It’s a Friday afternoon inside Studio Cloud 30, an immaculate and inviting space where we prepare to interview and photograph Elise Estrada. The open room is warm and cozy, and watched over by a Yorkiepoo named Max. Elise arrives picture perfect and ready to start, despite the torrential rain she had to brave to get here. What a champ.

For an internationally known pop star, I wasn’t sure what sort of a personality I would encounter in Elise. Turns out she is equal parts sweet as she is humble, with just a dash of goofiness. And, she loves to laugh. Elise was in high spirits with the release of her latest album, #ROUND3. It’s a celebratory album that marks her emancipation from a tiresome record label battle. There are obvious nods to the battle she fought manifested within the album’s lyrics.

Elise describes of the battle, “Long story short, I was trying to get out of the deal for three years, so it was basically a fight, a lawsuit for three years. And so, I knew this album, I wanted it to be very powerful. I wanted strength and fierceness. That’s why it is called #ROUND3 because it was a fight to get that album done.”

Luckily for Elise, she didn’t go at it alone. Her new label, XOXO Entertainment was there to have her back. She endearingly refers to her team as a family. With a wink, Elise also sort of confirms that her producer and the president of XOXO, Adam H. may or may not be her boyfriend. So it’s not an overstatement when she says, “I’m very close with my record company.”

For long-time Elise fans, you might remember her first single in 2007, Insatiable, followed by a string of tours with the likes of Rihanna, Lady Gaga and the Backstreet Boys. When asked if she was prepared to be catapulted into the spotlight, Elise shares that she has pageants to thank. With a laugh, she recalls of pageants, “I swear to you those are the best confidence boosters ever just because you are on stage and I feel like it helps you develop your personality. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about that competitiveness that helps you.”

That competitive streak has definitely taken Elise a long way. Even before her debut album and her Juno nomination, Elise was a contestant on an American Idol-like show called Pinoy Pop Superstar. “It’s like reality check for most singers”, Elise explains of competition shows. “It’s a good way in finding out who’s in the industry for the right reasons. If it’s out of love, then you’re going to keep going.”

Considering Elise has over seven years experience in the industry and three albums under her belt, her love for making music hasn’t seemed to waver one bit. Elise has also stayed close to pop and R&B sound. When asked what pop music means to her, she replied, “Pop music is everything. Am I allowed to say that? Am I being a pop tart? I love pop music. It makes my heart happy.”

It’s difficult to picture Elise being anything but the cheerful pop star she is in this moment. But, since the theme of her new album is “fighting”, we decided to try and bring out a little fight in Elise. In celebration of her new record’s theme, we play a game with Elise called “Celebrity Knock Out.” We provide a pairing and Elise’s job is to select the winner and tell us why.

Photos by Patryk Widejko

Pop Counter Culture: Round 1 is “the 90s”. The first pairing is Britney and Christina.

Elise: Damn it! I love them both. I like Britney because Britney is the freaking bomb. I grew up listening to Britney and dancing to her music. Britney and Baby One More Time, and Britney and Justin Timberlake. Okay fine Britney. Although, I love Christina Aguilera too. Britney. Still Britney.

PCC: Brandy or Monica?

Elise: Brandy. She was cool. Although Monica was cool too. Brandy stayed true to being cool. I like them both.

PCC: Tupac or Biggie?

Elise: I hope people don’t get mad at me. It’s Tupac.

PCC: Round 2 is “famous feuds.” Taylor Swift or Diplo?

Elise: Taylor Swift.

PCC: Lana Del Rey or Eminem?

Elise: Eminem. I love Eminem.

PCC: Iggy Azalea or Azealia Banks?

Elise: Iggy. First things first I’m the realist.

PCC: Round 3 is “friendly competition.” Kim Kardashian’s bum or Nicki Minaj’s bum?

Elise: Okay let’s think about this. So Kim’s bum is real though right? I don’t know. Is it? It should be, right? Nicki Minaj’s is not real, although that ass is huge. I don’t know. I was Nicki Minaj for Halloween so I’m going to say Nicki.

PCC: Avicii or Calvin Harris?

Elise: I like both of them. They’re both putting out really good music right now. I don’t know, Calvin Harris.

PCC: On stage Elise or off stage Elise?

Elise: They’re two different people though. It’s a draw. Actually no. I take that back. They’re the same. When I’m on stage, I have just as much energy I think. Although, when I’m on stage, I feel like I do things I wouldn’t normally do off stage.

On top of continued promotion for her new album, Elise will also be heading back to the Philippines to shoot her new music video for The Good In Goodbye. In the meantime, keep up with Elise via her official website or on social media.

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