|Toyah on a determined
Willcox believes in healthy eating and a spot of
National Service. She tells Alison Jones why.
For someone who once
seemed to be the very embodiment of
anti-establishment attitudes and youthful
rebellion as the princess of punk, Toyah Willcox
holds some very surprising views.
The type of views that
might have Daily Mail-reading Majors hurrumphing
along in agreement. For instance she believes
that a spot of National Service could shape up
the country's teenagers.
That they are being
mollycoddled and spoilt as they are left to
entertain themselves at home with the latest
gadgetry while the playing fields of England are
sold off beneath them.
And that a little bit of
familial structure and discipline can go a long
way to guarding them against the dangers of drugs
and casual sex.
"I was brought up in
a very strict middle class family who made me sit
around the table and eat and who talked to me
about the dangers of drugs and of sleeping
around. My parents took responsibility,"
says Toyah, speaking from her home in the
"My rebellion was
more about freedom of choice. You have the choice
to say no to drink and drugs and I was very aware
We are discussing the car
crash careers of Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse,
who seem set on a path of self destruction that
is threatening to eclipse their musical
achievements and the promise of great things yet
"I think young people
need to go through a phase like that. I don't
agree with it and I think they will hit a time
when they regret it but I don't think you can
tell young people how to behave.
"But it is not just
about them, it is about the people who surround
them. In my experience with friends who have had
drug problems, you remove them from the community
and the people who feed off their dependency.
"I think it is sad
and hopefully it is temporary."
Even at the height of her
punk period, when, after graduating from Old Rep
Drama School and being cast as the nihilistic Mad
in Derek Jarman's seminal cult movie Jubilee, she
went on to form her own band, Toyah didn't
entirely cast off the sensible attitudes of her
She was wary enough to see
when the vulnerabilities of others, such as Sid
Vicious, were being exploited "a lot of
people enjoyed his demise because they were
sitting back on their laurels making money out of
him and the music industry was very aware of
And when the relentless
schedule of touring started to take its toll, she
formulated her own healthy eating regime and gave
up a few of her favourite indulgences.
"Being on the road
the whole time, which I was 25 years ago, was
always a challenge. I was a vegetarian and it was
impossible to find vegetarian food.
"Also it was all late
nights, early mornings and environments that
aren't great for your health, like aeroplanes and
"I didn't want to
keep being on antibiotics or going to the
doctor's. I realised if I didn't eat sweets and I
didn't drink I felt much better, so it was a
simple process of elimination.
"I do feel
deprived," she laughs. "I miss alcohol
immensely. At the end of a long day, the thought
of sitting down having a drink and forgetting
everything is incredibly desirable but it is just
not worth feeling bad."
The sacrifice started her
interest in homeopathic remedies and
complimentary medicines which continues to this
day. And it is why she has agreed to open
Birmingham's Natural Living Show at The Clarendon
Suites in Edgbaston, next weekend.
The event will be backed
with practitioners from the holistic world giving
talks, demonstrations and holding workshops in
such things as Reiki, Lomi Lomi, herbalism,
astrology, Kabbalah and laughter therapy.
"I believe in a
complimentary lifestyle," she says.
"These shows attract people who are quite
instinctive about their health. If you practice
homeopathy long term you are aware that certain
things lower your immune system.
"I don't drink -
there is no point if you don't want to get colds
or stomach bugs. I avoid processed foods, complex
starches and refined sugars, all the demons of
our diet in the Western world. It is really about
prevention and balancing your body out."
She believes that
complimentary medicines have been given
validation by the fact that GPs will often
recommend acupuncture, homeopathy or massage to
patients, particularly those who are chronically
"I think increasingly
doctors want to wean patients off this pill
dependency so we are becoming a much better
culture like that.
"We tend to forget
everything was homeopathic before the invention
of penicillin. And before the Second World War
the way you dealt with muscle pain was by cupping
(a remedy that made headlines when Gwyneth
Paltrow was pictured with brown circles all over
her back, caused by a small cup which has the air
sucked out of it by a naked flame, creating a
lactic acid, which is incredibly painful if you
have it stored in your muscles. When I was in
Calamity Jane in the West End, I had it done, but
it is not cheap."
Forty-nine year old
Toyah's dedication to pursuing as healthy a life
as possible and using natural remedies should,
one would have thought, prepared her well for
spending time embracing nature in the jungle in
Australia, when she starred in I'm A Celebrity
Get Me Out of Here.
However, she had reckoned
without the deviousness of the show's producers
and the fact that seeing famous people suffer
makes good television.
didn't let you take in anything you relied on.
The whole point of it is that you break down and
become something other than what you are in the
outside world where you have all your crutches to
lean on. So we weren't allowed to take in
She was in the second
series, eventually won by Phil Tuffnell, where
Anthony Worrall Thompson led a protest over the
contestants lack of food.
"I don't eat three
big meals a day I eat six very small amounts a
day," Toyah explains. "They (the
producers) knew that is how I feel well and
normal and they didn't allow me to do it. I was
only allowed to eat once a day and they weren't
interested in how I was feeling.
"It was a test of
nerves. Eventually, four days in, when my eyes
were clouding over and I couldn't see anymore,
they got a doctor up to the boundaries and he
said I had to be able to eat every two hours so
he was sneaking me biscuits.
But it wasn't making me
feel any better because in there you weren't
having a balanced diet you were living purely on
protein, so I felt pretty ill."
When she came out, rather
than being given a few weeks in a spa to recover,
Toyah flew straight back to Britain to star in
Calamity Jane in the West End.
Though Toyah's acting,
presenting and stage work seems to have taken
precedence over her singing, she is still devoted
"I do it 20 hours a
day! I am making a solo album and I am off to
Estonia in one hour as I am on a world tour at
the moment," she protests.
She releases her first
ever digital single on Monday, Latex Messiah
(Viva Le Rebel in You) and the image on her
website shows she's lost none of her desire to
shock, as she is clad in skin tight PVC with a
wig/headdress like Beelzebub's horns.
So it is surprising to
hear that she has always felt the need to need to
conform to showbusiness ideals of beauty as being
slim, toned and fresh faced, although she is
refreshingly up front about it.
When she underwent a
facelift a few years ago she wrote a book about
"I knew from the age
of about 20 that I'd have one, and I had hit 44
or 45. I had no qualms or second thoughts about
it whatsoever. I think it is about maintenance,
about looking your best. I don't think it is
about looking younger, nipping and tucking is
about looking well and vibrant.
"I have a healthy
lifestyle but I am always concerned about weight
because in my line of business it affects getting
employed. If you are overweight you don't get
booked to do concerts, you don't get booked to do
TV. Weight is incredibly important, as shallow as
that sounds. It is the first thing a producer
In spite of this, Toyah
still sees herself as an empowered individual
because she is creating her own work and
opportunities through her music, not relying on
the phone to ring with acting offers.
"I think I have a
strong work ethic," she confirms. "I am
painfully aware of my limitations and I always
want to improve.
"I don't rely on
anyone else to give me what I want in life and to
live like that you have to be responsible for
Which is why she feels sad
for young people today whose creativity and
ambition is not being encouraged. Instead they
are being nannied and indulged into apathy.
"The whole structure
of this society is so people earn and bring money
back into the community. People are educated and
go out to work.
"We are not having
children for them to go shopping and play
computer games! We are having children to be a
responsible part of the community. I think the
Government has let them down. The day they
allowed schools to sell playing fields for
property development was absolutely wrong.
"And this whole
culture where you can be sued if a child hurts
themselves in the playground, it is just stupid.
I can remember standing in goal playing hockey
where the ground was frozen solid and breaking my
teeth. I didn't complain about it and no one
worried for me.
generation grew up during a war and it had the
effect of galvanising them. Everything we see now
is happening far away, Africa, Iraq, we are
desensitised to it. Kids are just not seeing that
they are responsible for their own future and
that is not only cultural, it is political as
"We have to give
teachers more power and nurses more power and go
back to the values of the mid 60s which was a
Labour government, so why haven't we got those
values now? I am incensed by it."
Somewhere in middle
England, there is a Major hurrumphing his
26th October 2007