1) Tell us about your favourite holiday destination?
Ah you’ve started with a tough one! I’ve been so lucky to see so much of the world in my line of work, but Koh Samui, Thailand is probably up there with one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The people are so warm and accommodating, and the food is incredible. Fresh coconuts chopped from the tree every morning is definitely an indulgence I could get used to!
2) You live a fast pace life – with your work between the US, France and the U.K. – what are your beauty regime essentials that you can’t deal without?
With stage/screen make up being an almost daily part of my job, I’d say that regardless of the products, cleansing your skin at night (especially taking off your make up) so that your skin can breathe and heal, is a must! I have an amazing beautician, Claire Hayhurst, at Blush in Rawtenstall and she has recently introduced me to Environ, Skin EssentiA, so I’m currently trialling that. As a basic rule, I drink a minimum of 2 litres of water a day, try to get 8 hours sleep every night and have recently cut out dairy, which I’d say has made the biggest difference to my whole body.
3) Tell us about your charity work? And why you’re so passionate about it?
I suppose this is how many people feel, but our family seems to have been dealt more than its fair share of illnesses, it’s been really tough. I’m extremely grateful for the aid we’ve received and just feel that with whatever influence I’m fortunate to have, I want to use it to help those who’ve helped us. I’m currently working on projects with Sickle Cell Care Manchester, The Rossendale Hospice and The Christie to help raise funds for the incredible, selfless work they do.
4) We live in a social media age – how do you switch off?
I like to take long baths with essential oils, candles and music. It’s nice to be able to switch off from the constant pinging of a mobile phone and to try and unclog your mind of the days stresses. I fall asleep to guided mediation most nights which really helps to reset my mind for the next day.
5) How did you get into acting?
Well, I didn’t exactly train the conventional way; we couldn’t afford as a family for me to attend the expensive drama schools, but I loved to perform, so I had a rather fanciful childhood of make believe and was constantly asking my family to watch whatever ‘entertainment’ I’d cooked up that week!
I think training in musical theatre is pretty vital as it equips you with technique to fall back on, especially when doing 8 shows a week. Tv and Film work, I feel, leaves a little more scope for raw talent. I struggled initially, feeling I would always be at disadvantage, but then I realised with age that the benefit of not training forced me to really trust my instincts and that in turn stopped me from overthinking the scene and allowed me to develop the character naturally.
I’m a singer first and foremost and so my career began in The Lion King. I went to an open audition and luckily they took a chance on me. It truly was a life changing experience and I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons I learnt there. That was a pivotal point in my career and life and I’ll always have a place in my heart for the people and the show.
6) Any tips for young actresses trying to make it?
Get as much experience as you can (paid or unpaid), trust your instincts and never stop learning. My very first Lion King director, Alex Sumner Hughes, suggested I try a few classes at The Actors Centre in Covent Garden, London and it ignited a little flame in belly for the tiny but vital subtleties in screen acting; the micro expressions, active listening, reacting…it made me want to film as much as possible so that I could watch my scenes back and really be honest with myself, work out what my strengths and my weaknesses were.
I found it so important to be able to self critique, it enabled me to find my niche, but it was also really important to be able to take others’ constructive criticism, both actors and non actors.
We aren’t always aware of how we come across and I really feel that your perspective must always be challenged in order for you to learn and grow. Plus you may be really funny and missing out on a career as the new Robin Williams, but not know it!
Last, but probably most important – don’t be disheartened by a ‘No’. A ‘No’ is just an opinion, opinions are subjective and that one person’s taste may completely differ from the next. This is your dream, not theirs, so don’t give them the power to put out that fire in your belly…persevere.
7) We also heard that you like to sing! Tell us more about that!
Haha, I’m sure I drove my family and friends insane as a a little girl singing Whitney around the house. My mum loved her and I was just blown away by the command she had over her instrument. She was the reason I started singing and all I knew how to do was mimic her. My mum once entered me into local Stars in Their Eyes competition without telling me and I won singing ‘I Will Always Love You’. I think that was the point where I thought..hmmm maybe I’m not too bad at this!! I used to write a lot, which I always promised myself I would pick up again, but I never imagined I would end up in Musical Theatre as I had a crippling fear of acting.
The Lion King knocked that right out of me! You’re on stage, 6 nights a week, in front of over 2000 people, in one of the biggest shows in the world and you’re surrounded by such incredible talent…it is terrifying. But, you learn fast and you grow and ultimately you know that you don’t get to say ‘sorry guys, I messed up, can we just do that bit again. It’s live! So you just have to throw yourself in the deep end and trust yourself. It was my training and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. At the moment, whilst working on tv, I don’t get to sing as much as I’d like, but when I’m lucky enough it’ll be jazz, the blues and every now and then a little rock!
8) What does sickle cell mean to you – and as an ambassador of the charity – what more can we do for awareness
Unfortunately, Sickle Cell is an illness that a lot of people suffer from, but not a lot of people know about. Simply put, it’s a severe form of anaemia. Best case scenario, you’re extremely lucky and don’t suffer too badly from the symptoms, are able to live a relatively normal life and are lucky enough to have children; maybe even see them have children. Worst case scenario, you can be on life time medication, become bed ridden, require regular blood transfusions, life saving operations, sometimes amputations and sadly, it can be fatal.
More than anything, because the doctors are already working brilliantly, I want to really help raise awareness of the condition and subsequently more funds, in order to enrich the lives of those suffering.
9) You seem like the perfect Girl Boss, everything we love at House of Coco – but girl bosses have a lot to balance – how do you manage your time – and how do you stay focused?
My calendar is my saviour! The minute I’m asked to do something, arrange anything, it goes straight in and gets checked regularly. There are a million positives to being a part of the entertainment industry, we’re extremely fortunate, but one of the few negatives is that you can’t really plan ahead with your loved ones.
My schedule can get really hectic and there isn’t a lot of routine as filming schedules can change last minute, so you just have to get good at dealing with change. Meditation and training come hand in hand and really help me to focus on the task at hand rather than allowing my mind to wander. My trainer, Lisa Latona, at Nuffield Health really pushes me and helps me step outside my comfort zone, which in turn equips me to be mentally stronger and take on whatever fun new challenge life throws into the mix!
10) It is so important to have ‘Me Dates’ what do you do in your spare time just to treat yourself and take care of your soul?
They say ‘home is where the heart is’, so flying to my home in Villefranche Sur Mer is all the soul healing I need. There’s nothing like getting off the plane, feeling that warm air on your skin, that distinctive scent of the Mediterranean and being greeted by the big grin on my partner’s face. Cheesy, I know, but life is for living and I intend to love unashamedly.
Family really is everything and when we get the chance we like to take trip to The Woodland spa in Burnley, I challenge anyone to leave not feeling like they’ve had a reboot! Lastly, my closest friends keep me sane and there’s no better feeling than laughing until your stomach hurts, which we do regularly, so spending time with them is always therapeutic.
11) The best place you’ve eaten?
Ah this is so hard, I’m such a foodie! I’m not sure I can choose as I ate at some incredible places before progressing to a plant based diet and although there are more and more options in restaurants now, I still prefer to cook at home for friends and family. My favourite cuisine is Thai, but I have to be a little reserved with the chillies when cooking for others, as I like it very very spicy.