Heather Peace: Give Peace a (second) chance
The actress and singer hates labels, even Simon Cowell's, she tells Sarah Morrison
Heather Peace took on the entertainment industry and won. More than a decade ago, she played the only female firefighter in the TV series London's Burning; then she was cast in the only female role in the SAS drama Ultimate Force, before becoming the only gay actress to star in the BBC drama Lip Service, about a group of lesbians in Glasgow. Now, her forthcoming single, Fight For, looks set to be adopted as the first anthem for equal marriage. Just don't tell Simon Cowell.
Peace, 37, originally from Bradford, turned down a contract with the music mogul at the start of the millennium, after releasing one single with him. "They wanted me to mime. I started to feel very uncomfortable," she said. "I knew if I did the album, there would be no way back to being credible." That said, she now describes him as a "total gent", who is "completely charming", "professional" and a "brilliant businessman who knows what sells".
After years of doing gigs, acting, and periods of decorating friends' flats, Peace is now releasing her own music, while starring in the TV soap Waterloo Road. Her debut album Fairytales went to No 7 in the independent music charts; she has just returned from a sold-out Australian tour, and is embarking on a UK tour next month. Her new song is produced by the Oscar-nominated Nigel Wright, who has worked with acts including Madonna and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The video features celebrities including Lorraine Kelly and Angus Deayton.
As one of only a handful of openly gay soap stars, she is adamant that she has her "gay fan base" to thank for her second chance in music.
"When Lip Service came out, [tickets] just started selling. Not because people thought I could sing, but because they thought, 'let's go see that bird from Lip Service'," she said. "It's been mad. I guess they saw something they could identify with in me." Her HP Community, where fans pay £39 a year for information about Peace, is oversubscribed. "We've come a long way in 15 years," she said. "I didn't used to do interviews while I was at London's Burning; I was offered stuff with Loaded [and the like], but I turned it all down. Essentially, they would have wanted me to turn the lesbian in me into something sexual for boys, or I would have had to lie, which I have never done.
"I was told by one producer – I won't say which show – that I was there as male totty, as it were. He told me he knew I was gay, but he said he'd rather I didn't talk about it. At 25, it was really frightening."
It was only with the broadcast of Lip Service in 2010 that she started to open up. "I was absolutely terrified. It's that difference between getting into a cab, with a stranger driving it, and him knowing immediately that you're a lesbian. It's something you can cover up in a way; it's not immediately apparent. It's nerve-racking, putting yourself out there, to be immediately judged, or immediately hated," she said.
Peace, now engaged, fears being categorised. "There's so much more to me: I was playing the piano and singing before I kissed a girl." But she also "feels a sense of responsibility" to support young people who reach out to her. "It's taken me a couple of years to actually shoulder it, but it's important to other people; just talking about it can have an impact."
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...
£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...