It’s 6 a.m. Friday morning and the phone rings.
It’s Nicole Scherzinger, back from vacation in Turkey, calling on schedule to share some personal impressions on winning "Dancing With the Stars" last month and her plans to visit family in Hawaii, where she lived until age 6.
"I’m naturally a competitive person, but mostly with myself," she said, recalling her time on the show as an opportunity to learn about a completely different type of dancing.
"I was never so much competitive with the others … I learned so much, and what did surprise me is how difficult the style of dancing is and how incredibly detailed and technical it is. The form of dancing I’m used to doing is more going with the music. It’s a little bit more freestyle type of dance as opposed to being so technical."
For the benefit of anyone who may be returning to civilization after several months without access to the Internet or mainstream media, Scherzinger embarked in March on ABC’s "Dancing with the Stars" competition amid a field of celebrities that included astronaut Buzz Aldrin, mother-of-eight Kate Gosselin, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, "Baywatch" alumnus Pamela Anderson and Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek. Her partner, professional dancer/choreographer Derek Hough, had won the competition three years earlier and reached the semifinals three other times.
Scherzinger and Hough won the final round of competition on May 11, earning a perfect score of 30 to beat Lysacek and his partner, professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya.
"I couldn’t believe it," said Scherzinger, who was often seen wearing flower lei during offstage interludes. "I was waiting to see who had won and I was praying in my head that no matter what, I was thankful to have gotten that far. I was trying not to expect anything, but when it was announced I was very surprised.
"I was so happy, (but) I’m such a big fan of Evan, and I really love his talent and what he’s accomplished as a person. I think it really could have gone either way."
Although Scherzinger has done plenty of dancing as the lead vocalist of the Pussycat Dolls, she said ballroom dancing "is a completely different kind of thing" even though the Dolls’ shows are also rehearsed and choreographed.
Scherzinger remembers the rumba as being a difficult dance style, requiring her to "trust the work" she had done with Hough. The fox trot, jive and tango were three of her favorites.
With "Dancing" now history, Scherzinger is working on her next solo album. A single, as yet untitled, should be out in the next month or two, she says, with the album expected in stores by the end of the year.
In the meantime, fans can find "Heartbeat," a duet with Enrique Iglesias, on iTunes.
Looking ahead, Scherzinger hopes to return to Hawaii soon, this time to visit family and friends and enjoy some "ono grinds," rather than to perform.
"I hope I made my family and Hawaii proud," she said. "My heart and spirit were always in the right place, and the hard work and determination (paid off). I took a chance (because) people see me dancing (with the Pussycat Dolls), but I’m a singer first and it was a challenge. It was about hard work and perseverance and never giving up."
Scherzinger, who is of Filipina-Hawaiian-Russian descent, credits her mother, who "had me at a young age," with instilling the work ethic that has gotten her to where she is.
"I came from very humble beginnings, but that never stopped me. I was a little girl coming from a little island who had big dreams, and I set after them and I really trusted in God … and I encourage anybody who has that dream to go after it. "