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Wild at heart

She was pop’s cutie-pie teen queen. But Pixie Lott is back with a new look and feisty attitude

Unless it’s a mirage, there’s a girl over there who looks awfully like Pixie Lott. Or does she?

The long, flowing, boho tresses are gone. In their place is a choppy, rock-chick bob. The pop princess make-up has been swapped for smoky eyes, and there’s not a flowery summer dress in sight.

Pixie looks hot. And not just because the mercury out here in the Californian desert has hit 102ºF.

“I’ve come of age!” she laughs. “I’m not a teenager any more, I’ve turned 20 and I think it was the right time to try something new.

“I knew I wanted to do something. Everyone knows me for having long, blonde hair so I just thought: ‘Let’s cut it all off!’ And I think it’s changed the way clothes look on me – everything looks more quirky, rather than glammed up all the time.”

Does she feel sexier? She certainly looks it.

“I’ve definitely grown up. I’ve matured, I’ve developed as a person and my music is evolving,” she says.

Speaking her mind

There’s a tougher attitude emerging, too. After her nine-month break from the charts – new single All About Tonight is released September and she’s been here in LA recording the video – Pixie’s still an easy-going, girlie girl. But she’s no longer afraid to speak her mind, especially when it comes to critics who have in the past ignored that distinctive, powerhouse of a voice and dismissed her as a manufactured, media-trained, stage-schooled popstrel (she attended the Italia Conti Academy).

“I’m not as naive as I used to be,” she says. “I’ve learned that I’ve got to do what makes me happy rather than doing things to please other people. I follow my gut instinct now.

“I don’t know where that criticism comes from. I’m not manufactured. I’ve been working towards this my whole life and I work so hard on my music and my writing, so I just don’t understand why people say that.

“It doesn’t hurt me because I know it’s not true. Yes, I make pop music and I dance in my videos but that’s what I love doing and that’s my choice. Everything I do is down to me, there’s no one making me do anything, so how can I possibly be manufactured?”

We hear you, Pix! Because far from being A. N. Other wannabe, she’s proved herself as an accomplished musician, co-writing her own material and providing an album track for Alexandra Burke’s debut release two years ago. However, it’s clearly an accusation that irks her, despite claiming not to dwell too much on the criticism.

“There are a lot of negative people out there who want to make nasty comments. I don’t know why people bother wasting their own time writing stupid comments online. I don’t get it.

“I just have to turn a blind eye to it and make sure that the people I’m around are lovely and positive. I can’t let myself be too affected by it,” she says.

Staying on the rails

While the image and outlook have undergone a transformation, Pixie’s still clean-cut at heart, and she’s not about to go totally rock ‘n’ roll and hurtle off the rails. She likes a drink and loves her nights out on the town, but has never been tempted by drugs, despite being around them regularly at parties.

When the subject of Amy Winehouse’s recent shambolic performance in Belgrade (just days after coming out of rehab. Again) is raised, Pixie looks genuinely upset.

“It breaks my heart to hear that,” she says. “And that’s why I don’t want to get involved in that world. Amy is such a huge talent, but that lifestyle is addictive, and once you’ve started it’s so hard to get out of it. It’s really sad, especially when you’ve got so much to live for. Surely that should be enough? It’s scary.

“It’s well known there’s a lot of drug-taking going on in the music industry, but it doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve been offered drugs, but I’m really not interested. I’ve seen people on drugs and it’s not a good look. I love going out with my friends and having fun. That’s it.”

There’s a wise old head on those young shoulders. Perhaps much of that composure is down to her ever-present mum, Bev, who has accompanied Pixie – real name Victoria – around the world from day one.

She’s here today, quite rightly proud as punch of her daughter as she plays Fabulous some very decent-sounding demos from Pixie’s new album.

We all fall a little bit in love with Bev, especially when she decides she’d like a glass of wine (count us in!) and our driver is dispatched to find an off-licence in the desert. Miraculously, he returns armed with four chilled bottles of rosé.

“It’s wicked to have my mum with me,” says Pixie. “If I was travelling around by myself I’d probably feel quite lonely. If I’m tired it’s nice to go back and chill with Mum. She doesn’t spy on me though! And she only stops me going out partying if I’ve got something big on the next day.”

Pixie is now starting to make it on her own, having moved out of the family home in Essex. Royalties, coupled with her lucrative contract with fashion label Lipsy, enabled her to buy a £400,000 flat in Shoreditch, east London, and she is thrilled with her new independence.

“I looked at a few places but ended up buying the first one I saw,” she says. “I fell in love with it. There are two bedrooms and I’ve got a little terrace.

“I’ve never spent a night in the flat on my own though! There are always friends there. It’s so much fun. I travel a lot for work but I love coming home to London. I’m not good with money, but I knew the flat was an investment.”

Going the distance

Model boyfriend Oliver Cheshire, 23, is a regular visitor although, contrary to reports, hasn’t moved in.

“No, not yet,” she says. “I’m a happy girl with Ollie. We met at a fashion party last summer and he’s lovely. We’re really similar people. My family love him.

“We miss each other when we’re away. A couple of months ago I was here in LA for seven weeks recording the album, and that was hard. But he works away too, so we understand how it is. We’re on BlackBerry Messenger the whole time and we Skype each other, but the time differences make it hard.”

It’s been two years since Pixie burst on to the scene, a teen blonde bombshell, with her debut No.1 Mama Do. Follow-up single Boys And Girls also reached the top of the charts and the album Turn It Up went double platinum.

That period proved rife with stellar female solo talent, with the likes of Jessie J, Ellie Goulding and Eliza Doolittle also breaking through and, in the case of Adele, going stratospheric.

“Adele is my favourite,” says Pixie. “Her performances are so honest.”

Snapping at Pixie’s heels is a new troupe of solo ladies – Katy B, Clare Maguire, Sunday Girl. But is she worried? “Erm…” she pauses and then chooses her words carefully. Pixie has always resisted being drawn into comparisons or wars of words with rival artists.

“There’s always new talent coming forward, but I just wanted to concentrate on getting this second album right rather than worrying about that.”

The album she’s referring to will be released later this year. Recorded in LA, it features collaborations with John Legend and Stevie Wonder, who plays the harmonica on one of the tracks.

“If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I’d be recording with Stevie Wonder and John Legend I’d have been stunned. They are two of my most favourite musicians ever and I can’t believe how it’s all worked out.”

Pixie and Bev had dinner with Stevie in LA earlier this year after being introduced by a mutual friend.

“It was amazing,” says Pixie. “He’s always been an inspiration to me. I started welling up. He was the most gentle, calm, friendly man.”

Dancing queen

Spending much of her childhood dancing has given Pixie the kind of figure that stops people in their tracks. Toned and slim – but by no means skinny – she’s a strong, healthy role model for the young girls (her ‘Crazy Cats’ as she affectionately nicknames them) who look up to her.

“We danced every day at stage school and I love being active. It makes me feel good. I go running too and I go to exercise classes. I really want to try Zumba [a Latin-based dance workout].

“I’ve always been body-confident because I’m so active and I eat healthily. There’s a lot of pressure on girls to look a certain way, but we’re naturally all different sizes. As long as you’re healthy it doesn’t matter if you’re not skinny.”

Is there anything she’d change about her appearance? She looks at her body up and down, mulling over the question.

“Hmmm… I don’t want to sound big headed but I don’t think there is. If I changed anything I wouldn’t feel like me.”

She didn’t finish filming the video for All About Tonight until 7am this morning, but Pixie shows no sign of flagging even as the sun sets on our shoot. She doesn’t complain about the heat once, and doesn’t bat an eyelid at the chaos in her Winnebago as the sweaty crew mill about, desperate for a blast of air-con.

Not quitting

Fatigue only takes over in the Fabulous van on the way back to her hotel in West Hollywood, when she curls up and falls fast asleep. Pixie’s certainly not afraid of hard graft. One of her management team reveals she recently worked 25 days in a row.

“I started making my first album when I was 14 and so after school I’d go straight to the studio. I had to sacrifice seeing my friends and going to parties. I missed out, but this is what I wanted,” she says.

“Stage school was great for my confidence but it was very musical-theatre focused, which was never a route I wanted to go down. So all my music, auditions and finding writers, was done outside of school and off my own back.

“None of my family are showbiz, but my mum used to play a lot of Mariah around the house and I just picked up on it. I’d listen to the albums over and over.”

If it all went belly-up, she says, she’d never give up. She wants this too badly.

“There’s no way I can imagine doing anything else. I know it’s a fickle industry, but no matter what happens I’ll still be making music. It’s my passion.”

Cried? Watching the movie Dear John. I bawled my eyes out!
Got drunk? The night before I flew to LA. I packed my case half-asleep. Not good.
Had a snog? With Ollie, before I left for the States.
Told someone you loved them? My mum. I tell her I love her every day.
Did something illegal? Ha! Just the other night when I had a bit of wine. The legal drinking age in America is 21…