Date: 21 November 2011
Originally published in: Femina (Denmark)
Written by: Mette Rou Lund
The icon from the Eighties Kim Wilde, had a career as a garden guru, a happy family life and a comeback as a pop singer – all of it when she least expected it. The 50 year old singer is back again with the cover album “Snapshots”. Because of that Femina got her to tell about 5 snapshots from her life, including both gimmicky Eighties hairdo, fat topsoil and a helping hand from a hypnotist.
Who can not remember the song “Kids in America” or one of many other Kim Wilde hits? She was the queen of the Eighties – with all that this implies, from backcombed hair, pink lipstick and wide elastic belt, to nylontop with big shoulder pads. It wasn’t because she had the most beautiful voice, or that she was the most beautiful or the most unique. But what was it that Kim Wilde could? Even though she was a star she always had a bit of some recognisable, the girl next door feel to her. She was down to earth. She is so unusual that she is a star who likes to get soil under her nails, to such a degree that she became a TV gardener and gardening book writer when her music career started to slow down. Now she has replaced the hoe with a microphone again, to sing her favourite covers on the album “Snapshots”.
The voice is unmistakably Kim Wilde, when Femina meets with her in a hotel in Copenhagen, during the promotion of the new album. The hair is still blond, but the style is different from the happy days of the Eighties. The clothes are black, the jewellery is rough, and the appearance is mature but nothing like a regular housewife. When going through the selected snapshots she sneaks out her reading glasses, and the lifelines in her face shows that she has passed 50. The green nail polish gives a hint, this is not just any middle-aged woman.
1. Kim as a child
I think I was 3 when this was taken, and we lived in South East end of London. I was never really fond of dolls, and it looks like I didn’t take very good care of them. We look like three street children. I do not look too happy. I have mixed feelings about early childhood. To be honest, it was a home that wasn’t too happy. My mom was only 20 when she had me, and my brother followed shortly after. My father was away due to his fame (Marty Wilde was a big idol in the 1950’s, known for amongst others “Teenage in love” ed.). I think my mother had a hard time. She didn’t have any washing machine, dryer or car. She didn’t have any friends either. She was isolated with two little children. She started her career as a glamour girl in the group The Vernon girls. Then she met my Father, fell in love, and before she knew it, she was home alone with to screaming kids, driving her mad. We moved from London to the country in Hertfordshire, when I was 9, and here we became much happier.
Briefly about Kim
Kim Wilde was born November 18 1960, in Chiswick London, as the daugther of the 50’s rock’n’roll idol Marty Wilde and the previous singer of the Vernon’s girls, Jean Baker. The breakthrough came with her debut single “Kids in America” in 1981, and the career peaked in the Eighties with hits like “Cambodia”, “If I can’t have you” and “You keep me hangin’ on”. Kim Wilde’s career faded out a bit in the 90’s and she stopped her music career. She got married in 1996 with the English actor Hal Fowler, with whom she has two children. She became an educated gardener. She wrote two books on gardening “Gardening with children” (2005) – in Danish “Med børnene I haven” – and “The First-time gardener” (2006). She was hosting the program “Garden invaders” on BBC for some years.
In 2006 she did a musical come back with the CD “Never say never” and on November 28th she releases “Snapshots” on Sony. The album contains covers of Kim Wilde’s favourite songs from the 1960’s to this day.
2. Kim the 80’s idol
‘Oh my God’, is Kim’s first comment when we look at the picture taken on the peak of her career. ‘What a shocking top. There is nothing nice to say about that. And I am wearing gold ear rings and silver bracelets. No excuse for that either. I got the two bracelets on top by my mom, and I flushed them out in a toilet by mistake backstage at an Elvis Costello concert. My boyfriend at the time was playing the saxophone on the tour. Today is the first time I see my beautiful bracelets again after they disseapeared down the drain.
Do you have a good or a bad hair day on the picture?
The hair must be the best thing here. Even the make up looks cheap. What I lacked in style, I had in attitude. And I still do. If I have to regret anything, then I regret not being more of a style icon back then.
But weren’t you a style icon of the Eighties?
Maybe an Eighties fashion icon, but that is not the same as having style. Style is more unattainable and interesting. I never had it, ha ha.
How were you feeling back then?
Even though my career went well, it all went very fast and my personal life was a big rollercoaster. When I look at this photo I see someone struggling to keep it together. It was hard growing up in public. I wasn’t mature enough to handle my relationships emotionally, due to too much energy spent on my career. It wasn’t until my 30’s I understood who I wanted to be, and who I wanted to be with. In my 20’s I fell for ALL the wrong men.
There must have been plenty of men around you?
Yes, but I wish there would have been more of the nice men, asking me out on dates. I had this tendency to end up with a bunch of guys, I really wish I never had spend a breath of air on.
Why did you attract these men?
I never had the time to stop and think about life. I was busy performing, having my picture taken and doing interviews, I didn’t realise who I was together with. I just thought, he looks cute and gives me attention. I didn’t realise he was an asshole, ha ha ha. But I’ve always been attracted to the bad guys.
3. Kim as a daughter
Here is a photo from the happiest day of my life, Kim says, when we look at the photo from her wedding, taken on September 1st 1996.
Before I got married I remember thinking that people hadn’t experinced much in their life, if they could say that the day of their wedding was the biggest experience ever. I changed my mind the day I got married. I then realised that this is the most sensational day.
And your Father looks happy.
I think my Father looks happy, because he knew a lot of people letting their career stand in the way of a family life. He knew I was a family person and very family orientated. He knew I would be happier if I found someone and got some children.
Her Father was also helping when she got a depression at the age of 30.
He had felt depressions on his own, and knew what I was saying when I called and said, “I do not know what to do. I wake up in the morning, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t get out of bed”. He said: “When the world kicks you – kick back”. But I felt so weak. Where do you find the strength to kick back?
Where did you find it?
Desperation. There were two choices. Fight or give up. My fighting instinct took over, and I fought for a year. Then I had a lunch meeting with the famous hypnotiser Paul McKenna. After that I felt better, and until this day I believe he did something to me. I think he planted something in my head, to make me feel better.
4. Kim as a family person
This photo is taken im my house, which I bought when I was 30. I lived there when I met my husband in 1996. Then we got our Darling boy, says Kim while smiling touching the picture across her son’s face. He is 13 now. She also has a daughter that is 11 with the actor Hal Fowler. They met while they both starred in the rock musical “Tommy”.
I had reached a point in my life where I was feeling bored. My career was dead and I wanted to leave the party before being the last one there. So I decided to do this musical, which meant a steady job for a longer period of time. It seemed very attractive to me, as I at the time had spent most of my life in a suitcase. I needed some stability. At the age of 36 I was worried if I had wasted the dream of a family for a career, as so many female artists before me. I felt I pact made a deal with the devil. I had this fantastic career, but now I actually would rather have a family. In fact I almost had hiven up the thought. Then along came Hal.
Hal doesn’t look like one the bad guys you say you have a weak spot for?
He’s quite a handfull actually. Some of the worst things come in pretty packing, ha ha ha….
What made you fall for him?
He made me laugh. He’s a very funny, talentet and passionated man. And a little crazy and wild. When I met him, there was this very strong connection. We just knew, that we were meant to be. And we got married within the first 6 months and soon after we got kids.
Are you a good combination?
Yes, we still make each other laugh. We will finish on renovating a house in France soon. We follow our dreams together. So it still works after 15 years.
5. Kim as a gardening guru
This is me, while promoting one of my books on gardening in 2005. I stopped singing for a long period as you know, but the hole after “Kim Wilde” I quickly replaced with something new. I got children, took an education in gardening, hosted a TV program on gardening and wrote books about it too.
I always loved nature. I think it started when we moved to the countryside of Hertfordshire when I was 9. My mother was happy, as my father was around. I was happy as my parents were happy. My mother grew vegetables, we went for long walks, I met my best friend – it was good times. That’s why I’ve always been connecting nature and the outdoors with something positive.
So you became a garden star instead of a pop star?
Yes, and it was much harder. Everybody thinks: Kim Wilde, she got married, had children, became a gardener and her life is just so pretty. But it was nothing like that. It was a culture shock. It was an even bigger roller coaster than my first career as a pop star. It is hard to keep eye on two small children and a career at the same time. I was exhausted. Kim Wilde did not have a big welcome when she entered the world of gardening. I was younger than most garden people, and a lot of them were sceptical saying: What is an Eighties idol doing in a garden?
When I was asked to do the garden programmes, I wasn’t sure either, did I know enough? I felt a bit like an impostor. But they liked my sincere enthusiasm about it. I actually think that I’ve made many women think: if Kim Wilde can grow tomatoes, so can I.
6. Kim as comeback
Right now I am in a fantastic place in life. I am 50, I still love to sing and perform. It is exciting being back in the music industry, even though I am one of the oldest swingers in town. I do not feel the same pressure is on me, as in my younger days. It gives some freedom, and I am more in control. Not that I am a control freak. I love the little twirls life takes, but I just needed to control the roller coaster a little more. I do these days, and I am enjoying it.