- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

NEW YORK — Willa Ford says she wants to be bad, but maybe she is still figuring out what she wants to be. The 20-year-old pop singer has some serious hip-hop influences on her debut CD, "Willa Was Here," but these days, she's listening to Radiohead and Linkin Park.
She struts in a dominatrix get-up in the video for her hit "I Wanna Be Bad," but she's a Baptist who credits God for her inner strength.
One thing she does not want to be is known simply as Nick Carter's ex-girlfriend. The Tampa, Fla., native, whose full name is Amanda Williford, dated the Backstreet Boy for three years and lived with him and the five dogs they share, which made her the target of massive adolescent hatred.
When she was the opening act for the Backstreet Boys' 1999 tour, angry girls held up signs that said "Die Willa," and an Internet search reveals dozens of sites that condemn her as a "talentless loser cow" and "just another pop-star wannabe."

Q: How much of the bad-girl persona is really you?
A: It's the first side that came out to the world, so everybody associates me with it. Like, I met Jermaine Dupri, and he's like, "Oh, you're the bad girl." That's a side, but every girl has that side. Every girl wants to be a dominatrix every once in a while. Not everybody has a huge, you know, video to do it in. So of course I'm gonna take advantage of the video and do it. But there are so many other sides to Willa.
Q: How hard is it to differentiate yourself in the crowd of young blond pop singers?
A: It's really, really hard, but you've gotta understand that as the artist and as Willa, I understand that the general public sees black and white when you first come out. They don't understand who you are. I don't expect them to know. They want to learn about you, but a lot of people are so closed-minded that right away it's just like, "She's white, she's blond, this is who she is. …" And I came out late in the game. … I'm the only one since Jessica [Simpson] and Mandy [Moore]. … I'm the only one that survived. Like, I'm it. You gotta look at that and think, nobody else could do it, but I broke it. … It's quite an accomplishment.
Q: Your CD has gotten some harsh reviews. Does that bother you?
A: No. … Here's my review to them: You're all disgruntled musicians who never made it, and you're so bitter with pop music that sells records because you didn't get that opportunity. They're all player-haters. … There were some good reviews, too. Like, somebody said something about, "We didn't expect to hear the soul come out of her that we did.
We underestimated her. There's a lot more soul coming out of that white girl than we thought." And I was just like, "Wow, that was cool." Those aren't my critics. My critic is myself. … I know my music's bangin'.
Q: How do you know which people to trust in the music industry?
A: This business is full of wonderful people. You just gotta be careful and pick 'em right. And it's also full of sleazy jerks, but I can smell 'em comin' from a mile away. I'm good at that. Because I'm so, like, real, if somebody does anything, like, remotely fake, I'm like, "Oh, I can see through that." And I don't prejudge them, but I'll be very wary and careful of them.
Q: Your lyrics are pretty racy, yet in the liner notes of your CD, your first thanks go to God. How do you reconcile that?
A: I don't think my God wants you judging me. He made me who I am. He's given me this strong willpower. He gave me the blessings and the gifts to be in the public eye.
I'm doing with it all that I know to do. And in return, I'm giving back. … The whole trick is, as much as you take, you have to give back. And, like, I'm totally game for that.

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