Estelle wasn’t always this confident. Picture a spindly teenager with protruding boobs and a booty most women (and men) would slaughter for. “I always thought I was too skinny. And then I started getting boobs and I stayed skinny. I got a butt and I stayed skinny. And then I could fit all the couture clothes and I stayed skinny. It was great!” She chuckles. “Growing up skinny, you get called a rake, a mop. It’s as much as the chubby girls. I got some shape and I was like, Okay I’ll rock out with it.”
Curvy and well fed nowadays (thanks to her wildly successful 2008 stateside debut, Shine, and mentor John Legend), the U.K. import once teased for her crooked teeth exudes coolness and certainty. Her heartbreak-laden yet cheery LP All Of Me depicts a chick who’s grown balls, both through other’s mistakes (see: the Akon-penned anthem “Thank You”) and her own.
Tonight, we’re face to face in an Atlantic Records conference room in New York; it’s the stock record-label backdrop for promo-hungry artists. Chic and petite, Estelle’s sporting a designer hodgepodge—camel-colored cropped leather coat, Helmut Lang pants, black Top Shop tee and Chanel boots, accessorized with a Tory Burch belt, Hermes bracelet and vintage turquoise ring. She’s trying to pinpoint her top three white boy crushes. “Ryan Gosling, Ryan Gosling and Ryan Gosling,” she jokes. When her little sis suggests Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, a smiling Estelle silently rejects. They dissolve into laughter. Doting on her most introspective album to date, Vixen takes an icepick to the cocoa-skinned singer-MC’s brain about music, love, the best of times and the worst. —Clover Hope