Ester Dean isn’t even 30 and she’s released her own EP, starred in major films, and written/produced songs for Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Usher — just to name a few. Yup, she’s real life.
We caught up with the Pitch Perfect 2 star who gave us the skinny on working with Anna Kendrick and first time director Elizabeth Banks on the anticipated sequel. And because of her unmatched amount of celebrity friends, we obviously asked if she could clear up rumors about Nicki and Meek Mill’s engagement and Rihanna’s #R8. Songwriting has given Ester a ton of opportunities, but her real goal these days? Earn some shiny gold Oscars.
Were the vibes on the set of Pitch Perfect 2 different from Pitch Perfect?
Ester Dean: Yeah, we all came back wanting to be there so it was just excitement.
Any crazy stories we might not know about?
We did the camp scenes and had to jump out in the water. I was the one who couldn’t swim and [was] afraid of heights, so every time I would jump in the water Anna [Camp] was my security guard. She would come swim out and take me back to shore. I felt like a little kid. [Laughs.] I’m so happy she was there.
It looked like summer camp, but I would probably last five minutes there.
We were so excited to be there. I remember they asked me to jump off the balloon [into the water] and I was like, “I am not gonna be able. No thank you.” It was my first time at a camp [and] Elizabeth got me crawling on the balloon thing trying to save my life. It was funny.
The Bellas go to extremes to bond and get their sound back. How do you do this with artists you’re working with in real life?
I just go in there and be myself and be open and warm with them. I don’t try to go befriend them. I’m just gonna enjoy the time together then figure out what that person is looking to say. [Writing music] is still a job. You still gotta deliver. It’s crazy ’cause I’m such a fan outside – I’m a fan of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, all of them. When I go into the studio I cannot be a fan. It’s time to work. They don’t have time for you to be so nervous that you can’t write the damn song.
You’ve produced so many sexually empowering songs for women. Who do you think pioneered this?
We would have to say Madonna! Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner with those legs, all of these people. [They were] very sensual but able to be classy and whimsical at the same time. Even if you get a little dirty, clean it up before you leave. We’re still young ladies, ladies! [Laughs.]
Speaking of, let’s talk about your “Who Run the World” performance in PP2.
I was like, “Oh no! I have to sing a Beyoncé song?!” That’s awesome but it’s Beyoncé. I’m like, “I’m never gonna add up!” I did my version: Ester’s “Who Run the World?”
How do you think Beyoncé would react if she watched it?
She’s in everything I do. She’s very supportive. Recently, she sat down with me and told me how to get a man and what I should do. I told her all my man goals. She had me figure out what I wanted in a boyfriend. It’s so crazy, ’cause everything I told her I wanted, that’s what my boyfriend is. She would be a great relationship counselor. She’s so cute, I love her.
Can you give me some of Yonce’s love advice?
She told me to go on Match.com. [She said] if you’ve been single for too long, get into the habit of speaking to the opposite sex. After so long, speaking to a man could be uncomfortable in a personal way. When speaking to people who might be interested in you, you tend to clam up if you haven’t practiced.
Word on the street is you’re working with Rihanna on her new album…
I haven’t worked with Rihanna on that album!
So it’s a big rumor?
Yes, I went to see her one time in the studio.
What would surprise us about your experience touring with Nicki Minaj?
She’s just the sweetest thing. I like [making] those big dimples come out. So cute. I went on that stage to support Nicki. My whole show was, “Are you ready for Nicki Minaj?? ‘Cause she’s comin’ out.” She did not have to let me come on that tour, she’s so awesome to me.
You must be so thrilled to see her happy in her personal life.
I love to see the dimples. If anybody can bring out the dimples in Nicki Minaj’s little cheeks I am so down.
Any wedding details?
Oh God! She better invite me, that’s the only thing I know!
You’ll be the one introducing her at the altar.
I’m going to open up for her at the wedding.
You write, act, produce, perform. If you could pick one to do for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Acting. You get to be around so many people and experience so many different things in life. I love the green screens, bloopers, crafting, getting into character. I love to be able to make somebody else’s work. I’m the artist of the film, I’m not the writer. I get to give them what they’re looking for. You can have kids, go on vacation, you shoot for a [period of time], then you’re off. You can show your kids, “That’s mommy on the TV!” As I’m getting to an age of maturity, I want a job that I’m like, “No, mommy’s not in the studio until the middle of the night working.” That’s my vision board. I feel guilty about it ‘cause I go back to my old boards [and] I have all the artists [I wanted to work with] on there and those things have come true. Working with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ciara, [was a] dream come true. The first person I put on my vision board was Ciara. There are some artists that I haven’t been able to work with yet like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Pink. Acting is something I can do full time and still have the hobby of songwriting.
Do ever look back and wonder how it all happened?
At the end of the day, I think staying humble keeps you going. I don’t need to turn into a diva and I don’t need to think outside of myself as if I didn’t have all these people to thank for this success.
Did you expect to be so successful at your age?
The moment you come into this world, maybe [as] the underdog or the unfortunate soul, it gives you a reason to fight. Everything I have is due to the fight of wanting more for not only myself, but for my family. My mom told me, “God gave you a gift, God gave you a talent. If you use it it’ll take care of you for the rest of your life.” And I found the talent. God gave it to me and I’m gonna use it. I’m not a talented doctor, I don’t know how to do a lot of math, but I know how to write a song and I know how to sing, and I know how to entertain people.
Who inspires you?
My mom and my sister. My sister is always rooting for me from the sidelines. My mom started off as a singer and an actress, and I always wanted to show her that she could do it. We can all be on the screen together. We can all sing together. It’s not one that has to make it and the other that has to watch them. If you got talent, use it.
See Ester’s co-star Anna Camp spill on the sequel.