Interview with our Somerset pop star, Vanessa White
PUBLISHED: 11:47 07 August 2018
Vanessa White is totally at home when she strolls through the centre of New York or Paris but the former Saturdays singing star still finds her place of birth quite breathtaking. After all – she was born in Somerset, says Bernard Bale
“I grew up mostly in Plaistow in London, so it’s a bit weird to go back to where you were actually born and realise it is where it all began,” says Vanessa who shot to stardom with The Saturdays but actually appeared on the West End stage well before the glamorous girl group became internationally famous.
“I think I must have been born to sing because I don’t remember being much good at anything else at school,” she says. “I am half English because of my dad and the other half is from the Philippines because that is where my mum comes from and where she met my dad. He was on holiday at the time. They met by chance and the result was that mum moved to Engand and settled in Yeovil where I was born.
“That was just the start of course. I came along and started to grow up in Yeovil but my mum never really settled. I think it was not cosmopolitan enough for her at the time. She had friends in East London and we moved there. I do remember my early days of starting school in Yeovil but I have learned more through visits as I got older.”
Vanessa went to St Gilda’s Catholic Primary School in Yeovil from the age of five and is remembered as being a very friendly and polite little girl, always ready to smile. Some things never change.
“Things started to happen almost as soon as we moved to East London, not far from the Olympic Stadium, because I joined the Sylvia Young Theatre School which is very well known for producing many actors and actresses who have gone on to become household names.
“I loved it and I think I knew right from the start that I was at home singing and acting, especially if there was an audience. It was through the Sylvia Young school that I made my West End debut. I couldn’t stop smiling when I was selected to take a part in The Lion King and also The King and I. I knew I had a lot more work to do and a lot more experience to gain but somehow you can’t help feeling that you have made it when you step onto a West End stage. Rehearsals are hard work but you don’t mind a bit because you are doing what you really want to do.
“I am often reminded that I did an advert for Cheese Strings at that time so I had been in the West End and on television at quite an eary age. I managed to keep my feet on the ground though and then The Saturdays came along and the girls and I started travelling all over the place, different parts of the world and, of course, different parts of Britain – including seeing Somerset again.
“The Saturdays was great fun and a real thrill. Going out on stage to be greeted by thousands of crazy people is always fantastic and I loved every minute of it. Well, nearly every minute of it. There was one night in Dundee when we were on tour and as we were going on stage I tripped over a cable and tore an ankle ligament. The others had to go on without me but after the paramedics strapped me up I joined them in a wheelchair! For the next few gigs I used a bar stool for most of the show but gradually got back to standing with the others. Happy Days!
“Being one of The Saturdays was a whirlwind. We were either recording, travelling, doing concerts, in the photo studio, filming for adverts or giving interviews. It was hectic but I would not have missed it for anything.
“Since going solo life has still been pretty hectic, I have been recording my own numbers, appearing in shows and just enjoying a busy life. The one big advantage you have in being a solo artiste is having a bit more of a chance to express yourself as an individual. You do have loads of people talking to you and advising you of what you ought to do or record but at the end of the day you make your own decisions
“ Going into I’m A Celebrity was a great experience. Although I had travelled quite a lot I had not been to Australia before and I wanted to enjoy it to the full. As it happens i loved it. Australia is just a great place to be and it would be nice to go back. I wasn’t disappointed in not winning because it was such a great experience. You do things you wouldn’t normally dream of doing but you’re glad you did, if that makes sense.”
Australia is a long way from Somerset of course and Vanessa does love both.
“When I go through Somerset and see Yeovil it is really strange to think that that was where I first learned to walk and talk and in some ways I think I might have missed out on a few things. I know that the schools are very good and there is some great night life in Yeovil, Taunton and other places so I think I might have enjoyed my teens there.
“At least I can go back whenever I want and when I see the beautiful countryside of Somerset I do get a sense of pride in that I can call it my original home and the place where it all began for me. Very often the experiences you have in your first few years can set the scene for your whole life and I cannot complain. I have more exciting things to do in the future so I am grateful for the contribution made by Somerset and I am proud to have been born in Yeovil which I know has a lot of history, great people and is a really cool place.”