Ask Toyah Willcox

From punk icon to Shakespearean actress, Toyah Willcox has enjoyed chart topping success, and a varied acting career. 
More recently she's been on our screens doing some revolting tasks just to eat! In "I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here". 

We've gave you the opportunity quiz Toyah ... here are your questions and her answers. 

Throughout your life has anything ever happened to you to make you feel really frightened or scared? Mandy, Westerhope, Newcastle Upon Tyne 

Toyah said: Yes, things have happened that have scared me. My work colleague and friend Jill Dando was murdered in 1999 and that was one of the most terrifying things I have experienced, and my heart goes out to anyone whose ever experienced losing a friend or member of the family in this way. It's the most extraordinary feeling of vulnerability and grief. 

On a lighter side, there are some many fears that I think we all feel when wars start. Then there's the more ludicrous fears, like for me, the fear of unemployment. I am very typical of a performer, and think I'll never work again. That is a fear, it's a stupid fear, unrealistic fear. Yes, I do experience it and have. 

Have you remained in contact with any of the other stars of 'celebrity jungle'? Michael, Chatham 

Toyah said: This morning I've spent the last hour texting Danielle Westbrook. Danielle and I have become very close friends. I think that not only is she a wonderful friend, but a remarkable person and I'm incredibly fond of her and she says I'm a dopplegänger for her mother. She's even asked me to play her mother in a drama about her life that's about to me made. I don't know if I will be, I would love to do it. 

I'm still close to pretty much everyone who was in the jungle. 

What was the worst thing in the jungle? Catherine, Chelmsford 

Toyah said: The complete loss of privacy, there were even cameras in the loo. And the reason for that was that if we got bitten by something or passed out our lives were in the producers hands. So they had to watch us 24 hours a day. That was quite bizarre and I didn't like the loss of privacy when it came to coming to the loo and stuff like that. 

But for all the bad things about the jungle, it was a huge learning curve. The biggest thing I learnt about myself is how my compliance is my aggression. And I knew that we were going in there to be made fools of to a certain degree, because that makes great telly. But I was deliberating aggressive by being compliant and that shocked me because I was deliberating trying to stop them having good TV and I knew I was in there because I'm feisty and have a temper and I deliberating didn't show it. 

Do you think that the music in the late 70s and early 80s is better than the music now, and do you think that they were a better time for music? Peter, Leigh on Sea 

Toyah said: When I was living in the 70s and 80s I didn't necessarily think that the music was the greatest. I loved what I was doing and I loved other artists. But in those periods we were always saying the 60s were a better period for music. 
But now, today, I enjoy the music of the 70s and 80s far more than I ever did back then. I don't think it was better, I think its because nostalgically I feel a very strong link to it. I love modern music, I love some of the bands around today but having said that the music of the 70s and 80s is incredibly powerful. In June and July I start developing a one woman show that I want to be working on over the next couple of years and the music in it is purely 70s and 80s music, because the producers and I came to the conclusion that it probably the most profound music that we have today. 

Yesterday, I had to sing before an audience for the first time in my life (I'm 40 and I had to sing cabaret, like you have done too). I was very nervous and my voice cracked a bit, well a lot. How do you handle your nerves (if you have them), have you got a trick or something? Bea, Dordrecht, The Netherlands 

Toyah said: I can't handle my nerves. If I had to sing out of context of a show my voice would crack too. I always tell myself that the audience infront of you is there because they want to see you. I have this weird psychological thing that audiences are there to see me fail which is ludicrous. So I always tell myself that the audience is there because they've chosen to be there and because they want to see me. But that doesn't cancel out your nerves. 

If you suffer nerves you have to accept it and go with it, and realise it's just nerves. So I can't offer any tricks really, because for me, even after 25 years of singing I still suffer terrible nerves and I can't control it. The only way I get round it is pretending to be someone else and playing a character. 

Do you still have a house rabbit? From seeing you on a TV programme ages ago we now have two of our own! Sheryl, Colchester 

Toyah said: I don't have a house rabbit at the moment, because the last two years I've been on the road touring with the musical Calamity Jane and my house rabbit passed away just before I started that and I really want another rabbit. I find life at home without a rabbit quite peculiar because I'm so used to being governed by a house rabbit. They're very bossy creatures, and they kind of manipulate you and boss you around so that there feeding times suit them. I fully intend to have another house rabbit, I think they're very much part of my life. 

Toyah, if you were to sing a (cover) duet with David Bowie which song would you pick and why? PS Velvet Lined Shell Rocks! Andrew, Leicester 

Toyah said: I agree with the latter! 

It would have to be Je'Taime it would be in the style of method acting, in that everything is for real. It would have to be done from a huge double bed from a penthouse somewhere very romantic, lets say New York because I don't think Bowie likes to travel much these days. 

I came to watch you in Calamity Jane twice and you were EXCELLENT and I saw you in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which was also EXCELLENT I was just wondering what are you doing next and when? Katy, Walsall 

Toyah said: I'm kind of busy doing background work at the moment. The next two months I've said to agents and managers don't bother me because I writing. 

I'm writing this one woman show called "Chain Reaction" which is about music which has influenced and written history and its based in the 70s and 80s. It's about songs that narrate our lives. It's partly historical, cultural and news orientated. About 50% of it is about how music has affected me too. 

I'm writing a novel which is due out at Christmas called "We Have Angels Here". And I've started a second novel which people have shown more interest in, which might pip Angels at the post. I'm not saying what that's about because it's quite controversial and will cause an absolute stir. 

I don't expect to start performing again till May. I'll then do work for the one woman show in June and July, I then go on the road with Nick Heyward touring theatres doing a 1980s tour. 

I've got a lot of telly. I've been asked to go into programme where you swap genders. 

What inspired you to write the latest book you are working on? Do you ever feel motivated by a need to overcome the adversity in your life, such as your physical difficulties or your dyslexia? Strange Girl, London 

Toyah said: My latest book has been inspired by where I live. I won't say exactly where I live, only that it's a town in the Midlands. In a very eccentric town that time hasn't touched and I heard a story about a house in the town that inspired me to write the latest book. It's a children's story for adults and its slightly supernatural. 

Am I inspired by adversity? No, because I think adversity is a frustration that pushes you harder. So I think inspiration is something more of a joy. Adversity, dealing with it, is to deal with frustration. 

But I do love working and that's why I work. I love being creative, I loved feeling plugged into the world. I have no desire to go away and live in a house in Thailand and do nothing. My adversities frustrate me, and try to deal with the best I can. Most of the time I work because I love the feeling it gives me and its exhilarating. 

I love the new album and your 25th anniversary gig in October was great. Are you planning to tour sometime in the near future? Ashleigh, Portressie, Moray 

Toyah said: I'm touring in October, and I think it might confuse my fans why I'm going out in a package on an 80s tour. The reason I'm doing that is because I feel much happier with other artists. I don't feel isolated and put under pressure. I think performing is better when you're happy, and I'm much happier in this kind of environment. I feel I'm not carrying the whole tour on my back which can make me quite tense and that affects my performance. 

I'm really chuffed to be going out with Nick Heyward. He's great fun, he's a fellow taurean and I think I can put emphasis on enjoyment which is what music should be all about. 

To read the interview at 'BBC Essex', please click the image at the top of the news item.

BBC Essex
March 2004