Three weeks ago a 40-year-old mother of two with mousey brown hair walked into her local hairdressing salon and said: "I want to look like Kim Wilde." She was talking about the peroxide blonde, rouge-lipped sex bomb who fuelled millions of teenage boys' fantasies in the early Eighties as she strutted her stuff on stage and screen singing Kids In America. It sounded like a tall order. Until, that is, the hairdresser realised that the woman in question was, in fact, none other than Kim herself. Tventy years after she had that first hit single the pop princess is back on tour and this week released an album of her greatest hits.
For the past five years Kim has been better known as the earth motherly presenter of BBC1's Garden Invaders, dispensing invaluable advice about plants and garden design and looking like anything but a pop star. But when the promoters of the Here And Now tour asked her to join fellow Eighties stars Paul Young, T'Pau, Go West, Heaven 17, Curiosity Killed The Cat and Nick Hayward for a series of concerts Kim jumped at the chance. "I'd spent a few years with brown hair and I was getting a bit bored with myself," she says. "So I decided that this was the perfect time to reinvent myself. After two children the extra pounds in weight hadn't dropped off as quickly as I'd anticipated so this was an incentive to get back into shape.
"I've spent the summer running and doing yoga and decided that if I got myself slim enough I would dye my hair blonde again - but I didn't want to do it unless I feit fit and foxy. About three weeks ago I feit I'd lost enough weight so I went to the hairdressers and made it quite clear that I didn't just want highlights. 'Get the whole bottie of peroxide out and don't hold back', I told them.
"I was really up for looking like the old Kim. My husband Hal seems to like it and my three-year-old son Harry told me I looked beautiful."
This is the first time Kim has toured since her Greatest Hits Tour eight years ago when she went to Australia, Europe and Japan but missed out Britain. "I really did feel at the time it was my farewell tour so when they approached me about this one I had mixed feelings. But it's only eight gigs and when they told me who else would be appearing I had to do it because they are all my heroes. I thought it would be a great way to end my 40th year and I have to say I'm having so much fun."
But her career hasn't always been so exciting. When she first burst on to the pop scene as the 20-year-old daughter of veteran rocker Marty Wilde Kim was an instant success. She followed up Kids In America with 10 hit albums and more than 30 hit singles including Chequered Love, Cambodia and You Keep Me Hangin' On - all of which are on the latest album, along with a new track Loved. But 10 years later her brand of music was no longer in vogue, her albums flopped and she was unhappy. She was eating and drinking too much and her love life was non existent. She'd had relationships, including a brief but unlikely fling with Chris Evans, but none had worked out. "I'd been waiting for my career to drop off and when it was ending I didn't want it anyway. I was 31, I'd just moved into my new house in Hertfordshire and, although it sounds melodramatic now, I feIt I was being held hostage by this woman called Kim Wilde.
"It was a very confusing time for me. I was a long way from being an alcoholic but I was definitely someone who should have stopped drinking sometimes but didn't. I put weight on because I was unhappy and I didn't like myself very much.
"I'd always thought I would live in London until I met Mr Right and then we'd move into a house in the country and have kids but there I was, rattling around this beautiful house all on my own, feeling rather tragic. I still had the bright red lips and the blonde hair and I was into my Marilyn Monroe phase.
"All the demons that had been put on the back bumer came to haunt me. What does an unemployed pop star do? Would I ever meet someone that I loved enough and who loved me enough to spend the rest of my life with? I was totally negative about everything. I didn't want to wake up in the morning and not want to get out of bed but that's how I felt and it was really scary and horrible. I even tried therapy but it didn't help. I remember sitting there thinking to myself: 'This is a total waste of time.' That feeling was confirmed at the end of the session when the therapist wrote me out a prescription for lots of drugs.
"I took it to the chemist where they gave me this huge bag of drugs. I thought: 'This isn't right at all.' By the time I got back to the car I had lost them so I obviously wasn't meant to take them. I never saw the therapist again and I became determined to beat my depression myself."
With the help of her close-knit family and her own willpower Kim gradually got her act back together. She also credits the hypnotist Paul McKenna with helping her to regain her sanity. "I just looked after myself and stopped wallowing in self pity. I stopped drinking so much, gave up comfort eating and started going to the gym and running to work off my anxieties. While I was doing all this I had a really unusual meeting with Paul McKenna.
"He phoned our office and asked if he could meet me. I thought it was rather peculiar but I met him for lunch in Soho and immediately afterwards I feIt myself getting better. There was something extraordinarily special about him. And sometimes I wonder li he helped me without me knowing it."
Within four years of this crisis of self confidence Kim had begun what she describes as phase two of her llie. She went into the West End musical Tommy - playing the hero's mother - and met actor, singer and producer Hal Fowler, the man she is now married to. They met in January 1996, had their first date in March and were married by the September of the same year - but their first meeting got off to an inauspicious start when she turned up late for rehearsals, looking every inch the pop star. And she, in turn, was dubious about getting involved with somebody she would be working so closely with.
"I knew I wanted him and I always get what I want but I also knew that if it turned out to be one of those affairs that went by the wayside it would be very difficult working together so I was very cautious. But by March I had managed to extricate a dinner invitation from him. He took me to The Ivy to impress me, thinking I went there all the time but I'd never been there in my llie. I couldn't believe how glamorous it was. He had got a wad of money from his agent because he obviously thought I was going to order caviar and Bollinger and was ready for the worst but I didn't go mad.
"I really fancied him and knew he was the one for me. It was clear from our conversation we had so much in common. We both come from loving, solid families and we both like doing the same things but the very first time I took him back to my house I was full of fear: I was worried he might get the wrong idea about me living in this magnificent old house. I took him round the garden and told him the narnes of all the plants, including a lovely clover called a trifolium repens purpurea. He told me afterwards it was because I knew its full Latin name he'd decided I was the girl for him.
"Until I met Hal I'd never feIt I wanted to make a commitment to any man. I'd never been engaged before or even lived with anybody. A few men I'd been with may have assumed that marriage would happen but I'd never felt that way: And now, af ter five years of marriage, I feel very lucky. Hal and I are a dynamic duo - together I feel we can take on the world."
The couple have two children - Harry and one-year-old Rose - and Kim wants at least one more. She is also enjoying her new-found career as a gardening expert. It was while she and Hal were waiting for the birth of Harry that they decided to landscape their garden. It whetted her appetite for more knowledge and she is now nearing the end of a two-year City and Guilds course in plants and plant design.
She has a new series of Garden Invaders out atthe beginning of next year and has set up her own trading company; Wildeflower. It is clear that Kim Wilde has finally found her niche in life. And she has come a long way from the woman who once said that she didn't want to be singing Kids In America when she was 50.
"I remember saying that but what I meant was that I didn't want to have to be singing it. It's still not high on my list of things to do when I'm 50 but I think now I'd probably have a ball if I did."
The Here And Now Thur is at the Brighton Centre tonight; London Wembley Arena tomorrow; Manchester Evening News Arena on Friday; Cardiff International Arena on Saturday. The Very Best Of Kim Wilde is now available on the EMI label.