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The insiders guide to Beth Ditto

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Beth Ditto, a rock singer who fronts the band Gossip (Click here to see the band's MySpace siteexternal link) has topped the annual cool list released by NME, allegedly the coolest rock and roll magazine in Britain.

What's the big deal?

Ditto describes herself as a "fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas," whose powerful voice has been compared to female greats such as Etta James, Janis Joplin and Tina Turner. Her lyrics are explicitly girl-love related and the band's latest single "Standing in the way of control" is a fiery disco/punk/blues/soul attack on the Republicans' attitude to gay marriage.

Where does that voice come from?

"It comes from the South, being raised Southern Baptist and Pentecostal. I think that's why people are so blown away by the Gossip. Because it's almost like we were born in a barn. Super-bumpkin-style," she told Pop Mattersexternal link in March this year.

"I've never had a very quiet voice. I tried in choir to make it smaller, and it just didn't work out. And I listened to a lot of soul music when I was growing up on my own accord. But I was mostly into Mama Cass and Gladys Knight, and they all had big voices too; just different than mine. Even talking, I'm super-loud. I could never have that kind of meek, little wispy whimsical lavender and lace voice. It comes from my body. There's no way I can fight it."

Is she really an activist?

"People bitch about fat people who are quote unquote overweight, which is a term that I hate, because it sets a standard for people to be, but it's really funny to me that we are the majority in this country right now. It's treated like no one in the world is like this, and it's the most shameful thing, but really most of us are fat asses, you know," she told Pop Matters.

"I just like food too much, and I don't want to change. I spent so much of childhood trying to change, and I just got sick of it ... I don't want to look like Britney Spears, I just don't want to. She's hideous."

How come I haven't heard of them?

Gossip is pretty indie and clearly not very Britney. The band has been together for four years and the current line-up consists of Beth, Nathan and Hannah. They have toured with the likes of the White Stripes, Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sleater Kinney.

Did football really change her life?

"Being feminist and being queer came out of my pores," she told Curve magazine. "As a kid, I was always mad -- just noticing the women at Thanksgiving, running around the kitchen, while the men were watching football. For one, I don't want to cook, and for two, I hate football. I was stuck in the middle."

Did she really eat squirrels?

No. It was a cousin. "The first time I ever got stoned was with my cousin. We were like 13 and 14. We smoked out of a Coke can, and then he flung open the back side door and took out his BB gun and started shooting outside. I was like, 'What are you doing?' And he's like 'What do you mean?' And I look out the door and he's shooting squirrels. And then I'm like, 'Oh my god.' And then he goes and gets them, skins them, and fries them up, because he has the munchies. Swear to God. True story."

Beth Ditto



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