The Real Real Me

Toyah Willcox TV presenter tells all to Nina Myskow

I took an interest in Toyah Willcox from her earliest punk and acting days in the late seventies, for the simple reason that we share a birthday. Her, me and the Pope! Since her successful rock career - 13 top 40 singles and 15 solo albums - she now also works as a TV presenter on Holiday, and is a regular on VH-1. She has just finished touring in the Live Bed Show with Joe McGann - we met backstage in Croydon. In 1986 Toyah married musician Robert Fripp of King Crimson. They live in Wiltshire. 

Toyah is a sturdy little bundle of energy, she is feisty, fun, brave and oddly vulnerable. As endearing as her lovely lisp. 

'I didn't lose weight until I moved to London and formed a band. Difficult? No, I just did a lot of amphetamines for about two years. I went for days without eating. 

I lost three stone. It was something ludicrous like three stones in six weeks. I just stopped eating. 

I realised that unless I lost weight, I wasn't going to have an audience, it's as simple as that. I was living with a group of girls, drama students, who were having sex every night and I wasn't. 

And I thought, "There's a problem here, what is it?" And I thought, "It's my physicality, not just my personality, there's something physical here." 

I realised that if I lost weight, I could hold an audience's attention better. I hate saying it because I really feel we should fight to be individuals. But at that age - I was 19, going on 20 - people prefer that thinner, kind of under-fed look. 

It all went with the work. It suited the acting I was doing, it suited the image. I wouldn't dream of doing it now, I think you kill yourself. It worked in my favour, but even now, looking back, it gives me the horrors. 

Lobster

To keep the weight off, I went to a nutritionist. And for five years I just ate grilled chicken and cabbage. For five years, to keep the weight off. All the time I was having the hits and everything. 

I was doing a bit of living it up and lobster round the world, and a LOT of alcohol. But then there are these tricks to knock the weight off. One is the Scarsdale Diet, which is grilled chicken and cabbage. And the other is boiled eggs and grapefruit, the Mayo Clinic Diet. 

You'd just drop 6lbs in a day, and that was for a photo shoot, and I was doing all that. 

I kept myself slender all those years. I starved. Totally denying myself. Oh yeah. Totally. I had to, but it was unbelievably stressful for the body. 

But I think as hard as I tried to kill myself - I mean, not as a conscious act, but just out of stupidity - I was very, very robust and athletic. 

When I was a kid, my mum was very determined, she pushed me into things like ice-skating, because I was born with curvature of the spine, one leg longer than the other. And a joint defect where sockets didn't form. It just means that I creak a lot. 

It irritates me that I'm so incredibly short. I think I'm 5ft, but it depends which leg I stand on. If I haven't got my rise in my shoe, I have to stand on tiptoe on the left leg. There's almost two inches difference. 

That's why I'm very, very aware of nutrition and health these days. I don't want the operations that are necessary to build hip sockets - three major ones and a year off. 

I went through a stage of being staggeringly beautiful when I was 13. I dieted, I starved myself. I ate one meal a day. And boys were falling at my feet, and I loved it. 

And then came the journey through puberty. You start to have responsibilities and have to think about the future. And you have to think about commitments, which I really have a problem with. And the weight just piled on. 

It was gradual. By the time I was 15, I was over three stones heavier, I was gross, with great big bosoms - my arms wouldn't go across my breasts. I was about 10.5 stone, I'd ballooned up from seven. 

I went through a very rebellious phase then. hell. I was awful. I was very much a loner and determined to be individual. That's when the wacky hair started - I shaved the back off completely and had long, black hair at the front. I frightened people. Taxis wouldn't pick me up, buses wouldn't stop for me. 

I'd been a heavy drinker since I was about nine years old but I drank most in my teens at school - really, really drinking. We'd use pocket money, all gang up together to buy gin, which we kept in the piano at school. 

Later I used to carry a bottle of whisky around with me. It was all part of the punk ethos - take a swig and pass it round. 

I'd really put it away. In the rock 'n' roll days, I used to have to have the same chauffeur, so that he knew where I lived. He'd find me in the middle of Dorchester, lying unconscious under a table and have to carry me back to my apartment. 

I love booze, I love it now but I don't drink the way I used to. I drink socially these days.

Silm

When I met Robert I looked very good. I was very, very slim. I was 26, it was the mid -Eighties and I was signed to CBS at the time. 

I'd been in a relationship where I'd been very unhappy and didn't feel safe, and here was this very intelligent man, much older than me. I thought he was reliable and dependable, a perfect English gent. 

He was a well practised bachelor, and everything I never wanted, on that level. So I married this wonderful man and spent two years threatening ex-girlfriends. There were just so many! 

He was a well practised bachelor, and everything I never wanted, on that level. So I married this wonderful man and spent two years threatening ex-girlfriends. There were just so many! 

He loves the way I look. He says that he finds me very sexually exciting now. He loves the maturity, he's very complimentary. 

He likes my little legs, which is a godsend. He LOVES my little legs. I don't think he's ever liked long legs, so I am definitely blessed when it comes to his opinion of me. He's never critical. 

In fact, he does one thing - you know how your stomach stretches? Mine has stretched, gravity has got it. I'd love to get rid of it. But he just grabs it and plays with it like a new toy. He loves it. Handfuls! I'm like, "Get the hell off!" 

I am the same weight now as when I was 14, about nine stone. 

I think what happens is, you find your natural body weight. And you learn to eat when you feel you need to. From the age of 32 I kind of hit a balance. 

Still, I do see that middle-aged shape. I know if I went to the gym every day and ate a bit better, and I didn't eat late at night, I'd be in very good shape. But I can't be bothered. 

Niggly

I think if I got a fantastic film role, or something that really required it - because it's the camera that can't stand weight - I'd be motivated into it. 

Otherwise, I'm kind of comfortable with who I am. Slightly niggly that I could do with about 10lbs off. 

I miss Robert dreadfully when he's away in the States touring. I get emotionally ill. he's my calming factor and my hero. The longest separation was three months and that was a mistake. 

The reunions, however, are fab. We're still on honeymoon. Yeah. Every time we meet, it's a dirty weekend, It's good. It does work for us. We're still very much in that romantic love stage, after all this time. 

What hits me now is the mortality of us all, wasting time. I'm at the stage now - we've been together 13 years - where I realise that if anything happened, I couldn't ever find another partner. I wouldn't want another partner. My life is now with him. 

I have this strange feeling of pride that I haven't burned out completely yet. I turned 40 this year and I loved it. I feel so strong and centred. 

I really feel life begins now, because I'd never planned past 40. Therefore I'm free. I'm free of my own kind of perceptions of what I should be. It's very liberating. 

I am my own person for the first time in my life and I feel very good about it.' 

BIGGEST DOWNFALL 

I have a very sweet tooth. I love home-made chocolates. I can pass a sweet shop but I have to indulge at least once a week. 

FACING FACTS 

I've accepted my lines because I developed them very early on but I would definitely have surgery. I do facial exercises all the time, when I'm driving, wherever. I look an absolute loony in the car but I just don't care. 

FRIDGE ESSENTIAL 

Buffalo Grass Vodka in the freezer compartment. I love a sexy drink and it's just sensational. These days I know when to stop drinking and I get physically ill very quickly. Very handy. Going on stage with a hangover is not on. I can't waste my life like that anymore. 

MY PROBLEM AREA 

I've got big thighs and short legs. I'm not worried about my thighs with current fashions. I can wear my nice combat trousers. On a beach I'd wear bermuda shorts. I never show my thighs. I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger - they're disproportionate and very, very strong. 

EATING REGIME 

I'm very aware of nutrition and avoid processed food. I fuel myself with fruit - so much so that the enamel has gone off my teeth and I've had them veneered. I have mango and papaya in the morning, lunch is a massive wok of veg. Protein in the evenings, it will take fat off during the night. 

RELAXATION 

Work. I haven't had a holiday since 1983. I'm booked until April and I haven't got a day off for the next two months. I need the stimulation. Robert says he can hear my thoughts, my brain just whirrs. I rarely sleep through the night, so I get up and go to my office at the far end of the house and work. If I just lie there, my thoughts wake him.

Daily Mirror
30th October 1998