All 'Doll'-ed up

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When vocal group juggernaut the Pussycat Dolls decided to add a seventh member, naturally the quest had to be televised. Known for their sassy style, spicy dance numbers and risqué lyrics, the girls took the idea to the CW, and "Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll" was born.

The original Doll, founder Robin Antin, and rapper Lil' Kim join Geffen Records Chairman Ron Fair in judging which of a multitude of limber beauties will sing and dance her way into the hit-making girl group.

Antin and the hip-hop parolee talked to us about how the show "empowers" women, guiding the contestants to success and Lil' Kim's counseling qualifications now that she's finished serving jail time on perjury and conspiracy charges related to a shooting.

Lil' Kim, why are you involved in this?
Lil' Kim: I was born a Pussycat Doll. When I first stepped on the music scene, everything the Pussycat Dolls are is everything I developed myself to be. And a lot of the girls always tell me that they patterned a lot of the things they do after me and my career…This is just one of my favorite groups ever. It's a no-brainer.

Robin Antin: When the Pussycat Dolls heard that Lil' Kim was going to be a part of this, every single one of our girls was just beside themselves with excitement, because they're all so inspired by Lil' Kim.

Are you going to replace a girl with the winner from this show or will the number increase?
Antin: I just want to say this: There can never be enough Pussycat Dolls in the world. Yes, it'll actually be seven girls.

For those not in the know, what's the Pussycat tale?
Antin: I created the Pussycat Dolls 12 and a half years ago. Actually, I was living with Christina Applegate—she's one of my best friends—and she had a little dance studio in her garage. I started it there and it grew into this sort of underground, really cool thing that we did at the Viper Room in Hollywood. Guest celebrities started coming in and wanting to be a part of it…and get dressed up like a doll.

The outfits and dances are so suggestive—are you looking for a hoochy Doll?
Antin: I look for a lot of different types of women. It could be a woman who just happens to be really skinny or happens to be more voluptuous, she happens to be taller or smaller—there are so many different types of Pussycat Dolls in the world. That's why it's so inspiring to women: The message is just finding your inner Doll. It's about what's inside.

How brutal will the judges be?
Antin: In terms of the judging, they do have a certain style. They are looking for talent—that's what the show is. Everyone's coming in there and they're all there for the same reason: They all want a shot, whether they're absolutely incredible or they're hilarious or whatever they are.

Lil' Kim, when did you realize you were more than just a girl rapper?
Lil' Kim: That's one of the most misconceptions of Lil' Kim: People look at me and say, "Oh, that hip-hop rapper Lil' Kim." But once you get into my insides, you realize I'm more than just an artist: Not just a rapper, I'm an entertainer, but I'm also a business woman. And with the Pussycat Doll show, one thing that I bring is my truth…that eye to pick that person who has that star quality—we call it "that thing."

With the jail time and such, how do you fit into this show as a guiding influence?
Lil' Kim: It's been a blessing in disguise, all the things that have gone on in the past three years. I told Robin that there's nothing that I am embarrassed about or regret. I was on this show and was like: I have both good and I have bad. I can be on this show to kind of help lead some of the girls and also be a guidance to them—to go in safe directions, make good decisions. That was then, now is now, and my future just looks so bright.

So how tough are you as a judge? Are you more a Randy, a Paula or a Simon?
Lil' Kim: I'm honest, but I can't say that I'm brutally honest. You know why? Because I'm still a celebrity and I know that some of the challenges the girls face, I face them—either I'm still facing them or I faced them at one point in time. I can only give them my opinion based on my experiences. So I could probably be wrapped up between all three of [the "American Idol" judges].

It seems that a contestant could be a good singer and a good dancer, but might not make it because she doesn't have the attitude. How important is that?
Antin: Attitude is a big part of it, because these girls are living together, eating together, they're doing everything together, on a bus together 24/7 traveling around. They do have to get along…I do look for someone who has a good attitude, a positive attitude. And when you're onstage, you gotta be able to sell it and work it, and own it. What's great about our girls—they may be different offstage, but as soon as they get out there, it's just super.

You've called the Doll experience "empowering," but we remember putting similar outfits on our crack-ho Barbie a few years back…
Antin: There's nothing slutty about it, nothing skanky about it. The clothing is cute, is fun, and yes, of course, it's sexy. There's a reason why people like Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz have all been so interested in what the Pussycat Dolls are all about. Those are women that I am really inspired by and are out there and they're classy—you know, Charlize Theron. These are women who want to be a part of it because they feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a doll. It's fun and it's something that every girl in the world wants to do.

"Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll," premieres Tuesday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.

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