Team LBD meets... The Voice's Cleo Higgins
Team LBD meets... The Voice's Cleo Higgins
You might recognise The Voice's Cleo Higgins from her 90s girl band days ('Cleopatra, comin' atcha', ring any bells?) but since then the mother, singer and BBC1 show's contestant has moved on personally, musically and with her style (but we did love the orange boiler suits, Cleo!). Here we chat to the lady Team LBD are backing to win The Voice 2013 about being strapped in to 6 inch heels on stage, balancing lunch boxes and ironing with photo shoots and phone interviews, her favourite LBD and her signature Rum Fluff cake... What’s it like being back in the limelight? Things must have changed a lot since you were in the public eye with Cleopatra… I was fifteen when we released the first single. So I was in school and my sisters and I (Cleo’s band mates in 90s girl group Cleopatra) didn't want anyone to know so we just carried on as normal. I actually loved school, I loved learning, I loved homework and I liked the teachers so I wasn't this kid who was really keen to leave education behind and go on tour to become a pop star! My mum used to get my sisters magazines and get me puzzle books. I was such a geek and she kept me going with school work when we weren't at school. Then it all got leaked to the papers. My best friends were angry because I’d kept it a secret so I got quite a hard time. Do you think your time with Cleopatra prepared you for the attention you’re getting now with The Voice? I think it prepared me for the social media age. Back then the Internet was just happening. There wasn't a great deal of social networking. Now people are SO opinionated and they want to share their opinions and make other people have their opinions. And if that’s a nice opinion, that’s fine, but some are very negative. To be in the public eye now you have to be so much more resilient because people are nasty now. Back in the day everyone was so nice and we all listened to pop music. Jackson was it! But now you’re insulted for liking things. Some people are so confident behind their Twitter handles.. but if you look in their record collection you’ll find Barbie Girl in there too! If you want to judge someone maybe you should open yourself up to being judged too. What’s it like working with your mentor? We actually don’t have that much time with the judges; you have to really make the most of the time you do have. He understands me as an artist, he doesn't say very much, he listens, it’s a nice thing. If I’d chosen a different mentor I may have had to listen to more than be listened to and I need someone to see me and hear me, not to tell me how to be. He’s very creative as am I so he just lets me create. He usually says [doing an impression of her mentor] ‘That’s cool’ or ‘That’s dope’. I was singing a song and made him sing along with me and I completely freaked him out! He did not know what to do so he just kept repeating, ‘Dope, dope, dope, that’s doooope’. It’s been a lot of fun! I hope with him being my coach he’ll see who I am and put that out there in the atmosphere. I didn't start the show to win, I did it to be seen and get my sound in front of people so I could start doing my own thing again. But now are you in it to win it? I just keep knocking them out at each stage! My goals have to keep changing! And everyone around me really believes in me and says ‘Oh, you’re gonna win’ but I haven’t planned for that. They’re making me panic actually saying I’ll have to move house! I'm like, NO, I have not planned for that, I can’t deal with thinking about that right now. How are your children finding it all? My daughter asked for my autograph so her friends could have some. She was like ‘Mum, I've been asking for three days now, can you please sign a piece of paper or something?’. So I gave her some promotional cards we've got and she made me do about twenty five, making me sign hearts and kisses, to all of these names..! She was like ‘I love you Mummy, you’re the best’. And that is the nicest bit of all of this. The children are happy. And they’re proud. I was really worried about how my daughter would deal with it, being the eldest – she’s going to high school this year so she’s at that age where everything is changing but she is just ecstatic about everything I'm doing. She’s come back for more flyers! She says everyone is being really nice to her now! Describe a day in the life of Cleo. They are all very different. To condense it into my busiest day it’s the typical day of a mother. With all the Cleo Higgins on The Voice stuff squeezed in between. Starting off with getting the kids and my partner ready for the day (because they are basically big kids as well!). Then breakfast, lunch boxes, washed, dressed – I'm still not washed and dressed myself – and out the door to school and work. Then once they’re gone, now that I'm in this new life, I've got phone interviews, photo shoots every two seconds, gigs to prepare for, songs to prepare, last minute gigs to prepare for, songs to learn in two minutes and while all this is going on I'm thinking ‘What am I making for dinner!?’. Then in the evenings there’s the TV shows, they want me to find costumes, I'm constantly on the phone. My house is upside down. I just about get enough washing and ironing done so we can move. And I am always on the social media now… You are getting a lot of support on social media and we love following you on Twitter, but you’re quite a private person. How are you finding the new culture of over-sharing? Do you think it’s important for your career? The public have become divided in their opinion of me; whether I’m nice or nasty. I hope people know the difference between performance and personality; the difference between an on-stage persona and bad attitude. Often they don’t which is where social media is a great tool. I can show my passion and my real personality, when I’m not Cleo the artist, on stage. But I do struggle with it, I still hide a lot which isn’t good in the social media age! You clearly love fashion. What is your first fashion memory? My first and favourite fashion memory is when my sisters and I were really young. We were all dressed similarly like we were triplets. My mum used to doll us up in costumes, our hair was always braided with little ribbons. I guess that’s why my fashion sense is the way it is now. My grandmother bought us these dresses to go to church in, we always dressed up for church and I loved it! One was a pink flowery one, my little sister Yonah had one with little heather flowers on it… she HATED it! Zainam had one she hated too. All floral. I wanted all three of them! I was eight and I loved them, I wanted to wear them every day, I wanted to wear them to school. They were like ‘You can have them!’. When you’re shopping what kind of thing are you drawn to? I love old-fashioned things, I love petticoats, I love glamour, I love glitz. I do wear jeans occasionally. Actually all the time. I'm proper scruffy when I'm not doing anything. But if I know I'm on camera it’s all on! You know? I would not be caught on camera in my scruffs. And it makes the dressing up so much more fun and special. I like anything printed, I love African prints, anything you can touch. I'm a Taurean, I'm very sensual so anything I can touch, textured materials, ooh I love that. Furs, anything soft. Rubber. I like rubber too.. Ooh I've given you a bit of an insight there! But you need talcum powder to get in and out of it.. Any fashion faux pas? I like that phrase! I try not to regret anything, I hate that. But.. we had to do a shoot for Cover Girl back in the day and we were using these mini skirts as boob tubes, they were covered in sequins but they were so frumpy! I mean, we were young girls and they just looked old and eugh. We also wore a lot of odd coloured shoes and baggy tops. To make me look younger they always had me in those big baggy boiler suits and I had a big bust and a dainty bottom so I looked like boobs on legs! How would you describe your style now? It hasn't changed much. Well it’s not like it was in Cleopatra because we were young and cute and styled by someone else but for me it’s always been about the feminine, the floral, the vintage-inspired. I wear a lot of scarves, head pieces. I believe in natural hair, African or European. I'm in awe of natural hair. If that’s you then be you. My own style now is very natural, I'm all about promoting natural beauty and being true to yourself. We love your look on The Voice. Do you pick your own outfits? What are you most comfortable wearing when you’re performing? Thank you! I don’t want my boobs to spill out. That’s my fear. So they’re usually covered. My number one thing is to show the cleavage, but keep it in check. I like things that show how curvy I am. But I'm a mum, and we all have our stretch marks and our insecurities. Well except my mum, she’s had four girls and nothing! I do like to show my sides, those cut-out dresses that are really big this season – love those. I can show off my sides which I'm happy with and cover the front. I love colour, things that go POW! I did pick my own outfit for the first show, one of my favourite designers made it. I like local designers, not things you can just get on the high street. Manchester-based fashion is the best. I've worked on the rest of my outfits with The Voice stylists but mostly I've been choosing things that cover my bum and allow me to perform on stage. I need to be able to move. If I wear a dress I'm very conscious of how it is to walk in. I love high heels but I can’t walk in them. Throughout the show I feel like the stylists understood my image and I won’t let them put me in anything I don’t like anyway. I think I'm the person that makes them the most nervous! Usually they show me things and I do like them but I normally think they’re a bit long, I like things short. The dress I wore for the battles was one that got cut down so I could strut on the stage. When I'm on stage ultimately it’s got to be high fashion for me. There’s no such thing as a casual performance. Favourite little black dress. Go! It was a very thin strapped dress with sequins everywhere. It was from Karen Millen. It came down to the knees and was very slim fit. It was more cleavage than anything because it had a V-neck which I was a bit nervous about but it was amazing. I wore it on the Russell Watson tour many moons ago and everyone said how amazing it was. I've only just had to pack it away. Can you believe it? I've had it since I was 18. Dropped a few sequins but no-one knew. It’s had its day now but that little black dress has such a special place in my heart. What’s your little black dress style? If it’s a black dress and I'm on stage I'm probably singing Jazz. For a Jazz performance I'm always drawn towards a sultry black dress. I’ll be singing Cry Me A River or In the Summertime; whatever I wear changes my personality. So I want a smooth and cinched-in and sexy LBD for that kind of performance. My black dress style is to-the-knee, tight-fitted at the waist and then a bit bigger but still slinky in the skirt. It would have lace or fur or a halterneck, I love that neckline. I've seen so many amazing halternecks on LittleBlackDress.co.uk. Shoulder pads are great too. And I love love love sparkle! That champagne peach sparkle, that’s just amazing on any skin tone. Something very ladylike. Not necessarily petticoat kind of ladylike, you know slinky and sexy and sophisticated. nude lace Lexi dress and the colour is beautiful. As for black dresses I also really like the Lipstick Boutique Melanie dress with the peplum and the gorgeous long lace sleeves. It’s such a nice length. My absolute favourite, because I love that retro, feminine look that’s still quite fun, is Kate Fearnley’s Holly dress in cherry print. I cannot wait to wear that one! Who is your favourite designer? Don’t have one. I love too many different things to have one favourite. I don’t even really know who designed what. That’s not something that’s so important to me. It’s not about the label, it’s about the dress. Heels/flats? I'm a heels girl but I wear flats all the time. I can’t walk in heels for long. In that first show on The Voice if you look carefully I've got see-through straps around my feet keeping me in the shoes because I was so scared of them coming off. I would have fallen over. I worry every time I wear heels on stage, I just can’t relax. I just have to act like I'm cool. As soon as I'm back stage they are off. I promise you, it’s ALL for show! I've been trying kitten heels but my feet don’t like them. It’s got to be skyscraper high and I’ll just deal with them or completely flat. So I like coloured flats. Embellished pumps, flats with bits on them. Anything a bit retro. We don’t have a mind of our own do we? We just steal fashion from the past and call it 'now'. Fashion is so rhetorical. Describe your ideal night out in a LBD. I don’t go out that much actually. I don’t drink a huge amount, I mean I have the odd tipple now and again but I don’t go crazy. So when I do go out I am the first one on the dance floor and the last one off of it. My sisters would be with me on my ideal night out in a LBD and my closest friends from high school. If my partner wants the girls out with him then he would be there but boys want to be boys don’t they? I’d wear something really fitting and flattering for my figure. It’d have to be statement sparkle or more ladylike and slinky. I need freedom to dance. I hate those dresses that go over your knees and you can’t move in them. Midi dresses are not for me. They look so cute but I need to be able to dance. You always look so groomed. What are your top beauty tips? Me and my mother actually make our own beauty products. Tip number one, when you wash your face, don’t use soap. I've never tested to see if those soap face washes work I've just always stuck to ‘don’t wash with soap’ and I've done really well, I have really clear skin. Tip two is to try not to wear too much make-up because your skin is beautiful and it needs to breathe. Three, moisturise. Your skin needs that. And look at ingredients. You don’t want to be slapping petroleum jelly on your face. Remember, skin needs to breathe. My mum and I make body butters with shea butter, that stuff is so good for you. And soaps for the body and the hair. We make cold pressed ones the old fashioned way, they’re gorgeous. She makes it all at home, it’s great. So, what’s next for Cleo? Whatever comes, comes. I'm hoping now because my goals have changed I can go out there as a solo artist. Before I just wanted to be back out there so I could perform but now I think, well actually I've got a growing a fan base, I could do this. People are interested in me as an artist, not just as a performer. They want to hear my songs and my music so I need to start thinking about that. If I get as far as to get a record deal and be a runner up…just the idea of that! I've been banging on doors for years..then I just gave up. If it wasn't for the people around me pushing me to get back on the stage I wouldn't have. So it would be amazing. I don’t think about it until someone asks, I don’t visualise but that’s what I want next. If I get any money out of the show I'm going to open my pastry shop. I trained as a pastry chef and I was going to go further but the music thing came up again. Music is a more viable career for me right now. But I love making. I want a patisserie, a coffee shop. It’ll be like an old day sweet shop and cosy with fires, a place people want to hang out with hot chocolate. I bake so much at home. Well I did, now I get moaned at for not baking as much because I'm so busy! If I throw a couple of my signature Rum Fluff Cakes together each week they’re happy. Let us know what you think about our interview with Cleo by tweeting us @teamLBD. And don't forget to follow Cleo and her journey on The Voice on Twitter here.