my nature. I didn’t have space for it within my work life. I worked so hard, I had been touring, and I had hits. I just kept on touring and didn’t realize through nurturing someone else, what it cultivates in yourself. Just getting pregnant and having a baby, I feel like my whole life is like a new flow that has come in energetically.”

“I’ve got this amazing record deal that I just signed and I signed the deal while I was pregnant. It’s with ‘We Are Here,’ Linda Perry’s record company. It’s like the times that we’re in, it’s like time for the mother. I mean you have powerful women like Cardi B, and you know, Beyonce, what an amazing example of just the power of being a mother. It’s just another part of the success story. I think it’s just having a full life. Having a life that has a big story to it. There are definitely parts to having a baby, like the sleepless nights, which I am still in that zone right now. The baby doesn’t sleep through the night. So, you don’t end up going out past ten. You get home and you try and get as much sleep as you can. So, that lifestyle part of stardom, that’s definitely different. It makes you less selfish.”

 

Photography by Sequoia Emmanuelle

“When you’re a star, you definitely get… I have definitely been like ‘You need to get… you need to have all these things so I can feel secure. I need to get the mirror. All these things so that I can feel okay.’ Having a child makes you stop thinking so much about yourself and what you need to be okay. You have to step outside of yourself. Honestly, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s hardcore and I have been calling up all my Mum friends and telling them like, I had no idea and I am sorry I wasn’t there for you. For a woman, it’s very taxing and it takes a lot physically. You’re keeping a thing alive. You’re keeping an amazing little being alive and healthy. You want it to go right. I’m so happy and at the same time, I feel more in touch with human nature and with ups and downs.” 
 
On new music and working with Linda Perry: “Yes. I’ve been working on an album. This month I went back to work and I have been working with Linda Perry and we’ve been coming up with some gold in the studio. I’m really excited to blow people’s minds. Blow people’s hearts and minds! The main thing I have been focusing on is just soulful.” 
 
Natasha speaks on the studio vibe: “I’m in such an amazing flow and I feel like I am writing some of the best music of my life right now. I found a partner who is just able to really bring out something wonderful in my voice. Linda Perry, we’ve been writing together and it’s made by one producer, so it’s going to have this cohesive feel and I feel like it’s going to take me to another level.” 
 
“We might have a few more [sessions] in January, but we’re close. Songwriting is an addiction in its self. So, you write and you think you’re finished, but you end up writing more. Sometimes an even better song. It’s really great [music]. This is hard to even describe at this point. It’s just really amazing songs. Really good singing. I’m not sure if it’s bad, saying it like that. Like when you have a goal for an album. There is a direction. It’s basically… You know how, if you think about ‘Natasha Bedingfield,’ what do you think of? You think, uplifting. Positive. So, it’s positive.”

What Natasha’s album will entail: “It’s got the positive Natasha Bedingfield that you like. The positive. The fun. The anthem-ic quality, but it’s something more. It’s got a grit and an edge. A realness to it. When something is positive, it should be like… real like… brown sugar, not sickly sweet, fake sugar-coated pop. It’s like real sugar that just like, hits your taste-buds just right. It has enough of sour in it too. It has enough of this, kind of like bitterness too. For something to be truly positive, its gotta have depth. Its gotta have some sadness too. I think that getting music out, it’s been a long time. My fans have been patiently waiting. The thing I say is, it’s gotta be worth the wait, ya know? There’s so much music out there right now. The music that comes out, it’s gotta be like gold. That’s what I’m really excited about. Challenging myself, making the best music I have ever made, but also that it’s honest and people can relate to it.”


 
On being healthy and happy and living for you: “I think it’s almost more rebellious now to not drink. If you’re clean living and healthy, that’s almost like rare. To me, I think alcohol is great, but it’s about being you. It’s about being true to yourself. If you’re only drinking just to make other people happy, then why would you do it? Don’t do something that makes you miserable and sometimes we do stuff because we think we’re supposed to like something or people want us to be a certain way. That for me, is kinda the story of where I’m at right now. At times in my life, I have had to try and keep people happy.”

“I think a lot of people will relate to this, with the Instagram culture that we’re in right now, where we just get instant likes on everything and it can be quite draining if everything you do is to be liked. So, I think part of being in yourself, is doing what you like and being honest. Daring to be yourself. What magically happens, is that people actually feel more comfortable around you when you’re comfortable with yourself. They end up liking you more anyway.” 
 
On the Woolsey Fire and how she was affected and took action: “Some of my friends were [affected]. Some of my friends did lose their houses. We live in L.A., so we could see the fire and the smoke. It was just scary when something like that happens. When it’s a natural disaster and it’s out of your control, it’s just amazing how quickly something can go up in smoke. You just kind of wanna do something, so I think that [One Love Concert] was pretty good, cause it felt like the money was going directly to help families. It wasn’t just sitting in the bank. It was good to be able to help in some way.”  

Natasha on the cover shoot with Sequoia Emmanuelle: “I can’t wait for you to see the pictures! The photographer is fantastic. It was really good. I felt very comfortable with her and it was special. I’m looking forward to it. I guess what I would say about the shoot, is that, a woman who loves herself, and is comfortable with herself, becomes more attractive. I kind of felt that in the shoot. I just felt like I’ve got a new appreciation for my body and I feel like it shows. Cause I looked at the pictures and I’m like ‘DAMN!’”

Natasha describes what makes her strikingly different: “I’m quirky, I love bold colors. I’m very confident on stage, other times I’m more introverted. My music is positive, but with a new grit. Having gone through more life and bringing that to the music. I’m one of the artists who always sang live and with a live band and I go crazy on stage like I’m possessed. I’m very determined. If someone says no to me that something is not possible it makes me want to prove them wrong.”

Natasha continues, “I love my friends like Serena [Williams], who keep breaking the mold and blowing expectations. It’s so inspiring cause you can have it all. At the same time, I’m more in touch with human pain. I did 45 shows while I was pregnant, around the states, with terrible all-day morning sickness and kept it a secret. The sleep deprivation of an infant is no joke. I’m still in that haze really, where lack of sleep makes you feel kind of out of it. I’ve had incredible music success in my life, but now I also have given massive amounts of energy towards other kinds of success like relationships and family. I feel excited and surprised at how it is actually enhancing the creativity”

CLICK HERE FOR ISSUE 5

Photography: Sequoia Emmanuelle
Style: Haley Camille and Ryan Barker
Hair: Michael Solis
Makeup: Helen Grace
Producer: Bryan Franklin of GRID Agency.
Interview by Michael D. Monroe and Sydney Hajduk
Article by Kayla Lambrisky