International pop star Nelly Furtado momentarily put the brakes on her jet-setting life on Wednesday, taking time to indulge fans in Victoria, B.C. by signing dozens of autographs and posing for photographs.
An estimated 1,500 fans — mostly young girls — gathered before noon at Centennial Square, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Grammy-winning singer who was raised in the city and was honoured at a ceremony proclaiming March 21 Nelly Furtado Day. Krista Butler, 16, was among those who staked out a spot early, hoping to see the Furtado she adores because "she's more real and not like other stars. She doesn't wear a lot of makeup or sleezy clothes.
" It proved worth the wait. After formal ceremonies were done, Furtado leisurely walked through the crowd, hugging fans who wanted photographs of them standing with the pop star, and signing anything that was passed her way, from Coke bottles to pink diaries. On stage, an emotional Furtado, recalled her youth and the teachers who influenced her life.
She wiped away tears on the outdoor stage she first performed on when she was nine years old, dressed in a folkloric costume and playing a four-string instrument. "I think it is really neat how she appreciates where she is from," said Breanne Crisp, 16. How does she stay real?
Furtado told reporters: "It's my roots, you know. My parents were real simple people. My father was a stonemason by trade.
My mother was a housekeeper. When you have roots like that, it is easy to stay grounded. I don't come from anywhere but the ground beneath me and that's where I stay.
" Dressed in a cropped suede jacket, jeans and black high-heeled boots, the singer credited "the wonderful programs" she had and "the wonderful people" around her for her music success. Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe said Furtado's ability to "stay grounded and connected to her family, her friends, and all those who have supported her and shaped her evolution as a person and an artist" is both appealing and inspiring. Furtado, who has lived in Toronto for years, had especially kind words for 52 students from Mount Douglas High School who put their spring break plans on hold to strut their stuff before the international pop star who once walked the same halls they do now.
A glitch with the music CD left half the dancers on stage without the intended medley of Furtado tunes to set their pace. As they valiantly soldiered on with their routine in silence, Furtado rose from the VIP seating area, took the mike, and enjoined the audience to shout out a rapper's call with her as an accompaniment to the dancers. "That goes to show you everything in life doesn't go perfectly, and that's the way you build your character," Furtado said after the impromptu event.
Teacher Michelle Leonard said the dance students from Furtado's alma mater reassembled over the holidays to perform at the Centennial Square event. She decided last summer to include a Furtado song in the dance repertoire but never imagined the work would be shown to the star. The music choice "was a no-brainer for me," said Leonard.
"It is neat that someone that went to the school that they did, who was relatively unknown, went on to be a big star. It opens up their eyes to the fact that the possibilities are endless." Leonard, who teaches French, dance and math, is no stranger to celebrity, having danced for royalty.
"But I wish I had an opportunity like this. I had an opportunity to perform for royalty but never someone like a big pop star." Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, Michelle's father, said Furtado isn't necessarily the biggest name to come out of that municipality, but she's definitely among the youngest celebrities.
Local governments tend to recognize people who are at the end of their careers. "It's inspiring to recognize someone so young.