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."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent