If you ever wondered how Alecia Moore became Pink, look no further than her backside. That’s right, her rosy butt cheeks inspired the moniker, which came into existence when the singer was known at LaFace Records — home to Toni Braxton, TLC and OutKast — as the “token white girl” (her words). Now, nearly two decades after she released her debut solo album, “Can’t Take Me Home,” on the Atlanta-based label founded by Antonio “LA” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, the name remains just as fitting as she continues to kick ass.
This all makes for an amusing location to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which sits adjacent to Jackie Chan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in front of the Dolby Theater. She receives the honor on Feb. 5 with Ellen Degeneres and Kerri Kinney-Silver officiating. “I feel protected by strong boys,” says Pink, 39, to which this reporter feels obliged to note that as a solo star with don’t-mess-with-me songs like “Blow Me,” it’s not likely she’s ever needed a man to look out for her. “I like to pretend occasionally,” she chuckles.
Indeed, if there’s a superhero version of a pop star, it would be Pink, who has not only sold more than 60 million albums worldwide and won three Grammys (out of 20 nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album this year for her seventh and latest release, “Beautiful Trauma”), but has also raked in average box office receipts of over $3.6 million per stop on her most recent tour, according to Pollstar. In March, she heads out on the road for three more months, two countries and 37 shows of an extended North American leg.
But not before the star dedication, which she describes as “really special.” Says Pink: “My whole family is coming out for it. It’s funny because I was looking at the list of names [of other star recipients] a little while ago and Boyz II Men is there — that’s who almost signed me to my first record contract almost 25 years ago. And it’s following people like Lucille Ball and Gene Autry and Fred Astaire. Oh, my God. So rad.”
Not that her journey to stardom has anything in common with those Old Hollywood icons. “I moved to Venice Beach when I was nineteen and I didn’t know anybody — or anything,” Pink says. “I came out here by myself and I used to go to Hollywood Boulevard to buy stripper heels. I just remember seeing all those stars and thinking: ‘God, I hope this happens for me.’ And here we are.”
But how did she — a former teen runaway, high school drop-out and homeless drug dealer — get here? “I started singing when I was nine,” Pink says of her early days in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “I told my mom that if I didn’t get on ‘Star Search’ by then, I wasn’t going to be cute anymore and I would never be successful.” While reality TV wasn’t in the cards, she soon found other outlets for her creative energy. “I did talent shows, I started punk-rock bands, I sang in church, I did everything you could do musically, and I played all-ages clubs when I was thirteen,” she says. “I was also on a lot of drugs and a lot of my friends were overdosing around me — I sold drugs, I took drugs and I went to friends’ funerals, so I knew I had to get out.”
She even had her parents’ blessing, sort of. “My mom kicked me out when I was 15, then I dropped out of school. I felt grown at a very young age. They just couldn’t stop me — and they knew they wouldn’t be able to stop me — so they figured it would be better for our relationship if they supported me.”
Pink’s big break — or so she thought — would come a year later when she found the support of L.A. Reid, who signed her at 16 as part of the girl group R&B trio Choice in 1995. “We got shelved,” she recalls. “And it was left up to me to go solo or to stay on the shelf for the rest of my life, so I had to break two girls’ hearts.”
In one of her earliest lessons in music business 101, she soon learned the intricacies of contracts. “I had to be the one to decide to go solo and not L.A. Reid, my record company president, because that would be him interfering in a [pre-existing] contract,” says Pink. “He told me behind the scenes: ‘If you don’t go solo, I’m never going to support you — however, it has to be your idea.’ So that was the first tricky part. It took me a long time to figure out and was horrifying and I felt like I was a huge piece of shit. I threw up for a week thinking about these girls and what we had been through together and how unfair that was to them and just how absurd it all was. And I remember talking about it on the phone and he said: ‘Babe, when you pictured yourself as a little girl up on stage, did you picture yourself in a group or did you picture yourself ramming your f–ing stubborn-ass head through the world by yourself?’ And I was like: ‘That.’ And he was like: ‘Then, don’t waste the rest of your life because of guilt.’ ”
“And so I hit go — but once I hit go, everybody around me disappeared because nobody wants to get sued,” says Pink. “So I no longer have a record contract, I no longer have managers, and since they were paying for us to live [in Atlanta], I no longer had a place to live. I’m 17 years old and I’m homeless. What do I do? I know these guys in the Bronx who were writers/producers, so I’m going to move up there and sleep on their floor, I’m going to smoke weed and I’m going to write songs because when the dust settles, I want to put a record out.”
As these things often go, Pink happened to be in the right studio at the right time when, one night, a publishing executive took notice of her songwriting chops. Says Pink: “This publisher walked in and said: ‘What would it take to get you to sign a publishing deal?’ I’m broke at this point — I have like $20. And I go: ‘One million dollars!’ I was joking. And he goes: ‘OK, I’ll see you on Monday.’ I was like: ‘Huh? Shit, I should have said two!’ And right as I was signing, my managers [of Choice] that I haven’t seen in like six months walked in, and I said: ‘What the f–k are you guys doing here?’ And they go: ‘You never fired us. By the way, little girl, when you want to fire people, you have to put it in writing. So we’re taking this advance.’ And they took all my money.”
Such financial naivete continued to plague Pink as she started her career in earnest. In her typically self-deprecating way (Pink swears she’ll one day write a book called “Artist to Artist: How to Get F–ked”): “I renegotiated my record deal and LaFace Records happened to be across the street from my favorite mall. I really wanted this Bebe catsuit but it was like $300. And I told L.A.: ‘I’ll re-sign but I want that catsuit.’ So that’s what I re-signed for, basically. I didn’t do a great job but I didn’t care — I just wanted to put a record out. And so by the time I got my current manager, Roger Davies, we had a lot of renegotiating to do with the record company. He looked at the contract and he was like: ‘What the f–k did you do?’ I was like: ‘I don’t know but I got a catsuit!’ I mean, it’s ridiculous looking back on it now, but it got me from A to B.” (But Reid, for his part, only has fond memories of his former pop star protégé: “Alecia is arguably the smartest, most acrobatic, charismatic and superbly talented artist to ever hit the music scene,” he says, praising her “uncanny ability to remain relevant.”)
Pink credits Davies with helping to turn her career around, and not just financially. But before he agreed to work with her, Pink’s bank account was in the red. “I had been screwed, blued and tattooed by every person I came across,” she says of her early experiences in the industry. “I had sold 15 million records and I was penniless. It was a lot of lessons at a really young age, but I paid attention because I don’t like to make the same mistake twice. And then I found Roger when I was 21 right before ‘Get the Party Started’ came out. I had made that entire record on my own without the blessing of my record company.”
Fortunately, she sold Davies on her vision for sophomore album “Missundaztood.” “He was the manager of Cher and Tina Turner and Janet Jackson and I basically convinced him to take me on. I told him that I wanted to be a touring artist and that I wanted to be a f–king legend. And he was like: ‘OK, you f–king crazy little brat. Let’s do this!’ That was the first great decision I made.” For his part, says Davies: “I could immediately see that she had her own clear vision of who she wanted to be and where she wanted to go. That drive has kept her constantly working as he pushed herself physically and creatively to be the best. … Her fans know that she’s genuine and the real deal — you see it in her performances, you hear it in her lyrics and you feel it in her music.”
But perhaps her best decision was refusing to be pigeonholed creatively, and remaining true to herself rather than reinventing her image with the release of every album — this despite being “a child of Madonna,” as Pink says. “I just needed to be who I was at that moment. I need to be who I am. I need to be authentic and I’ve always been a kid who has been a lot of everything. I don’t think that you should just have to be one thing.”
Musically, that means her songs have run the gamut from R&B to punk-rock to pop and beyond. “I am an R&B singer,” she says. “I also am a gospel singer. I’m a punk-rock singer. And a pop singer. And a soul singer. All of that is me.” Attests Peter Edge, Chairman and CEO of RCA Records, of Pink’s trend-averse songcraft: “She’s an extraordinary artist who has the ability to defy any moment and to keep coming with great music.”
“I have been through many different phases in my life,” she adds. “I was a little girl that loved Debbie Gibson. Mary J. Blige was the first cassette I bought. I liked 2 Live Crew. I liked Green Day. I loved ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ I liked everything and I think my music reflects that. I was the [only white artist] at an all-black label at a time when Toni Braxton, TLC and that awesome Atlanta sound was happening, but I also loved Linda Perry and 4 Non-Blondes. I didn’t want to be stuck in a box because there’s nowhere to go. Also, if you want to blur lines, make people uncomfortable and question what they believe in just by looking at you, then you’ve got to take risks — you’ve got to be bold and go all out. On my last record I did a song called ‘You Get My Love’ that, to me, is the best soulful vocal I’ve ever done. When you listen to my singles, you get a certain idea of me: That I’m like this loud, man-hating, obnoxious, rock and roll, whatever. But if you go deeper and listen to the songwriting, then you realize it’s a little more complicated.”
As for the enduring appeal of her songs, Pink sums it up this way: “I write about the stuff I’m insecure about and the pain I’m feeling and how messy it is to manage a relationship and how f–king hard it is to relate to another human being.”
Pink has been married to BMX pro Carey Hart for 16 years (the couple have two children, Jameson Moon, 2 and Willow Sage, 7). Her other long-term, loyal partnership is with Davies. “He hasn’t taken on anyone else since, so I guess I’m a handful,” Pink cracks. “But, you know, he has his hands full. With his help and team, I have become a touring artist. I have achieved exactly what I wanted to achieve. Because I always knew what my strong points were. I don’t sell sex, I don’t sell perfume, I’m not the prettiest, I’m not the best. I’m f–king hard-looking and I have enough talent and I work on my f–king craft and I put my head down and I win. And I charge and I charge and I charge. And I don’t give up. So when I wasn’t selling records, I was still selling out arenas. I didn’t need to win any popularity contests; I wanted to be a f–king touring artist and I wanted to be great at what I did. And at almost 40 years old, I can say I’m great at what I do.”
Pink is actually looking forward to the upcoming milestone, despite the fact that the music business is the most youth-obsessed of all industries. (“Oh, I’m stoked,” she says. “All of my older female friends are like: ‘Dude, your forties are so rad.’ Alright! I’m in.”) But looking back on her career, does she have any regrets? “Oh, just outfits — but not that damn catsuit!” she jokes. “No, not really. I don’t subscribe to regret. I mean, my mom and I got into a huge fight right before she kicked me out. She slapped me across the face, and I pushed her down the stairs. That’s my one regret in life. I just think every stupid thing you do and every failure, every success, every decision — as cheesy as it sounds — is why you’re here. And it’s where you’re at. You either succeed or you learn and it’s all good. But some of those [past] looks? Maybe somebody could have loved me more and said: ‘Don’t do that.’ ”