Hair care I was born in Seattle, Washington, in the United States, in 1968. My earliest memory is of being a toddler on my mother’s hip as she made porridge. When I smell cinnamon now, it takes me back to that place. My mother (Miquel Brown) had me young and my grandmother had died in childbirth. I didn’t have grandparents. I have a sister who was adopted by another auntie or uncle in the family, but I stayed with my mother. She was a performer in the 70s musical Hair and I travelled with her around America. I’d be in her dressing room during shows, trying on make-up and costumes and listening to the performance. I assumed that I’d grow up and be in shows, too: it was in my blood. Old school After the world tour of Hair , from 1973 we stayed in London, where my mother was offered lots of shows. It wasn’t as exciting as travelling to a different city every week. I had read Enid Blyton’s “Malory Towers” books and I asked to go to boarding school. It was strict and rigid and they disapproved of me in many ways. I was the only black child at an all-white, all-female English boarding school, in East Sussex. It was like discovering I was black for the first time. It was teachers I had the most problems with, including racism. I experienced things like being washed excessively; I think they thought the colour would come off. Going from the liberal, open-minded, modern world I grew up in to a strict, old-fashioned establishment was a huge adjustment. [Simon Cowell] was going to do the song So Macho (1985) with an already established artist but I told him it had to be me. I knew it was going to be a hit Early stages While I was still at school, The Wiz , the black musical version of The Wizard of Oz , came to London and they were looking for a black female to play Dorothy. I knew all the lyrics by heart and I got the role. My mother let me do it; I was a needy and shy child, but she realised I was also tenacious and ambitious. I performed in The Wiz for three months in 1980 and the choreographer liked me so much she put me in a film – Shock Treatment (1981), the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – and then West End shows like Cats , Little Shop of Horrors , Masquerade and Smokey Joe’s Cafe . My breakout role, in 1985, was playing David Essex’s love interest in Mutiny! It snowballed from there. Going for a song To earn money, I’d sing demos that would be sent to pop stars and they’d do their own version. Simon Cowell (the British music mogul Sinitta dated on and off during the 1980s) had a record company upstairs from my agent. He was going to do the song So Macho (1985) with an already established artist but I told him it had to be me. I knew it was going to be a hit. There were a few other labels interested but they wanted me to sing soul and I wanted to be the black Madonna. Simon was the only one who said I could wear and be what I liked. It was the cheesiest song and I went through a few years where I was embarrassed about it because I wanted to sing cooler music. But without that song, nothing that came after would have been possible – and it’s the one I enjoy performing most. In the spotlight Unlike the jobbing actors and singers I grew up around, I became famous. I was written about, talked about, followed and cabbies would say, “You’re that Sinitta.” It made me think everybody liked me and I had friends. That can be dangerous because when your career isn’t flying as high and the paparazzi are taking pictures of someone else, you feel rejected. I was pretty fearless and would do crazy publicity stunts like being driven around in just a bikini. But when you’re not that little girl any more, people start calling you attention-seeking and promiscuous. I used to read all the articles about me in the newspapers and take them seriously. In the end, it became overwhelming and I stopped. Out of the spotlight Once I stopped recording (in the mid-90s), I had to grow up quickly. I found it hard having no one taking care of me. Then I joined a church called Hillsong (in London, in 1996) that was looking for singers. I was someone who wouldn’t even get out of bed on Sundays, then there I was setting up chairs and cleaning toilets. It helped me transition from being super-famous. I’ve ended up as almost a heritage act because I wasn’t able to keep developing. I’d have liked to have grown up with my fans. There wasn’t really any reason for stopping apart from not having a record deal. Then I had children and I was at home being a mum and then I mentored new talent on The X Factor with Simon. Now I have my own studio. I wrote (the single) Shine with Pride (2018) and I’m working on a new album. Part of me wishes I was younger so people wouldn’t prejudge. On the flip side, I need to embrace that – Tina Turner was performing when she was my age and that didn’t put me off her. Growing pains I always knew I wanted to be a mum; I adopted because I couldn’t have children. I kept miscarrying. I had IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and had a surrogate who also miscarried. I was so desperate for children that I adopted sibling toddlers – a girl and a boy. It was the best decision, I couldn’t love them more, but they have just turned 12 and 13 and got their first phones and I hate it. I wanted to protect their innocence but I finally gave in. I realised I had to let them go or they’d be left behind, but I’m mourning the loss of my children. I’ll suggest going for a walk and they’ll look at me like something’s wrong with me. Me Too moments The Me Too movement prompted me to speak out about my own abuse – by both men and women. I realised I had buried a lot of things. It all just broke in me and started flooding out. I am from the days when we used to say, the show must go on: you had to put a smile on your face and get out there. It was considered a compliment to have your bottom pinched or smacked and I felt flattered by that attention. I realised I’d been made to be polite to these people and attend parties with them when they’d been abusive to me for years. I don’t want to ruin people’s marriages or their children’s lives. I just wanted to say, “Those things you did hurt me.” They know who they are. Sinitta was in Hong Kong to perform at the LGBT festival Pink Season.