1Which singer’s mother once made her an eyepatch she could wear while singing your 1993 chart-topper ‘Dreams’ as a child?
“I know this! The lovely Adele.”
“I’m going to be shite on the rest! I was chuffed because I idolise Adele, as I did the late Amy Winehouse. Years after I came along, I love that we’ve got all these amazing British singer-songwriters. Adele’s in her own diamond platinum-encrusted lane and I’m honoured she even knows who I am! I’ve never met her, but I’d probably run a million miles in the opposite direction if I saw Adele because I’d be scared I’d make a bad impression. I’ve sneaked out of the back doors of the studios when someone I’ve admired has arrived in the building because of that fear.”
2Which purple icon did you once turn down the chance to sing with?
“The wonderful Prince himself!”
“It wasn’t like he asked me to do a record and I turned him down flat. He was playing an event at Abu Dhabi and I was at the side of the stage. He said: ‘Come and sing along!’, but I was too in awe of him, so I stayed on the fringes dancing so nobody would even see us in the same realm.”
He was a fan of yours and invited you to a few parties…
“He was an incredible person. Meeting him was like meeting the Pope – and I’ve met the Pope, but I was more in awe and scared of Prince! It was the closest I’ll get to meeting God ‘cause I’m going straight to Hell! (Laughs) But we won’t go there!”
3Name three people The Masked Singer judge Rita Ora mistook you for when you appeared as Harlequin on the show this year.
“Listen, somebody thought I was bloody Boris Johnson! I was shite at concealing my voice. You have vocal coaches working with you telling you how not to sound like yourself. But I got hot under the costume and lost the bloody plot, so my name was trending from the first episode. When my kids watched it, they said: ‘Mum, how did you think we wouldn’t know it’s you?!’. I’m someone who’s always doubted myself, so it was humbling to go online and see people saying lovely comments about my voice. I had so much fun, I can’t even lie.”
“Well, the feedback was probably that when I performed Harry Styles ‘Falling’, his song went back up the charts, so people probably wanted to hear the original! (Laughs) Those artists were probably being kind by not commenting! I’d be too afraid to get feedback from Harry Styles or Billie Eilish because they’re both stunning.”
4In 1993, you were beaten by a child when you appeared on Channel 4’s GamesMaster. Which video game were you playing?
“Nooooooooooo! That’s not fair! Pac-Man?”
WRONG. It was SNK’s King of the Monsters 2 on the Neo Geo.
“Wow! I have no memory of that whatsoever – that’s probably all the drinking I’ve been doing in lockdown! (Laughs)”
5Which two musicians’ vocals are you sandwiched between on the BBC’s all-star 1997 charity cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’?
“That’s mean! Um…I don’t think it’s Heather Small. [Gabrielle starts singing ‘Perfect Day’] I can picture them in my head but I haven’t a clue!”
“I wouldn’t have got that at all! (Laughs) Doing that was incredible. The sad thing was it wasn’t until I saw the video that I realised how many different people were on it. I only saw Heather Small on the day when I went to do my vocals.”
“When I sang ‘Dreams’ at a Labour party conference in the ‘90s, afterwards Nelson Mandela told me wanted to come up onstage and sing and dance with me. He should have!”
6Which Britpop band did you beat to win the Best Newcomer award at the 1994 Brits?
“For me, Britpop was Blur but I’m sure I didn’t beat them! Off the top of my head, I don’t even recall who I was up against but I was a bit tipsy to be honest!”
“Not much because I was pissed! My kids imitate my acceptance [speech] at that, taking the piss out of the way I’m speaking. At my second Brits in 1997, I was more of a lay-dee! I wish I’d been a bit more rock‘n’roll and gone to the afterparties when I was younger and trendy – although excuse my language for ever using “trendy” and “Gabrielle” in the same sentence! (Laughs) I was a boring young fart then and now I want to be a mischievous old bag!”
7Who headlined your day when you played Brighton Pride in 2018?
“I was going to say Britney, but she headlined the day before!”
Everybody’s talking about the new Britney documentary ‘Framing Britney Spears’…
“I’m looking forward to watching it. The stuff that happened to her is so many years ago – she needs let out of her conservatorship. People probably serve a shorter time for murder.”
It’s opened up conversations about sexism and celebrity. You once said you’d “lost faith” in the press…
“Many moons ago when I was five stone lighter, I read an article about ‘Big Girls In Pop’, where I was next to [Spice Girl] Geri Horner, who has a tiny waist. The fact somebody could write an article like that was disgusting. Women are judged for their bodies all the time. Because I wasn’t a bombshell, I escaped a lot of the misogyny because people weren’t paying attention to me. I was the eye-patch wearing singer-songwriter that everybody was probably scared of.”
8You duetted with boyband East 17 on their 1996 single ‘If You Ever’. Which of its B-sides contains the memorable lyric, ‘Outside it’s raining but inside it’s wet’?
“(Uproarious laughter) I can’t even begin to start searching my brain for that because that answer is not there! Sorry – I didn’t listen to the B-sides!”
WRONG. It’s a live version of their 1994 single ‘Steam’.
“I’d have never got that! And I thought I was a big East 17 fan but clearly I’m rubbish and there are better fans out there! But just ‘cause got it wrong doesn’t lessen my love. They’re lovely guys. Brian Harvey was like a breath of fresh air.”
Did you ever discuss collaborating with anyone else?
“No. ‘Cause I always felt like I’d blagged my way into the music industry and if I spoke to anyone they’d know that I really shouldn’t be there. I’d always be scared of – to quote RuPaul – fucking it up. I’d love to work with James Arthur, but if I got into the room with him, I probably wouldn’t be able to open my mouth ‘cause that boy can sing.”
9Which Doctor Who actor once sang your 1999 song ‘Should I Stay’ in a BBC musical series?
CORRECT. He sang along to the track in the 2004 BBC musical drama Blackpool.
“I watched it and loved it. It reminds me I’m known! (Laughs) I show things like that to my children and say: ‘I might be the cook, the cleaner and the taxi service but somebody knows I’m a pop star! (Laughs)”
10You’re a Madonna fan. What’s the name of her eye patch wearing alter-ego?
“I don’t remember her alter-ego, but I was trending when she arrived with that look People were saying: ‘Is that Gabrielle? When did Gabrielle come back looking like Madonna?” Wait… her alter-ego is Madame X!”
“OK, I cheated and looked it up! (Laughs). I wanted that extra point! I grew up singing ‘Holiday’, and suddenly people were asking: ‘Are you going to be wearing your eye patch again now Madonna’s doing it?’ (Laughs) I only wore it for a year but now I’m tempted to revisit it!”
How did it feel when something you were bullied for at school became an iconic look?
“I grew up with three brothers, but I went to an all-girls school full of bitches and witches. My ptosis meant that my lazy eyelid would flicker a bit because it’s dead muscle, so I’d have girls taunting: ‘Stop winking at me!’ In my yearbook, they’d write ‘See you on Top of the Pops – ha, ha, ha!’, implying someone who looked like me would never make it. But the validation of being able to make it and say ‘fuck you’ to the stereotypes felt amazing.”
“I’ve seen so many people paying homage to the look. I went all the way to the States to see drag queens dressed as me in 1993. They were these amazing six-foot queens wearing eye-patches and doing the finger waves!”
We take it you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race then?
“I’ve loved RuPaul from day one. I used to want to be reincarnated as a geezer because he looked so beautiful! He once interviewed me for his talk show and, when my last album, ‘Under My Skin’, was out in 2018, he tweeted me and was really supportive. I watch Drag Race with my daughter. If there’s ever one where women dress in drag, I’d love to do it!”
The verdict: 6/10
“People might say, ‘Gabs, that’s a bad score’, but I’m taking it! I’m not ashamed!”
– Gabrielle’s new album, ‘Do It Again’, is released March 5