She’s hot, she’s pop and she’s from Oz.
Stop. Just stop. For God’s sake, stop talking, man. FHM is less than five minutes into its relationship with 18-year-old Australian singing sensation Gabriella Cilmi (pronounced “chill-me”) and for some reason we’ve started telling a lengthy yarn that ends with us being dragged out of the female toilets of an Edinburgh nightclub with our boxers round our ankles.
Actually, scrub that, we know the reason. We’ve jumped on this horrific no-going-back-no-escape-runaway-anecdote-train because we’re flustered. Flustered by Cilmi’s deep dark eyes. Flustered because London’s fault-prone public transport system has ensured we’ve needed to sprint the final mile of our journey. Flustered that this rare venture into the arena of exercise means sweat is cascading off our brow.
And flustered because we have to approach a potentially touchy subject. Namely that Cilmi used to invite boys into the girls’ toilets and put on ‘special’ shows for them.
“That’s true, but it’s not what you think,” laughs the Melbourne-born beauty who moved to London aged 15. “I wrote my first song when I was nine and was so excited I snuck a few guys into the girls’ toilet so they and the girls could hear me perform it. Ha – I’ve just realised this means my first gig was in a toilet!”
Her most recent one was at the Australian Grand Prix. And was beamed out to over
200 million people. A globe-spanning performance planned to publicise Cilmi’s blossoming from girl to woman. A show designed to scream forget about the innocent teen who brought you international mega-hit Sweet About Me and embrace Cilmi 2.0 – this time arousal’s not illegal.
“I definitely feel more confident than I used to,” smiles the fox who was discovered while singing Jumpin’ Jack Flash at a Melbourne street festival aged 13. She really does. We can tell. Partly by listening to her new album – a catchy disco-themed collection produced by Dallas Austin who has previously worked with Pink, TLC and Gwen Stefani. But mainly by observing her demeanour – Cilmi talks, acts and dresses like a seasoned professional. She is in control. She is making decisions. And given two of them have been ‘shoot for FHM’ and ‘dress as a sexy space alien for the On A Mission video’, this is something we men should be very grateful for.
“Did you like the Barbarella/sexy space alien feel?” she queries. “I thought it was cool, although I did have to dance in water in 6in heels. By the end of the day there were bloodstains on the shoes. Honestly. I worked my arse off. Blood, sweat and tears went into that video – tell your readers to remember that when they watch it.”
You can try, but you’ll fail. You, like us, will only be able to recall hot pants, taut legs and thrusting cleavage. And you, like us, will wonder how on earth this incredible creation could possibly be struggling to find someone to accompany her to cocktail parties and movie premieres. “It’s true,” she smiles. “I need a date for tomorrow, actually…”
I think it could be dressy.
We can scrub up.
I need to find a man with a suit.
We’ve got a suit.
And I need to be able to trust him.
Discretion is our middle name.
I know! I’ll take one of my band.
Fine, be like that. Apparently, it’s tough to get accepted by the Cilmi family, anyway…
You’re not kidding. My family are all Italian, so are really protective of me. I’d wait so long before I introduce any guy to my family, because my ten cousins would give him dirty looks at the dinner table and my dad would probably take him outside for a word. It’d be embarrassing, so I’d have to make sure he’s really special before I put a guy through that.
And how does a man become really special?
I don’t know. I like the whole “un-evolved man” look – a little bit of stubble, checked shirt and blue jeans – but to be honest I’m really fussy and the whole guy thing has been annoying me recently.
First I found out this guy who invited me to lunch had a girlfriend. And then, a couple of weeks ago, this other guy that I thought was kind of cute got into a fight at the bar while we were out.
We thought that was supposed to be sexy? You know, protecting your honour and all that.
It would be if he’d done it to protect me but he didn’t. He just punched someone. I was like, “I’m leaving.”
Okay, so we’ve ticked off fighting and having girlfriends – any other big no-nos? Asking too many questions on text and being overly emotional. I mean, I can be deep too, but if you do it all the time it’s boring. I’m not going to save you. That’s not my job.
Making music videos is, though. How are you going to top ‘sexy space alien’?
I’d love to play the first gig in space – that would top it – but in terms of a video, maybe something in Egypt? The desert. It’s always been like a fantasy of mine, so I’d love to be Cleopatra or Medusa. Maybe I could be covered in snakes, that’d be cool.
Really! Like most girls I’m petrified of rodents and I wouldn’t go near a crocodile or shark, but snakes don’t really do anything to me, so I think I could handle them. Yeah, that sounds good – you heard it here first!
We also saw you here first. How did you enjoy your first men’s magazine shoot?
I loved it. Italian women are taught to celebrate their figures, so as long as I am comfortable with the photographer and confident the shoot is going to look classy, I’m not afraid of showing off my body.
Or being drenched in cold water.
It wasn’t just cold, that water was freezing!
I felt like I was drowning towards the end of it. A couple of people were just pouring buckets of water on me and others were coming over and rubbing my shirt with water and oil. I was, like, “Hang on, get your hands off!”
Sorry about that.
Don’t apologise, I like cold water, so that shot was fun, actually. Plus I was smothered in oil that smelled nice and tropical and I had on one of my favourite outfits from the shoot.
Did any of the outfits inspire you to go out and splash the cash?
There wasn’t exactly much on me! But of the stuff that was, I was tempted by the black corset. I love corsets because they really zoom you in. I’ve got some that I got made up by a woman in Australia. They’re really beautiful.
If a little tough to get into...
Yeah, you need some help. I’m lucky, though. Because I tend to wear them onstage I don’t have to wear them really tight. I don’t know if I could have lived back in the day where they wore them all the time. Mind you they do give me a nice shape when I’m performing.
Agreed. You’re about to head out on tour. Who’d be your ideal support act?
I would love to have the ’70s Led Zeppelin support me. But since that can’t happen, I’d pick Muse, who I think are kind of like a young Led Zeppelin, but not quite. Matt Bellamy is incredible. I saw them at the Royal Albert Hall and thought he was crazy insane, so talented.
Think we’ll come to see your concert in that case. We didn’t expect that…
You obviously haven’t been to one of my shows. I’m a massive Led Zeppelin fan. Houses Of The Holy is my favourite album, and on my last tour I sang Whole Lotta Love, which is my favourite song in the world. It won me a lot of male fans, too – I had three metalhead guys who followed me everywhere, which is cool. I have a lot in common with metalheads.
Like a bunch of tattoos?
No! I might be getting a tattoo on my ankle but nothing too outrageous. I like to keep my body nice and clean.
How about your music? Is a dirty metal album next?
Never say never. I’d love to do a metal or a dirtier blues record. But I don’t think people are ready for either yet. So, for now, you’re just going to have to watch this space.
Gabriella’s new album Ten is out now.
Words: Stuart Hood