Her sweetness was her weakness. Look up, it’s Michelle Gayle!
British actress Michelle Gayle (b.1971) made her name as Fiona Wilson in the long running children’s TV drama, Grange Hill. Aged sixteen, she spent two years in the show before crossing to adult drama as Hattie Tavernier in Eastenders, spending three years with the soap. She left in 1993 to pursue a music career and in June that year, released her debut recording, “Looking Up”. The song was a hit, just missing out on the UK top ten, stopping at No.11, but spending two months on the chart.
The song was a one off recording to ‘test the water’ and following it’s success, Michelle and her record company spent time with writers recording her debut album, which saw the light of day in the Summer of 1994. With no lead single to work off, initial reaction was lukewarm, but following the release of the single, “Sweetness”, in September, sales began to flow in. “Sweetness” would peak at No.4 in the UK as well as being a sizeable hit across Europe. The song became the 36th biggest seller of the year back home, while the album surpassed sales of 100,000 copies there.
Her ballad, “I’ll Find You”, was released in time for Christmas but collapsed under the weight of more traditional festive songs and could only reach No.26. Two further top twenty hits came from the album in 1995, “Freedom” (No.16) and “Happy Just To Be With You”, which not only peaked in the same place as her first single, but also gave Michelle a fourth consecutive top three hit on the UK R&B chart. Michelle won two Brit Award nominations that year, one for Best Female Artist and one for “Sweetness” as Best Single, although she missed a win on both counts.
Michelle appeared on the charity single, “A Gift Of Christmas” at the end of 1995 with a multitude of other chart acts including EYC, Dannii Minogue and East 17. The song peaked at No.9 in the UK and No.10 in Ireland. After time out and time to begin preparing her second album, Michelle was back on the scene in mid-1997 with “Do You Know?”. The song gave her a second solo top ten hit in the UK and a No.2 hit on the R&B chart, while her album, “Sensational”, would out perform her debut in terms of chart position, it did not match the sales and remains uncertified.
Following the title track’s release as a single later in 1997 (UK No.14), Michelle parted ways with RCA and signed with EMI. This would not prove to be a savvy move as just two years later and with nothing in the pipeline, EMI cancelled her contract. Michelle returned to acting at this time and took to the stage in Disney’s Beauty And The Beast, while early into the 00’s, she popped up in guest roles in TV drama series Doctors and Holby City. Michelle returned to music in 2003 when she joined the line up of Reborn In The USA, a reality show for forgotten pop stars, based in the US. Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley won the contest, but Michelle came a close second and following interest in her once more, she signed to the small independent label, N2.
Michelle co-wrote and recorded the song “Gotta Be Me” in 2004, but just before it’s release, N2 folded and it seemed Michelle’s career was all over again. Michelle was back in the game in 2008, when she co-wrote “Woo (U Make Me)” for that years Eurovision Song Contest. Michelle performed the song herself for the selection programme but came second to Andy Abraham’s “Even If”, which same 25th in the final! Would Michelle’s song have done better…?
Michelle married ex-footballer Mark Bright, whom she divorced the year of her attempted entry into Eurovision but has since remarried and gave birth to a son in 2011. After some years out of sight, Michelle returned to the stage in 2018 playing Alison in the musical Son Of A Preacher Man, based on the life of Dusty Springfield. She also recorded and released the hit single “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” that same year and now it seems she is back in focus once more, combining acting and music, her two strongest talents and clearly very happy with her life now.
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