Michelle McManus was the winner of Pop Idol in 2003, which resulted in her number one single All This Time. Since then she’s continued to have a successful career, especially in her native Scotland. She’s also earned the dubious honour of being impersonated by fellow Glasgow girl, Mary Mac, and this Friday she’s making her debut at the Two Brewers alongside Ms Mac. Dave Cross had a catch up with Michelle to find out more.
Hi Michelle, are you looking forward to performing at the Two Brewers?
Yes, absolutely, I’ve never been to the Two Brewers before, but I’m looking forward to being back in London and working with Mary, or JP, as I know him.
You know that Mary’s been known to do you in her act?
I love the fact that he does. I’ve known JP a long time; we went to the same theatre school, but at different times – he’s a bit younger than me – so we had that connection. I kind of got to know him and then Mary was born, and I just loved everything he was doing. He said to me, ‘Listen, I hope you don’t mind, but I do All This Time…’ And I was like ‘Are you kidding?’ I was so flattered!
I suppose it is the ultimate accolade for a female singer to have a drag queen ‘do you’…
Completely! On a Thursday night at The Polo Lounge, which is a huge gay club up here, they used to always finish with All This Time, and I used to wake up on a Friday morning with all these tweets saying how great the end of the night was. I feel so lucky that people love the song or that they care so much that they want to play it.
Have you done many gay clubs in London before?
I did G-A-Y at the beginning, but then I left London in 2008 to come back up to Scotland and all of my work is here. I don’t do nearly enough clubs anymore, but any opportunity I get I love it.
Pop Idol was 15 years ago; looking back now, what are your thoughts about the whole process?
Pop Idol was the best thing that ever happened to me and when I look back now I wouldn’t change a thing. It was very much of its time. When I did Pop Idol there was no social media, YouTube, red button, catch up TV etc. It was such a simple format; Ant and Dec presenting, 12 contestants, four judges who were there to judge but they didn’t get to choose who went through – it was always down to the public vote.
It was a different animal to shows today…
People often say, ‘Oh I bet you wished you’d waited a couple of years to do X Factor?’ I always say no because Pop Idol was of that time and I was the right age for it. When I watch the shows on now, the focus is really on the backstory, any sort of trauma or emotional journey they’ve been through. But on Pop Idol I don’t think we were even asked what our family life was like. One week we were at the Love Actually premier, one week we were at Alton Towers, the next week Ant and Dec came to the house and we did the Halloween party. I think I only cried when I won. I don’t remember crying during the show because all I kept thinking was, I can’t wait to get back to Glasgow and tell my mates about all this down the pub. I don’t think I understood the enormity of it either, like I wasn’t ever going to go back to my job. I didn’t realise it would be so life-changing.
When you won, there was a massive amount of support from the public, but there was also some negativity from some parts of the press; people were quite rude, focussing on your weight rather than your voice. You were only in your early 20s – was that difficult?
It was difficult afterwards, yes. During the show I never thought in a million years I was going to win and I don’t think anyone else did, so my weight was never mentioned. But it all kind of hit me when I won. Nobody seemed very happy about it. I got rushed into a room and they all looked quite panicked, you know: ‘Shit, what are we going to do with this girl? How do we market this size 22 woman?’ Whereas for me I was happy that I was going to make an album. But they stuck me in a room with Annie Lennox and her daughter, who’d also been there. Honestly, I nearly fainted because I bloody love Annie Lennox. But I was to wait there and then the team got me, we did this press conference, then I got to see my family and in the morning all the
And you had a number one single…
Yes, I did. And I made an album, which did OK, but the second single didn’t make the top ten and from that moment the record company said they were going to drop me, so the whole thing only really lasted a few months. It was all over much quicker than I thought.
But it gave you a career?
Yes, absolutely. Like I said, I wouldn’t change a thing; all the TV and radio work that I do now all started because of Pop Idol.
What else are you up to for rest of the year?
We’ve got Michelle McManus’ Winter Wonderland tickets about to go on sale, and that’s on the 11th and 12th December at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow. There’ll be a 50-piece choir, Christmas carols, snow machines – it’s very camp.
Entry is free before 10pm.
The Two Brewers, 114 Clapham High Street, SW4.