The Pussycat Dolls sold nearly 3 million albums in 2006, thanks largely to their leader Nicole Scherzinger. With a solo debut set for 2007, Complex's Woman of Next Year talks about performing, rappers, and why you should date a ballerina.

This feature originally appeared in Complex's December 2006/January 2007 issue.

How many time can a megasexy woman with perfect, shiny hair and smoky eye makeup claim to be a nerd before it gets annoying? If it's Pussycat Doll front woman Nicole Scherzinger...as many times as she wants. And not just 'cause she's hot. No disrespect, but she honestly seems like a nerd. She says, "Oh my gosh" a lot, for example. The 28-year-old Russian/Hawaiian/Filipina bombshell was born in Hawaii, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and majored in theater at Wright State University (Ohio). She left school in 1999 to join the band Days of the New, then landed on the WB show Popstars and the group Eden's Crush. But she never realized her ambition until 2004, when she auditioned for the Pussycat Dolls burlesque act in front of a star-studded audience at L.A.'s famed Viper Room. Three years—and nearly 3 million albums sold—later, Scherzinger is finishing her currently untitled solo debut. It's the revenge of the nerd.

Just to start off—
Of all the people I've met you totally don't seem like you'd be doing this job interviewing me. You're all wearing flannel You look like you're from back home in Kentucky.

Um, thanks? Anyway, do you have a career plan that you're following?
I totally have a plan. I want to do movies, another Pussycat Dolls album, and another solo album after that. I want to write my own Broadway musical, too.

Really?
It’s my twisted mind, my heart, and my soul. I’m never happy unless I can communicate and express myself through all of the arts—singing, dancing, acting, writing. As dramatic as that sounds…

That’s my real question, are you in pursuit of happiness, success, money—
It’s probably selfish, but my work is therapy for me. I never feel that any of my stuff is good enough. But, I love it so much.

Do you have the same deal as the rest of the Pussycat Dolls? Are you a salaried employee of the label?
My deal is a bit different. I have the same deal as the other girls but I have a solo deal as well. I annoyed the hell out of Jimmy Iovine when I said, “I won’t be a Pussycat Doll unless you give me a solo deal.” I just knew that I had my own voice and my own style. So I kind of shoved it down his throat.

You’re comfortable in front of a crowd, but do you get nervous on a first date?

I get so nervous. To be honest with you, I don’t go on dates—I’ve never really dated. I’ve always been in long relationships and long distance relationships, which has been kinda hard. I just like to laugh and be goofy and get to know real people. I’m a different girl. I keep to myself. I grew up in a conservative Catholic family, so being in the Pussycat Dolls was a big stretch for me.

Are you seeing anyone now?
No. I have no time.

Objectively, are most rappers mature men or adult babies?
Um, both. You know? They’ve gone through their own trials and tribulations to get where they are. But they are also mature babies just doing their thing, having fun. I haven’t hung around enough rappers to know their stories.

That’s such a positive answer. People always bag on rappers.
Thanks. It’s the truth, though. I can’t judge other people until I’ve walked in their footsteps. I know 50, he’s a friend of mine. Other people too—I can’t imagine what they’ve gone through, so who am I to say?

Do you wear sexy outfits for your man?
Oh my gosh! It’s kinda funny, ’cause I’m just really…coming from Kentucky, we’re simple, so we wear kinda granny-looking, cute little  flowery lacy things, you know? But occasionally I like to wear, not trashy things, but very…things that I think are, um, complimentary in bed [laughs].

What do you want back from your man?
I just like a guy to give me a lot of attention. It’s all about the chemistry and the mind space, ’cause the mind is so powerful it can take the body anywhere you want to go.

Speaking of taking the body elsewhere, have you ever had sex outside?
Oh my God! I hope my mom doesn’t read this! Um. Sure. I love nature.

Do you abstain from sex before big shows the way boxers do before a big fight?
To be honest with you, I don’t get to have sex much, because I’m always working! Thank God the stage gets me excited, ’cause I’m always on stage.

Is it a similar type of satisfaction?
It can be. It’s like this high, you know?

Afterwards you feel relaxed?
It’s actually while I’m on stage. Afterwards you come down from the high.

Who’s better at sex, ballerinas or strippers?
Ballerinas. Without a doubt. Are you kidding?

I think you’re right.

Oh my gosh, I know so. I’ve studied ballet. No, I’m just joking! Ballerinas are just fierce! They’re strong, they’ve got a lot of stamina, they’re fit, they’re very flexible, and they know how to move. There’s something sexy about people who are more reserved, because there’s a mystery.

Have you ever been to a topless beach?
Nope.

If you did, would you drop your top?
No, I wouldn’t. But don’t get a few drinks in me, though. No, I’m just joking.

Do you think about your role as an empowered sexy woman?
I just do what I do. What you see is what you get. I see myself as the biggest nerd ever. When I’m on stage, I’m on, like, super-woman steroids. It’s like the ooze that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles used to take. I’m just like, me, but on steroids. Does that sound really bad?

No, being intimately familiar with the TMNT is sexy. Are you intuitive?
Very. It’s kinda trippy. When I was younger, I felt like I had this, I don’t want to sound cheesy…yeah, I am an intuitive person. I feel people, I’m a feeler. I can usually read people very well.

Have you ever seen a ghost?
No.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Sure. I’m a spiritual person. I grew up Catholic, so I have a strong faith in God. I’d rather see angels than ghosts, but I do believe.

Do you think about God as a protector and the Devil as a corruptor?
Yeah. This is for Complex magazine? This is very complex [laughs]! I have a good relationship with God. I don’t want to say the word “devil,” because sometimes that scares people, but I know that there is evil out there. I just really have a strong faith. My faith is what has gotten me to where I am today.

That’s a good place to end.
Yeah, ya think?

WATCH THE BEHIND THE-SCENES VIDEO:

ADDITIONAL CREDITS:
Styling by Jewels/The Wall Group; Hair by Frankie Payne/Luxe Management; Makeup by Mathu Anderson/MargaretMaldonado.com; Manicure by Jamayka; Production Design by Sara Catullo/Frank Management.

First & Fourth Image: Corset by Syren; Bra by Luvelle; Sweater by BCBG Max Azria; Panties by Victoria's Secret; Boots by Alexander McQueen

Second, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh & Cover Image: Dress by Syren

Third Image: Jacket by Dolce & Gabbana; Panties and bra by Victoria's Secret; Boots by Marc Jacobs