The non-sexual Cockney sparrer has Eurovision in her sights. And, you could still take her home to mum, says Jim White
There was one thing Samantha Fox wanted to get off her chest. Yeah, it was true, she said, that she was a huge success in India, that she had played a concert at the Gandhi Stadium in Delhi three years ago and a record 70,000 people had turned up: more, chuff-makingly, than Bruce Springsteen had pulled there. It was also true that the idea to play there had been her newsagent's. "They love you out there, Sammy," he had said. "Get out there, girl." So she had. But what she wanted to make clear was that it wasn't only India where she was a star.

"I'm big in other places, you know," she said. And within a month, Samantha Fox, 28, is hoping to be even bigger in Europe. To that end she has written "Go For The Heart," a jaunty pop song with a beat best described as Euro, which she submitted, incognito, together with a fee of £75, to the BBC as a potential Eurovision Song Contest entry. The number was shortlisted to the last eight long before the BBC knew its perpetrator. Next month the public will be able to vote on the issue in the Song For Europe.

"It was me mum's idea," Samantha said, sitting in a demure high-necked shirt in her manager's house. "She said, `Go for it.' So I have. But I wanted to keep it quiet who I was."

Why? Because no one would take a former Page 3 girl seriously in the rarified world of Eurovision?

"Listen," she said. "I've done six albums, 8 million sales, four top 10 singles in the US. I don't really need to worry about respect. I don't have a problem with my image; it's other people who do. No, I wrote the song with my bass player and when my mum heard it she said it would walk Eurovision. I said, `You sure?' So she persuaded me to do it, to see what happened. It doesn't matter if I don't win it. It's just a project, something I'm having a go at. Morrissey wouldn't say that. But then I'm not Morrissey."

It is terribly easy and rather cheap to make mock of Samantha Fox. Not that that should stop us. The point about her is that she is here to brighten our lives with a bit of frivolity, a walking seaside postcard. What is attractive about her, is that she is singularly aware of her role and relishes it.

" 'Course not," she said, when asked if she was ever embarrassed, ashamed or in any way regretful about her five-year career as the nation's favourite pin-up. "I was being paid to have a great time while all my mates were back home changing nappies. I went to the West Indies and was paid for it. I had a great time."

It began, her career of kit removal, while she was at the Anna Sher Theatre School, the professional Cockney production line in north London (Pauline Quirke of Birds of a Feather and Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet were contemporaries), when her mum put her up for a glamour modelling competition in the People. She won it.

"They sent this form saying bring white and black, you know, sexy knickers and that to the photo shoot," she remembered.

"But I only had navy blue. I was a schoolgirl, 15. It was me mum took me out and bought me the gear." At 16 she had signed an exclusive contract to reveal her assets once a week on Page 3 of the Sun.

"I always wanted it, the fame," she said. "When it come, I didn't want to let it go. I didn't want to do just a couple of pics, I wanted to make more of it. I did change Page 3, I made it a career. I'm proud of that."

She made it a career by turning herself into a celebrity. She was skilled at it, and she needed to be since initially the Sun paid just £52 a picture. Soon after starting, she was in constant demand, opening shops, appearing at nightclubs.

"I was never sure what I was meant to do at a PA [public appearance]. I mean, I wasn't going to do a strip, was I? So I just behaved like they expected me to. I hired a Bentley, a couple of bouncers, dressed like a Barbie doll, got mobbed, someone took a picture of me and it got in the paper. Everyone was happy."

But was she never worried about who was doing all the mobbing?

"What the raincoats you mean? Nah. I mean, I got a few of them, but mostly I got spotty 15-year-old boys. You know, they'd come up to ask for an autograph, all red and that, and I'd sign it for them and they'd get all embarrassed. They were sweet. Ahh."

Samantha Fox did not attract stalkers and saddies because her image was oddly non-sexual. In as much as it is possible to be an all-round family entertainer by removing your bra, she did her best. It was not simply the exaggerated nature of her proportions that made her stand out. Her pictures suggested an infectious, chirpy Cockney sparrer charm, which she exploited to the full on the B-list celeb circuit - Barbara Windsor reborn. But there was nothing fragile about her. She had a lynx-eyed grasp of the business of fame.

"I remember once I went down the market and there was all these pillow cases with me picture on them, taken for the swimsuit issue of Camera Weekly. And I thought, hold on, this doesn't make me proud, it pisses me off. So I did something about it, I took control of all my merchandising, I controlled my image. I was in charge."

So canny was she, that at 21, when she retired from modelling ("the Sun put, `Thanks For The Mammaries'. You've got to laugh, haven't you?") she decided to go into the pop business, traditionally the one most likely to devour the unwary.

"I'd learnt a lot; I knew what to expect. Listen, it's very easy not to be ripped off, you know. Get yourself a lawyer." Control was always her aim. She hired her musicians, her record producers, her collaborators; and she fired them, too.

"On my American tour I fired the tour manager because I caught him bonking someone. Yeah, not very rock 'n' roll I know, but it was getting in the way of the business."

Recently, however, she has taken more drastic steps to retain control of Sam Fox Ltd, as she calls her operation. She was helped all along by her family: her mum came up with the look and her dad managed the finances. But it wasn't good for her parents' marriage, her career. Like a malevolent Wonderbra, while she was lifted, they separated. And her relationship with her father has since taken a less than humorous turn: she is suing him.

"I'd like to talk about it, because I don't like to hide things," she said. "But honest I can't, for legal reasons."

It was about the time that she started legal proceedings, and that her mother was taken ill, that she went to Holy Trinity Brompton, the fashionable evangelical church in Kensington, which prompted career-threatening headlines about her turning bible-thumper.

"Listen, I've always been religious," she said. "But I only went to that church a couple of times. One time I was photographed there, it got in the papers and it was blown out of all proportion. But then the tabloids made me, so I can't complain. I mean, the best thing to do is to have a laugh about it. So that's what I did."