Albanian superstar Bleona Qereti is bringing her sexy to take the American music industry by storm.
This brunette bombshell sold out arenas and concert venues all over Europe, and now she’s coming to reign in America.
After visiting New York City, Bleona knew she wanted to have a career in the United States. Bleona headed to the Grammy Awards where she ran into hip-hop producer Timbaland and the two didn’t necessarily hit it off. Persistent in her abilities, Timbaland finally agreed to work with Bleona, and now the two are making hit songs.
GlobalGrind caught up with the Albanian hottie and she spoke to us about her journey to the U.S., working with hip-hop producer Timbaland and her love for Albania.
Check out the exclusive interview below and on the next few pages!
GlobalGrind: So when did you realize that you wanted to be a superstar?
Bleona: I was singing as a kid in the festivals that they had back then for kids in Albania, they’re kind of like Mickey Mouse clubs here in America. My family was fine with that until the moment when I was thirteen years old and my father’s like ‘there’s no way you can be a singer, you need to go to finance school and you need to be a financer’ and I’m like ‘I don’t think this is going to happen.’ They of course didn’t want me to be a singer, so they sent me to German school to learn German.
I finished the first album in 1997 and I was always like ‘let me finish this album and then I’m going to calm down.’ And after that I’m like ‘let me finish this tour and then I’m going to calm down.’ And then it was the second album. To this day I have 8 albums, and 18 videos and all sorts of concerts.
In 2004 I was invited here by a club promoter to do a concert in New York for Albanians at Webster Hall and I landed in New York like ‘this is where I want to be.’
Had you ever been to the United States before then?
No, this was my first time coming here and I realized I have to take this global because I don’t know how to do anything else if I’m not a singer.
When you got to New York did you go to Times Square and stuff?
Yes we did the whole tourist thing and I’m like ‘one day I need my picture to be here.’
What other instruments do you play besides the violin?
Just the violin. My life is just the studio. I wake up, I see my trainer, I go to yoga and then I go to the studio, that’s it.
Have you done yoga with Russell yet?
No, it’s funny because I read his book and there were so many similarities that I found in the book the way that I just fell in love with yoga. In the beginning I was like ‘let me try this out’ and right now I’m at the point where I can’t live without yoga. I haven’t tried the meditation part of it yet and I will, but right now the only thing that can still me still is yoga and I love it.
How is the process of becoming a superstar different in Albania than it is in America?
Although Albania is a small country compared to America, there’s competition everywhere. It’s all about people loving you and I’ve been lucky that people love me no matter what. Whenever I’m on stage and I do something they’re like ‘there she goes, what’s she going to do next?’ And I’ve realized in America that people are people, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, if you’re good to them, if you have good energy and they like your songs, there you go. It took me a while of course to come here and get situated and see what this country is all about. I’m still not good with red lights, traffic tickets and reading the signs of where I’m supposed to park and where I’m not supposed to park. I was staring at the TV at the video of this amazing performing artist in America and I’m like, I’ve got to do this.
How did you start working with Timbaland?
I was on tour three years ago in Germany and I heard the songs “The Way I Are” by Timbaland and Keri Hilson and I’m like ‘I think that’s got to be my producer, I’ve got to go to America and find this guy.’ And that’s what happened, I went to the Grammy awards, I went straight to Tim and said ‘I think you need to give me a chance, I think you need to work with me.’ He’s like ‘excuse me, what’s your name?’ and I said ‘My name is Bleona, I have eight albums in Albania. Just give me a chance.’ He’s like ‘first of all it’s not the album time, it’s the singles time. And if I do an album for somebody the name is going to be Justin Timberlake, not you.;
So I’m like fine you want to be like that, I’m gone, so I left. I was so upset that he said no to me because I’m not good at dealing with rejection. Imagine you’re born in a place where everybody tells you you’re so special, you’re so good and all the people love me. Then I come here and this guy is telling me no, I’m like, what do you mean no, the word does not exist. So after that I’m like fine, I’m not calling this guy anymore.
Timbaland didn’t want to give you a chance at first?
Yes, so I went back and had a concert in Milan. I’ll never forget, it was like 9 o’clock in the morning in Europe time and 12 o’clock in L.A. and I see Timbaland on my screen, I’m like ‘uh hello?’ He’s like ‘Yo, where you at?’ and I said ‘In Milan, I have a concert today.’ And he’s like ‘Oh yeah, I tell you to go make me a song so I can see how you sound and you’re a diva, you go shopping?’ I’m like no you don’t understand, I have a concert tonight. So I finished the concert and came right back and of course instead of giving him one song I gave him eight songs because I’m always too much, when I give, I give too much. Literally I stayed in his studio on his couch for six months. He would come in the studio and stare at me like ‘You know this isn’t your session right?’ and I’m like ‘I know, I just like American music, I’m staying here.’ After six months he was like ‘I don’t know where you’re from or what’s your story, but I think I’ve got to make something for you because you’re not going to leave my studio’ and I’m like ‘Yeah you’ve got it.’ He’s like ‘I promise I’m going to help you, you just got to wait a little bit.’ It was another six months after that so finally last December we got the deal for three songs for him, and at this point I already kept working with other producers just to show him more stuff.
Who else have you worked with?
After Timb, I have three songs with Rodney Jerkins and Makeba and Alex Cantrell who used to work with JoJo and a lot of other artists, he did another six songs for me. So basically I’m doing songs endlessly until somebody hears my music. I know it’s not easy but nothing is impossible. It hasn’t been easy for these people. When I hear their stories, where they came from and how they made it I think I’m a little wimpy. I wake up in the morning like where’s my assistant, where’s my Starbucks? And these people did not have that.
But you’re story’s a little different because you were a superstar.
Yes, but I’m not allowing that to spoil me. I know it’s very hard. It’s like you have to go to the gym for three hours and that’s what you have to do to be a superstar, there’s no compromising. There’s no such thing like ‘I’m entitled to be a superstar.’ If all this with me in America happened earlier, I would have not been this prepared. But now after I’ve seen how other people have suffered through it, and I’ve kind of paid my dues for the last two years so the other artists, just give me the mic and watch me.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I love everybody. I love music. I love Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson’s one of those artists that he just took my breath away every time I saw him. And today it’s like Beyonce and Rihanna and J. Lo and Ne-Yo and Enrique Iglesias. They all have great songs and I stare at them like, I need that song.
A lot of people would die to be in your place.
Well trust me, I’ve been dead and come back from the dead. It didn’t come easy for me. There’s a lot of people that say it’s easy, you’re a beautiful girl and then you just go to the studio and they say yes to you. It’s not like that. Any time I see will.i.am I’m like give me a chance and he’s like OK, I’m busy right now. In the year and a half that I’ve been in L.A. everybody knows me and they’re paying attention to what I do, so I have to deliver a good song for these people to say yes to me. And this is where we are and I’m so blessed to be in this position.
How did the Albanians feel when you moved? Was it like they’re losing a superstar?
I tried to be very good at it. I was there last November; I had 50,000 people in the main square. It was funny because at the BET awards I gave this interview and I’m talking like ‘look at me I’m American’ and they’re like denying us now and I’m like no I’m Albanian, I love Albania. Whoever’s listening to this interview right now, I love you guys. I am who I am because of you people. It’s funny because I go around here with people in New York and people don’t know me but I go to a restaurant and there’s some Albanians working. It’s like I’m so proud to come from that country because there are so many talented people over there and we have this thing about being proud for who we are and I really want to put my country on the map.
If you could collaborate with another pop artist here in the United States who would you collaborate with?
That’s a hard question because you know how it is. It’s whoever has a good song out right now. So I’d like to have a duet with Enrique Iglesias, Ne-Yo, Pitbull, Flo Rida.
Are your parents still in Albania?
Yes, my mom and dad are still there. I have a wonderful family, we’re very close, I miss them very much. It’s not easy. There’s times at like four in the morning when my eyes are on the ceiling like what am I doing, am I doing the right thing. I quit a beautiful life over there where I’m like a princess and to come here and start from zero, this is a big gamble. So it’s by choice and I’m loving every bit of it. Despite all the difficulties, I don’t care. I’m here.
You have all the best outfits.
I’m all about that. The world’s best designers are all my friends. Roberta Cavalli is my best friend. We have this thing with Belmont after I do the first song on the radio they’re just going to do all my clothes. I love jewelry too.
How’s the media in Albania?
They’re all my friends. Of course if they want to sell newspapers, there was this thing I said in an interview at the BET awards and the next day they were like, she denied Albania. This started just for them to sell a newspaper. And then yesterday, thanks to God, I have so many friends who are journalists there, they’re like ‘Bleona they’re all publishing your tweets and your Facebook.’
How is the dynamic there with other celebrities?
They’re all my friends. Of course there is drama, it’s like the same thing as here. But it’s a good competition. I’ve learned to respect my colleagues because they did a lot of hard work too.
What’s the craziest hair you’ve ever worn on stage?
I had this album four years ago, my eighth album was called Mandarin which translates as tangerine. So I dyed my hair red and I have three videos with my hair red in 2006 and 2007.
Do you have a boyfriend?
Are you kidding me, when? I’m really difficult when it comes to that. I mean, who wants to deal with a diva? I really need to slow down a little bit in my attitude. I’m following the theory of the diamond. There’s so many diamonds in this world, they don’t need to be expensive but they have this great marketing that they’re not there for everybody and they’re reachable and people have to work hard to get them.