Musical Chicago has been good to Sinitta who is loving her role as Mama Morton opening in Inverness on Tuesday
It was around 25 years ago since pop star, actress and reality TV star Sinitta was last onstage in a musical when she was asked to join the Chicago tour in Inverness from Tuesday.
But her first West End role was in The Wiz, one summer holiday when she was just 12 and still at school!
Sinitta had always wanted to follow her actress-singer mother Miquel Brown and aunt Amii Stewart (of disco hit Knock On Wood fame) into performing.
“It was during the summer holidays on a short run. The funny thing was that my mother had been offered to be in the same show playing Auntie Em, but she turned it down because ‘my daughter will be home from boarding school’ – only to find out I’d managed to get myself a part in it!”
Did Miquel forgive her daughter?
Sinitta laughed: “She did, but I think after that she looked at me and saw another side she hadn’t been aware of before.”
Parts followed for Sinitta in the first Cats and The Little Shop Of Horrors in the West End, before commercial voiceovers led to recording music demos.
“We ended up doing a demo for So Macho and I was saying ‘It should be me singing it!’, and the producer was saying ‘You’re too young!’.
"But I managed to talk a young Simon Cowell into releasing it.
"I was actually his first recording artist when he released So Macho – that was his first hit!
"We were friends way back because I was friends with his younger brother. We are godparents to each other’s children and all sorts.”
The single eventually reached number two and a pop career followed for Sinitta, then many reality shows – assisting Simon Cowell at the judges’ houses on The X Factor, is one many people remember.
Speaking last week, Sinitta mentioned, she was about to be back on reality TV with something a little different.
In Womanhood on BBC2 last Friday she and five other women of different ages and ethnicities got together to look at different issues women face today.
Broadcaster Kirsty Wark was joined by dancer and Strictly judge Shirley Ballas, writer Chidera Eggerue, businesswoman Jacqueline Gold, comedian Suzi Ruffell and Sinitta. Together, they explored the role of women and their place in society.
They shared their personal experiences and met people who challenged their views on consent, coercive control, cosmetic surgery, women’s safety on the streets, trans rights, sex work and childcare.
It was a fascinating watch – and an enlightening and challenging experience for the six women taking part, it seemed. I recommend you catch up with it on BBC iPlayer.
Throughout our phone interview, Sinitta has made it clear she has been loving the chance to act again since she join the musical Chicago on tour as Matron Mama Morton with her iconic song When You’re Good To Mama.
It’s the sort of opportunity Sinitta never imagined she would get in her 50s. She thinks #MeToo may have reminded the industry older women are important too, and reveals she has been getting good offers of different roles and other opportunities since she reached her 50s.
"Acting was really the thing I was trained to do with LAMDA," Sinitta said. "It’s so nice to be back on stage again.
"And I’ve been getting lots of auditions for film and television roles and I feel that getting into my 50s has been a fun thing.
"When you think as you get older ‘Does that mean everything is going to shut down for me’, I’m actually finding that there’s a lot for me as an older woman, roles to play of mothers and aunties and teachers, so it has opened up a whole new world for me."
We discuss whether older women are now getting more of the chance they should always have done.
"I do think #MeToo has made a hell of a difference, and I think it has reminded the industry of our value," Sinitta said.
"People are people and the world is not made up of 18 to 32-year-olds.
"It takes all of us to make the world and in the same way that black people like to be represented on screen, and the LGBTQ+ community, older people like to see each other on screen as well.
"I’d like to bring love stories and – maybe not literally Love Island – but relationship shows with older people because we need love too and we need to date and navigate all those relationship difficulties the same way that young people do – and maybe it’s more complicated for us."
I suggest Sinitta has just pitched a great idea for a new dating show for older people.
"I would do a pilot show for it because a group of girlfriends and I, all divorcees, all in our 50s, what do we do – we watch these programmes and – the world is a very different place now.
"What are we looking for, what do we want? And I think it would be nice to see that and what women want and men want from relationships.
"Lockdown really exposed the need for something for us.
"I am prepared to go and meet someone on an app, but then I wouldn’t have the confidence to go and meet someone from an app because how could I know he is who he says he is?" Sinitta explained.
"We like to meet someone in the traditional way or be introduced to someone."
Yet for Sinitta it seems that the changes brought on perhaps by #MeToo mean she is enjoying the opportunities she finds in her 50s.
"I definitely think it has opened the industry’s eyes to our value, to keep us working and to keep us communicating and being relevant to our generation."
But she has a funny story about the phone call that came inviting her to join Chicago on tour.
“I’d been approached years ago to audition for the part of Roxie.
"When they called me this time to see if I was interested in my first-ever role in Chicago, I did say out loud I think ‘I think I’d be a bit old to play Roxie, but I’ll give it a go!’
"And then they said ‘Eh, we’re calling you about Mama!’.
"So that was a wake-up call,” Sinitta laughs.
“But I’m having so much fun.
"Last time I was in the theatre I was cast as the young ingenue, sexy thing.
"Suddenly I’m the mama, the villain and the boss! And I’m having the time of my life.
"I also get to wear clothes!” giggled Sinitta, referring to her famous risque dress back in the day made from just two palm leaves.
“I come offstage every night beaming because it’s so rewarding.
“When I was younger, I never even dreamed of playing Mama because it is traditionally cast as a bigger person and bigger voice, so it’s been lovely to be given the opportunity to give my interpretation of it.”
Coming out of lockdown inspired Sinitta to record her first single in a long time – and her first-ever Christmas single, I Won’t Be Lonely This Christmas.
"I wanted to do it because the last few Christmases have been so disrupted with Covid and people not getting to spend Christmas with their loved ones or go away or do the things they had planned to do," Sinitta explained.
"The song has got a happy, Motown kind of feel. And it’s about this year, whether you are going away on holiday or not we need to make a plan to be sure we will be with our loved ones at the very least."
As Sinitta does the interview, waiting for her next show in Birmingham, a few weeks before heading to Inverness, she confirms that her touring companion, toy poodle Scarlet is with her.
But she can't come to Inverness.
"She is not allowed to go on the train unless she goes in the hold and I don’t want to put her in the hold," Sinitta said, sadly.
"I’ll have my mother look after her, rather than put her in the hold. I was so looking forward to having her there because I thought it would be nice to walk in the Highlands with her."
Sinitta thinks she may well have been to Inverness in her pop days.
"I think I just might have been in Inverness many years ago in the 80s with The Hitman [And Her] roadshow, but never spent any extended time there, so I’m really looking forward to it."
Another first for Sinitta.
More by this authorMargaret Chrystall