Thank you very much for taking some time out of your busy theatre schedule to have a chat with us. And thanks for being Nubian Skin’s first Woman Crush Wednesday!
No problem! Aww [laughs]
We’re really excited to have you on our blog, you’re really inspirational and we’re so glad you’re a supporter of the brand. Can you tell us a bit about Memphis the Musical, and how it’s going because we’ve heard really incredible things?
It’s going superbly, you know, I’m there until October, and then I move on, but it’s just been going so well. It’s original songs, original story, and so for it to have kind of stayed in place and done as well as it has done for the time it’s been there – it’s fantastic because most things that do really well are either adapted from a film, or adapted from a book, or have been on before, or they have songs everyone knows already, but this is totally brand new and it is doing great, great business so we’re really proud – all of us, we’re just so happy it’s been so well received!
Amazing, that sounds so exciting. How did you land the part?
I was asked if I’d be interested in the role initially – and this is way before even Bodyguard – a long time ago now! So, yeah, way, way back I was asked about this, and I was interested, of course, because I read the script and just thought – this is absolutely fantastic! I don’t know why they thought of me in an acting capacity because I didn’t think my acting background was very well known, and there are very few people who know that I did any kind of drama – which I did my whole life until I was an adult – but they asked me if I’d do it and I was delighted to accept…so...it was just…when I read the script that was it for me! I was like if the songs are as good as the script – it’s a wrap! (and they were!)
That’s great, and you’re going to be in CATS as well, is that right?
That’s right yeah. As far as I know I’ll be their first black CAT. The first Grizabella!
So you’re now labelled as ‘The Queen of Soul’ in the UK – how did it all start out?
Well it started 21 years ago, was my first record, ‘Flavour of the Old School’ – and before that I was spotted singing in a club back home in Wolverhampton. That was…back in the day record labels, when they had all their money, all their power, everything – they would send out scouts or they would send out A & R (Artist & Repertoire) – people who would go and look and seek out new talent with the idea of developing it - and I was one of the people that they spotted, in a club singing at home. The process of signing the deal began when I was 20, I eventually signed on the dotted line was I was 21 and ‘Flavour of the Old School’ followed pretty soon after that. It’s quite an Old School way of being discovered, being picked up doing what you do in a club.
Yeah! Do you remember what you were singing at the time?
I don’t actually! It was some of my own songs that I’d written, and some that were covers, like contemporary covers at the time. So you’re talking kind of early to mid 90s, early 90s really. I can’t remember, probably one of them was ‘En Vogue’ [laughs], we used to sing En Vogue at the time!
That’s awesome, so who would you say is one of your biggest influences?
Prince is number 1, undoubtedly, undoubtedly – I’ve been a Prince fan forever and always will be!
And he’s a bit of a fan of you as well isn’t he?
Yeah, [laughs] I’m proud to say! So yes, there was Prince, but then vocally growing up, I would listen to Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and the first voice I ever heard recorded that stopped me in my tracks was Sam Cook – and I was a very young child, I was 3 or 4. Mum and Dad used to play Sam Cook when I was a kid every Sunday, they’d play all these gospel records and I’d just be there standing by the record player and would not move….until I was hungry! [laughs]
So we’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re working on your 8th studio album for release this year – is that true? And what can we expect?
It will be for release next year, but yes I am working on it. And it will be a very earthy, organic soul sound. I’m writing the songs now- so that is kind of where my head is at, at the moment. And [it’ll be] very heavily influenced by my whole experience at Memphis – not only the city itself, but the sound as well, so expect some kind of Stax Records vibe to what I’m doing.
Nice - can’t wait to hear it, that’s exciting!
So, I also hear you’re involved with lots of excellent charity work, can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve been involved with?
I work with Terrence Higgins Trust, I have done for a number of years now 13, maybe 14 years I can’t remember, maybe even longer! But I’ve worked with them and I’m what you call ‘a friend’ to Terrence Higgins Trust – all their regular donors are known as either friends, associate friends or supporters - and I’m a friend. So I’ve been working with them a very long time, and do a lot of things to do with HIV charity. I work with a number of different breast cancer charities whether it be Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Care, Pink Ribbon – a lot of those guys, because I realise how close to home it is. I had a great aunt who died of breast cancer and no one really talked about it and I didn’t know about it until, maybe in the past 10 years. It gave me a big kick up the bum. There’s lots of other more local charities at home in Wolverhampton that I work with as well….The Central Youth Theatre for example, which encourages kids off the streets who want to get into drama, want to get into music, and this is a kind of channel for them, and they’ve just got charity status, which is brilliant…cos they lost it all…cos it all got taken away by the government, but don’t start me on that! [laughs] So, I try to do what I can. I wish I could be like Akon - I rate him so highly for trying to light up the whole of Africa – I love that. I love his project that he’s doing. I think he’s a don for that!
Shout out to Akon! That’s really good to hear, it’s great when people who have a lot of influence like yourself are doing great work, it's just really inspirational. It’s brilliant! We’re also so happy that you’ve been a supporter of our brand…
I am Cinnamon, and the Lace Shorts and Bra set are absolutely gorgeous! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I just love it. And from like a practical term, you can’t beat the tights, the hosiery – it’s so good because you know how you put on a pair of tights and most of them make your legs look ashy?
Yeah – they make you look like you have grey legs…
…Don’t! Exactly – they make you look like you need to cream your legs! These [Nubian Skin tights] are just so gorgeous – I’ve been banging on about them! I was thrilled when I saw that ASOS was selling them as well as your own website. Because I thought – yeah, that goes to show it is something that is SO needed. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there’s this little video – ‘Black girls trying ‘nude’ fashion’?
Yeah the BuzzFeed one!
That’s it, BuzzFeed, I couldn’t think who it was! And I just thought yeah – and Nubian Skin is the absolute answer. It was so needed, so obvious and no one was doing it and then along came you guys! So, I’ve got the t-shirt bra, I’ve got the lacy bra – (I’ve got 2 t-shirt bras), I’ve got the full kind of pants which are brilliant when you’re doing the red carpet and the dress is a little bit see-through (and you don’t want anyone to see your business)! [laughs] I’ve got a few thongs and I wear them at the show at Memphis, just because they’re seamless and gorj. And also the Lace Pants I just love because they’re just beautiful and they blend into my skin and, I just love them! They’re so fantastic. And my aim is, when you – I know you’ve just extended your range in terms of bra sizes - but when you just that bit bigger, [laughs] I’ll be able to sort my sister and nieces out, because all of them are - shall we say – blessed!
We’ll just leave it at that! [laughs] and then there’s me who is very modest, but perfect because it means I can always get my size.
That’s great. We’re so pleased that you’ve been a supporter!
Oh – massive! Massive! I’ve been getting all the girls – if you see Memphis – a lot of the girls on the show are girls of colour, so I’ve been telling them about it and everything!
That’s great! So why do you think it’s important that all women should be able to get their own ‘nude’?
Well, the clothes that we wear today, well not even today – it has always been a need! You put on a white t-shirt, you can wear a black bra, but you can kind of see the outline of a black bra, and if you’re black you can’t put on a white bra – a white bra will show through, quite obviously! That’s kind of page 1. Nude would have been the perfect answer, but where was nude for us? Until you guys, where was it? You go into the shops, you’d be forced to buy a black bra, and that just didn’t cut it in a lot of circumstances. Or if you were wearing something that was semi-sheer and you didn’t want ‘outline of bra’, you just wanted sheer, a nice, clean sheer. The black bra would just look horrible. So like I said, you’d be forced to buy a black bra, or would be scrabbling around trying to find someone who did a brown bra - most people don’t. And, nude – out of the question! (so-called ‘nude’) So it’s just so necessary!
There is enough out there to kind of – how can I put it without being offensive- but, being our colour hasn’t always been celebrated (that’s the most polite way I can put it) and, as a result, a lot of us girls have issues with ourselves. You only have to look at the proliferation of bleaching creams and stuff that are on sale in various different countries, and sneaked their way into some shops over here – thankfully the government cracked down right on them, but – we need to love and embrace who we are, as we are – that’s the key!
Definitely, that’s a great piece of advice.
Oh man, it’s so true! I mean, for example I don’t put chemicals on my hair again [anymore?], all of that, grown out the relaxer, grown out all of it, my hair is all natural. I can get it straight if I want to if can blow dry it. I can get it a bit rough obviously if I want to as well – I can do what I want with it. But I don’t feel that need to conform – it’s got to be this, it’s got to be that. And I’ll sit in the sun all day long because I love a deep, deep bronze-y colour, and I think there’s nothing better than when you come home, or your mates go on holiday and they come back (when they’re black) and they’re just shiny from the sun.
We need to love who we are, as we are!
Thank you very much for your time, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you, and best of luck with the rest of Memphis the Musical, and we can’t wait to hear the new album!
Aww, thank you very much. Thank you so much.
Beverley is currently starring in Memphis The Musical @ The Shaftesbury Avenue until Oct 2015. Tickets are available at www.memphisthemusical.com