Nul points for humility - Life and Style - The Independent

Nul points for humility

To most people, Eurovision is a joke. But not for the British hope.

One o'clock in the afternoon in a West London dance studio. Photos on the walls show the best efforts of the little darlings in drama school productions. But the act rehearsing today is guaranteed an audience of millions as Imaani, this year's British entry in that pantomime horse of televisual entertainment, the Eurovision Song Contest, practises her moves with her backing vocalists cum dancers. The full force of her charm is targeted at me. One cheeky wink to camera on the night, and if the operator doesn't lose control of his equipment, then surely Euro success is in the bag.

It's that time of year again, when pointlessly "ironic" features fill the papers and a lucky hopeful comes second (usually to Ireland) then settles down for a life on the chicken-in-a-basket circuit, or a starring role in Game On.

But Britain's representative this year, 25-year-old Melanie Crossdale from Leeds, of Sri Lankan and Jamaican stock (finally a black Briton, after two Australians, an American, and Cliff twice), and a musical background in London's soul-jazz scene, is loving it. From backing vocalist to the centre of attention in a matter of weeks is quite a change. A three-album deal with EMI in the bag, a chance to meet Richard and Judy, let alone Wogan and Ulrika, this is stardom - no matter how temporary.

She seems born to it. Asked how she feels about her sudden jump into the nation's consciousness she simply replies, "There's nothing normal about my life anyway. I'm the UK Eurovision girl 1998, whether I win or lose. Some say it's a stigma, but..." She shrugs instead of swearing. "At least I'll be remembered."

You don't seem too nervous. "Are you kidding?" she yelps. "I cover well but actually I'm freaking out.

"I've learnt that singing is not about vocal gymnastics, it's about convincing the audience that this song is close to your heart. And covering your mistakes. It took me years to drop that disappointed look."

This is a serious business. Imaani's stylist, Dan Syrett ("I'm quite unusual being a heterosexual in this job") reckons they'll get through 300 outfits in a month. Meeting the pair on a shopping trip, they discuss just what to wear for that photo shoot or kids' TV appearance. "I love the camera more than anything, more than singing - don't put that down," says Imaani, unguardedly. It shows. Although her tune, "Where Are You?" is Italian-style disco fluff, this woman is something of a star already.

Johnny Stirling, of publishers Hit and Run, who currently represent her, seems rather in awe of his charge. This urbane fifty-year-old compares Imaani to Robbie Williams, "an old fashioned turn".

The sudden rush of fame has its drawbacks. "I think that art disappears when you reach this level. Since I won the Great British Song Contest, I've only sung about five times. I just talk all day long, do interviews here and there and look into cameras. What I miss is actually performing," she complains.

But Eurovision is about more than the talent. It's a huge event, requiring organisation and technical co-ordination. Paddy Clarke, of RTE, was responsible for "Grand Prix invitations" at five contests held in Ireland between 1988 and 1997, and diplomatic protocol is straightforward compared with dealing with those who just want to be seen. "Somebody had estimated the value of seats at pounds 500, and there were 3,300 places at the Grand Prix," he says. "Although we had computer technology, I found it far better to have a big plan of the auditorium, maybe eight feet square, on the wall and I actually physically wrote in every individual's name." But just who are these people?

"The singers might have a few seats for their families, then there's the songwriters and people from each national television service," he says.

"We keep each delegation together to create an atmosphere when the camera cuts to them." More of a problem is the front row. "There's a category of 'faces', familiar people in public life, a status sought after by many hopefuls." So look out for Roy Wood and Bob Carolgees on Saturday night in Brum. Imaani's next gig is at the G8 summit the following week. Perhaps she'll meet President Clinton. As for Eurovision, as Paddy Clarke says, "People may hate it, but in the long run they want it, because there's nothing like it. It won't ever die out." And he's probably right.

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Nursery Nurse

    £7 - £8 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Nursery Nurse jobs in South Glouc...

    English Teacher needed for long term cover

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay TBA: Randstad Education Reading...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special needs assistants Jobs i...

    Nursery Nurse

    £7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Bristol: Nursery nurse jobs in Chippenham...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week