/

The secrets of her success: Beverley Knight

We talk to women we love about their life philosophies and inner motivations. Here we chat to singer-songwriter and Memphis The Musical star Beverley Knight about her inspirations, guilty pleasures and the book that changed her life

by Suzy Walker

Beverley Knight in Memphis the musical

Who is your biggest inspiration?

That would be my mum probably. Just in the fact that she made her way from the West Indies to Britain – to a place she didn’t know – and she was in her teens, and made a life for herself. Not just for herself, but for the children she went on to have. It’s inspiring. It’s so inspiring, because it was so hostile when she got here. So the lesson to me is that I’ve had it way better than she ever had it.

What have you learned about yourself as you’ve grown up?

I am a very tenacious person but other people just describe me as being really happy all the time. And I guess when I look at myself, I am pretty chipper. So, I have all of those traits that most singers and people in my industry have, the determination and drive, but it’s always with a smile.

Do you ever have a crisis of confidence – and if so how do you deal with it?

Yeah, you have ebbs and flows in your career, and there was a time where I thought – particularly with my song-writing – ‘Can I really do this? Can I?’ And what solved it was going on stage and doing a show and the reaction of the crowd to the songs I had written. And that kind of put things into perspective for me, and made me think, ‘Yeah, you’ve been doing this. Why wobble now? Why worry about it now? This is what you do. This is what you’re about, you’re a songwriter as well as a singer. You don’t worry about your singing, why worry about your writing?'

If you weren’t you, who would you be?

Oh gosh. Someone of grace, especially grace under fire. I think I would be someone who teaches. I like the idea of watching people grow and helping them to grow, and then trying to pull the best out of them. And seeing them get there and achieve it.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

It’s not so bad now, but I’m like a child. I like sweets too much. When I get in that mood sometimes, I could literally murder a bag of Haribos, and that’d be it. I’m terrible for that.

The key to your character in Memphis' happiness is singing. What is your key to a happy life?

Be comfortable with who you are – whoever that ‘you’ is because, of course, we all change as we grow. Our character more or less stays the same, but the things we learn about ourselves influence the way we behave and you have to be comfortable with that. You have to be comfortable not only in your own character, but also in what you see when you look in the mirror. Especially us girls. We judge ourselves so harshly, and a huge part of being happy is looking in the mirror and saying ‘Yup. That’s me and it’s fine!’

What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?

Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do this. That’s definitely one of the things that has stuck with me.

Which book has made the biggest impact on your life?

A book that made me kind of gasp and made me really examine myself was Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography because he was fallible, very much a man who did a lot of things wrong as a man but even in his fallibility, he still managed to change not only his society, but the whole world, and it just put a lot of things into perspective for me. It made me think ‘That man went from prison to presidency. I haven’t got a lot to moan about in my life.’ He was treated like scum, just because he wanted to be treated as an equal, he and his fellow South Africans. A light just went on in my head.

Memphis is running at Shaftesbury Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8DP. For tickets and information visit memphisthemusical.com