EXCLUSIVE: Natasha Bedingfield on How Her Struggling Parents Fed a Family of 6 on $6 a Day
By Leena Tailor
Wearing a gorgeous Bebe Aguirre floral two-piece and belting out fan favorite “Pocketful of Sunshine” at one of her bucket list concert venues, it wouldn’t be surprising if Natasha Bedingfield was secretly pinching herself at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this month.
Since she began pursuing her music dreams, the 35-year-old singer has performed for the Pope and former President Barack Obama, earned a GRAMMY nomination, toured with Justin Timberlake and New Kids on the Block and collaborated with everyone from Lifehouse and Rascal Flatts to Nick Carter and Nicki Minaj.
But the glitzy life is a world away from her childhood in the U.K., where the singer reveals her New Zealand-born parents, John and Molly, struggled to make ends meet, feeding their family on less than $6 a day and relying heavily on supermarket scraps.
“My parents left New Zealand with my brother as a baby and they only had $200,” Bedingfield told ET before hitting the stage to open for Train on night two of their Play That Song tour. “They were Christian and wanted to help change the world, so they decided to come to London and got involved with a lot of inner-city stuff.”
“Our budget for food was like £30 a week [US$39] and we would go to Tesco and Sainsbury’s and get stuff as they were throwing it out, when it was discounted,” Bedingfield continued. “My mom was really good at stretching a penny.”
While today she performs onstage and hits red carpets in stunning designer outfits, Bedingfield noted that as a kid she couldn’t have been less trendy. She and her three siblings -- Joshua, Nikola and ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ hitmaker Daniel -- all had wardrobes consisting of secondhand gear.
“We were so uncool,” she reflected. “I had plimsolls when they weren’t cool and I never had a shell suit. We would go and get everything secondhand, so if I look back on our pictures we look like '70s kids because we were all wearing flares and stuff!”
Despite growing up with little money, Bedingfield enjoyed her at-times eclectic childhood, spent between the U.K. and New Zealand, and praises her parents for making ends meet while pursuing their passion to help change the world though social and charity work.
At 11, driven Bedingfield -- who formed dance/electronic group The DNA Algorithm with her siblings during her teens -- started changing her own financial circumstances by getting her first job. “I started working at a pharmacy down the road and babysitting and I’ve basically worked since,” she shared. “I guess I went, ‘Woo, money! I like this feeling!’”
“And then my brother [Daniel] really opened the door for me because he was making music in his bedroom and using all this amazing gear,” she added about her music career, which further helped transform her finances. “A DJ released his song and it blew up and he kept telling people his sister was amazing too. Everyone was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, everyone has a talented sister.’ But he kept talking about me and somehow I got a record deal.”
Her debut album Unwritten spawned hits including “These Words,” and “Single” and ignited worldwide success. However, Bedingfield remains conscious of “what money can buy you and how far you have to make it stretch.” She has also become passionate about helping others who are in disadvantaged situations, traveling to India as an ambassador for the Global Angels Foundation (a charity formed by her mom to help struggling communities around the world) and headlining last year’s Imagine Ball, which raised money to help families emerge from homelessness.
“We didn’t have much money growing up, but our parents did what they could, so I love to help make a difference if I can,” said Bedingfield, who wed Californian businessman Matt Robinson in 2009. “I think the main problem or challenge for youth is that we don’t really know what to do to help. So, getting the information out there is the most important thing because if we know that what we’re doing or that our money or time is actually really helping people then you feel inspired and motivated.”
And when it comes to feeling inspired, the songstress has been busy working on new music, performing new songs during her Hollywood Bowl set. Her latest single, “Let Go,” was released by Nestea as part of its Taste of Freedom campaign, which encourages people to take time out from their busy lives and mobile phones. Calling songwriting her “main addiction,” Bedingfield has also been working with Brandy and Tinie Tempah and has plenty of other new music she hopes to share soon, but says she’s in no rush.
“I’m feeling very relaxed about it because I feel free,” she explained. “The rules have changed in music and I’m excited about that -- it doesn’t feel like you have to get a label commission for everything now. It feels like you can just be you and have your vision, which is great because I think the most important thing is being authentic.”
In the meantime, Bedingfield’s pumped to spend the rest of the summer on the road with Train, having first met lead singer Pat Monahan while working with Yoko Ono on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus in 2008. Both Train and Bedingfield performed on the Sail Across the Sun music cruise in February before hitting the road together on the Play That Song tour.
“I like them because they’re really fun and don’t take themselves too seriously,” says Bedingfield, who returned to the stage after her opening set to duet with Monahan on the group’s 2012 hit “Bruises.” “A lot of times people spend a lot of energy trying to be cool and end up missing out on a lot of fun. I think being fun is cooler than keeping a straight face the whole time… maybe I look down on coolness because I wasn’t a cool kid!”