Racism? That's life Says Heather

News article from the Mail Online:

Her lack of votes on Strictly Come Dancing ignited a row over whether viewers are racist. But Heather Small says, yes, she's faced discrimination but she's having too much fun to give in to her critics. - By Kathryn Knight

Heather Small, 43, is best known as the lead singer of M People. During the 1990s, the band had several chart hits including One Night In Heaven and Search For The Hero, and won the Mercury Music prize and two Brit awards. Heather lives in London with her partner, lawyer David Neita, and her son, James, 11, whose father is her ex, former rugby international Shaun Edwards. Now a solo artist, she has been partnered in Strictly Come Dancing with Brian Fortuna.

How's Strictly been for you? 
I've loved it. At my age, and as a mum, you get to the stage where you think, 'Can I learn anything new?', and you assume you can't. Doing this has made me realise that the more you do the more you can do, if that makes sense. It's been a surprise to me how enjoyable it is. What I've found is that the competition isn't so much with the others taking part, but within yourself. When you're in the bottom two, it's not about beating the other person  -  you just find yourself thinking, 'This isn't how I want to leave the show.' I actually agreed to do Strictly in order to help tackle my nerves, which I struggle with terribly, even in my singing. The way I saw it, if I could go out and dance live in front of millions of people every week, well, it doesn't get worse than that. Nerves can make me look like a total misery guts, but I'm not, that's just the terror taking hold. But it's been a fantastic ride and I've made wonderful friends. 

Some of the judges have been quite harsh. 
They sure have, but you can either take it to heart or pull yourself up by the bootstraps and move on. My tactic from the start was to try and focus on finding something constructive in what they're saying. But it has to be said, sometimes it's just a whole barrage of nastiness, and when you're standing there it's not nice. 

The athlete John Regis accused middle England of racism for continually putting black contestants in the bottom two. What are your feelings on that? 
For me personally, if someone wants to have a proper conversation about bigotry and race then great, but not in a context that's salacious. It's too serious a topic for that. If I'm going to discuss it I'm going to be proactive about it, not reactive. Have I ever experienced discrimination, well, of course I have. But there's a time and a place to discuss these things, and it's not something that should be just flung at a situation. In terms of Strictly, if I didn't think people were going to be fair to me, then I wouldn't have taken part. Of course, there were always going to be people who were uncomfortable with me being on the programme  -  I'm aware of that. But you know what, that's life. You just have to try and work towards a stage where we're all comfortable together. 

Your son has been in the audience cheering you on. How did motherhood change you? 
Well, if I'd taken part in Strictly 12 or 13 years ago, I would have entered it to win. But now I'm just enjoying the experience, and I think motherhood teaches you to do that. Being a mum has made me realise that you can have it all, just not all at the same time. It's funny, it certainly was never my ambition to be a mother, but now I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Do you have a good relationship with James' father? 
Absolutely. He's a very busy man, but he still sees him a lot, and we're all supportive of each other and our lives. You'll see me in the crowd at the Wasps games [Edwards is head coach], and he'll come and watch me sing  -  he came to Ronnie Scott's last month when I was performing at the London jazz club. It's important to us all: at the end of the day, we're still a family and that will never change. 

You've been with David for seven years. Any plans to get married? 
I wouldn't say marriage is on the cards, to be honest  -  if it aint broke don't fix it. David's very supportive, but your partner should definitely enhance your life, make you want to be the best you can be, to want to push yourself. I've found that, especially as you get older, you want to surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally. 

Do you like being in your 40s? 
You certainly get more accepting of yourself as you get older, and of your body. I've always looked after myself, but, of course, as you get older it does get harder to stay in shape. I think the trick is not to aim for perfection, but for what is perfect for you. It's not about pros and cons, like 'I've got lovely eyes but a big bottom'. I grew up in a household with a lot of Afro-Caribbean women. None of them would be seeing a size 16 again any time soon, but you could never say they weren't sexy. Our definitions of beauty are far too rigid. 

Do you have a strict regime though? 
I look after myself  -  I don't drink alcohol, I don't eat meat or dairy and I work out quite a lot, but I don't treat myself harshly either. If I want some chips, or some chocolate, then I'll have it. In fact, if you exercise quite a bit you can get away with a lot too, because you can eat what you like and still slip into a size 10. Fundamentally, though, it's not about fitting into a certain dress size, it's about feeling good in your own skin. I don't mind if my backside comes into the room an hour after I do, as long as it's high and proud. 

Would you ever consider having plastic surgery? 
I know it makes some people happy, but I think the problem with it is that it doesn't make you feel better on the inside. 

How would your friends sum you up? 
Strong, funny and focused. That's pretty much how I've been since I was eight years old. 

What next for that lovely singing voice? 
I've really enjoyed performing in a more intimate venue like Ronnie Scott's: it's lovely being able to actually look into people's eyes and see their reaction right there in front of you. It'd certainly be nice if people realised that the big-voiced woman from the 1990s has matured into a slightly different kind of singer. But I've got no firm plans at the moment  -  let's see what life throws up.


Heather Singing Backstage

An extract from Tess Daly's Strictly Come Dancing blog based on round 7 of the competiton:

"Heather meanwhile, soon to be named the cat with nine lives, survived a hat trick of dance-offs. How much more can those nerves of hers take? Heather treated us to a blast of those famous vocal cords backstage during one of the routines, singing along to the live band. What a talent, what a voice, and her legs ain't bad either - she's got a figure to die for."


Heather In 3rd Dance-Off - Saved Again!

Heather and Brian faced the dance-off again for the thrid time. From the BBC Strictly site:

The nail-biting moment was here for the ten pairs of dancers as they discovered their fate in week seven of Strictly Come Dancing 2008 - the mid-point of the series. 

But before the moment of truth, the audience was treated to a performance by Kelly Jones from Stereophonics, singing Handbags and Gladrags - accompanied by our professional dancers Brendan & Hayley and Darren & Lilia. There were also some other spectacular demonstration dances by our professionals. Darren, Lilia, Matthew, Karen, Ian, Flavia, Camilla and Kristina all performed in a retro Jive mix, to the tune Proud Mary. And then Anton & Flavia performed a combination Quickstep/American Smooth to the all-time classic Let's Face the Music and Dance. 

With the professional dances over, it was results time - and with the votes of the public combined with the judges' points, the two couples with the lowest scores facing a dance-off were Heather & Brian, and Andrew & Ola. After performing their dances again, it was time for the judges to make the final decision - and with Heather impressing them with an improved routine, Andrew became the next celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing. 

So Andrew & Ola had their final dance, to The Way We Were, made famous originally by Barbra Streisand. 

Heather and Brian will be on It Takes Two on Tuesday at 18:30 on BBC 2.


What The Judge's Said - Round 7

From the BBC Strictly site:
It's week seven, and we're halfway through this year's Strictly Come Dancing. But which couple will be saying farewell to the dancefloor this weekend? 

Austin and Erin were the first to dance, performing a fast-paced Quickstep. Len thought that Austin was just "perfection" in his routine, Bruno said "Austin the majestic delivers another bravura performance", Craig thought "it was light, it was bright, it was clean... I loved it." And finally Arlene thought his performance was "as exciting as Lewis Hamilton in the Formula 1". In fact, Len liked Austin's performance so much he awarded the ex-Rugby player the first 10 of the whole series. 
Score: Craig 8, Arlene 9, Len 10, Bruno 9. Total 36. 

Up next were Heather and Brian, Cha Cha Cha-ing their way across the floor to American Boy by Estelle - quite an apt choice of song considering Brian's home country. However Bruno thought "it lacked so much bite it was like a Cha Cha Cha with dentures." Craig said "you need to raise your game-plan. Some hip movements went amiss, but you did have some good moments as well." Arlene thought it was "sluggish and behind the beat - a damp squid rather than taking off like a rocket." And finally Len thought it was "bright and sparkly, but you get over-excited and made a mistake early on." 
Score: Craig 5, Arlene 5, Len 7, Bruno 6. Total 23. 

Jodie and Ian were next, performing a Waltz to Sandy's Song by Dolly Parton. They were hoping to convey the same kind of romance as Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Craig said "you've just proved you're much better when Ian's leading you around. It was absolutely beautiful, but a bit too saccharine for me." Arlene said "you charmed me, you charmed Mr Darcy here, and I hope you charm all the viewers at home." For Len, the only problem was the footwork - "get that character for each dance, this character was perfect." Bruno said "it was soft, it was elegant, you were at ease with the dance." 
Score: Craig 7, Arlene 8, Len 8, Bruno 8. Total 31. 

A knee injury had plagued Andrew and Ola's rehearsals for their Samba to Jennifer Lopez's song Aint it Funny. Arlene felt that Andrew "was in the frozen food aisle - you've got to get out into exotic food. Release the beast in you!" Len believed that instead of "Andrew Castle, you've got to be a Bouncy Castle! All in all, it was quite a good job." Bruno told Andrew that his Samba was a "Brazillian Grand Flop" rather than a Grand Prix. And finally Craig claimed it was all taut and tense and that it "went downhill after the opening" 
Score: Craig 4, Arlene 5, Len 7, Bruno 5. Total 21. 

Lisa and Brendan performed a Tango to the lively latin tune La Cumparsita. Len thought "that was a proper Tango. You came out, didn't mess about, got on with it. It was superb." "A Tango of classic purity and beauty," thought Bruno - "truly irresistible." "Welcome back into the competition. That was fantastic," said Craig. Arlene praised Lisa for following up on her correction to improve her spine last week. 
Score: Craig 8, Arlene 9, Len 9, Bruno 9. Total 35. 

Cherie and James strutted their stuff with a Salsa to Gloria Estefan's Oye Mi Canto. Bruno kicked off the judges' comments, saying "the dress was red hot, but the Salsa was not. You lacked fluidity." Craig agreed with Bruno, saying it was "a bit too careful and placed." Arlene said "it was exasperatingly underpowered - it wasn't sexy or sassy or naughty, all things I'm sure you can be." "You had another dance tonight that didn't suit your character," said Len. 
Score: Craig 6, Arlene 6, Len 7, Bruno 7. Total 26. 

John and Kristina had to perform a sophisticated Foxtrot, to the legendary tune I Want To Be Loved By You. Craig was first to pass judgement, saying "there was a gap you could drive a tank through between you - you've got to have some body contact at some point." Arelene "loved the end when you got into a trot". But Len was especially critical: "this isn't Help the Aged. I'm very impressed with your sparkly dicky bow, but that's about it!" And Bruno claimed that "it's the old fox running out of tricks. She [Kristina] covers for you so well!" 
Score: Craig 3, Arlene 5, Len 6, Bruno 6. Total 20. 

Eighth up tonight were Tom and Camilla, doing a Paso Doble to Cutting Crew's I Just Died In Your Arms. Arlene "I loved your cape action! There were occasionally the most exciting and bright lines." Len wasn't impressed by the cape twirling, claiming "it was like putting the cover on a duvet" but loved the rest of it. Bruno thought that "you have the attack and determination of an action hero on a mission - Mission Accomplished." Craig said "It's all about big shapes and storytelling. There was a conceited arrogance all the way through it which was brilliant." 
Score: Craig 8, Arlene 9, Len 8, Bruno 9. Total 34. 

The penultimate couple to take to the floor were Christine and Matthew, who danced American Smooth to Singin' in the Rain. Len was first with his comments, saying that "from the waist up, everything was gorgeous - from the waist down, not quite as good. I liked it." Bruno gave Christine a physical demonstration of how much more she needed to stretch and extend her legs. Craig suggested that Christine should, "point your toes more. I love those lifts though." Arlene thought that ballet lessons might help Christine: "The top half was Hollywood - the bottom half was dead wood." 
Score Craig 7, Arlene 7, Len 8, Bruno 7. Total 29. 

Finally, Rachel and Vincent danced a Jive to Arthur Conley's tune Sweet Soul Music. Bruno was enthusiastic about it: "welcome back Rachel, the firecracker! You were selling it - tonight you ignited!" Craig thought that "you need to pick your feet up a little bit more, but apart from that it was great." Arlene was positive too, saying it was "a sparkly finish, as sparkly as you are. Push into the floor a little bit more to get the bounce from the ounce you need." Len was less enthusiastic, expecting more from Rachel's Jive. "It was competent, and I liked it, but it didn't really wow me." 
Score Craig 7, Arlene 8, Len 8, Bruno 9. Total 32. 

So John, Andrew and Heather are the three lowest-rated celebrities tonight. Tune in at 8.15pm tonight to find out which couple will be leaving the show.


Get Voting - Heather In 8th Place

Heather and Brian's Cha Cha Cha only received 23 points from the judges tonight. They ended up 8th out of 10 on the scoreboard. The couple received 23 points previously both times they faced the dance-off. They need your votes more than ever to survive in the results show. Get voting now by phoning:

09015 22 23 13

Lines close at 21:00 tonight.

Cha Cha Cha Update

From the BBC Strictly site:

Heather has a slow start to the week as she and partner Brian go through the moves of the Cha Cha Cha. She struggles to pick up some of the steps and tells Brian that she's 'lost' on a number of occasions, but the singer is more upbeat and confident about her performance than in recent times.

The good performance she put in last weekend and the fact the couple weren't in the bottom two has clearly lifted Heather, and she notes that she broke through a mental barrier on Saturday night, "I think I owed it to Brian and myself to do better, I tried my absolute hardest. I lost myself in the dance."


Heather's American Cha Cha Cha Boy!

Heather and Brian will be dancing the Cha Cha Cha on Saturday. Brian accidently revealed on It Takes Two today that they will be dancing to Estelle's 'American Boy'. Brian said the song is perfect as it is about an American boy coming to London to a female singer!

Round 7 of the show starts at 18:05 this Saturday.


Heather's Gigs Sold Out!

Ronnie Scott''s Gig.jpg

Heather Small will be performing at the legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott's in London over the next three nights. 

With fellow M People saxophone player Snake Davis, Heather will be performing a number of classic jazz songs. 

Heather and Snake will be on stage just before 21:00.

All three nights have been sold out!