I left school at the age of 15. My plan was always to go to performing arts school. All they way through my 2 years of GCSEs I had the constant threats from my parents – if I didn’t pass my exams, I’d be spending the summer at summer school to catch up and resit any exams I failed. The sheer thought sent shivers down my spine!
I was definitely a hard worker at school but academics never came easy to me. I had a peer group of very smart girls, my friends really did shine in class, that spurred me on to want to try harder. I somehow blagged my way in to top sets in Maths and English even though they really were a challenge to me. But not wanting to be different to them or be the least clever, I worked hard, but I also had a good knack of getting peoples books off them so I could copy! Not all the time mind you, but a bit!
I always knew, coming from a working class background, that life after school is tough. Grades were important, and I had to always try my best to put myself on a good path in the future. But all I wanted to do was sing and perform. That’s where my true passion lay. When it came to choosing my options, of course music and dance were taken. I’d have chosen Drama too but my school didn’t do it, so I chose Design Technology instead – don’t ask!
The only other subject that came with as much ease as dance and music was Chemistry. I knew that when I left school, I wanted to go to performance arts college, but that course alone wouldn’t give me enough grades to get me in to Uni in case that career never took off, so I covered my back when I left school. I spent my days singing and dancing and being the best Stacey version of me, and in the evenings I went to night school to do A-Level chemistry.
Whoever would have put such opposite careers together? In my head, if singing wasn’t meant to be, then I’d create a tablet that eradicated period pains (this was 1998 when strong over the counter tablets were not that readily available). I used to suffer every month with severe period cramps so, whatever way you looked at it, I was going to be famous!
I had only a year or 2 before, cut every single picture of Take That from every mag I could get my hands on – and all of a sudden, it’s my face that’s on the same ones!
My time at performing arts college was short. I loved it and realised that I wanted to be out in the big wide world earning money singing pretty soon. I was gigging at the weekend in a duo. At one point I was in some kind girl band, we’d rehearse after college on the days I wasn’t going to night school. And I was singing original music with a guy who thought he was going to make a lot of money out of me. I later learned that Innocent Records, the label that signed Atomic Kitten, had my promo pictures and demo tape that the guy had sent them, not even 12 months before I ended up getting signed by them with the girls!
I also loved to dance. Even though I wasn’t trained and didn’t even get a grade 1 in Tap, Modern or Ballet by the time I left college, to me dancing was liberating
Then, at the tender age of 16 I got a record deal and a whole whirlwind of excitement started. I dropped out of both college courses and almost immediately we were in London almost every day. We lived in a hotel that back then was called The Regents Plaza. Lots of the pop bands lived there when they were doing promo in London. The vibe was electric. It was so much fun, everyone from the pop music scene all holed up in this one hotel. We would work relentlessly throughout the day, our wake up calls usually being 5am and go all the way to late evening. But we were so young and very energetic, the whole thing was just a dream come true.
Wearing clothes that I could only dream of having weeks before; having my hair and makeup done by a professional (actually in the very early days we did our own, you will be able to tell, I thought that some bizarre bronze-coloured eyeshadow that I was given by Mac was the best thing I’d ever seen and wore it day in, day out); driving round in blacked-out Chrysler’s; performing in the TV shows I’d grown up watching; and gracing the cover of magazines like Smash Hits was just unreal. I had only a year or 2 before, cut every single picture of Take That from every mag I could get my hands on – and all of a sudden, it’s my face that’s on the same ones!
Most of you will probably know the history of my band. We definitely grabbed every opportunity with both hands and had a ball. It wasn’t all fun and games though. It was tiring, beyond stressful with lawyers and accountants and record bosses who always seemed to be pissed off with us because we had done something wrong, or upset a very important journalist – and then hell would break loose. I remember the three of us being summoned back to the record company and our boss punching his door!! Full on, fist through the door because we’d basically undone 12 months of his hard work by acting like total idiots in one very important TV interview.
We constantly had to smile and be happy and a hell of a lot of arse licking went on (not literally!). I always felt uncomfortable doing the ‘sweetie-darling’ kiss on each cheek routine. I was 16 and thought it was odd that we always had to do that when meeting people we had never even met before. That was an industry Etiquette that always made me feel uncomfortable. We’d be taken for posh meals and all’s we’d ever order was steak and chips – apart from Liz, she had an international palette! I remember the record label taking us out in Soho for a dinner. Liz ordered lobster and sat there cracking away at it and all I could focus on was the juice rolling off her hands. I felt ill! Nowadays, I’m a big foodie and wish I could have appreciated it more back then.
I think what I’m trying to get to with this blog is… I truly felt like a grown up back then. I did have my whole life ahead of me, but I was way too young and immature to make the most of all the opportunities that were given to me back then. I always think, if it all happened again now, there’s so much I’d do differently.
At times, my days in the band don’t feel real. When I close my eyes, my memories are like I’m stood on the outside looking in. But they are brilliant memories and I learnt a hell of a lot about myself. I also lost a lot of myself. We didn’t have a normal childhood like all our friends. We didn’t go to prom or college, or date in a normal way. Everything as a pop star is fast paced and chaotic.
People ask me all the time, would I want my children to follow in my footsteps – the answer is hell no! It’s brutal and most people I know never got to make it out in one piece. I’ve even heard there are some people that I once loosely knew have died, they lived the high life too much and they paid the ultimate price. I feel really blessed to have had an amazing family who, although it must have been tough letting go of the reigns when I was still so young, they totally supported me and kept me grounded.
When you are 16 you think you know it all, nowadays more than ever, you need to cover your back. I can tell you honestly, to get to 36 and only have GCSEs behind you, it’s tough!
Over the past few years I have gone back to college. I found myself at a massive crossroads; my singing jobs were amazing fun, but they were mainly at weekends so I wanted to be doing something through the week. Also I’ve had the same job since I was 16. Twenty years performing isn’t exactly mentally challenging. I got to a point where I knew I just had to take myself out of my comfort zone and take that leap of faith to go back to college.
True story, I went to enrol at college and took my mum. I made her get out the car and have a look round inside before I went in. Here I was, a grown woman, scared to get out and take that leap. My mum came back and said it all looks fine – ridiculous really! I went in and gave my name and said I’d like to sign up for their beauty course. I was apprehensive because I knew I’d be in a class with girls a lot younger than me, so I was made up when I walked in and there were women of all ages inside. There were girls who’d just left school and there were other women like me who had got to a point in life where they wanted a career change. I felt relieved. I signed up for the level 2 beauty course and couldn’t have been more excited about learning something new.
True story, I went to enrol and took my mum.
What a revaluation it was. I lived every minute of that course. I felt like I had a purpose again, not just being mum (which I LOVE by the way), but for the first time in a long time I was doing something just for me. I learnt nails, tinting, waxing, facial, pedicures. We had to take several exams in anatomy and physiology – I was thriving. Soon enough I was enrolling in every course I could. I passed in intimate waxing, HD brows, crystal clear comcit, and was going to beauty trade shows. I got a business partner, my teacher from college, and we set out to open our own little beauty spa. The whole journey was really exciting. We placed 3 offers on 3 different shops and they all fell through. Then the band got a resurgence and we started gigging all the time. I lost my focus and went back to singing.
I do think now that it wasn’t meant to be then. Three knock backs was pretty tough for us. We had everything in place apart from the premises – you can’t really go any further than that. So now it’s time to start all over again and get back to my beauty. I will make both my singing and beauty work side by side this time. My early week being filled with my new venture, and weekend with gigs, that way I get the best of both worlds!
I’m still a long way off finalising what it is I will be doing, but I’ve got some really exiting training coming up. Now I have attained my level 3 beauty in holistic therapies, I can move on to do more intricate and interesting treatment that I really love.
go and try something new
Skin has always been a massive passion of mine. From the age of 16, having worked with some of the country’s top make-up artists, they always harped on at us to look after our skin, and that I have. It’s far from perfect, but I love trying out new facials and skin care products. I love it when you have been doing a well kept skin routine and your skin is glowing, no need for Botox or fillers. So my next few courses are more aimed at that.
I will of course keep you all updated with how things are getting on.
So, if anyone reading this has had that little niggling at the back of their mind like I did for years to go and try something new, then I highly recommend it. It’s liberating, it’s a new lease of life, and it’s very exciting! You are never too old to learn something new.