She may sing like an animated puppet, and wear all her outrageous wardrobe at once, but Cyndi Lauper’s loyal fans wouldn’t have her any other way. And that, as she tells Fiona Cumberpatch, is just as well…
For someone who claims she doesn’t think she’s very attractive, pop singer Cyndi Lauper is doing a great job at covering it up. She poses for the camera, arms wrapped seductively around her body and heavy-lidded eyes almost closed. At a word from the photographer she pouts sulky red lips and purrs into the lens with all the sexy confidence of a professional pin-up.
But once the lights are switched off and the show time’s over, she can still insist “I really don’t feel comfortable having my picture taken. I think it’s because I don’t look like those gaunt models in the glossy magazines”. It’s not the kind of confession you’d expect from a dollar millionairess whose trademark is dressing to excess. But Cyndi’s deadly serious.
Lowering her little-girl voice (she says poy-son for person and noo yoik for new york) she confides earnestly, “I have to be careful about the way I dress. You know, if I wear skirts of a certain length then they make my legs look like sticks. They really do”.
And when she’s forced to tone down that distinctive Lauper image to avoid being recognized, she says she can hardly bear to look at her self in the mirror. “I think to myself – God you look so ugly! So I get my red lipstick out and put that on but then I look like I have big lips and no eyes so I put some eye make up on and then I’m back to looking like myself again! But….” she gives a big sigh, “I guess you should look at yourself and try to appreciate way you are”.
And the way she is, is unique. Since Cyndi first burst onto the pop scene in the mid eighties with her smash hit Girls just wanna have fun, her distinctive image has inspired hundreds of copies. Even her one-time rival, Madonna, liked the look so much she adapted it for herself. And while some may say Madonna did it with more style and success, Cyndi will always be the original to an army of fashion followers.
Not that Cyndi needs to feel threatened by anyone these days. With a new single, Primitive, and a film, paradise paved, currently in the making, she’s set to start the Nineties with a bang. At the same time she’s honest enough to admit that staying on top for the past five years hasn’t been easy.
“Success is a weird thing” she says rather sadly.” When you first make it, its great. But then you get people knocking you saying, “she can’t sing, she can’t act” and you need to be really strong to get through that”. Success might have come easier, Cyndi says now, if she’d conformed to her record company’s requirements. “They wanted me to change my hair. my make-up, my clothes. I had to say to them -I am Cyndi. I don’t change for no one and I do not fit into any category. So I guess it took me longer to find success than it takes some other people”.
And although, at thirty something, Cyndi reckons she’s a survivor, she confesses that the strain sometimes gets to her.” You go though a rollendi reckons she’s a survivor, she confesses that the strain sometimes gets to her.” You go though a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes, when I’m very happy, I know that I’m going to come crashing down the next day. But I force myself to smile and get though it. And writing my songs and performing helps me to deal with it”.
She did, however, find happiness when teamed up with manager, David Wolf, who soon became her long-term lover. But the couple have recently split up after five years. Cyndi will say only “I loved David and he loved me. A part of us will always love each other but we just came to the end of the road. Onwards and upwards. That’s life, I suppose.”
Now Cyndi is throwing herself into her work. And admits that she likes to be involved in every aspect of it. “I write my own music, I think of the ideas for my videos. When my music is being mixed in the studio I go in there and get involved.”
Putting together that fantastic ragbag of a wardrobe is something she loves to do, too.” One of my best friends owns this second-hand clothes store called Screaming Mimis, where I used to work before i made it. Now she’s my stylist. She’ll find all these amazing things and I go in and look them over. When we get together it’s a try-on hell! In the states people like us are called rag pickers. That’s what we like to do and we’ve had some very special time together”.
If she hadn’t made it as a singer, says Cyndi, she’d probably have ended up making clothes for a living. But now, “I can’t have a sewing machine or I’d be up all night making things and I’d never get any work done. I can’t set eyes on two handkerchiefs without wondering what I could make out of them.”
If she has children, she says, she’d dress them in the same eccentric style. “I can just see myself putting vegetable dye on their hair and dressing them up crazy”, she giggles.
Not that a family is likely in the near future,” I’ve been busy for so long that there hasn’t been time. Maybe one day, I don’t think about it much now.”
For the moment, Cyndi’s happy with her career. She loves to travel and has just finished a tour which took in the more remote regions of Japan and Venezuela. “We traveled where no band has been before,” she says with a grin. “It was wild. My band said to me,” the next time you want to take some kind of vacation, do us a favour and go on your own!”
She gives a long stretch and yawns. “But there’s nothing like singing and doing music so I wouldn’t be likely to go far. Not for any crazy vacation.”