Tanya-Nicole Edwards is a singer, songwriter, musician and actress. She was born for the stage, and from a very early age her talent has been evident. According to her mum, even before she was born she was excited about music. “My mum told me that when she was pregnant with me, when they were playing music I would be kicking and going real crazy.”
After Tanya was born – in West London to St Lucian parents – the music played on. “My mum and dad were constantly playing music,” recalled Tanya, now 30. “Back then, it was vinyl, after vinyl, after vinyl. I grew up on Motown classics like Gladys Knight, Super Woman, Lionel Richie, Barry White, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Jacksons, to name a few.”
Coming from a very close-knit family, her grandmother also featured large in her life. Reminiscing on those early years she said, “Everyone was always at my nan’s house, that was where music was for me because my uncles and aunts were always singing and my uncle even built a studio.”
The family continued to be unwavering in their support, and between the ages of six and eight Tanya was sent to the Sylvia Young School, where she was taught dance, music and acting. When she was 10, her grandmother made her join the choir, and would even join in the singing with them on Sundays.
“As I got older, I branched out more into dancing, competitions and street dance. Between the ages of 14 and 17, I performed in local competitions such as The Talent Quest, which took place at Tabernacle in Powis Square, Notting Hill and whose creator and director was the respected Stephen Cole. So it was really in my teens – from about age 16 – that I found my passion for singing, and that’s when I took it seriously.”
“I went to the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn High Road for drama classes, joined the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Choir, and got involved with Golborne Youth Centre, off Portobello Road, where I would go after school and college to practice dance and music. If you were good at singing and dancing you would get through to the RBKC Choir and Dance Troupe.”
By the time Tanya was ready to leave secondary education behind she had developed into a multi-talented entertainer, good enough to audition for professional parts. The first of many included the opportunity to go to the Cannes Film Festival, in France. “I auditioned for a part in Lion King, even though I was still a pupil at St. Charles School, off Ladbroke Grove. It was exam season, so I had to divide the time between rehearsing for Lion King, at the Lyceum Theatre in London’s West End, and doing my A-Level exams in performing arts, media studies, physical education and sociology. I was fortunate to have the Head of Performing Arts as my course tutor, who was very supportive. I got the part in Lion King, and the school gave me permission to leave two months early as long as I completed my exams. The production also went to Disneyland Paris, and I had to learn the part in French and English.”
After Paris, Tanya returned to London as an ensemble member in Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre. She is of the opinion that a stage is a stage, wherever that stage happens to be – and her next time on stage was as a vocalist on a South American cruise ship, sailing around Singapore and Malaysia, in the musical Hairspray.
On her return to London, Tanya appeared in The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre. “For those who have not seen the production, the creators of South Park also created the The Book of Mormon,” she said. “It’s a satire, a mockery; adult humour. It’s just so funny.”
More recently, Tanya has been in Carole King’s musical, Beautiful. After leaving that she joined the cast of Motown the Musical, showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Rehearsals included tutoring from the legendary Berry Gordy, founder of the USA-based Motown Record Label. “We had some one-on-one time in rehearsal with him,” she said. In full circle, the music she listened to as a child with her mum, nan, aunts and uncles has turned out to be the very same music which she‘s ended up performing professionally as a West End singer and actress.
Tanya is very focused on her aims and ambitions, and is careful not to be complacent. “One year contracts are what I like,” she said, “Then I move on to something else.”
“At the same time I have to count my blessings. I am very grateful; I have a lot of gratitude for what I have done so far. I am 30 years old now, and I have been doing this for all these years – and I feel the best is yet to come… Everything I have done through my experience is spurring me on, and inspired me to set up the Tanya Nicole Entertainment Company.”
Whilst in the early stages of setting up the company, she is also on tour with popular 1980s artists. “I’m touring with Soul II Soul at the moment. I’ve been doing many shows back to back, but took a break for my birthday and travelled to the United States with a friend, and then to Africa, visiting the Afro Punk Fest in New York and the Delicious Fest in South Africa.”
Tanya, who is single, said, “I am just a normal girl from West London, of Caribbean descent. I didn’t have a university education, but everything that I have done so far is rooted in the community and in my passion and drive for performing arts. I love the craft, but not the fame. I am too private and too protective of family to be famous. My goal is to have a successful business and take it back to my parental roots of St Lucia, to provide entertainment for the hotels and the tourist industry and wherever in the world my talents are required.”
“For me, you do something, and you do it and that’s it. It’s easy to be complacent and comfortable so I make it my thing to stay about a year. I throw myself into a show. Then when I’m not in a show I go back to my roots to work with the young people in the community.”
To contact Tanya-Nicole, visit her website at tanyanicoleentertainment.com