Out to the east of London, where the English capital surrenders to Essex -- the United Kingdom's most ridiculed county (think New Jersey without the sophistication) -- they make girls like Jessie J.
With a black bob so sharp you could cut your fingers on it, a cat suit that was more a nod to superheroes than her ass, and her lips covered in studs, the pop singer kicked her way onto the British charts last fall with her crotch-grabbing single 'Do It Like A Dude.'
In the U.K. only the mighty Adele, Jessie's old schoolmate, could keep the 23-year-old and her platinum debut, Who You Are, from reaching number 1. But don't feel too badly for her: She's already written a number 1 hit for Miley Cyrus ('Party in the U.S.A.'), supported Chris Brown and Cyndi Lauper on tour, been called 'the best singer in the world' by Justin Timberlake, and scored a coveted Saturday Night Live booking this past March before most of America even knew who she was.
'It's quite nice to be able to walk around without people wanting a picture or running over to me,' she says as she explores New York City during a week-long promo tour that coincides with the U.S. release of Who You Are. 'I recently had a bit of a panic attack [in London], like a moment of I can't go out by myself anymore!' she says, referring to an incident when she was nearly devoured Suddenly, Last Summer-style at a shopping mall.
Not that she's complaining. 'At the end of the day, I've spent seven years preparing for this, and if I wasn't aware of the fact that your independence gets taken away and that your life isn't the same, then I couldn't really do the job,' she says. 'You've just got to embrace it.'
She talks loud and fast and funny in an accent that to most would sound Cockney. She says what she likes and likes what she says, and when she announced her bisexuality earlier this year, it was with a refreshing 'what's your problem?' bravura that is rare in these pussyfooting days.
However, the subject of boyfriends and girlfriends is off-limits because the singer doesn't think it's fair to fling a partner into a world where you can get mobbed while you're shopping. And don't think her spunk and her unapologetic attitude toward her sexuality are going to lead to any sort of Lady Gaga'like campaigning.
'If you love somebody and they're the same sex as you, you should be able to marry them and you should be able to have children with them, but I don't feel sexuality should define anyone,' she says. 'Everybody's life is their own and they have their own faith and religion and sexuality, and I don't think I want to shove anything down people's throats.'
Which kind of comes as a surprise, because she does seem like a shove-it-down-your-throat kind of girl. In a good way.