Rebel With a Cause
FOR years, Madison Square Garden has hosted circuses, athletic events and outlandish pop-music performances. On April 4 and 5, it gets all three at once when P!nk brings her “Beautiful Trauma” tour to the arena on the heels of her national anthem appearance at the Super Bowl in February.
The tour is the culmination of a career that began in the late- 1990s as a teen-idol candidate who trailed the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, but has seen her grow into one of the world’s most recognized, beloved and wealthy entertainers —with a healthy dose of controversy along the way.
“This is the dream I had,” she admits, “and now I’ve done it. I no longer feel like the underdog with a point to prove.”
“I’ve never won the popularity contest,” she adds. “I was never as big as Britney or Christina.” Nevertheless, since her 2000 debut, “Can’t Take Me Home,” P!nk’s singular style and tireless work ethic have earned her over 40 million album sales, 65 million singles, more than a million DVDs worldwide and 14 singles in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Much of that success is due to her exhaustive performances, her robust vocals, soul-baring lyrics and aerial feats.
With the greatest of ease, P!nk sang “Sober” while performing a trapeze act at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. At the Grammys the following year, she delivered “Glitter in the Air” while twisting herself in aerial silks—a spot that Billboard ranked as the best performance between 2000 and 2012. In 2009, the music trade magazine also named her one of the Artists of the Decade. Then, at the American Music Awards in November 2017, she wailed “Beautiful Trauma” while scaling the wall of the JW Marriott Los Angeles hotel. Quite literally, P!nk rises above the competition.
She was born Alecia Beth Moore on Sept. 8, 1979, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of nurse Judy Kugel Moore and insurance salesman Jim Moore. There was always music in the house: her dad’s love of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Don McLean, her mother’s fondness for Patsy Cline and Anita Baker. “The Mamas & the Papas was my first vinyl record,” she remembers.
Her parents, however, divorced when she was 8. “I didn’t have a hard childhood,” she says. “Compared to other people I had a wonderful childhood. But there was a lot of fighting in my house. I was kicked out of Sunday school as a young child. I was kicked out of the Brownies. I never made it to Girl Scouts. I was into punk-rock music and the theme of anti-authority.”
At age 14, about the time she started school at Central Bucks High School West, she began performing in Philadelphia, taking her stage name from the character Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino’s bloody film, “Reservoir Dogs.” “I was extreme,” she admits. “I went from skateboarder to hip-hopper to rave child to lead singer in a band.” And, like most girls her age in the 1980s, she worshiped at the feet of Madonna. “I was a fan from the first time I heard ‘Holiday.’”
Another rebel woman loomed large in Alecia’s formative years: Janis Joplin. “She was so inspiring by singing blues music when it wasn’t culturally acceptable for white women,” P!nk explains, “and she wore her heart on her sleeve. I would love to play her in a movie.”
Once P!nk began her own career, though, it was she that young women saw as a role model. First, there are the hits: anthemic tunes such as “Get the Party Started,” “Just Give Me a Reason” and “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken.”
Then, there’s the attitude. In 2006, she titled her fourth album “I’m Not Dead” because “It’s about being alive and feisty and not shutting up even though people would like you to.” More recently, while suffering from the flu, she spat out a throat lozenge, then launched into a spine-tingling rendition of the national anthem at Super Bowl LII.
The next day, when an internet troll posted a note saying her performance “sucked,” P!nk shot back, “At least I suck while singing our countries [sic] national anthem, and you just suck by yourself on a dirty couch.” Moral: Don’t mess with a woman who scales buildings.
Finally, there’s her singular style. “I’m a tomboy, but I’m kind of a hippie and kind of a gangster. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but it is my thing.” Her thing features an endless range of hairstyles as well: blond, pink, shaved, Mohawk—and a fashion sense that favors strong images such as athletic wear and the occasional men’s suit. All of this has led to P!nk becoming a new feminist icon. At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, she told a moving tale about her daughter Willow’s being ashamed of herself because she looked “like a boy.” (P!nk married former motocross racer Carey Hart in 2006; they had Willow in 2011).
“When people make fun of me, that’s what they use,” she told Willow, who was in the audience. They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions. Or my body is too strong.”
“I said to her, ‘Do you see me growing my hair? No. Do you see me changing my body? No. Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’
“So, baby girl, we don’t change,” she said. “We help other people change so they can see more kinds of beauty.”
The other “baby” is the couple’s son, Jameson, born in 2016. “There are moments where I look at [Hart] and he is the most thoughtful, logical, constant … he’s like a rock,” she says. “He’s a good man. He’s a good dad. And then I’ll look at him and go, ‘I’ve never liked you.’ Monogamy is work!” she adds. “But you do the work and it’s good again.”
Even with a massive career and a busy family life, P!nk manages to work for causes that include the Human Rights Campaign, PETA, the ONE Campaign, the Prince’s Trust, the Run for the Cure Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Animal Protection.
“I’m trying to figure out what’s important to me as a mom, because that’s my number one thing. If nothing else happened to me as ‘P!nk,’ I would feel really proud of what I’ve done.”