Five years ago I lost my voice when we first started doing We Will Rock You. It happened in the middle of the show and my understudy had to go on instead. When it happened I found I'd lost everything: my confidence, my soul and my income, because my voice had always been my means of survival. More than anything, it made me realise the importance of my voice and how it fed me in every way. You see, singing has always been a part of my life. My father had a voice that was like Robbie Williams' - he was a handsome, smooth brother - and I only found out last year that he got it from his mother, who sang in church. Growing up, I'd enter every talent show in the holidays and I'd go by bus on my own. Once, when I was eight and had won a show, I recorded a song by Olivia Newton-John and it freaked me out - I'd never heard my voice before through headphones. Mum was from Tahiti and dad from the Cook Islands, and even though I didn't grow up in the Pacific Islands, I've discovered they're a paradise. You walk out the front door and the warm Polynesian hug hits you instantly. It's just like in the brochures - the beaches and the palm trees. They still don't have traffic lights in the Cook Islands. My parents moved to New Zealand to work in a factory in the 1960s. It was what lots of people did at that time. I grew up in Auckland and loved school in the 1970s. The thing, though, was that my parents' schooling was not as advanced as mine and mum had difficulty reading. I never realised that reading was such an important part of schooling. As a result, I'd say I was spiritually or soulfully academic. I'd shake with dread when the teacher pointed at me to read out loud in front of the class. In those days, the newsreaders on television would read from a script and not an autocue, and I'd be mesmerised how they remembered the words and then looked up and spoke them to camera. In fact, it was not until I was 11 that I read my first book properly. It was Go Ask Alice and about a girl my age, so I could relate to it and I felt totally euphoric finishing it. The upside to this was that my other senses compensated. If I didn't know something, I was never afraid to ask. Even so, I was still shy: it's people's shoes I remembered from those times - because I always looked at the ground. I've also found my hands are an extension of my voice and help me to express myself. My most memorable teacher was Ms Paniora, my Maori teacher. Even though it's the indigenous culture of New Zealand, it was still early days to be taught it then. She was great and reminded me of an auntie. She was also the only brown teacher in school and, although I wasn't Maori, I felt I could relax with her. I found it easy to pick up the language and I was a whizz at typing in it. I didn't relate to science though. For instance, with water, I was like: 'What do you mean there's a little two attached to an 'H'?' I liked and was good at sport though: netball, volleyball, hockey and shotput. I wasn't fussed on swimming though. Even so, if I'm back in the Cook Islands, I'll get some mangoes and meet my cousins and just sit in the ocean. I'll say jokingly: 'Meet you in the boardroom.' Two months shy of my 15th birthday, I left school. I remember looking up and around me, then putting down my pen. I thought: 'I know what I want to do with my life.' The next day I didn't go back and it was while watching television soaps I saw an ad for a talent show - the American Idol of its time. I decided there and then I'd enter it, and felt very calm. I even remember the song I sang, which was Once or Twice by Dorothy Moore; its soulfulness epitomised the change my voice had undergone. I won a contract to record it with EMI and from that emerged my singing career with bands, as a recording artist, soloist and in shows such as We Will Rock You. I'm lucky to be doing what I want to do. Being part of We Will Rock You means you have to excel in every performance. After having lost my voice, I know its limits and have the training to help safeguard it. I'm also lucky to have such finely tuned instincts. I've found there's so much more to learn in performing. I used to be so embarrassed by mistakes and mishaps. But I've found you have to put your ego aside and discover the reason why things happen. More than anything, I've learned much of it is about bringing on the next challenge and about finding the blessings in lessons. Annie Crummer appears as Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, which runs until June 15 at the Academy for Performing Arts. She was talking to David Phair.