T’HAIR STORY! – TOYAH.
Born Toyah Ann Willcox in May 1958, and hailing from Kings Heath in my home city of Birmingham, Toyah was born with a twisted spine, clawed foot, a clubbed right root, one leg 2 inches shorter than the other, no hip sockets and a lisp. She endured painful operations and physiotherapy as a child to correct all of her disabilities. The only thing that remained unchanged was her lisp.
She was constantly bullied at school, until her father “taught her to punch the hell out of people” as she put it. She also suffered from dyslexia, which turned her into an angry teenager, but, she channeled this anger into colouring and experimenting with her hair, and thank goodness because otherwise she wouldn’t have made it into my T’Hair Stories.
She was actually punk before punk. When the punk movement began in the mid 70’s she realised she had a genre that she could now belong to. She went to see the Sex Pistols in concert on recommendation from a friend and thought “I can do better.” The band made her realise she didn’t have to behave in a conventional manner.
One of Toyah’s biggest hits – Thunder In The Mountains (Live on Top Of The Pops 1981.)
At the age of 17 she became a student at the Old Rep Drama School in Birmingham, where she was already known as ‘the odd ball with dyed hair.’ Of an evening she began to dress stars at various Birmingham theatres. A chance meeting with director and playwright Tony Bicat when she was 18, landed her the leading the role in a BBC play called Glitter, as the lead singer of a band. From this she was offered a part in a play at the National Theatre in London, and at the same time formed her first band named after herself, “Toyah.”
In 1977 she was introduced to film director Derek Jarman who cast her in the seminal punk movie Jubilee. In her acting career she went on to appear in the cult classic film Quadrophenia and Jarman’s version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Whilst her acting career was gaining momentum, her music career was simultaneously gaining momentum too. Her band broke up and she went on to become a solo act under the same name of Toyah, her albums and singles became top 10 hits.
Playing the part of ‘Mad’ in Derek Jarman’s cult classic Jubilee.
Her ever changing characters within films and her constantly evolving music, allowed her to experiment even more with her personal image and she became as infamous for her outlandish hair as for her music and acting.
She’s not only been nominated, but also won awards for ‘best female singer’ throughout her music career, and received award nominations for her acting too. In 2001 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Central England for her achievements in the performing arts, media and broadcasting. Toyah is currently still making and performing music as well as appearing in films and making TV appearances in the U.K.
In my personal opinion, she should have also won awards for her ever changing hair styles and hair colours too!
I hope you enjoy looking at all the different looks I’ve collected here of this iconic British female artist, musician and presenter.
To watch a documentary made about Toyah made in 1980, click on the video below!