from punk icon to property and stock market
tycoon, and now shes hitting Northern
Ireland in her vampire musical. Here, Toyah
Willcox tells Audrey Watson the secret to her
Life certainly begins at 50 for former punk
princess Toyah Willcox. A bundle of energy, the
singer and actress is having the time of her life
starring in hit musical Vampires Rock, which
comes to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast this
Now a multi-millionaire thanks to shrewd (and
safe) property and stock market investments, the
Birmingham-born performer who enjoyed 13 Top 40
singles and a No 1 album in her 1980s heyday is
actually a Belfast regular.
I've been to Belfast many, many times,
she reveals. My first visit was to the
King's Hall in 1981 and I've been back often over
the years to perform in plays at the Grand Opera
As I was only ever there for short intense
bursts of time, I didn't see any of the problems.
Most of my day was spent rehearsing or performing
so I rarely left the city, but I do remember
going to the Bushmills Distillery a few years
ago, though I don't drink so I didn't sample the
There's no doubt Toyah looks fantastic for her
age and she happily admits to having a little
help with her appearance. In fact, in
2005, she wrote a book (Diary of a Facelift)
about her experience.
However, she denies it was a cruel comment by BBC
bad boy Jonathan Ross that sent her scurrying
underneath the surgeon's knife.
After her 2003 appearance on ITV's I'm A
Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Ross commented that
she looked so awful she shouldn't be allowed to
appear on television.
Women everywhere were outraged, but Toyah takes a
What he said wasn't the reason I had my
facelift, she insists. Surgery goes
hand-in-hand with the entertainment industry.
Looking good is rightly or wrongly a requirement
[for men and women], but I do think people in the
public eye should be open about it.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the
entertainment business gets something done at
some point in their careers. It's just ridiculous
when stars deny it and say their youthful
appearance is down to good genes.
Of course, there's a lot you can do to help
yourself. I believe in avoiding putting on weight
at all costs, especially as you get older. I'm
not very tall, so I religiously keep to 1,500
calories every day.
Does the pressure society puts on women to stay
beautiful and never grow old anger her at all?
No, it's the fact that women put pressure
on themselves and each other that angers me,
she replies. Denying having surgery or
anything done' and refusing to reveal your
age, creates for others an often unattainable
Look perfect at any age if you want to, but
don't pretend it's natural.
Watching her on stage, vamping it up in her role
as the Devil Queen, it's hard to believe that as
a child Toyah was crippled by horrific physical
She was born with a twisted spine, foot problems
and no hip sockets and underwent years of surgery
She was also dyslexic (virtually unheard of in
the Sixties), which by her own admission turned
her into an angry, rebellious
teenager who achieved just one O' Level
(music) from posh Edgbaston College.
No, I didn't have a particularly healthy
childhood, she admits. It was
challenging, but by my teens, physically, I'd
pretty much been sorted and I'm 100% fit these
days but I am very careful about posture
and weight and the pressure I put on my body.
It was tough at the time, but I now regard
my dyslexia as a gift. Many people who have the
condition excel in creative ways because the
brain over-compensates in other areas
usually music, art or performing.
Now that it's becoming more understood, I
don't believe it should be seen as a disability.
Not surprisingly, as a young woman Toyah was
attracted to the noisy punk rock scene that
developed in the late Seventies and after
training as an actress at Birmingham's Old Rep
Drama School, she won prominent roles alongside
Adam Ant in punk film Jubilee and Phil Daniels in
the legendary Quadrophenia.
Around the same time, she formed her own band,
Toyah, and chart hits, including It's a Mystery
and I Want to Be Free, quickly followed. Her
trademark lisp, brightly coloured hair and scary
persona secured iconic status and in 1983 she won
Best British Female at the British Rock and Pop
My generation really needed the punk
movement, she says, looking back. The
1970s were a very bleak time and this whirlwind
of creativity came along and gave everyone an
outlet for their frustration.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been part
of the whole scene. I had an incredible time, but
I have to admit I'm enjoying this stage of my
life much more.
In 1986, Toyah married King Crimson guitarist
Robert Fripp and the pair's unconventional
relationship has raised a few eyebrows over the
They appear to live separate lives him in
America and her in Worcestershire and
according to reports rarely see each other for
more than 12 weeks every year.
But despite their strange marriage, Toyah clearly
adores her 62-year-old husband and perhaps it's
this unorthodox marital set-up that has kept the
union solid for more than 20 years.
We have a great relationship and it works
because we allow ourselves our independence,
she says. I can just go off and do whatever
I want, wherever I want without telling him and
he can do the same.
I got married because I had found my soul
mate, not because I wanted to be married.
We have a very interesting life and it's
very trusting and exciting and for me, that's
what's made it work.
Toyah insists that not having children (she was
sterilised shortly after her marriage because her
childhood disabilities left her unable to carry a
baby full-term) hasn't bothered the pair and they
were never tempted to adopt.
I've never wanted children myself and
neither has Robert. I think I was just born that
way. I don't have maternal instincts at all,
To describe Toyah Willcox as busy is an
understatement. Not only is she starring in
Vampires Rock, she is also filming four
documentaries for ITV and will soon start work on
another series of The Secret Diary of a Call
Girl. And last autumn, she released her first
studio album in five years In the Court of
the Crimson Queen.
She's also constantly in demand as a theatre
actress and TV presenter having fronted hundreds
of shows including Holiday, The Good Sex Guide
Late and, er, Songs of Praise.
Is religion yet another part of her very
I'd describe myself as spiritual, she
explains. I believe in the power of prayer
and with prayer we can change things. I don't
follow a particular religion.
It's almost as if, like Benjamin Button, Toyah is
leading her life backwards getting
stronger as she gets older and making up for the
illness she suffered as a child.
I perform to more people now than I ever
did in the Eighties, she laughs.
Society has created this myth that as you
get older, you should wind down and go away. If
you are focused and are in good health, why
should you stop?
Last year, I walked the Gobi Desert for
charity because I still could and,
of course, I will physically slow down at some
point (when my joints tell me to), but that
doesn't mean I will give up on experiencing life.
I'll just do it in other ways.