Toyah Willcox – Me & My Travels

An interview with the actress, singer and songwriter

A talented singer/actress/songwriter, she’s one of Britain’s biggest household names, having clocked up over 30 years in show business, as well as two weeks in the Australian jungle in ITV’s hit show‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ She won Best Female Singer in the Rock & Pop Awards in the early 80’s (now ‘The Brits’) and her diverse career has not only produced a string of hit records, but prestigious stage and screen roles, alongside Hollywood greats, including Sir Laurence Olivier.

An avid antiques collector, she’s also enjoying multi-million-pound success as an international property investor. Following the success of her book ‘Diary of a Facelift’, documenting her experience of plastic surgery, she was inspired to expand her prolific UK property collection overseas to France, purchasing on the fashionable French Riviera in the stunning medieval hilltop village of Eze, halfway between Nice and Monte Carlo, and picturesque Menton, close to the French-Italian border. Toyah Willcox talks to Angela Sara West about a few of her favourite things, her travels and how she’s ‘de-stressing’ her property portfolio.

Favourite clothes/shoe designer and perfume?
I’m very short, barely 5ft, and sometimes am a size 8, but mostly I have to buy children’s clothes. I’d love to be able to wear Max Mara, but that label thinks everyone is 6ft tall! Shoe wise, I’m into Ruco Line. I walk everywhere, miles and miles and these are the snazziest walking shoes I’ve ever come across. Perfume wise, Coco Mademoiselle, Chanel….an absolute classic that smells of pure innocence.

Dream car?
Lexus sporty two-seater-thingy!

Most treasured item?
I love solitude so, believe it or not, privacy.

Ambition in life?
To work until I’m 90 and then retire disgracefully.

What do you never get on a plane without?
A bottle of water and a notepad, because I like to keep my mind focused and tend to have good ideas on long-haul flights.

Ideal travelling companion?
A great book.

And who would you least like to travel with?
Someone who drinks, needs to talk incessantly and thinks they are funny. I’m very independent and prefer my own company.

Top travel tip?
You can put on as much as ten pounds on a long-haul flight…and that’s water retention. So, eat as little as possible, only fresh fruit and veg, and drink water…don’t touch alcohol.

Favourite holiday reading material?
Horror. I’m happy with best-sellers, but prefer good old tacky horror! The one book I couldn’t bear to finish was Clive Barker’s ‘Weaveworld’, I think it was his most perfect one…incredibly feminine in its spirituality, as well as vivid in imagination and awesomely terrifying.

Preferred holiday type?
A beach holiday, because I only have a holiday about once every four years so tend to be completely burnt out by the time it comes around. I love nature and prefer destinations where there’s extraordinary wildlife, like Lankowi, Malaysia, which is one of my favourite holiday destinations. It’s yet to be commercialised and is the only place where a Hornbill will fly over your head and not be afraid of you.

Top 3 destinations on your wish-list?
Antarctica, Peru and Tibet.

Earliest holiday memory?
Mallorca. I liked it there, but I wasn’t famous then and crowds weren’t a problem, not that they are now, but after 20 people have asked you for a song the novelty wears off!

And your favourite destination/holiday memory?
Being alone on a beach in the Maldives, watching the parrot fish surfacing…fabulous. The islands are peaceful, beautiful and unique and you can get close to nature there, far from the madding crowd.

What were your ‘Jungle’ highs/lows?
I hate being hungry and we were starving for two weeks. The highs were living outside for a couple of weeks. The noise from insects and animals at night was deafening…far louder than New York City!

Hotel or holiday villa?
Villa. Hotels are fantastic, but a villa offers privacy, which I far prefer.

Tell me about your property portfolio…
I’m currently changing all my property priorities. Gone are the days of huge mortgages and interest-only payments, knowing your property’s gaining in value. In some areas, like London, New York and Paris, this old pattern of investment still works, but in recent months I’ve decided to bite the bullet, sell up and start again, losing around £200k from my investment portfolio by paying Capital Gains Tax in both England and France, but also wiping out all my borrowing and therefore making my life less stressful!

So, what’s the next step?
I’m selling my two properties in France in order to buy one larger, more manageable property. This will be in Menton, on the Côte d’Azur. My aim is to accommodate the fact that my husband and I aren’t getting any younger and we want a property without steps! One where the front door opens out to the sea…
In England, I’m changing three of my properties from private use to rental and am selling one that I don’t need to wipe out my borrowing. Basically, I’m just getting ready for the future by simplifying and de-stressing my portfolio and making it work better for me in the current climate.

Where do you recommend for the best food and drink?
France…Menton, to be precise. The restaurants are traditional French but being next to the Italian border, the two great countries merge when it comes to food. In the UK, my favourite restaurant’s Air Organic in Glasgow for its watermelon curry.

Your dream dinner companion?
Angela Carter. It would be great to hear what she would have written next had she lived into this century.

Do you speak any languages or would like to?
Because I have a home just outside Monaco, I wish I could speak French.

What’s your idea of paradise?
One of the keys off weird and beautiful Belize. One with no inhabitants, just palm trees. Pure solitude…

And your dream holiday?
A rainforest above Acapulco in a hot torrential downfall, surrounded by naked firemen…That would do it for me!

Finally, do you worry about your carbon footprint?
Back in 2001, I spent a week in the Maldives, much of which was spent on the ‘phone to producers in England. The ‘phone bill was £900! I would love to have a ‘holiday’ full stop. I deserve to leave at least half a carbon footprint somewhere in the world!