[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 6 finale of The Masked Singer. Read at your risk!]
I don't know about you, but I couldn't be less surprised by the winner of The Masked Singer. All season long, Queen of Hearts simply killed it, giving winning performance after winning performance and making it impossible to imagine her being sent home. It became clear that this was a professional singer, stretching her talents into genres and languages we're not used to hearing from her, and it was going to take a heavy hitter to defeat her.
Bull could very possibly have been that heavy hitter, but his flips and kicks were still no match. She was handed the Golden Mask Trophy and then removed almost her entire costume to reveal that she had been Jewel all along, which was probably a shock to nobody but Ken Jeong (who thought she was Renee Zellweger) given the fact that Jewel has one of the most recognizable voices in the biz. In a conversation with TV Guide, she explained why Queen of Hearts was more than just a costume, and teased what's next for her after her big win.
Congratulations! Was there ever a point during the season where you realized you might actually win this? What were you thinking throughout the experience?
Jewel: You don't know any one of those times. I never know who I'm singing next to or against, you have no idea who anybody is. And I think that's kind of the neat thing about it. Art is so subjective. There is no winner, so the show really makes you focus on the truth, which is that you can only control your own performance. That's the only thing within your influence.
So what made you want to do it in the first place?
Jewel: There's a couple of reasons. One is just really practical. That may not be a very sexy answer, but I'm a single mom, and I'm a musician. And nobody talks about it, but it's really hard being a mom and a musician. My job is defined by touring and being gone and traveling and traveling the world and that isn't necessarily always great for a child. And our business is not kind to women as we go through that transition. So I obviously made my son my priority, but I love music. And so I'm always looking for opportunities that help me do my job that helps you promote albums, that help you be out there, that help you develop as an artist, but that [doesn't] compromise your ability to be a really present, engaged good mom, and so this show is massively popular, and it didn't take a lot of time to film. And it let me do something creatively that I've never done before, which is focused on my technical abilities as a singer, and so it ticked all those boxes for me.
Obviously, you do this professionally, but you don't do it in a giant heart costume. Was that freeing for you, or did it make it harder?
Jewel: First of all, I hate hair and makeup, so putting the mask on my head was awesome. I should have been Sia. Sia figured things out. So I liked that, and it was quick and efficient and swift. Creatively and emotionally, I actually found it really interesting. I work in mental health and I have a youth foundation, and I often tell our kids your worth cannot be placed in anything that could be taken away. Your worth is not your job title or how successful or how much money or your last win, or even your name or where you're from, like your worth has to be so intrinsic, that none of those things can take it away. And so in a really weird way, even though this show is just a silly, fun pop show, it actually really allowed me to focus on what I think is most essentially me, which is my heart. You know, just what am I feeling and how can I make somebody else feel and kind of connect to them? And that you know the name of my costume, the design of the costume of just championing the heart, championing emotionality in the world, for me was really sincere. And so even though there's like a fake accent, you don't know my name, I feel like people sincerely got to know me and what I care about what I stand for. So I actually found that to be really an amazing part of the show.
So what was it like to try and throw people off of who you actually are, especially since we've all been listening to you sing for so long
Jewel: Just like what I was saying, I tried to stay most sincerely and essentially me so that people could connect to something that was really authentic, and only throw people off in ways that weren't really about my sincerity, if that makes sense. I do think if you game this show too much because humans connect to human faces, I think you also have to find a way to be really sincere so that people can connect to something. Otherwise, I think it's hard for people to grab on, and they're just not invested. So with changing my accent and things, I felt like that was more superficial. But when it came to things that really mattered and showed a lot of authenticity, I tried to keep those things.
What was it like the first time you heard Nicole Scherzinger guess correctly while you were up on that stage?
Jewel: Hey, as long as they didn't do the buzzer. That was the only worrying thing, that if they did feel like they had you dead to rights, they could force you off the show. But I didn't mind them guessing me. I guess I've been guessed on past seasons. It was fun to see the wide range, because I've always taken a lot of musical risks in my career, a lot of styles because I love all those styles, so to be able to do all those styles on the show from pop to country, and it was fun to see that the guesses ranged from Broadway singers to country singers to pop stars.
I think the French song was what thrilled everyone the most. What made you decide to sing a song in French? That seems like it would take a lot of extra work.
Jewel: Yeah! I grew up loving Edith Piaf. I just found her performances riveting and heroic, and so I tried to pick songs for the show that I felt that way about, and that scared me a little. I tried to push myself vocally on every song in a way that I wasn't entirely sure how it would go until I stood up there. Learning French was definitely really hard. I actually was speaking French in my left ear. I recorded the track, because you can't see any kind of teleprompter or anything through your costume, and I'm really dyslexic and I couldn't learn it very well. I couldn't memorize it in the amount of time I had. So I was speaking French in ears, out of time. It was just very strange. I'm very glad it worked.
What was it like to duet with Nicole, while she had no idea who you were?
Jewel: I thought she did a great job. I was really happy for her. I just wanted her to shine and have a great moment, and she did. She killed it. It was weird singing harmony so far from someone, and when we haven't sung harmonies together, so I feel like that was what I was most proud of, the way we ended that song. If people listen to the ending, like we both were going out of time and just really feeling for each other, so I thought that was cool.
Was it intimidating to go up against the Bull? He was doing flips all season!
Jewel: Oh my gosh, yeah, huge fan. You don't see anybody else perform, and actually, in my business, you're on a label with lots of other artists, there are a lot of artists releasing albums every week, and there's no way to compete because it's not linear. It's just art. I'm not better than Todrick Hall and Todrick's not better than me, and I'm not better than David Foster, obviously. So it's just a very subjective thing and it's all outside your control, so you just have to focus all your energy on the variable that is in your control. The rest is just kind of up to the gods, so you just have to let it go.
So tell me about your new EP! It's all songs from the show?
Jewel: Yeah, like I said, I've been a fan of these songs for most of my life and a lot of my career. I had so much fun arranging them with the music producer, who's just so talented. I really wanted these to live forever because I worked so hard on them. It was so fun to make the EP and I'm glad it's available.
And are we getting new original Jewel soon?
Jewel: Yes, a new album is going to be coming out. One of the reasons I did the show, like I said, like as a mom, you know, in my mid-40s it's hard. It's hard to make records and you're looking for opportunities that let you have fun as an artist but also, you know, help you promote without having to leave for a year. So yeah, I definitely used the show for that too!
You can stream and download Jewel's EP Queen of Hearts beginning Dec. 16.