NICOLE UNMASKED

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Beneath all the glitz and glamour, Nicole Scherzinger is a local girl at heart. Hawai‘i, she says, is in her soul, her spirit, her blood. It’s her roots.

These days, the singer, songwriter, dancer and actress finds herself juggling an arduous schedule that has her flying back and forth between Los Angeles and London. She’s been busy filming the third season of Fox’s popular singing competition The Masked Singer, which is taped near her home in Hollywood Hills. But she’s also got The Pussycat Dolls’ highly anticipated reunion tour in the UK and Ireland, which kicks off April 5 in Dublin.

It’s a long-awaited comeback for The Dolls, who disbanded a decade ago. Now, the group has some “Unfinished Business” and it seems the ladies haven’t missed a beat. They debuted their new single “React” during a performance on The X Factor UK late last year; the sizzling music video dropped this February and promptly went viral, racking up 2.7 million views in 24 hours. That was enough to earn the top music video spot on iTunes in the U.S., and No. 2 song overall.

“I’ve got other projects too,” adds Scherzinger. “I’m always working on music for The Dolls, and my own personal music as a solo artist. I’m also reading scripts a lot, looking for the right opportunity. I want to do Broadway and possibly TV.”

If that’s not enough, Scherzinger reveals she’s in the early stages of a new fitness workout program called Mana Movement.

“I’m really excited to expand and build on this,” she says. “I actually got the [Mana Movement] name because I was going to a waterfall hike with my cousin, and when I would go underneath the waterfall, the power of it… I could feel the mana. I felt like I needed that cleansing and I needed a transformation. So, I would sit there and get pummeled, and it was like a resurgence of energy and renewal.”

If that anecdote doesn’t make it clear, Scherzinger was born in Hawai‘i. She moved to Louisville, Kentucky with her family at a young age, but the music and dance stylings of the islands always surrounded her. Her papa had a touring group called Sons and Daughters of Hawaii, tutu sang and played the ‘ukulele, mom was a hula dancer, uncle was a fire dancer. The family would also sing in church. Then, at the age of six, she heard Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.”

“I was quite shy when I was young and awkward. Imagine being this little brown child and not really feeling like I fit in,” Scherzinger says. “So, when I heard [Whitney’s] voice, something kind of ignited in me and I felt the power of it. I knew deep down inside—I hadn’t found my voice yet, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Still to this day, it’s the best way I know how to communicate— through song and music.”

Soon, she was on a roll. Scherzinger became lead singer of the pop group Eden’s Crush, and landed several acting roles. Then, in 2003, she joined one of the biggest and best-selling female bands of all time, The Pussycat Dolls, as the frontwoman. She took the stage, portraying Grizabella in the 2014 West End revival of Cats, which earned her a nomination for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. And, in a role close to her heart, she voiced Moana’s mom, Sina, in the classic Disney movie set in Hawai‘i.

Recent years have seen her focus on television. She’s appeared on a variety of programs, and served as a judge on both the American and British editions of The X Factor, as well as Australia’s Got Talent.

For all her accomplishments, and through all her success, Scherzinger says she’s learned what she treasures most: her ‘ohana.

“I felt proud when I was able to move my mom back home to Hawaii, I was proud when I got to revive the role of Grizabella in Cats, but I think the thing I’m most proud of…” she says, trailing off.

Then her eyes well up. “If you really think about this little girl who was born and lived in Honokai Hale—to come from nothing and to have been able to make a career for herself doing what she loves with a passion, a career [that is] enough where she’s able to share those experiences and riches with her family … I got to fly my tutu to Italy and Andrea Bocelli sang for her. ‘Ohana is everything to me. I don’t go home very often, and my family is so big, but they are a big part of who I am, and I carry them with me in my travels, and in my good times and in my struggles because they give me strength when they don’t realize it. As you get older in life, you realize what’s really important and you realize the real riches, and that’s being able to share those moments with your family.”

Scherzinger, who is Hawaiian, Filipino and Ukrainian, notes that most of her family is on the Westside of O‘ahu.

And, for her 40th birthday a couple of years ago, she came home. She hosted a week of events, which included taking her family to Kualoa Ranch and Secret Island, a catered lu‘au on the beach and (of course) plenty of dancing. Last summer, she made a special visit to Mauna Kea and prepared a ho‘okupu of songs for the kupuna, while offering her voice for the people.

“I went to learn more about the Mauna and why we’re protecting it and why it’s so important not only for our people but for us to bring it to the world’s attention on a global issue, a human issue,” she says. “It’s the most Hawaiian thing I ever did, but it made me so proud on so many other levels to be kanaka maoli, to be Hawaiian. Hawai‘i is in my na‘au. It’s my heart and spirit. When you have the koko, you’re just a part of the islands no matter what.”

She aims to make it back here at least twice a year, and whenever she does, it’s time to “unwind, go beach and grind.” Her favorite spots are Yokes (Yokohama Bay) and Makaha, and if she has time to jump on a board, she likes the waves at Rest Camp and White Plains. You might also find her at Tanioka’s for poke, or at Helena’s eating just about everything— kalua, lomi salmon, chicken long rice, “choke” poi. There’s also her must-have dried aku, poi and a beer. But more importantly, being in Hawai‘i means ‘ohana time.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s the soft side of me,” says Scherzinger. “On the flip side, I am a warrior and I think that’s a big part of where I come from, and who my family is, and my genealogy. It’s important to know where you come from, and I know that I’m from a long lifeline of warriors with the biggest hearts.”

ABOUT THE SETTING
Nestled at the foot of Hollywood Hills, The Kimpton Everly Hollywood served as the ideal backdrop for our cover shoot with Nicole Scherzinger. This luxury boutique hotel opened in August 2017, and has since become a favorite hangout for the city’s socialites. It’s easy to see why. The hotel’s fifth-floor skyline sundeck is an escape from the bustling metropolis, offering panoramic views that stretch from the landmark HOLLYWOOD sign and downtown cityscape to the Pacific Coast. Downstairs, the hotel’s spacious living room lobby boasts 28-foot ceilings, a pool table and the upscale Ever Bar, making it the perfect casual-chic social hub from day to night.

The location is ideal, too. The Kimpton Everly is just steps away from the iconic Capitol Records Building, and one block north of Hollywood Boulevard. That means easy access to the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Bowl, Universal Studios, Griffith Park, TCL Chinese Theatre and a slew of other landmarks. The Kimpton Everly Hollywood, 1800 Argyle Avenue, (212) 279-3532, everlyhotelhollywood.com

photographer MARK ARBEIT markarbeit.com
photographer’s assistant MITCHELL GUERRERO
fashion stylist JESSICA PASTER crosbycartermgmt.com
makeup ADAM BURRELL FOR THE ONLY AGENCY www.theonly.agency
hair SCOTT KING FOR THE ONLY AGENCY www.theonly.agency
on location KIMPTON EVERLY HOLLYWOOD
special thanks to: HAWAIIAN PIE COMPANY, KAHUKU FARMS, MANAOLA, MOHALA EYEWEAR AND NOHO HOME

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