Interview : Lulu, Let It Shine

Interview : Lulu, Let It Shine

Photo : Let It Shine guest judge and singing star Lulu | Credit : BBC/Guy Levy

Let It Shine is the BBC’s new primetime entertainment show starring judges Gary Barlow, Dannii Minogue, Martin Kemp and guest judge Lulu, and presenters Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc. Let It Shine will search for five talented boys to form a band and perform the songs of Take That, in a brand new show touring the UK from late 2017. The judges are looking for a band that exudes the charisma, showmanship and stage presence that Take That became so famous for. Lulu reveals more…

You’re guest judging during the collaboration stage of the competition, what did you think about the show when you were asked to join?

To be honest I had no idea what it was going to be like. Obviously it’s a talent show but it’s like nothing we’ve seen before. When people see what Gary and everyone have created, they are going to be surprised. There are a lot of elements to the show, there’s a lot going on, it’s a huge machine, it’ll surprise people in a very good way.

You’ve known Gary a long time, what do you think about him and what he’s trying to achieve with this show?

I’ve always been a big fan of Gary, he’s a real talent. I think this whole show has a touch of something different. It sounded, at the start, something that was going to be quite generic. I thought they would be looking for Take That look-a-likes, sound-a-likes, all of that. But then I came on set and wow, there’s a lot of detail on this show that is pretty amazing.

Gary’s been quite mysterious about the stage show that will come after this, has he told you anything?You weren’t involved in the audition process for Let It Shine, so what did you think of the standard of the contestants?

I was actually very surprised, I wasn’t expecting them to be as good as they are. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard to eliminate some of the boys because they all have something about them. You want the full package from everybody. I’m sorry but that’s what you have to have these days, you can’t just be a singer or just a dancer or just cute. You have to have the full package because there is so much competition out there.

“It’s a tough business to be in, especially when you get knocks, so the easiest thing would be to probably say, “Ah, stuff it”. But the ones who aren’t in it for the fame won’t do that, they keep going, regardless of the knockbacks. There’s a hunger there.”

Were you worried that there would be joke acts like there are on other shows?

There are absolutely no jokes on this show. No way. That’s been done. What I like about this show is that they aren’t doing things that have been done before. The only thing that’s similar is that they are giving kids a platform, but with this show it’s all boys, which is different. I’m both impressed and surprised, it’s not what I expected. It’s exciting.

This show is offering the winners a job and not just fame, are you pleased about that?

I think it’s not just good, it’s something that’s needed right now. I think that’s a big element and a change to this type of show that’s extremely positive. It’s about time these kids were working towards a job. There’s a very good atmosphere on set. There’s a real feeling of camaraderie because they feel like they are on to something special.

Do you think you would have had the career you’ve had if you were starting our now?

It’s impossible to say. I never wanted to be famous; I didn’t do what I did to be famous. I think that separates the chaff from the wheat. It’s a tough business to be in, especially when you get knocks, so the easiest thing would be to probably say, “Ah, stuff it”. But the ones who aren’t in it for the fame won’t do that, they keep going, regardless of the knockbacks. There’s a hunger there.

Do you find it hard to say no to the boys at this stage of the show?

If you get turned down it’s not personal. That’s something you have to contemplate no matter what your age, rejection will either make you or break you. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I’ve had so many disappointments in my life, if I had let one of them break me I wouldn’t be here today. My first record was a big hit, my second a flop, the next was a hit, the following a flop, so it was up and down.

Photo : Lulu and Robbie Williams at the BBC Music Awards 2016 | Credit : BBC

So where does your fire and determination come from?

I don’t know, maybe I was born with it. I think it comes a lot from my background; I come from a working class background. I told my niece the other day that when I was growing up we didn’t have a bathroom, we didn’t have central heating. She was like, “What?!” She couldn’t believe that we would have a bath in front of the fire and would only do that once a week. She couldn’t believe it and said, “You were really poor…”, and I said, “How dare you!”

I never thought of myself as poor but I come from a very strong work ethic. I’ve come from a place where you don’t get things handed to you, you have to work for it. Not to sound down about it, but with my family, there was a lot of stuff going on that was trying, and I’m being polite.

I had a lot of pain and difficulty, but that’s made me, it’s the fibre of who I am. I’m a fighter and that’s got something to do with it. I’m like, “Don’t tell me I can’t do something!” It’s a fighting attitude. Now, as I’ve got older, I don’t give in easily, sometimes to a fault.

So there’s no chance of you retiring then?

Are you kidding me? I’m not going to stop while I can still do it. I’m going to keep going until I can’t do it anymore. It’s like a love affair. I love what I do! I still tour, I did two sell out tours this last year, one here and one in Australia. I’m writing with my brother, I’m working with some young people, I live for this. It’s what I love. You have to, it’s too difficult otherwise.

“I never thought of myself as poor but I come from a very strong work ethic. I’ve come from a place where you don’t get things handed to you, you have to work for it.”

What’s your advice to the boys on the show for dealing with the fame that comes with this business?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. That will come from Gary. That’s one of the things Take That are known for, they aren’t full of themselves. They have a lot of humility and gratitude; they’ve had their ups and downs. You’ve also got to shine and be the best that you can be so that allows everyone around you to be great.

How have you maintained your voice and looked after yourself over such a long career?

You have to be so careful with your health, especially in terms of what you eat and drink. If I’m on tour I don’t talk until after 12, so from 12 to 12 I don’t speak, not if you want to be able to sing every night. You have to care of yourself, it’s a job, and if you want to do your job you have to be fit for it.

Gary has talked about team spirit and how it’s been lost slightly with kids today, do you agree?

It’s interesting. I’m all about working as a team; when I’m performing I always want my band up front with me. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a group so I bring them forward and include them. Collaborating is a great skill, you learn from one another. So Gary’s point about team spirit is a very good one. How are you going to rise if you’re on your own? You’re only as weak as your weakest link, if you think it’s all about you, forget it. In today’s society you need a village to support you when you’re an artist. It’s not a one man job, you need musicians, lighting, sound men, the works.

Let It Shine airs on BBC One at 7pm on Saturday evenings

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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