The Changing Face Of TOYAH

From rebellious Princess Of Punk to highly acclaimed actress, Toyah Willcox has proved herself a versatile performer. Currently appearing as Wayne Sleep's leading lady in the West End hit Cabaret, she took time off to talk to Penny Farmer

Outrageous, raunchy, rock rebel, sex symbol - Toyah Willcox has been dubbed all of these in the past. But today she's accepted and successful, and what's more she's achieved it with little compromise to her rebellious outbursts and zany looks.

Her career has been as varied as her wardrobe of clothes and make-up. And far from resting on her laurels, 1987 finds Toyah a mature and accomplished performer with a star role in Cabaret. She also has a new album out next month, which follows hot on the heels of a recently released single.

Married last year to rock musician Robert Fripp - the legendary figure behind King Crimson - Toyah is adamant that marriage has not changed her. "I never want to give up work, I enjoy it too much. I've no plans to have a family as  I feel I've no connection with children. Anyway they're too much of a responsibility," she says.

It would seem the old outrageous Toyah is still there but under a different guise. The new guise was reflected in Toyah's wedding gown. Out went the famous day-glo clothes and accessories and in came a frothy off-the-shoulder gown in pink and champagne satin with leg of mutton sleeves, topped off with a veil. But, with typical Toyah flourish, her hair was orange and her pink shoes had black heels. "We weren't going to bother dressing up but I changed my mind at the last minute," says Toyah with a grin.

Her greatest accolade came last October when she was invited to sit next to the Princess Of Wales and give a speech on the theme of "Vision" at the annual Women Of The Year Lunch. "I enjoyed it immensely, It had such a good feel to it - the atmosphere was alive." she admits she had some butterflies before she spoke. "But there was such a great feeling of unity and lack of aggression that in the end my speech took over any nerves I had."

Toyah looked almost conservative for the occasion, dressed in a black satin suit - though her hair was brashly brassy! "I know I used to look outrageous, but in Birmingham, where I grew up, people didn't make any effort to dress up and I didn't want to end up like them," says the woman who at 15 dyed her hair bright blue and wore her fringe in a point down her nose. Since then her hair has been pink, green, yellow and orange, and worn in a variety of weird and wonderful styles.

"The way I looked a few years ago used to shock people. I was three stone overweight and very broad. At one stage I had all my hair on top shaved off, leaving the long points at the sides.

"At drama school they said I was too distinguishable and I wouldn't get anywhere with such a strong image. I think that was codswallop! I can always wear a wig and different clothes and make-up."

As expert make-up artist, Toyah produced her own range of cosmetics in 1982.

"I rarely go out without some make-up, and if it's a special occasion it can take me up to two hours to apply it and get the effect I want. I find it's a good way to relax."

It's just as well she feels this way as her make-up for Cabaret takes her about one and a half hours to do. But eight performances each week tend to take their toll on her skin, so she's now following a strict beauty regime. "I find the stage lights really dry out my skin so each night after a performance I cleanse my face thoroughly. I then put on a mud pack to lift excess oil and finally moisturize with a good hydrating cream."

Once a week Toyah treats her hair with henna wax. And once every two months she has her naturally dark brown hair professionally bleached a "honey blonde". "I'd never go back to my natural colour - I like being blonde too much," she says.

In her stocking feet she stands just four feet eleven, but what she lacks in height she makes up for in personality. "When I was younger I would have dearly loved to change my height, but now I accept what I look like. I spent years hobbling around in stilettos trying to look taller, but now I prefer to bounce around in flatties. I feel much more energetic." Short she may be, but Toyah's certainly in proportion, varying between a size eight and ten. "I like to make the most of my small waist with well-cut, fitted clothes."

Toyah's favourite designers include English Eccentrics, Claude Montana and Japanese designer Issey Miyake. "I like wearing loud clothes and designs with some black in them, but on the whole I tend to ignore fashion."

Toyah keeps her seven and a half stone frame in trim by regular work-outs in a London club - weight lifting three times a week, and body control exercises twice a week.

She is an environmentalist and a strong believer in the survival of threatened species. For these reasons she's a vegetarian and hasn't touched red meat for the past six years. Toyah also takes vitamins every day, "I think they're vital for keeping your system perked up."

So where does the future lie for this multi-talented performer? "I'd like to keep both my acting and singing careers going. One area that I haven't worked in and would like to is American films and television. I'm just waiting for a good offer to come along. One thing's for sure, I've no intention of giving up. I'm a workaholic."

By all accounts the ever changing face of Toyah looks set to be around for a long time yet!

Star Magazine - 1987
Thanks to Michael Cooney