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Gabrielle: ‘There was no one like me in pop music’

Gabrielle spoke about her upbringing, relationship with the press and it being okay to dream in a new interview with The Big Issue

Singer Gabrielle is living proof that dreams can come true. 

In 1993, her iconic song Dreams rocketed to the top of her charts. At the time, it was the highest ever new entry for a debut single. 

Though it was later on before she realised her family didn’t have much money, her mother held down three jobs so she didn’t go without. 

“I used to go with her to her morning cleaning job to earn my pocket money before school,” the 51-year-old told The Big Issue in a new interview. 

“My mum is a grafter. She made sure we had what we needed. I never had to worry – I had my own TV and life was good. 

“We lived in Brockley [In Lewisham, south London] and when I was growing up I thought we lived in a lovely neighbourhood. Years later somebody in the press was talking to me as if it was some ghetto area. But for me it was lovely.” 

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Gabrielle released her seventh album Do It Again earlier this month. Writing her Big Issue Letter To My Younger Self, she said she would be “shocked” if you told her at 16 she would be famous.

“I would tell my younger self it’s OK to dream, my darling. Because as much as I wanted to sing, and as much as I was confident, there was no one like me in pop music or on TV,” she said. 

“[There was] no one to represent this girl with a lazy eye who has not got this picture-perfect face.” 

Gabrielle is well known for wearing an eye patch, sunglasses or covering her lazy eyelid with her hair in public. She has spoken in the past of struggling to fit in at school, suffering from depression and feeling suicidal. 

In the new interview, she revealed that it wasn’t just school where she felt attacked.

“When I entered the music industry I became really self-deprecating,” she went on. 

“I once opened up a newspaper and it had an article about the five fattest girls in pop – I was one of them and so was Geri Halliwell, who’s teeny weeny weeny. No wonder people had eating disorders.” 

Rather than pumping out an album every year or two, Gabrielle said her record label sometimes expressed frustration when she decided to put music on hold to focus on being a mother. 

“Every time I stepped back was solely because of my children. I enjoyed being a mum so much, so I don’t regret being around for them because kids do stuff so quickly,” she said. 

“I didn’t want to miss those pivotal moments. They’re big and doing great now. So although my career advice would be not to leave it so long between albums, because it was a nightmare for my record label when this successful artist wouldn’t come back for three or five years between albums, at the time it was right for me.” 

Read more from Gabrielle on relationships, meeting Nelson Mandela and wanting to have one last conversation with her stepdad in this week’s Big Issue, available through our online shop.

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