'My earliest memory of my brother Wayne, is sitting on the stairs and watching him leave home when I was 4. He is 17 years older than m, so I grew up very much as an only child. My mum and dad worked very hard to provide for us and I was very spoilt. They put me into various lessons I had wanted to take, like ice skating, netball, gymnastics and piano. The only 2 that stuck were horse riding and swimming which I did for years, along with Saturday classes at Theatre Train and eventually Collins Performing Arts in Romford.
It's only as an adult you realise and appreciate the financial costs of these things and how lucky one is to have such supportive parents. My dad works in a zip factory as a cotton dyer (he's 75 and still working) and my mum worked for Early Years and then Ofsted as a childminding inspector. I remember my dad leaving at 5am every morning for his arduous day at work and waving to him from the window.
Me, mum and dad, 1994
My brothers, Wayne and Keith, 1990
forest gate e7
I was a tomboy in primary school, a football fanatic, and so when my mum told me she'd like me to go to a girls convent for secondary, I hated the idea but it was a good school. To my parent's delight, I was accepted into St. Angela's Ursuline in Forest Gate.
In secondary school I joined the school choir and was lucky enough to go away with them on tour every year. During my first year we went on a trip to South Africa, which is where I saw racism for the first time. These trips rooted a love of travelling in me and I have gone on to travel to many places. Even when I've had no money, I somehow scraped together enough for a flight.
During years 8 and 9, I was bullied a fair bit by older girls. Drama class was my escape. Sadly, drama has now been cut from the curriculum of many schools. My other saving grace was my local youth group.
We volunteered in our local parish, doing homeless soup runs and helping bring the elderly to church. I also went to Lourdes every year until I was 21 to work with young people and elderly pilgrims. All of these trips helped me grow into the woman I am today and to have a respect and love for everyone within society.
Me and my brother Wayne, 1991
Malole, Zambia 2009
During our induction to school Sixth form, teachers talked about the activities in school and what students had gone on to do. A couple of the ex-students had gone on to volunteer in an orphanage in Dominica. My heart exploded and I knew I wanted to do something similar. I spent the next 2 years fundraising, and at 18 I took a gap year and went to Zambia to volunteer in a secondary boarding school as a Drama and English teacher with a friend. We have some amazing stories about being arrested, hitch hiking and being homeless but if you've read this far, I'll tell you about that another time!
school of drama
Before leaving for Zambia, I auditioned for The Oxford School of Drama. I loved that it was in the middle of the countryside, the perfect getaway from London. In my first audition I had to pretend to transform myself into an animal which I thought was a bit weird. I hadn't yet been introduced to animal studies! I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back for the second audition. In Zambia we watched dvd's of PrisonBreak. On the dvd extra's one of the leads said he'd studied a lizard to find his character and I felt comforted then by the animal work from audition 1. On return from my travels I went for the second audition and was offered a place. So, off I went to Woodstock (where the school is based).
Before I went to Oxford, I didn't have a clue how to pick a monologue. I had a good family life but we weren't theatre goers. I had just failed 'A' level English and was determined to never go near Shakepeare again. Oxford was a Godsend to me, and I learnt skills there that have enabled me to take leaps forward in my career. It is one of the best school's for training in Shakespeare and you leave with a wide variety of skills to help you prepare for any part!
Malole, Zambia 2009