How Kim planted seeds of success

In the height of her Eighties fame Kim Wilde toured with Michael Jackson and sold millions of records. These days she’s better known as a gardener. She tells Laura Milne about her transformation from rock ‘n’ roll Wilde child to detox convert and green goddess.

With her shock of peroxide blonde hair and fresh-faced looks, Kim Wilde was the archetypal teenage pop star. When she bounced on to our TV screens in 1981 belting out a song penned by her younger brother Ricki and her dad – Fifties pop singer Marty Wilde – she broke the hearts of a million teenage boys. Her first hit, Kids In America, sold a million copies worldwide and during the Eighties she sold more than seven million albums and 12 million singles. In the mid-Nineties, with her music career on the wane, she transformed from pouting rock wild child to gardener and began appearing on TV makeover shows such as Better Gardens and Garden Invaders.

Today, at 43, her face is a little rounder and her figure a little curvier but she hasn’t lost her prettiness and effortless sex appeal. Flawless, glowing skin and clear eyes testify to the healthy outdoorsy lifestyle she enjoys. A week in Thailand this summer as part of a celebrity detox programme with Tamara Beckwith and Keith Duffy converted her to the benefits of the treatment.

On her return she worked with Daily Express naturopath Michael Van Straten on a 10-day home detox plan. “I felt fantastic after I’d done it, ” she says. “I lost weight and had loads more energy. I felt clear-headed and was left with a fantastic sense of wellbeing.” The plan’s healthy-eating principles along with regular exercise and taking time out for yourself are now an everyday part of Kim’s life.

Kim, now mum to Harry, five, and Rose, three, says she has no regrets about the lifestyle change. “It was all great fun but I don’t miss it, ” she says. “By the time I was 20 I was travelling the world, while dad and Ricki stayed at home writing pop songs to try to keep the momentum of my first hit going. They did rather well for some time. I loved the fun of travelling and meeting people. Who wouldn’t? I had a dream job, was successful and didn’t presume to see anything wrong in any of it. But, by the time I reached 30, I was a bit burnt out because I hadn’t taken enough time to look after myself.”

Kim retreated to the Hertfordshire countryside where she’d grown up to be near her family and friends. She bought a 400-year-old barn near the village of Codicote and began the painstaking process of turning it into a home. But the move coincided with a low point.

“Life wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, ” she admits. “I was 30 and single. I’d thought I’d be married by then and have kids but these dreams weren’t happening. As if to rub it in, I was living in a fabulous house, with big family rooms in the middle of the countryside. I started feeling sorry for myself. It was awful.”

Even though she was still making albums, Kim knew her career was struggling. “I realised that I couldn’t rely on a pop career for the rest of my life. It was too tenuous. I wasn’t happy and even though I’d had success I knew there had to be something else.”

Part of that something else was her desire to get married and have a family. “I’m an old-fashioned girl and I was fed up pretending to be otherwise, ” she says. “The independent, financially secure, sex-siren image wasn’t me. I just wanted some bloke to look after me and give me babies.”

It wasn’t until 1996 that Kim got her wish. The script for the West End musical Tommy dropped through her letterbox and she was asked to audition for the part of Mrs Walker. “My destiny was written all over it and I thought, ‘I’m going to do that’, ” she says. “It was the first and only audition I will ever do. It was terrifying.”

Kim got the part and on the first day of rehearsals met her husband Hal Fowler, now 35, an actor and singer who was playing the part of Cousin Kevin. “He was really handsome but he also had such passion and fire, ” she says. “I could see he loved people and I liked and trusted that.”

The couple began dating in March 1996 and were married that September. “It was such a relief to be so sure about something for the first time, ” says Kim. “The years of searching had ended and I thought, ‘Great, I can get on with the rest of my life now’.”

Her second career fell into her lap. While pregnant with Harry she attended a planting design course at horticultural college. Producers of the makeover show Better Gardens were doing research at the college and invited her to become a designer on the show. Before long she had carved out a lucrative second career.

“I knew the only reason I got the gig was because of who I was, ” she admits. “I had a sharp learning curve and still feel as if I’m earning my right to be there. I don’t like being called an expert. I’m a horticultural enthusiast. It’s a passion that will stay with me.”

Today, Kim juggles the demanding roles of wife and mum and her career as a gardener alongside a revival of her pop career. In 2001 she was asked to take part in the Here And Now tour with other Eighties stars including Curiosity Killed The Cat, Paul Young and T’Pau. “It was the first singing I’d done for years. Having the children had taken a toll on my body so I thought it would give me a goal.” she says. At first she hired a personal trainer to help her get in shape for the tour but now shuns the gym for power walks three times a week and the healthy eating principles of her detox plan.

The Here And Now tours play to packed venues and are now in their third year. Kim has recently returned from touring Australia. She has also signed a deal with a German record company and released a record with Eighties singer Nena called Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime, which has been No 1 in five European countries. “We’re a middleaged version of Tatu, ” she laughs.

Finding success in the music world again has created a balancing act between work and family that Kim admits isn’t always easy. “The children hate it when I go away, even though it’s only for a few weeks, ” she says. “I tried to explain to Harry that mummy and daddy have to work to buy him toys and things for the house.

“When I came back from Australia, he said, ‘Mummy, I’ve enough toys. You don’t have to go to work any more’. Not much you can say to that, is there?”

To order Michael Van Straten’s 10 Day Detox with Kim Wilde, released on video on December 29 for GBP 12.99 or DVD GBP 14.99, send a cheque or PO payable to The Express Bookshop, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or call 0870 366 6091. UK postage is free.