KAYE: On this week’s How To Be 60 podcast we have teenage rebel Toyah Willcox and it’s safe to say age has not withered her. Long time no see! It has been 38 years. How are you?

I'm very good, thank you and the Holiday Inn in Birmingham is still standing. I do remember this interview -

KAYE: You don’t!

TOYAH: I do because - this is gonna sound really stupid - but at the beginning of my career I didn't meet many people from Scotland unless I was playing there. So I remember Gloria Hunniford interviewing me in Dublin, or Belfast actually, and I was thinking gosh, that's a lovely accent

But I was so rarely in Scotland unless I was on tour, and I played there and then fans talk to you at the stage door. So for you to interview me was very, very memorable

KAYE: How weird. I just thought I would be so utterly forgettable because I was so nervous. It's interesting now, isn't it, because I think you're just a couple of years older than me -

I’m 64

KAYE: You're 64 - OK, four years older than me, but sitting there as young women in our early 20s because you were just - you're a pop star and I felt so fresh out of uni, that there was like 100 - not years between us but there was a gulf between us. Do you understand what I mean?

Oh, yeah. Back then even a two year gap between someone was considered another generation and I just don't think those time gaps matter anymore. I think if we've got something in common - I think most people are living the life rather than living the age

KAYE: What does that mean to you? Because my God, you're living the life at the moment, Toyah. I have been bingeing on your Sunday Lunch on YouTube, which I recommend. Oh my God, Karen and I, two wee Scottish women are sitting there with our chins on the bloody -

KAREN: Presbyterian Scottish women -

(cackles) Firstly, I am doing this with my husband and no one seems to realise that this is a husband and wife doing what we do for each other and secondly, but just as importantly, we're doing it to make people laugh. And yeah, it's outrageous

But what I have to flag up, because the headlines every week is "Robert’s wearing this, Toyah’s was wearing practically nothing". I started my career when I was 18 and every audition I went to while I was 18 into my 20s I was asked if I would do nude scenes. So as an actress, nudity means very, very little to me

It was part of my rite of passage into the world of acting. I never relished it. I never enjoyed it, but it started to mean nothing to me. When we hit lockdown and Robert (below with Toyah) and I started to do our Sunday Lunches, slowly less and less clothes were being worn as I ran out of wardrobe. We've just we've hit a world market collectively - we've had 111 million views. And it's extraordinary. I’m now in the top 30 of YouTube influencers

KAYE: So will you describe them, Toyah? For those people who haven't seen them. You describe it and then we'll talk a bit more about it but I want you to describe it rather than me

TOYAH: OK. Robert Fripp, in the world's top 40 of guitar players. He's one of the greatest guitar players in the world. We've been married for 36 years. I'm a singer and actress and a writer. And in lockdown we started to post videos every Sunday lunch of either me teaching him to dance, because he cannot dance to save his life. And then slowly we evolved into covering rock songs and we started to cover very famous rock songs

Last Sunday's went viral. Last Sunday we covered the band called Slipknot because we were so amused by how Slipknot do what they do. They all wear masks. None of them show their face. So I put Robert in a Slipknot mask

I am admittedly wearing virtually nothing but just enough to cover some modesty. And it just went viral and I think it went viral because my husband is 76 and I'm 64 and what we're doing and the way I see it is we've been rock and rollers all our life, age just a number

KAYE: I want to talk about that. Because obviously there's a lot of deep philosophical sort of lines that I could pursue in that but first of all, I have to say, Toyah, your breasts are magnificent. My God. They're like the eighth and ninth wonders of the world

TOYAH: They do have a time limit. Robert says to me quite often "how long can we keep this up for?" and I say well, as long as my boobs hold out. I think we're giving it another two years and we're touring this next year. We're doing Toyah and Robert’s Sunday Lunch, The Tour. And then we have to think about how we're going to develop it if we keep working because I really am not confident when I hit 70 that I want to do this (laughs)

KAYE: Oh my God. Have you always had great tits?

TOYAH: I had a cancer scare about 10 years ago and I had reconstructive surgery. My surgeon was just absolutely brilliant. He gave me the best boobs ever. And they’re natural, I don't have implants or anything. So he just had to remove a lump and then he had to make my boobs even and he just did the best job in the world

It's another reason why I really feel that women should be free to show their bodies because we go through remarkable things biologically as women, and we survive so much on physical and psychological levels. But I just really think that we should be proud of who and what we are no matter what age or what shape we are

KAYE: You said you don’t want to do this at 70 and Robert is 76. Did your age come up in your thinking at all? Did you at any point think should I be doing this at 64? Not at all?

TOYAH: No, I was being very honest about my age and as soon as I hit 60 I just put two fingers up to the world. Because I think if you are being oppressed because of your age, that is almost passive aggression towards you as an individual. I think if people lie about their age to you, again, it's another form of passive aggression

So I just shout right back at people what my age is, and I just stand my ground. I can remember having a meeting with a PR person, male PR person, about eight years ago and as soon as the meeting started, he said "how are you old woman?"

I said I'm not an old woman and you've not got the job. I will not be treated as if I'm inferior because I've survived 64 years. And the thing is, we have all taken absolutely remarkable journeys that enrich everybody's lives. If you've had children, I haven't, but you've enriched the lives of those children. You've enriched the lives of your viewers and your listeners. We should be immensely proud. We have so much to offer and we should never ever be invisible

KAYE: To be honest, you are really forcing me to examine myself and doing this podcast has made me do that because I have bought into the lie. I have lied about my age, which is why I started this podcast. I won't bore you again with the story. As with everything it starts with a joke and then it just becomes something and I was like well, that's up to me

I can say whatever I like like blah blah blah but as time has gone on now I'm thinking actually I do have responsibility to be honest about my age, because what am I doing by lying? And I agree with you and I put my hands up and I say guilty. I am buying into that negative connotation that is attached to an older woman and I'm supporting it and I'm complicit

TOYAH: It shouldn't be negative. This is a cultural thing and I think part of it is the power play of bullies. But when you move further and further east around this hemisphere where age celebrated. The older woman, the grandmother, the matriarch is really celebrated. Celebrated for her strength and her wisdom

I can understand why you felt you had to lie about your age because in TV, it's something that happens to women but I think these days because of YouTube, because of Instagram, because of Twitter, because of all those platforms, we can now be far more honest and far more empowered in truly singing about our individuality

I don't have to jump through loops for anyone anymore. I'm a hard worker, but I'm really out there thanks to YouTube and I just feel I'm not jumping through hoops anymore. I really want to take this journey into whatever we call old age or mature age and just flag up some things that really celebrate how amazing it is. Every year that we have it's a gift. It's an absolute gift

I just want to flag that up. We can't keep kind of installing fear in people about their future. It doesn't have to be there. It's a complex thing and you're right - it can get philosophical, but I always say to people I meet who are in their 20s save 10% of what you earn. They say “why should I do that?”

Save 10% of what you earn. That is your power. When you hit 40, when you hit 50 and you start to hit barriers against your age, you will have enough money as a bedrock to keep you independent and you will never have to borrow from the bank. So I tell people that you start young to build your future and build a confident middle and old age

How does Robert feel about it because (he is) one of the world's finest guitarists – how does he feel about being a 76 year old rock and roller?

TOYAH: I will be honest with you - neither of us see ourselves as these age groups. We are still how we very much were in our 20s and Robert only recently said to me "I've just looked in the mirror and I've seen a very old man" and I said but you're not an old man in your head and you're an exceptionally good 76. You look great, you're very sexy. And what you do - the world loves you. You're so cute

I'd say the problem that both Robert and I have is we are age inappropriate. I'm dress far too young. I take my clothes off, but I am far too young in my head. I just don't think old and Robert doesn't either. But we are noticing things and in 2010 I had hip replacement. Best thing I ever did! It’s fabulous. I've dancing on every stage around the world. So I am experiencing what old age throws at us, but I'm not living with that attitude

KAYE: Yeah, so you're not in denial about age but you just refuse to do it the way that society tends to want you to

TOYAH: Yeah, it's the negativity that I think is very unhealthy. Negativity and fear just doesn't help anyone. Like you had an email (which Kaye read at the beginning of the podcast) from a lady who's just starting a full time career at 60 and it's the job she's always wanted … she's living her dreams! We still have dreams

OK - we have menopause, we were dealing with libido that drops. Yeah, these are biological things. But we're utterly biologically remarkable and we still have dreams and you have a right to live your dreams. They might diminish in ambition, but you'll always get some form of that dream available to you to make your life very, very fulfilling

Can I ask you … in your Sunday Lunch videos, the clothes that you get - you said you're kind of emptying your wardrobe. Did you have these clothes anyway? (they all laugh) Stored in the back in clingflm

TOYAH: Exactly a year ago, I was a burlesque dancer for the first time. So exactly a year ago, I opened in a show in London called Proud Cabaret (below), where I was with burlesque dancers and I dressed as a burlesque dancer. So I had those outfits, but you get through them very quickly if you do four of these a month. So I go onto Amazon and I just order fancy dress outfits and doctor them. I cut them up, I redesign them, I sew them together so I'm now at the point where I'm making what I wear. But a lot of them come off Amazon

KAREN: That's incredible. Can I just say Robert sometimes looks like he's terrified. It looks like he's signed this contract and not read the small print. He's sitting there going “what did I get into here?”

TOYAH: What's terrifying him - and this is a little bit technical - is Robert doesn't play in the same tuning as every guitarist in the world plays in. So the standard tuning for rock is E tuning. Robert plays in C tuning which means he's learning songs - the notes are actually on different strings. So it's a real challenge for him and he's done it deliberately this way so his brain is super active

KAREN: Right. Because he does look like he's concentrating really hard

Yeah. And he has to to a certain degree and he is a little scared about what I'm going to do because I never tell him

KAREN: I was going to say - that concentration is “I’m terrified … what’s going to happen next?”

TOYAH: I very rarely tell him. What I do before he sits down is I film a rehearsal with just me in the picture and I say this is where you're going to be positioned and this is what it's going to look like and then I just don't tell him anything else

KAYE: I think he's hypnotised by your nipples. I think that's what it is. He’s in a hypnotic trance

TOYAH: Well, he does really love me behaving like this

KAYE: Does he? Which is an amazing thing because for a lot of relationships - for the woman to be so out there as you are … A lot of guys struggle with that. Has he always been cool with that?

TOYAH: He’s been so cool. I was doing a play once, "Therese Racquin", a French play about a French murderess and this was inTthe Playhouse in Nottingham and act two opened with me having sex on the kitchen table with a cohort. My husband was sitting in the balcony and he turned to the woman next to him and said “that's my wife”. I heard him say it!

KAYE: I was reading some interviews that you and Robert have done recently and he was quoted and maybe you can fill in the backstory here Toyah, that particularly recently, emails come to him, he said and this is a direct quote and I hope it's right - Robert's saying “I've seen how difficult it is for a very short woman of a certain age to be seen or heard or acknowledged.”

TOYAH: Yeah. So Robert is a deliberate barrier between me and the world and we decided on this because well, you know what it’s like. We get very strange people contacting us. I would very confidently say that my wages are a third lower than the men I work with on festival bills and on TV. So, Robert is a barrier of strength. When I say to him, Robert, you’re going have to say that you've read this email, because I'm being exploited here

Also, even where we live - I'm a singer, I'm an actress primarily, but I'm also a property developer and I have a lot of property. I even have to put Robert as the barrier when we are doing the deals because my lawyer's fees will be double his. Everyone's fees will be double his

And also I quite like the fact that people don't know I'm the money person. So we cover that up and it means I can get a lot more done business wise, without men being aggressive towards me, and suddenly wham bam, thank you mam  - I cut the deal and they never knew it was me. So that's very deliberate

KAYE: But does that piss you off that you have to do that?

TOYAH: No, I feel that it's actually attributed to my success. Because it has stopped an awful lot of exploitation and dishonesty because men do not do that to another man

So what what drives you? I was reading back over your career and I couldn't even begin to list all the things that you have done and there never seems to have been a lull. You're constantly creating, reinventing and even the Sunday Lunches - that was created within lockdown. A lot of people just sort of lay in front of the telly, scratched their arse and watched Netflix but not you. What drives you?

TOYAH: I think it goes down to the fact that when I was very, very young I had absolutely no support from my family whatsoever. I was the brunt of every joke. Every dream I told them about was laughed back at me in my face. I had absolutely no emotional support whatsoever. The moment I left home I thought eff this, I am going to change my life. I'm going to change my life beyond recognition

I just have never, ever let go of that. The fact that you build your own life - I truly believe we're responsible for our own lives on many, many levels and that's down to being how you feel about your age and positivity

It's how you look after your body when you're young so that you have a healthier old age. We are in control of that machine. But I remember the first time I appeared on Top Of The Pops, it was only then that my parents realised I had worked so hard to get to that point that I was taking my own career very seriously. And they were in shock. They were in shock of every single thing I did, because they never treated me as if I had any hope at all in the world

KAYE: And how did that feel?

TOYAH: It was good. But it's ingrained in me -

But how did it feel to know that you didn't have that support? I'm very fortunate that I had the very opposite experience and it was a huge comfort to me. I can't imagine what it would be like not to have it

TOYAH: I often say to my husband just imagine what I would have been if I had support. Just imagine if every child in this world has nurture. It just would be an incredible planet. I had no nurture, no nurture at all. And I think the reason I feel the safest is when I'm on stage because I'm totally in control and I'm alone and that is my upbringing

I had a very negative mother, who would just go into meltdown over any piece of news. She would just go into meltdown and I remember telling her when I had my first professional acting role, which is a play called “Glitter” that's going to be showing on BBC Four this week. I was 17- 18 when I made it. “Don’t be so stupid! You don't get jobs! You're never going to be an actress, you're not going to do this! Stop lying!”

It just went on and on and on. I was even at Pebble Mill making it and she was waiting for me to be sacked. It was ridiculous. But what I will say is that financially from the age of 18 I supported them til the day they died. And I think it was only in the last 10 years - I bought them a cottage on the River Avon - that they realised how hard I'd worked to put them in their retirement

So was there a period before they died and that you had that big conversation and that there was the Hollywood reconciliation?

TOYAH: No, never. It was just so dysfunctional. So dysfunctional. We would sit down for family meals, I have an older brother and sister but it would just deteriorate so quickly (laughs). I was even fighting with my mother a week before she passed away and that was trying to get her into a hospice to accept painkillers because she was so advanced with cancer. She had no painkillers

Just so dysfunctional, and I put that down to the fact that they both were very young during World War Two. My mother witnessed something terrible when she was a teenager. Absolutely the worst thing you can witness - she witnessed her father murder her mother. And my father was a way in Alexandria, in Egypt, on a war boat for six years

They came back so dysfunctional that I remember when I was very, very young, probably between the age of three and seven, there was a kind of normality. But then after that our world just fell apart

KAYE: So what were your feelings towards that? Do you feel sympathy for them in their experience? Do you feel resentment that you didn't get that nurture? How do you reconcile that now they've gone?

TOYAH: It’s very difficult because the one thing I really wish I persevered with was that I would have had lessons to play guitar. We couldn't afford it. It was one thing or another, I either had singing lessons or I was going to play guitar and I stuck with the singing lessons

So good and bad there but I just feel if I had nurture, rather than being looked upon as someone with learning disability, because I'm severely dyslexic, if I had nurture I just think I'd have gone way beyond anything I've ever achieved in my life. I would have trusted people more and it wasn't til I met my husband ... my husband could see the damage had been done

He really is my best friend and he really is someone that can kind of talk me out of a corner. When I feel confused or angry about something he can help sort me out. So the first time I ever experienced nurture - in the traditional sense of the word - was from my husband

KAYE: Wow, that's quite a story

TOYAH: I know that it's a very heavy story, and I do think twice about telling it, but there are so many people out there who've experienced the same and you can't say to these people your old age is going to be horrible, because your lady that's just got a full time job at 60 is living her dream. And we all have that

KAYE: You’re right because we have this Disney version of youth is wonderful. Younger ages are fantastic and yet when you get older, then it all gets grim and it goes pear-shaped. Whereas you look at your life as an experience, your later years, and continue to be exciting and new and stimulating. You would never go back because your early years sound really really horrific to be honest

TOYAH: If the big boss in the sky above said “what age do you want go back to?” I would say I'm very happy where I am. There's so much strength in our ages. There's so much power in our ages that I am perfectly happy where I am

KAYE: One of the conversations we've had over the weeks that we'll be doing the podcast is what do you call the sort of 60s age and quite a few people have said it's the age of contentment. What would you say?

TOYAH: Well, I won’t do that! (laughs)

KAYE: I didn't think so

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced contentment. For me, it's an age of completion and what I mean by that is when you're 60 you have the time and the physical energy to complete things and to make way for the age of contentment. I'm not really considering slowing down and cutting the stress out of my life until I'm at least 70

Science is very, very clever. Science can keep us going for a long, long time with a high standard of life. But I'm a business woman, and somewhere in me in my DNA, that business person is firing on all cylinders

KAYE: Karen, what does this make you think then because you're a great advocate of taking time for yourself and destressing?

KAREN: Well, I'm just looking and listening to you, Toyah, and it sounds like you're thriving with what's going on in your life at the moment. Your Sunday Lunch is one thing, your property development - that's another big thing. So there's obviously a lot. How do you relax?

TOYAH: At the moment, ironically, you'd think I would have relaxed in lockdown but we got busier and busier -

KAREN: How do you relax then?

TOYAH: There's no time, I work seven days a week

KAREN: So this is you and Kaye together then. Neither of you relax. And what about holidays? Would you have a holiday?

TOYAH: There’s no time. I'm supposed to be on holiday this week. No time. This week I've made an advert for Sunlife. I'm making an album with this world producer. And this was supposed to be my holiday week. It just doesn't happen

KAREN: Are you happy with that level of activity and stress?

TOYAH: Everything that I'm doing this week needs to be done. It leads to other things. It's very, very essential. What I do try and do is take December off, which sounds odd because December is usually a busy time. We are culturally Christian, and we live in a very Christian town and Christmas is huge here

I live on a High Street and I just try and take December off so I can see my neighbours and see my friends and catch up with people and give them gifts and all of that. Otherwise there'd be no time at all

KAYE: If you've got time for just five minutes of bingo, which I know is probably not a game that you will normally play ... So we've just got a whole load of questions and we very randomly choose a number (plays a tombola sound)

KAREN: I'm gonna say 47

KAYE: OK, have you planned your funeral?

TOYAH: Yeah.

KAREN: Have you? When did you do that?

TOYAH: Well, we did it this week

KAREN: How bizarre!

TOYAH: Because we're adding to the property empire all the time so we redid our wills. I said to my husband you have very specific things you want. Let me know. I need to know now. You can't just expect me to build that funeral and do the right thing for you. So we did it this week

What is it going to be like?

TOYAH: Well, it's an interesting one. He's a Dorset man and he fell in love with the town I grew up in and we now live on the High Street in this particular kind of market town and he wants to be buried in our garden. I said no, you can't do that. So we're going to probably have a cremation and the ashes - half will be in our garden here and half will be on his parents grave

KAYE: And what about you? Have you thought about your own funeral?

TOYAH: I am deciding if I'm brave enough to think about cremation. I've actually bought funeral plots for both of us next to my parents. I'm starting to feel we can no longer do that. We can't do that anymore. We've got to just think more ecologically about how we dispose of things that aren't ... used anymore. So I'm trying to come around to cremation

KAREN: I’m intrigued that you actually bought lots next to your parents given the relationship you had with your mom

TOYAH: Well, it's it's a very good point, Karen, because I do really really love them. I can feel them close to me. This morning I burst into tears and Robert said “what's the matter?” and I said I can feel my father so I don't feel detached from them. What I would really like is whatever the karma was that brought us all together has been solved in my lifetime

Because if say reincarnation exists, I never want to go through a childhood like that ever again. It was awful. I'm not even talking about physical abuse. It was psychological abuse. But you can still love people who are very, very difficult to get on with it (Toyah below with her pet bunny)

KAYE: Did they know they were abusing you psychologically?


KAYE: Or was it just the way they were?

TOYAH: No, it was their right. They were my parents. They had a right to do that. It was only in 2009 - I had a big cancer scare. I was taken away, put in an induced coma, had parts of me removed and we didn't tell mum and dad til I was brought out of the coma and then they realised how frail and vulnerable I could be. After that there was a little bit more respect

KAYE: Such a story, you’ve really taken my breath away with it. One more bingo number (plays the tombola sound) OK, 27. What has life taught you, Toyah?

TOYAH: That love is the most powerful, political, emotional thing in the world. We cannot move forward with anything without love in our lives

KAYE: Well, I think we will end it there because what a wonderful way to end. What a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much and it's been lovely to speak to you again after 38 years

TOYAH: Well, it's so good to see virtually both of you

KAREN: And lovely to meet you

KAYE: Thank you, take care, Toyah

KAREN: All the best with Sunday Lunch

It’s going to be wild! (laughs)

KAYE: It will. Say hello to the magnificent breasts for me! Bye! (laughs)


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