We’re seated in the lounge at Grand Park Orchard awaiting our turn to interview American pop star Bebe Rexha when a woman with pin-straight tresses and pink-rimmed shades strolls in. She ambles over to the coffee machine to make herself a cuppa and then grabs some cookies on her way out. “These are fantabulous!” she gushes as she sinks her teeth into them. She’s chaperoned by an entourage of three, including a stern-looking security guard, who had shot us a dirty look earlier on when we gingerly asked him, “Is that Bebe?”
Here’s the thing: If it were any other star, we wouldn’t be asking that question. But Bebe doesn’t exactly — and we don’t mean this in a bad way — fit the mold of an American pop singer. Plus, she’s wearing shades which we later learn is due to an allergy. In person, the 27-year-old looks like any hot ang moh girl you would walk past in, say, H&M. She also looks much curvier in person than she does in photos. Then there’s her dressed-down look: An off-shoulder top with jeans and sneakers. The only giveaway that she’s the ‘I Got You’ hitmaker is her famously perky posterior, which can give Kim Kardashian a run for her booty money.
And that’s the thing to tweet home about when it comes to Bebe, who’s really the antithesis of your cookie-cutter pop star. Take for instance, 2017’s arguably most assertive anthem ‘The Way I Are’, Bebe’s unbridled rebel call against record label expectations, and um, grammar. “When you’re developing as an artiste, you have to kind of fight the stereotype of what everybody’s expecting of you — what way you should be, how you should look, what colour your hair should be, how your make-up should be and what you should wear,” the singer once said. In an industry full of Instagram-perfect Taylor Swifts, Bebe is slowly but surely carving her own path. And she’d have her cookie and eat it too. Case in point: The minute we take our seat in front of her, she turns to ask the staff: “Can we order something to eat?”
Post-chat, we pass our phone to Bebe to take a selfie. The Kylie Jenner-lookalike proceeds to preen, pose and duckface like a pro (see pic below). We had asked beforehand to snap a shot of the star, who had requested, through her management, to take a selfie instead. “A selfie?!” a fellow journo had remarked with wide-eyed incredulity. Well, Bebe will do what she wants… and that includes snapping selfies of her best angles.
8 DAYS: You were here to perform at the Radio Star Finals, where aspiring DJs battle it out to be the next big jock of CLASS 95 and 987FM. What advice would you give to these aspiring stars?
BEBE REXHA: Hard work always pays off. It’s about talent. But sometimes, persistence is more important than talent. You may not be perfect in the beginning. But you can always work at getting better, so just keep going.
You’ve said that your song ‘The Way I Are’ is a “[expletive] song to the record label”, a rebellion of sorts against label expectations of how a pop star should be. In what ways do you think you go against the grain of the conventional pop star?
I say what I want and I’m not scared to say it. I was at a point in my career where I had nothing to lose and I think that attitude has kind of always stuck with me. So I just keep doing what I want and don’t care [what others think]. I’m not scared of anything (laughs).
Has that assertiveness gotten you into trouble?
All the time. I’d say things that I’m not supposed to say or tweet something that I’m not supposed to tweet. It would get into the media and I’d get rapped on my knuckles.
Has going against the norm made your road to stardom harder?
Definitely a thousand times [harder]. But it’s the reason I’m here. I think what makes me interesting to my fans and followers is my unfiltered way of speaking.
You’ve also written many big hits, like Eminem and Rihanna’s ‘The Monster’ and G-Eazy’s ‘Me, Myself & I’. Have you ever regretted giving away a song?
I don’t think so ’cos those records are the reason I’m here today. At those times, I really didn’t have many connections in the music business. So if I had kept those songs for myself, there might have been a good chance they would have just been records on my computer and I’d still be in New York City trying to make something out of my life.
You said previously that you have had people threaten you if you didn’t give them a song.
(Laughs) Yeah. You know, not threaten, but they said they would blacklist me from the music business (laughs). But that was bull****. I was very green and got scared. But now I see that they couldn’t have done anything [to me].
After so many years in showbiz, how good are you now at calling bull****?
Like this (snaps her fingers). I can call bull**** from a mile away. (Points at two of her staff) Those two guys right there? Total bull****. (Laughs) I’m just joking!
PHOTO CREDIT: DENNIS LEUPOLD