Grammy-winner Pink knows she can be “very polarizing.”
“I think the reaction to me with the whole idea of relentlessly being true to myself has been mixed,” the singer tells PEOPLE for this week’s cover story. “Some people would march with me, and other people would run away as fast as they can. But it’s always worked out for me for how I feel about myself, and for the kind of friendships and relationships that I have, and for how I feel proud of myself about that.”
Throughout her career, Pink, 38, has never strayed from her tomboyish looks or brazen attitude to fit the mold of a pop star.
“I feel like I’ve kept my integrity in a business that’s really hard to do,” she explains. “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in order to do that. And you’re not always going to be popular when you’re a woman with a lot of opinions, and you don’t back down, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t change for them.”
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“It’s hard; it’s hard for people,” she admits. “But I’m okay with it. Because I like me and I like people that are them.”
Despite her success, Pink insists at times she still feels “so raw, and exposed, and vulnerable,” she says. “And I don’t like feeling vulnerable in front of people, but I kind of do I guess because I keep doing it? But I don’t know how to be any other way.”
The singer’s confidence and belief in herself have also translated to her fans. “I’ve had years of people telling me in a genuine heart connected way, ‘Thank you because you helped me,’” Pink says. “I’ve never had, ‘I want to be like Pink!’ People have always said, ‘You made me want to be more like me.’ I’m like, “F— yeah, let’s go do that some more.”
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So what’s her message for teens who are trying to figure out who they are?
“Kids suck, people suck, adults suck,” she says. “I mean, you find your village and there’s beautiful, rad, weird people out there just like you, or a little weirder than you, or not as weird as you, or weird in a different way, that are waiting to find you and love you with all of their heart. And you will find them. They may not be in your town, they may not be in your school.”
Looking back, “I wish someone would have told me when I was 13, that my green hair, and my braces, and my freckles all over my face, and my attitude, it was going to work for me one day,” Pink adds. “And my God, has it ever. And now I have really nice teeth, except for that one right there because I didn’t wear my retainer. So wear your retainer, fly your flag… All the coolest people in high school always end up… not so cool. Not so cool.”