Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 1011 from October 19, 2006. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone's premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.
It's two in the afternoon on a Friday, and Fergie Ferg is at Pastis, an enduringly trendy French bistro in Manhattan's meatpacking district. She's seated outside, which is a little risky in the meatpacking district because there are always celebrities floating around — a moment ago Penélope Cruz strolled up in an extraordinary amount of makeup, looked around and wandered off — which means there's always paparazzi lurking. A sexy blond star with a hot single, "London Bridge," who's one-quarter of one of the biggest hip-hop groups in the world, the Black Eyed Peas, and who's got a hot actor boyfriend, Josh Duhamel — all that adds up to honey for shutterbugs. Even now, across the street, there's one shooting Fergie through a telephoto lens. But Fergie doesn't notice. She's too busy making up words.
"I love imitating instruments," Fergie says of her vocal style. "Sometimes you can't understand what I'm saying because I'm going for an instrumental sound. It would ruin the sound if I pronunciated correctly." Fergie favors linguistic mash-ups, like that portmanteau pairing of "enunciated" and "pronounced." Earlier, she unveiled her new favorite: risiculous. "When something is so, so sick, it's risiculous," she says. "It's sick and ridiculous. Risiculous. See, I have my own dictionary." When asked if she's a tomboy, she says, "I'm not that categorizable, if that's a word." It's not. "But it is in my dictionary. OK? Sometimes I can be tomboyish, and sometimes I can be girly. It depends on what mood I'm in. I like the balance. That whole woman/ little girl thing, I like to play both of those."
Thirty-one-year-old Stacy Ferguson's natural uncategorizabilty is why one moment she's tomboyish in a sporty tank and Adidas running shoes, dancing like one of the boys, and then a lady in heels, a Betty Boop-ish flirt who winks seductively, blows kisses and says breathily, "Bye, you." Growing up in suburban Southern California, just outside L.A., she had friends who went to the beach and listened to Guns n' Roses, and cholo and chola friends who'd listen to oldies and go cruising. "I was always kind of eclectic in my tastes," she says.
Fergie is all about the contradictions, the little enigmas. She was a good girl, an A student, a selfproclaimed people pleaser, who grew up and became a crystal-meth addict. (The ring she wears through her right eyebrow is a present she gave herself five years ago when she kicked meth.) Her debut single, "London Bridge," is built around a shadowy metaphor. When she says, "How come every time you come around my London, London Bridge wanna go down," what exactly does "London Bridge" mean? Is it panties? A body part? She resists a direct answer: "It's ambiguous." But even so, you get the sense: It's a sexual euphemism. It's not clear, but it's not complicated.
More contradictions: She's in a rap group and she's rapping on "London Bridge," but her debut album, The Dutchess, certainly isn't a rap album, and she doesn't call herself a rapper. The Dutchess includes a wide swath of flavors, from the fun not-rapping of "London Bridge" and "Fergalicious," inspired by J.J. Fad's "Supersonic," to pillow-talk R&B ballads, rockers and reggae-tinged grooves. Fergie rhymes, she sings, she chats, she stops in the middle of "Clumsy" for a speech, she does whatever she wants, 'cause she's uncategorizable.
"I'm not claiming to be a battle MC," she says. "That's not where I'm taking this. This is just paying homage to artists like Roxanne Shanté, Monie Love, Salt-n-Pepa, J.J. Fad — women I looked up to." Fergie loves hip-hop, but she has always known she's an outsider. "In junior high I was fascinated by gangsta rap," she says, sipping a caipirinha. "I was suburban, yet I had glimpses from where I lived. I'm hearing all the stories about what was going on in East L.A. and South Central, looking at it from the outside. I think I come from a whole generation of that. That's why a lot of people can relate with me, because they lived that, too. Seeing it but not really living it. So there weren't any of the negative consequences to the guns and all of that. It was just interesting and sexy."
Today, Fergie is wearing oversize black bug-eyed glasses, a droopy gray low-cut shirt, thigh-hugging shorts and a necklace with a tiny replica of brass knuckles. Her long blond hair hangs down past her shoulders with a modern scruffiness — you know, that I-didn't-do-my-hair thing. She looks over the Pastis menu and lays eyes on the homemade mushroom ravioli with sage, walnuts and brown butter. She's a tiny girl, a size two, who works out every day and gets meals delivered to her by a diet service so she doesn't have to think about what she's eating. Still, she struggles to stay on her diet and often cheats. She licks her lips and says, almost in awe, "Brown butter." Then a moment later, to herself, "Ferguson, behave." She orders the baby chicken, no brown butter.