G.R.L. Interview: Girls Talk Visiting Miami With Pitbull, A Guy With an ‘Ugly Heart’ + Empowerment [EXCLUSIVE]
Fresh off an electric performance of ‘Wild Wild Love’ with Pitbull on ‘Today,’ the ladies of G.R.L. were bubbly, candid and as sweet as you’d hope they’d be when we caught up with them. Despite the magnitude of their live TV appearance, they lit up the stage. The secret behind their calm demeanor? Pitbull himself!
G.R.L. — that’s Emmalyn Estrada, Simone Battle, Paula Van Oppen, Lauren Bennett and Natasha Slayton — teamed up with the rapper on his new single, but are also gearing up for the release their debut album. They opened up to PopCrush about shooting a music video at the Playboy Mansion (and saying hello to Hef’s peacocks!), inner beauty and female empowerment.
I’ve had your new song, ‘Wild Wild Love,’ on repeat. How did the Pitbull collaboration come about?
Natasha: Dr. Luke, we’re on his label, Kemosabe, and he is one of the major masterminds of all of our music [and] he also did Pitbull’s last single, ‘Timber,’ so I think that when he was doing that, he felt like it was a great fit for G.R.L. to do something with Pitbull. We absolutely love the song, we love performing with Pitbull. We’re super excited about it.
Did you guys get to spend time in the studio with him as well?
Natasha: We didn’t get to meet him until we started our video shoot, so we met him at the Playboy Mansion. Then he surprised us by taking us for the second day of the video shoot by taking us to Miami, which is his hometown. He showed us around a little bit and it was absolutely fantastic.
Did he show you any local spots that are special to him?
Natasha: You know, I think we’re supposed to keep it top secret, but he showed us some amazing little hidden gems. One of the most amazing places was actually a place that you can actually see in the video. It’s called Vizcaya and it’s this gorgeous castle-looking estate right on the beach and we got to film there.
The music video for ‘Wild Wild Love’ dropped this week. What was it like filming at the Playboy Mansion?
Emmalyn: Oh, my god. When we filmed there, it was actually pouring rain when we arrived and it was my first time going to the Playboy Mansion. It was so much. It’s so exciting to see because the Playboy Mansion is like a piece of history and we get to film in there. Seeing Hef, his artwork and his things in his house, it was really fun to be there, and to shoot a music video, let alone.
Is there one behind-the-scenes moment that is especially memorable for you?
Emmalyn: Well, we did go outside, me and Paula and Simone. We saw all of the peacocks. That was a lot of fun. Paula was trying to play with one of the birds in the back. [Laughs]
Watch Pitbull’s ‘Wild Wild Love’ Feat. G.R.L.
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I got a sneak listen of your new single ‘Ugly Heart,’ and I actually woke up with it stuck in my head.
Paula: Yay, that’s awesome. I know, my family members have told me the same thing about it. “It’s in my head. I’ve been singing it all day.”
It’s infectious, in a good way! Can you talk about what inspired it?
Paula: All of our songs are very empowering to women. Obviously, the story is about breaking up with a guy who you thought was so beautiful on the outside and then really getting to know him and seeing an ugly side to him, hence ‘Ugly Heart.’ What inspired it was giving that message of strength and confidence and being a good person, inside and out. Not just having the exterior surface be all that you are.
I definitely got that message! You have a super successful collaboration with Pitbull. He’s so talented and has worked with so many superstars, but is there something you learned about him that would surprise fans?
Paula: You know, I used to backup dance for Pitbull, so he was always such a sweet artist to work with, being a dancer. Now that I’m actually an artist with him, getting to know him even more as a person, you can’t think a guy could be any sweeter than he is. He’s taken us under his wing and always has good advice to give us and gives us a nice, calm, confident energy. Even before [performing on ‘Today’], he gave us a nice little pep talk to ease our nerves. He’s just the guy you want leading the way. He’s the leader of this pack.
I heard that you guys are working on a full-length album.
Simone: Yes, it’s very eclectic. We have some straight across the board pop, upbeat, fun songs. We’ve got some R&B songs in there. We’ve got this one song in there that’s like a ‘90s throwback, which is cool, cause we’re all ‘90s babies. ‘Ugly Heart’ is really eclectic in itself. It’s got the ukulele and it kind of gives you this hoedown, country vibe. It’s really cool that we get to mix a bunch of different sounds.
"All of our songs are very empowering to women. Obviously, the story is about breaking up with a guy who you thought was so beautiful on the outside and then really getting to know him and seeing an ugly side to him, hence ‘Ugly Heart.’ What inspired it was giving that message of strength and confidence and being a good person, inside and out."
What point are you at in the recording process?
Simone: We’re new artists, so we’re still discovering our sound and we’ve already recorded around 10 songs. We want to make sure it’s perfect for our debut album.
Is there one song in particular that’s really personal to you?
Simone: Personal to me? I really love ‘Ugly Heart.’ I’ll tell you a little story about ‘Ugly Heart.’ When I was in high school, you know the hot guy in class that everybody has a crush on? The school hot guy? Well, there was that one guy and I remember I had a crush on him. He played a prank on me and pretended to like me and when I found out I was so embarrassed and I thought about that moment, listening to the song. I was like, “Wow, he kind of reminds me of the guy with an ugly heart in high school.” So I’m sure a lot of girls can relate to the song.
The group’s message is one of female empowerment. Is there one role model whom you particularly look to?
Lauren: Actually, she’s sitting right next to me now, Robin Antin. She was actually someone that put the group together in the beginning. She’s someone that’s in the music business and she’s a woman. The music business is a male-driven industry and to be with someone that’s so successful. It’s so good for us to be looking up to her and to be working with someone like that.
Especially since she’s someone you’re so close with and you’ve grown to know. Has she given you any advice?
Lauren: Always! She’s like family almost, you know. All of us girls are really, really close and she treats us like family and looks out for us. Coming down to the last little detail of our outfits, our choreography, our makeup, our hair. Everything that we do, she is there to support us.