Nelly Furtado Q&A: Singer Talks Humanitarian Award, Free The Children, Susan and Mom
Nelly Furtado will be honoured with the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards, May 5, during Canadian Music Week in Toronto. The Canadian singer, who has sold more than 16 million albums and 18 million singles worldwide since her 2000 breakthrough debut, Whoa, Nelly! and single, “I'm Like a Bird,” tells Samaritanmag that despite all her success she still “felt something was missing from my career.”
That changed in 2011 when she travelled with Canadian international charity Free The Children to rural Kenya to shoot a CTV documentary, Road to Kisaruni. There she met Susan, a smart young women who dreamed of becoming a doctor but wasn’t able to get one of the coveted 40 spots at the new Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School. She felt an instant magic with Susan, seeing some of her own mother’s story in her. Before her visit ended, Furtado excitedly broke the news that she would be able to attend Kisaruni. It is an emotional, unexpected highpoint in her trip. “I’m totally changed and really excited about the future,” Furtado says in the film. “It makes me want to try harder — try harder as a person, as a woman, as a mother, a citizen of the world.” And she did. On her last album, 2012’s The Spirit Indestructible, Furtado helped raise money for a new all-girls school, Oleleshwa, in the same community of Narok. She has now been to rural Kenya four times with Free The Children and is an ambassador with the organization, appearing numerous times at their massive student empowerment rallies called We Day. Last Christmas, she return to Kenya for Kisaruni’s graduating ceremony and she’ll be going again this Christmas. In this exclusive interview with Samaritanmag, just before news of her humanitarian award was announced publicly, Furtado talks about the honour, her first trip to Kenya, the graduating class, her dedication to Free The Children, connection with Susan, as well as the impact of her own mother and the impact of these trips on her 12-year-old daughter, Nevis. (...)
Congratulations on the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. Obviously you’ve won tons awards for your music. What does it mean to be recognized for your philanthropy?
Nelly Furtado: I'm just so honoured. I’m really humbled by it, to be honest. The Slaight family, you look at their track record of all these incredible charitable things they’ve done, it’s pretty mind-blowing. I'm so thankful for the good in the world and the families out there in the world doing incredibly kind things. And then I looked at the list of the people who have received this award, like Bryan Adams — I love Bryan Adams; he’s an incredible human being. It’s an incredible list of Canadians that I respect so much, so I am really humbled by it. For me, at the end of the day, it’s almost selfish because you get what you give, you know? When you give, you get this great feeling. I’ve been making music for almost two decades, professionally. It’s really nice to be recognized for whatever I've done that I feel is what I should be doing and what I feel compelled to do. Giving back is really important to me. Before I started working with Free the Children, I felt like there was something missing from my career in general. I was like, ‘This is all great, but I feel like I haven’t really made a difference.’ So I feel like I'm inspiring more people now and there's a lot of room to do a lot more. So hopefully I can live up to that [laughs] – live up to this honour bestowed upon me [laughs].
Your career took off immediately with your first album. You must have been asked to do so many charity engagements and events. How did you end up connecting with Craig Kielburger and Free The Children and focusing on just that one charity?
Nelly Furtado: Susanne Boyce from CTV recommended me to Craig and Free the Children for this trip. Every time I see her she’s like, ‘I knew you we're the perfect fit.’ She's really involved with them as well. She used to be the president at CTV and at the time CTV was sponsoring the trip over to Kenya and that [TV station] was where the documentary was originally broadcast. I had worked with Susanne previously when I hosted the Juno Awards . Susanne introduced me and then I got the package sent to me. It was really weird because most things that I get sent, it takes me a really long time to decide, but for some reasons with this — I got this package and the trip was literally three or four weeks away [laughs] — I looked at it and read it — I had heard of Craig Kielburger from when he was a kid. He was on TV with the whole child labor focus when it was a news story — and something inside my heart just went, ‘Yes, yes, I'm going.’ I'm like, ‘Yup, I’ll do it.’ It was really weird, just the right place at the right time because I had been invited to go to Africa before. I'd been invited to do several different charity events, etcetera, etcetera, but it just never really felt the right time. Perhaps somewhere I knew that my time would come later. (...)
Read the full interview HERE