We’ve all lost our passport at some point or another, haven’t we? Nadine Coyle certainly has and it’s not a moment she’s likely to live down anytime soon. “When people see my passport, I think it’s triggering for them!” she tells GAY TIMES, reflecting on the iconic Irish Popstars scene in which she got her own birthday wrong back in 2001. “I’ve literally had people gasp in airports because they’ve seen my passport. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s the passport!’”
Just one year later, she would go on to join Girls Aloud, which would eventually become one of the most successful bands the UK has ever seen, with a whopping 21 top 10 hits and four number one singles under their belt. The group’s legendary debut album, Sound of the Underground, recently turned 20 – something that Nadine finds hard to get her head around. “I was 17 at that time,” she explains. “It’s crazy to think that it’s been two decades and that it’s still able to go and we’re still able to do so many amazing things with it. It’s so, so great.”
Since the disbanding of Girls Aloud in 2013, Nadine has released a solo album, EP and solidified her legacy as a gay icon through various appearances at Pride celebrations and, perhaps more importantly, the numerous memes she has spawned. “I am aware that there are multiple memes,” she says. “Am I an actual meme? Like, am I an actual walking meme? A lot of stuff that I do seems to turn [into a meme], I don’t know! I am just innocently, humbly minding my own business and then these things just take on a life of their own, I think.”
One thing Nadine didn’t do, much to the dismay of fans everywhere, was make a cameo in Derry Girls. “It would have been iconic,” she shares, explaining that the show is based on the school she attended as a teenager. “We had the same green uniforms, we had a nun, Sister Christopher, as the principal [and] we got the yellow buses to school,” she continues. “It was based on that, that whole experience. So when you look at the actual Derry Girls, that was me and my friends running around Derry going to that school!”
Here, Nadine talks to GAY TIMES about all things Girls Aloud, her love of Drag Race UK and her upcoming headline show at the Clapham Grand…
This year was the 20th anniversary of Sound of the Underground by Girls Aloud, which is such a mammoth thing to celebrate. What was it like to look back at two decades of the band’s debut album?
It’s crazy. I mean, I still think that I am 20-something. You know when you would hear people who are like, ‘Oh 20 years ago’, or ‘15 years ago’, like, oh my gosh…I was 17 at that time. It’s crazy to think that it’s been two decades and that it’s still able to go and we’re still able to do so many amazing things with it. It’s so, so great.
Last year, you went viral after talking about having a “wild, rough time” because of your Derry accent on stage at Manchester Pride…
Somebody had a poster! Something I get all the time if people are from Derry, they’ll have a poster saying, ‘I’m from Derry’, or you’ll hear people and it’s like there’s an alien in the group. People are like, ‘He’s from Derry’, and then they’ll all be pointing and then I can see the person and I was like, I should just say ‘Don’t we get a wild, rough time for having a Derry accent?’ It’s a very genuine reaction with a fellow Derry person!
I need to ask you a very serious question now that will sound like a joke, but it is very serious. Are you aware that you are a meme?
I am aware that there are multiple memes. Am I an actual meme? Like, am I an actual walking meme? A lot of stuff that I do seems to turn [into a meme], I don’t know! I am just innocently, humbly minding my own business and then these things just take on a life of their own, I think.
One of the most famous is that iconic clip of you getting your birthday wrong on Irish Popstars. What’s your reaction to that moment all these years later?
Whenever I look at it, I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I really wish that I had known how to do makeup better’, because who knew that that was going to be around for all of eternity? I was still doing the concealer, lipstick thing – no blending, no foundation, no highlighters. That’s really what I think, it’s the pure vanity of it all. I’m like, ‘Oh, I can’t even look at it, I can’t even look’.
Is showing your passport at airport security a triggering experience for you because of that moment?
When people see my passport, I think it’s triggering for them! I’ve literally had people gasp in airports because they’ve seen my passport. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s the passport!’ I’m like, ‘Yes, the passport is required in this particular establishment, the passport is required to get from A to B’. So, yes, definitely it causes a reaction in people all the time. People ask to see it and they’re quite blown away by it, I would say.
So I have to ask, as the most famous person from Derry, where was the Derry Girls cameo?
I know, right? The writer, Lisa McGee, went to the same school that I went to. So it was based on Thornhill, the school that I went to! We had the same green uniforms, we had a nun, Sister Christopher, as the principal [and] we got the yellow buses to school. It was based on that, that whole experience. So when you look at the actual Derry Girls, that was me and my friends running around Derry going to that school! I wouldn’t say having the time of our lives because I hated school, but yeah, I was a huge fan of Derry Girls. I would have been up for that.
I think it’s a missed opportunity.
It would have been iconic. I thought a really good one would have been if I had been a hairdresser or something, but one of these really obnoxious ones that lived in London for five minutes and comes back with a really posh accent, you know those types? They trained in London and they worked in London, but you’re pure Derry – I thought that would have been funny.
If the show ever returns I expect to see it…
I do too! I expect to see myself on there as well.
You regularly perform at Pride celebrations and you’ll soon be doing a headline show at the Clapham Grand in London. What’s it like for you to be able to have this kind of role in the community today?
You know, I have never really thought about my role in the community. I’ve always just been so in the thick of it all that I don’t see what my role could be other than to just be supportive, have a laugh and have a good time together. And the fact that I get to sing these songs and the fact that I can do this and facilitate a fun time just by singing and we can all have such a fun time together, I think that’s my role. I’m so in the thick of the community that I can’t see out of it!
With a discography like yours, how do you decide what to perform when you’re planning a show like the one at the Clapham Grand?
Basically I’m like, ‘Okay, what are we going to do? What songs roll best onto the next one? What’s going to be your light and shade?’ That’s what we’re doing at the minute for the Clapham Grand and, what I actually done was I spoke to Brian Higgins, who did all the Girls Aloud songs, and I was like, ‘Right, I want something really special’ and he was like, ‘Definitely, let’s do it’. So, it’s that. How can you make these amazing songs sound their best and blow into each other, so people think that they’ve heard the biggest hit, or they think that they know, and then all of a sudden you’ll just drop into something else. I love to do that and people love it! It just provides so much energy that it just makes my job so easy. We’re literally just having a laugh together, having a good night, and that’s why I love doing the Prides, or doing summer festivals, or doing the Grand. Ideally I would prefer to do that than most other gigs, but because this is my job, I have to take other gigs as well, but those are always my favourite types of shows.
Are there any songs that when you perform, especially at LGBTQIA+ events, that get the biggest reaction from the audience?
All of them, really. ‘Sound of the Underground’ obviously goes down a storm. But, in some of the versions I do an extended intro that doesn’t sound like ‘Sound of the Underground’ until that surf guitar comes in. And then you’ve got ‘Go girls g-g-go go go’ [from ‘Something New’]. That always has a massive reaction. Then obviously ‘The Promise’, if you’re doing the, ‘One, two, three, four’. I mean, every song! ‘Something Kinda Ooooh’, ‘Sexy! No No No…’ – ‘Biology’ is another big one that has a huge impact. Basically them all!
You appeared on season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK as a special guest, which also featured a Girls Aloud lip-sync. Do you go out of your way to watch these when you know one of your songs was featured?
Why would I not want to see it? Of course I want to see it, I want to steal some moves! I want to be like, ‘Right, what did they do with this? How could I add that to what I’m doing?’ I’m a huge fan of the show. I think what they do is amazing, the fact that they’re so talented in so many areas. It’s really, really to be studied – these people are just amazing.
Okay, before we end, you have to tell me your top three favourite Girls Aloud songs.
‘Something New’, ‘Something Kinda Ooooh’ and ‘Sound of the Underground’.
All three are iconic, but I can’t deny that my favourite is ‘No Good Advice’.
People love that, you know? I think I might have to put that on to the set for the Clapham Grand. I think I might, right? I really should.
Tickets to see Nadine Coyle live at the Clapham Grand on 4 November are still available here.