Kesha Sebert, better known as Ke$ha, was in New York in May when she received a call from her mother telling her the basement of her childhood home in Nashville, Tenn., was flooded. This didn't surprise the pop star — the lower level of the house periodically filled with water while she was in high school.
But, as she later flew over her hometown she saw the extent of what had really happened. “I was looking out the [airplane] window,” she said. “There were all these massive lakes, and rooftops in the middle. I got off the airplane and there was this ominous feeling in the air.”
Instead of heading home after a long day of traveling, Sebert convinced her mom to head to the grocery store where they bought 1,000 pounds of dog food to donate to a local animal shelter. Growing up, her family had rescued stray dogs and cats “guerilla style,” taking in abused dogs and “fattening them up.”
“It’s not because I want people to know how fantastic I am,” Sebert said of her charitable effort. “I don’t mean to rub it anybody’s face. I just want to help as much as I can. It’s not the reason I do it, just so I can get attention.”
It’s a far cry from the in-your-face, foul-mouthed wild child the media has portrayed the chart-topping songwriter to be. But, she’s not concerned whether you think her actions are a calculated marketing decision. Ke$ha is a girl who knows who she is — she genuinely does whatever she thinks is right and whatever the hell she wants whenever she wants.
“It’s really weird. The American media really has no idea what to do with me,” Sebert said. “I’m fun and I go out. I make out with hot dudes, but I also have a massive place in my heart for people. I think you can be both.”
Sebert’s antics — not to mention her song lyrics — have made her this moment’s current party animal. For one thing, her hit single “Tik Tok” is about a crazy night with “a bottle of Jack.” And she keeps making comments to the media that fuel her image.
"I could drink a pirate under the table. But last night wasn't that late. It was only, like, 2 a.m.,” she told The Guardian in November 2009. Stories adding fuel to gossip pages range from her vomiting in Paris Hilton’s closet to breaking into Prince’s house to leave her demo to recently leaked photos of her taken by an ex-lover.
As she drives to the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, S.C., it’s hard not to hear the exhaustion in her voice, despite her bubbly attitude. In between opening for Rihanna this summer, she’s headlining a few small venues on her own mini-tour. Meanwhile, she’s writing songs for her new album. While her toughest critics might say she’s tired because she’s choosing the parties over her performances, the singer dismisses those claims.
“I’ve never ever missed a show,” Sebert said. “I don’t ever drink before a show. And, the only time I ever go out is if I have a day off.”
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While her mouth has gotten her into trouble, some of the stuff is rather lighthearted, like the song she wrote about a boy named Steven. “I’m always going to look back on this record and laugh about how Steven knows now how much I followed him around,” she said. Other actions and comments have shocked the public, like the time she urinated in a sink at the British Q Awards. She brushed it off, saying to Entertainment Weekly, “People need to get over it. It’s just urine. It all goes to the same plumbing general area.”
When she recorded “My First Kiss,” with 3OH3! in the summer of 2008, singer Nathaniel Motte noticed that she was a hard worker — with a mouth to match. After their producer, Dr. Luke, suggested working with the singer, who had “a lot of sass and cool style,” the group asked her to come into the studio, Motte said. Within two minutes of meeting, Sebert said something explicit to Motte and ripped singer Sean Foreman.
“She called Sean a little bitch, and she said she wanted to rape the tall one,” Motte said laughing. “We both were taken aback a little bit, and we were like, ‘This chick is more like a dude, no doubt.’”
“I just say things that I want to say when I want to say,” Sebert said. “Some of them are too honest and that has gotten me in trouble.”
Though her part on the song was rather short, the band kept in touch with her. She asked Foreman to help her with her other hit single, “Blah Blah Blah,” and the band in turn asked her to film a part for their video, “My First Kiss.”
In the same breath where she says she loves to throw dance parties, Sebert admits she didn’t have a lot of friends in high school. She was a member of the International Baccalaureate program in high school and was on the fast track to go to Barnard College to study comparative religion and psychology. She claimed a love for community service and math.
“I’m not very good at it,” she said. “But, I’ll sit in my bathrobe after a show and have my guitar player ask me math problems.”
Though her life now might be all about what’s hip and trendy, Sebert was once a proud member of her high school marching band. “Marching band kids are crazy,” she said defensively. “They throw down!” After dabbling a bit with the trumpet, she focused on the saxophone. “It was on the cheesy side, but I played it like it was going out of style,” she said. And, try as she might, she said there was no way to make those band uniforms sexy.
“I’m a lot of things that wouldn’t seem to go together,” Sebert said.
Sebert remains focused on her music career. Her goal is to have people put their ticket stubs from one of her concerts up on a wall and remember a great time, as she did when she was a kid. “It’s just about making hype and making it fun for a crowd,” she said.
Despite a busy music schedule, the singer is also attempting to get involved with sea turtle rescue following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying it’s time to stop blaming people and start helping the cause. She participated in the Gulf telethon in late June as well, a few weeks after headlining a show to help with Tennessee flood relief, raising almost $70,000.
“I see how much Angelina Jolie and Madonna have done and that is really inspiring just to see these strong beautiful women just helping other people,” Sebert said.
“She’s still the same awesome, carefree girl doing what she wants to do,” Motte, of 3OH3! said.
And when asked about the band, Sebert responded, “They’re hilarious, and they’re hot,” ... before adding, “They better say I’m hot too, or I’ll kick their ass.”
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