As Sinitta makes a pop comeback and mentors Cara Delevingne, she tells Richard Godwin about growing up in nightclubs, Simon Cowell’s ‘harem’ and how she feels about THAT baby
I am at a primary school sports day in Fulham, trying to get the Eighties pop star Sinitta Renay Malone to talk. Why a school sports day? Well, Sinitta’s adopted son, Zac, was supposed to be competing and she thought she could watch him and talk to me about her renascent recording career at the same time, obvs. Sadly, the poor boy fell unwell before there was time to find an alternative venue, which is a bit disappointing for all concerned: Zac wanted to run around in the sun; Sinitta wanted an excuse to “do the mummy race”; I wanted to find out what kind of person would invite a complete stranger to their child’s sports day.
Ordinarily, getting Sinitta to talk isn’t that taxing. While she retains a loyal fanbase for her gay anthems, such as So Macho and Toy Boy, her enduring fame rests mainly on her long and complex relationship with Simon Cowell and her willingness to share details about it. “He’s covered everything, from boyfriend and friend to father figure and boss. He’s just so many things to me,” she recently said.
They met when she was still a teenager. He not only mentored her career (her mid-Eighties hits represented his first taste of success in the pop industry) but always figured prominently in her dreams of happily ever after. Indeed, she often seems to play the role of the mad diva in his attic. When Cowell told her he would be having a child with Lauren Silverman last year, she announced to all of Twitter that she felt “stunned” and “betrayed” — though Cowell still appointed her as godmother when baby Eric was born last year. Such is his loyalty that now it looks like he has entrusted Sinitta, 49, with a still more tender responsibility. The trans-formation of one Cara Delevingne, 21, from model into pop star.
Sinitta was recently photographed leaving Cowell’s London offices with Delevingne, who has been murmuring for some time about how she wants to branch out from modelling. Sinitta confirmed: “It’s a top-secret project and it’s true that I’m helping her as a mentor.”
Alas, when I do, very gently enquire how one would go about turning an It-girl, with her five million-plus Instagram followers, into an artiste, the repose of the morning is disturbed. The metaphorical Syco SWAT team emerges from the shrubbery, a red laser sight appears on my forehead and I am told by her PA in no uncertain terms to “STEP AWAY FROM THE QUESTION”. A few children look up from their egg-and-spoon race, puzzled.
“I’m sorry, I just can’t answer that,” Sinitta smiles sadly — a hint that Cowell retains a much closer watch on her than I’d suspected. Still, she does say that she is mentoring “really exciting talent” on his behalf. “It’s about finding people who have natural passion and doing what Simon did with me: help them focus their creativity and ideas in a positive direction and give them an outlet.”
And it’s true, Miss Delevingne could do worse than follow Sinitta’s example. She staged her own mini-comeback at Pride last weekend, performing So Many Men, So Little Time, her first single in decades, popping out of her flesh-coloured underwear and rainbow headdress. “Pride is supposed to be a celebration of being free, so I wanted to be as close as I could to being naked,” she explains. “I wanted to say: ‘I’m still here’.”
It marks a return to her roots. The song was originally an underground hit for her mother, Miquel Brown, in 1983. Miquel was from Detroit and brought Sinitta and her twin sister Greta to England in the mid-Seventies, when she was touring in Hair. The hippie musical set the tone for Sinitta’s childhood. “Hair was all races and nationalities, gay, straight, whatever. I grew up thinking that’s what the world is like. Actually, the world is like that. I mean, I grew up thinking that everybody knew that.”
She had a dual life as a teenager. She spent half her time at a “very straight-laced” boarding school, where the headmistress would tell her off for corrupting the other girls with her tales of queens and divas. The rest of the time she would be backstage at Heaven or the Hippodrome, trying on her mother’s make-up and heels. “When she was onstage I’d be looked after by whoever was there backstage. All my nannies were gay. I had to learn how to become an obedient schoolgirl, and then come home to this cosmopolitan world.”
She says she didn’t want to be a pop star so much as be a part of the scene she regarded as her home. She met Cowell when he was launching Fanfare, his first record label, and they cemented their relationship driving around clubs and radio stations. He was the only person who understood her creative vision. “Everyone wanted me to be a soul singer but I’d seen Madonna and Donna Summer. I wanted to wear Muscle Beach T-shirts and leotards. Simon was the only person who got that.”
Cowell is so often portrayed as the pantomime villain of pop that it’s weird to hear someone speak of him so warmly. “I’m so corny, I really believe all this stuff my mum used to sing about being who you want to be,” she says. And for her, it was Cowell who allowed her to do that. She says that even if the industry is “all business now” for him, and he’s not as fun as he once was, he still loves her for that. “He knows that’s who I am. He just tries to protect me.” And to protect himself from her, I wonder? “Oh! I don’t think so. He knows I love him to pieces. What would he be protecting himself from?”
Well, there is her semi-professional oversharing, which must be trying for someone as controlling as Cowell. On discovering he was having a child with Silverman, she tweeted that the news was “half-miracle, half-nightmare”. Soon after, she gave an interview to Hello! magazine where she revealed that she had been made pregnant by Cowell in the early Eighties but they had terminated the baby. She adopted her two children, Zac and Magdalena, when she was with her former husband Andy Wilner — but the fact that she has undergone four miscarriages does lend some context to her outburst.
“I did throw my toys out of the pram,” she says now. “But I’ve never hidden the fact that I thought that one day Simon and I would marry and we would grow old together. That didn’t happen — and yes, I was upset when it became clear it wouldn’t happen. I was breaking a 30-year cycle of belief because I had a sense of inevitability about us and that’s what I had to get over.”
Does she regret sharing these feelings in such a public forum? “At the time I did because people thought I was crazy. Love does make you crazy but I’m not permanently crazy or damaged. I’m fine. I’ve never taken myself too seriously. I’ve had some crazy things written about me over the years and I’ve had to man up about it. But when it’s really personal stuff and they’re getting it so wrong, you feel it’s deliberate. You really want to say it’s not true, and that’s when you’ll find me on Twitter.”
The insinuation that most annoys her is the notion that Cowell keeps a “harem” of women. “I don’t like it when they say we’re all sleeping together because it makes it sound so seedy and horrible. I’m not that kind of woman. Laugh at my music or my dress sense, or that I’ve loved this man for 30 years, but don’t make me into something that I’m not. That’s not fair.”
She describes seeing Cowell as a father as “such a beautiful thing, he’s just besotted with this child”. She hasn’t spent as much time with her godson as she would have liked but says: “Honestly, he looks like Simon. He’s like Simon with blue eyes. It’s hilarious.” She sounds much more like a fond friend than a spurned lover.
As for the gestation of Miss Delevingne, pop star, even if Sinitta is permitted to say nothing, she does talk up her track record. “I did it with Yazz,” she says, referring to her role in nurturing the mop-headed author of The Only Way is Up. “I did it with Penny Ford out of Snap too. Remember Snap? And I did it with Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield…”
Cara, the bar has been set.
Source: London Evening Standard