Interview : Sheila Ferguson, The Real Marigold Hotel

Interview : Sheila Ferguson, The Real Marigold Hotel

Photo : Awesome talent Sheila Ferguson | Credit : BBC/Twofour/Ali Harshad/Papaya Media

The multi award-winning travel documentary series The Real Marigold Hotel has returned with a new line-up of senior stars, for a brand new Indian adventure, this time on BBC One. American soul singer and actress Sheila Ferguson is one of the new stars. Sheila is the former lead singer of 1970s girl group The Three Degrees. She has since had a career on stage and television in the UK, starring in numerous musicals and soul legend tours, as well as publishing a successful cook book on soul food.

What was your role within the group?

I think my role was that of a now-single woman, looking to find new love, or a new life that would be more satisfactory than the way that I have been living since my partner, who was 25 years my junior, died eight years ago.

I believe I will come across as very self-sufficient, capable of fending for myself, accustomed to being on my own and not with a group of people. In Mallorca, I am alone 24/7. As such, I was not accustomed to compromising and doing group things!

The way I live is – I wake when I want, eat what and when I want, do whatever I want, whenever I want. So before The Real Marigold Hotel, there had been no one else to take into consideration and no need for compromise, which I obviously had to do with my fellow celebrity friends, who are a lovely, warm group of people.

“Of all the experiences I have encountered during my lifetime, this one was the most significant. I learned and gained so much inner knowledge and peace of mind from being in India.”

What did you learn about yourself?

I was reluctant to take part in the show at first. I felt I was too young and that my fans would object to seeing me as an old age pensioner. But I agreed, and how glad I am that I did so. Of all the experiences I have encountered during my lifetime, this one was the most significant. I learned and gained so much inner knowledge and peace of mind from being in India.

It made me address things that I had never allowed myself to think about before this trip. I gained insight into my life’s journey (past, present and most importantly, my future). This was an issue that I had always swept under the table by being a workaholic. All I did was work, work, work. Now I have lost my fear of death (which was a biggie), as well as my fear of what I need to do to change my life, and all for the better.

Tell us about some of the people you met

I immediately warmed to and became friends with Smita, the manageress of the Colonial Boutique Hotel where we were based. She and I shared a great many things – the losses of our partners, our love of cooking and entertaining, our dress sense, humour, love for travelling, family and that we live away from our children. We also shared the same sense of loneliness that many other women feel after the loss of a partner.

The Indian people were extremely kind and forthcoming with their descriptions of the various places we were to visit. I will never lose touch with some of them, especially the lovely chap who took me to dinner!

The cast of 2017 : Back row L-R- Dennis Taylor, Miriam Stoppard, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas, Sheila Ferguson and Bill Oddie. Front row (seated) L-R- Amanda Barrie and Lionel Blair | Credit : BBC/Twofour/Ali Harshad/Papaya Media

The Real Marigold Hotel airs on BBC One at 9pm on Wednesday evenings. There is four episodes in the series. You can catch up on BBC iPlayer.

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 is a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards.

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