Lulu at 63: Still plenty to shout about

Lulu has no intention of slowing down
Lulu has no intention of slowing down
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At 63, Lulu is refusing to grow old gracefully. Here she talks to Catherine Scott about the pressures of staying looking young and five decades of making music.

LULU is a bundle of energy. She may be a 63-year-old grandmother but she has no intention of slowing down.

Brendan Cole and Lulu during dress rehearsals for the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing

Brendan Cole and Lulu during dress rehearsals for the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing

She seems to race from one thing to another, be it appearing on Strictly Come Dancing or Let’s Dance for Comic Relief or travelling the country, meeting women to talk about her range of beauty products. When she’s not working she’s reading and researching, or meditating.

“I’m always learning,” she says.

“When people hit 40 and their children leave home, many seem to think it is all over. It has just begun.” This zest for life is contagious.

“If you’d have told me when I was starting out in the music industry at the age of 15 that I would be starting a whole new business in my sixties I wouldn’t have believed it. But I am loving it.”

Lulu launched her beauty range, Time Bomb, in 2009 after a lifetime of trying different products.

“Ever since I was 15 years old and had problem skin I have sought out the best people in the business and tried everything going.

“But it isn’t about being vain.I have always considered looking and feeling my best part of my business – I plan to make music till I drop, so it was important to me to look as good as I could.

“No-one wants to stand next to Kylie on stage and look like an old bag!”

There has been much speculation that Lulu’s youthful looks are down to more than a jar of cream, no matter how good or expensive.

She has admitted to having Botox in the past but avoids questions about other more invasive types of treatment, although she doesn’t rule them out.

“I am about today,” she says. “I will worry about the needs of tomorrow, tomorrow. What is so wonderful is that we are living in an era when women can look and feel good for a lifetime. We are living longer, we are living more healthily, science is more advanced; and as a result my generation has the chance to be ageless. It would never have occurred to my mother that she could write a book or start a business at 60; now women can do whatever they like, be whoever they want.”

However she believes less is definitely more, and says it is not a matter of holding back time, it is a matter of looking as good as you possibly can. And women seem to lap it up.

Despite her undisputed place in the music hall of fame – she and Sir Cliff Richard are the only artists to appear on Top of the Pops in all of the five decades it was broadcast – people seem more fascinated with her ability to defy time.

“In every interview they would spend five minutes talking about my music and then the rest asking about my secrets to looking good – which was immensely flattering but I was there to talk about music!

“Eventually I had a eureka moment and thought that perhaps I should share my hard-won knowledge – after all it comes from many years of learning from some of the best beauty and health experts in the world.

“So I listened and I learned, and I tried and I tested. I would seek out new products and new treatments and try them all myself. I would add bits of oil or mix and match two products, as nothing was ever quite perfect for me.”

She also enlisted the help of her ex-husband John Frieda’s chemist.

“I had my efforts blended with the help of a very clever chemist called Joe Cincotta – and Joe very patiently created fantastic products according to my exacting requests. For years I used this, my own tailor-made skincare. Of course I had not considered sharing these pots let alone marketing them.”

And yet, over time, these mixed and matched attempts became Time Bomb. When she talks about her products she is almost passionate as when she talks about her first love, music.

“This isn’t some celebrity endorsement,” she snaps and the tell-tale Glaswegian accent comes to the fore.

“Each and every product in my collections is created by me in order to solve some beauty problem or issue I encounter. I test everything exhaustively and when I am happy – then I am happy to add it to my Time Bomb collection.”

This is all along way from the Glasgow tenements where Marie McDonald McLaughlin grew up one of four children to butcher Eddie and his wife Betty.

When she was just 15, she left Glasgow to become Lulu, heading to London under the supervision of her manager, Marian Massey.

She had her first hit Shout in 1964 and the following year was voted Britain’s Most Promising Newcomer by Melody Maker. Quickly she went on to work with the musical icons of the 1960s – the Beatles, the Stones, Clapton and the Monkees.

But Massey didn’t want her protege to only concentrate on music so Lulu diversified into acting, appearing in the film To Sir with Love alongside Sidney Poitier as well as television and light entertainment appearances.

Then came the Eurovision Song Contest when she came joint first in 1969 with Boom-Bang-A-Bang. The same year she married Bee Gee Maurice Gibb. The marriage was only to last four years.

But then in 1976 she married hairdresser to the stars John Frieda and a year later Lulu gave birth to a son, Jordan Frieda

“If I have any regrets, it was not having more children,” she says.

“But it was very traumatic and I didn’t think I could go through it again, and you have to live with those decisions, but I would have liked more children.”

This may be one of the reasons she is such a doting granny to Jordan’s daughter, Isabella, born in 2009.

One of the most striking things about Lulu is the fact she has managed to successfully reinvent herself over the decades, from ‘60s icon, to performing the theme to the James Bond film, The Man With The Golden Gun in the ‘70s, to appearing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Song and Dance in the ‘80s.

Then in the nineties we saw another Lulu when she teamed up with boyband Take That in the huge hit Relight My Fire.

“It is so important to stay relevant,” she says. “And that’s why I believe it is important to stay looking good for as long as possible. I do feel a pressure but that is the nature of the business.”

More recently she has toured with Jools Holland and the much acclaimed Here Comes the Girls tour with Anastasia and Chaka Khan. She has also taken to the small screen once again, appearing as a judge on American Idol, Let’s Dance for Comic Relief and then Strictly, something she looks back on with mixed feelings.

“I am 5ft 1in and my partner, Brendan Cole was 6ft 1in. It was such hard work and there is a lot of politics. I don’t regret doing it but I think reality TV is the pits.” It doesn’t sound like we will be seeing her in the jungle any time soon then.

But what is clear from her career is that she has an overpowering work ethic.

“I think I get that from my dad,” she says,

• To view the whole Time Bomb range, visit www.lulusplace.co.uk