Puh-leeze Don't Call Natalie Grant a Diva
- 2003 28 Apr
Sure, she’s drop-dead gorgeous. Sure, she can sing like Mariah, Christina and Céline all rolled into one. But diva? Nah.
“The ‘diva’ word is a hot button for me,” Grant says. “I feel [that] when you use that term, attached to it is somebody who has some sort of unbelievable talent but along with it, is self-absorbed, demanding, always wearing sunglasses and having an entourage of people. That is not me!” she insists, letting go with a giddy laugh. “I couldn’t be that way. I wouldn’t know how!”
Indeed, it’s hard to be a diva when you’ve seen your career stall not once but twice because of record company woes. Her first self-titled album, released in 1999 on Benson Records, was a “marketing fiasco,” she says. The CD was defective and had to be pulled from shelves, sacrificing sales. She signed with Pamplin Records for her second album, "Stronger," but the label closed at the end of 2001.
“The first time around when Benson died, it was devastating,” she says. “I definitely questioned, ‘Did I hear God right? Am I doing the right thing? Was I supposed to be a first-grade teacher after all?’ The second time [when Pamplin closed] I was a little more mature.
“I’m not trying to act like it wasn’t a setback for me because it was, but I had come through it once already and had seen how God opened up doors for me.”
One of those doors opened in time to divert some of her own plans. In early 2002 Grant was about to sign with a large, Christian-industry label when Curb Records President Mike Curb came calling. Over lunch he convinced her that his label was her best option. “So literally from the time I had lunch with him, I signed a contract within three days,” she says with a grin.
Curb Records, home to Leann Rimes, Tim McGraw and Selah, will likely give Grant a push into the general market. Her upcoming release, "Deeper Life," mixes songs of faith and general themes, including one she wrote for her father called “Always Be Your Baby.” (For the record, Grant doesn’t play an instrument; she sometimes thinks up melodies and sings them into her cell phone for safe-keeping.) Another track, “No Sign Of It,” is in the Gwyneth Paltrow/Mike Myers film "A View from the Top."
About the thematic mix she says, “I didn’t do it in hopes of having a mainstream record. I just wanted songs that dealt with how I have achieved a ‘deeper life,’ and obviously first and foremost that’s through my relationship with Jesus Christ. But it also plays out [in relationships] with my family, husband, friends and through difficulties, and I wanted songs that dealt with that [too].”
Difficulties? Grant reveals that nearly a decade ago, she faced a two-year battle with bulimia. “I’m a girl who had a healthy relationship with her parents and an incredible relationship with her church,” she says. “I didn’t come from a dysfunctional family, yet I still struggled with image problems.”
When her hair began to fall out, and her voice started to falter, she knew she was in trouble. “I have three sisters and a brother, and they all showed up on my doorstep with books in their hands on how to help bulimics,” she says. “That kind of harsh confrontation — even though at the moment it was humiliating — was the thing God used to bring me out of it.”
Grant says she shares the story because she knows there are fans with similar struggles. And she acknowledges that the entertainment industry with its eye toward perfection can contribute. “It’s hard for me because I don’t want to perpetuate that whole problem. Yet on the other hand, I also know it’s part of the monster of what I do.”
One can sense the tension between industry standards and Grant’s own grounded reality when she’s asked the question all nosy journalists ask: How old are you?
Giggling, she refuses to answer, and when it’s pointed out that her lack of response is, in fact, very ‘diva-esque’, she laughs out loud.
“I am not a diva! Don’t you dare say that! Let’s just say this: I’m old enough to care about not telling you how old I am!”
Diva? Nah. She’s too real.
Used by permission. CCM Magazine © 2003 Click here to subscribe.