Punk To Perfect
Toyah tells Gill
Chilton why being a woman in showbiz ain't
don't do her justice. The neat, slight young
woman who sits opposite me has a warm smile and a
surprisingly peachy complexion, which shines
through her light make up. Toyah Willcox, once
the punk industry's leading sprite, the woman who
launched her own range of weird, wacky make up
and inspired a host of tacky fashions, wears a
mauve, well-tailored trouser suit and high
stilettos. These days, any tarty brilliants are
reserved for the stage and photo sessions. At
ease, only her hair - brightly dyed, bar dark
roots - gives the game away.
know I used to look outrageous," she grins,
"but it was just fashion and part of what
kids were going through at the time. Now I see
seventeen year olds and think they look a
mess!" Toyah, 28 next May, isn't, however,
feeling her age - "It'll be my first decade
in the entertainment business" - and she
couldn't be happier, dividing her time between
singing and acting. "I thought I'd be
married with kids at twenty three. Yet, at the
moment, I have absolutely no intention of
becoming a mother. But how can I speak about the
future? If my boyfriend, Tom, were to become
fatally ill, for instance, I wouldn't think twice
about having his child. In life, because destiny
is so unpredictable, you say what you want and
aim for it, but a hundred different things can
instance, destiny has been ably abetted by
dedication and determination. Her acting roles
have progressed steadily, from a punk in Jubilee,
to guest appearances in Minder, to major
roles in The Tempest, Tales Of The
Unexpected and the much acclaimed Ebony
Tower with Sir Laurence Olivier. Her
recognition as a serious musician is envied.
She's also had a clutch of hit singles.
"I've had my fashionable time in the charts,
now I sell albums."
confident and totally in control - "I feel I
owe it to myself to know how the law, economics,
and dress designing works" - and you'd never
guess how tough this chirpy 4ft, 11in. sparrow
has found it to worm her way to the top. A
light-hearted feminist - "because I like men
too much" - she's quick to point to the
difficulties her sex has brought: "On tour
the solitude is horrible. Men lunge at you all
the time because you're a girl. On stage, you'll
always get some piss artist trying to grab your
boobs. It's hell."
early days, it was even worse. "The age-old
syndrome goes on. Landlords say, "I'll let
you play my pub if you sleep with me." At
just 18 and forming her band from fellow drama
students, she found it both "gruelling and
It was five
years until It's A Mystery gave Toyah her
first top ten hit, and brought with it sell-out
tours and a succession of successful albums. Now
LP's nine and ten are in the preparatory stages.
"I aim to write forty songs a year,"
she says doggedly. "I like to get ahead,
working on a new album even before the preceding
one is released. A good song will survive time.
Also, were a good film to come up, I'd be putting
a noose around my neck if I didn't have the free
her quota is fulfilled, Toyah sits down from ten
until six in her office, pen and piano to hand.
"If you wait for inspiration, you can wait a
whole year," she reasons. "I've trained
myself to use my subconscious. I write whatever
comes to mind as soon as I wake up."
is the top floor of the Barnet home she shares
with Tom. But work doesn't stop when she hits the
lower decks, often to exercise in her gym.
"Although mentally drained, I have a lot of
physical energy left. I put on Bruce Springsteen,
U2 and Simple Minds and dance all night. I also
keep a notepad in every room to catch ideas.
Writing has become so instinctive now I don't
need to look at what I'm doing. Often I find my
scrawl has overlapped the paper and run on to the
private, hers isn't a lifestyle aglitter with
parties and their instant smiles. "I'm never
happy in a room of strangers. Tom is a musician,
but entirely separate from me. I'm independent,
and when I close our door at night, that's when
our relationship works. Friends, Tom's mainly,
drift through our house, but it's up to me if I
want to socialise with them."
confessed vices - laziness and greed - are hard
to believe in the face of her vigorous routine.
"I could easily sit in front of the telly
for a week, and binge on sweet things," says
she whose lifestyle dictates she's always on the
go, and whose diet - "I like to eat very
little, mainly fruit, rice, nuts, honey and
vitamin pills" - ensures she'll never regain
the weight she shifted for success.
likeable, ask for favourite memories and her
smile softens. "It was Christmas Eve,
nineteen eighty-one. The audience were drunk and
the stage covered in men's knickers. We were
playing Whistle Test live to a twelve
million TV audience. Afterwards I was so excited
I didn't remove any make-up or brush out the
backcombing for three days!"
To talk of
the past, however, is uncharacteristic. She
intends to continue with music for a further
decade, "because I've yet to break any
rules", then concentrate on acting.
what Toyah wants most isn't love, money or
happiness, but "for things I've done to
still be here when I've snuffed it". Perhaps
it's the reasoning behind her motto: "You're
only as good as what you've got to offer