Major commercial success
has finally come to Toyah, after several years of
being widely dismissed as the dumpy little singer
with a pushy attitude, bright orange hair and a
very pronounced lisp. Two major factors have
contributed to her acceptance throughout the
music world - her recent sell-out tour and her
latest album 'Anthem' which is being hailed as a
triumph. Toyah has always had the courage of her
convictions, and the quality shines through in
this collection of powerful and moody songs. The
single 'I Want To Be Free' is certainly an anthem
for her generation.
was very bored and frustrated as a child,"
she says, "so I can understand a lot of the
difficulties kids face today. That's why I don't
preach to them. They don't want to be reminded of
their problems when they come to see me. They
want to escape and enjoy themselves."
of hands reach out to touch Toyah Willcox as she
leaps and bobs around the stage, her sunshine
yellow and ornage hair splashing the stage with
colour. Her clothes are white, her jewellery
dramatic and heavy about her tiny form. Toyah has
recently completed a sell-out tour of the country
- after collapsing from exhaustion in Sheffield
on her twenty-third birthday. She says that in
the last year she feels as if she has aged ten. A
world tour is scheduled for later in the year, so
it's a pace that she will now have to get used
to. But there are other ways in which Toyah is
determined not to change.
don't like having to act like a star," she
says. "I hate having to ignore fans in case
I get trapped by dozens of others. I try to stay
as much in contact with them as possible, but I
realise now that in my private life I have to be
top secret. The thing I care about most is my
audience. Kids get such a raw deal these days and
are treated so badly by many rock stars that I
find myself feeling guilty. We are not 'Gods' or
'Superstars'. We must remain accessible and not
ignore them just because we're popular."
will remain one of the people because her own
origins were humble - and often extremely
painful. But she was determined to be a
non-conformist, whatever the cost. At 16, she
admits she was the laughing stock of Birmingham.
"Bus drivers wouldn't even stop for me
because I looked so weird. I based my appearance
on Mr Spock of 'Star Trek'. The back of my head
was shaved, and the front grew down over my face.
I wanted to look different and interesting, but
all I succeeded in doing was frightening people.
And when they laughed at me I felt really
joined Birmingham Old Repertory Drama School
before moving to london at 18 for a part in the
National Theatre production of 'Vienna Woods'.
She went on to appear in two films, 'The Tempest'
and 'Quadrophenia', several television roles in
programmes like 'Shoestring', 'Quatermass' and
'Minder', and a starring role in the West End
production of 'Sugar And Spice'. But it was on a
career as a singer that Toyah had her heart set
came easily to me. Although I was nervous going
on stage, it was nothing compared to singing. I
even went to auditions, yet I would get so wound
up that I would have to run out. I suppose
singing meant so much to me that I was terrified
of failing. The turning point came when I landed
a part that meant I had to sing. There was no
going back then."
finds acting relaxing because she can hide behind
the personality of the role, the music very
stimulating because she can be herself. Her songs
are joyous rebellions against conformity.
see me and think I'm thick - some silly tart who
dyes her hair different colours," she says.
it takes guts, because I can't walk down the
street without being laughed at or thought cheap.
I want other kids to have the courage to do what they
want to do."