A quick word with: Yulia Townsend

By Rebecca Barry Hill

The Russian-born pop-classical singer who had last year's highest selling New Zealand album Into the West. She releases her second album, Montage on April 3.

You're DJing at a party. What do you play?

Into the West, the hip-hop version.

Where do you keep your Tui Awards?

In Christchurch, on the bookshelf. I had a party in January for my 20th birthday and one of my friends got a bit drunk and used one of them as a bottle opener.

When was the last time you listened to Top 40 music?

Yesterday. Kelly Clarkson's album, Breakaway.

What else is on your stereo?

Black Eyed Peas, Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Josh Groban, Pink - I love her latest song, Stupid Girls. And Gwen Stefani. She's a styley chick.

You have an interesting style yourself. How would you define it?

I'm a crime queen. I'm always wearing things that clash - it's kind of who I am.

I was on breakfast television once wearing pink tights and it looked terrible on TV but boy, it looked good in the mirror in the morning.

You're an official New Zealand citizen now - what do you like best about the Kiwi lifestyle?

Everything. I look back at my life in Russia and I can't relate to anything my friends are saying. A classmate got married and I thought it was so strange. I love that in New Zealand there is a lot more freedom. You can live with your partner to the age of 40 or whatever and that's fine, but in Russia you get judged for not being married if you're over 25.

Favourite Kiwi phrase?

"Useless" or "hopeless". "She's so hopeless!" Or "G'day mate, how are ya?" Even our parrot says it.

What do you miss the most about Russia?

Dried fish. You have it with beer. It's like beef jerky. But fish.

What sort of pick-up lines does a popera singer get?

I don't. People don't expect me to dance on tables or wear revealing clothing but when I go out, I dress like I'm going to a party, not an opera concert. When I met my boyfriend he asked me, "So what do you do?" I said, "Um, I'm a wedding planner" ... I don't wanna be like, "Hey I'm Yulia, look at me!" Then a friend came up and said "It's my birthday, can you sing me something?" It was terrible.

Any strange hobbies?

I paint on jars and tins and whatever I can find in the garage. The last thing I painted was a tin with a really ugly lid.

Tell us three things we don't know about you.

I always want to change my hair colour. I've dyed it five or six times in the past year. My record company gets really annoyed because they take these nice pictures of me blonde and I turn up with it black. I drink tea with milk and two sugars, 10 times a day. I've been told to stop drinking milk because it's not very good for the voice but I don't care. And I like coloured tights. I have pink, blue, brown, ruby, black, beige, white - and black with little diamantes all over them. I love tights.

What's the strangest thing you've heard about yourself?

People don't talk about me much - I'm a boring pop-classical crossover singer. I sometimes wish I was Paris Hilton so they would.



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