Lisa Scott-Lee: a pop star so important they named her thrice. A woman whose fame and fortune defies reason. A woman whose success raises more questions than it can ever possibly answer. A woman who, in any just world, would have held a steady job in PR or events management, but somehow, inexplicably, became a pop star.
I, like you, am familiar with the enigma known as Lisa Scott-Lee through the band Steps, one of the best pop bands to ever exist. And I, surely also like you, have lain awake at night wondering how this came to be, pondering which stars aligned so that Lisa Scott-Lee, a woman who would seem more at place in a mid-priced supermarket arguing with the manager over the price of curly fries, became more successful than you or I will ever be.
Of course, Scott-Lee’s career has by no means been a walk in the park. It has encountered all the obstacles you’d expect for a woman trying to make it as a pop star while maintaining a shaky grasp on everything this entails. She has sobbed on TV after her make-or-break single failed to hit the top ten, uttering the mortal words “But I’m B-list on Capital” in the process. She has held a televised poll to ask the public whether she should quit the music industry and people voted in their droves to say that yes, she should. She has starred in her own TV series that featured surely the most undignified, and downright cruel, opening credits of all time that mocked her for being dropped by her record label. She has been publicly derided for being fame-hungry (her TV show came with the tagline ‘Desperately seeking fame’, and Simon Amstell once quipped that she had taken a ‘fame vaccination’). She has won awards for being crap (Worst British Female Solo Artist, Worst British Single and Worst Pop Act at the Naomi Awards, 2006) and has taken part in, and been booted off, a reality TV show that made her become an air stewardess. In short, Lisa Scott-Lee’s career is littered with failures.
But this only makes her story more inspiring. Because while initially I saw Scott-Lee as quite irritating, a woman with ideas well above her station, a person who felt entitled to fame and fortune despite doing very little to deserve either, I have learned to love her. Because really, when it boils down to it, Lisa Scott-Lee is all of us.
How many of us have ambitions that we do not possess the skills or expertise to achieve? How many of us yearn for a lifestyle that we know is well beyond our reach? And how many of us want nothing more than to escape our humble little lives and find something more exciting? All of us. The difference is, while for the majority these things are mere pipe dreams, for Lisa Scott-Lee, they became a reality.
Lisa didn’t give up when Steps fell apart. Instead, she posed for lads’ mags and released bad solo singles despite there being absolutely no public appetite. She didn’t give up when her solo career tanked. Instead, she went on any TV show that would have her. And she didn’t give up when the TV shows stopped having her. Instead, she launched the Performing Arts Academy for kids in Dubai.
Lisa Scott-Lee has persevered. She has paid her dues. She has been repeatedly knocked down and she has got back up again and again, battered and undignified, and had another go. And in the long run, it’s paid off. She has travelled the world, been part of one of the most successful pop groups ever, had dinner with Michael Jackson (!!), started a business and is now part of pop’s most exciting comeback.
One of the things that always rubbed me up the wrong way about Lisa Scott-Lee was what I perceived as her sense of entitlement. In Steps Reunion, she insisted that the far superior Claire shouldn’t sing the lead vocal on their new track (a cover of ‘Dancing Queen’), suggesting not so casually that it should be her instead, ignoring the fact that while Claire’s vocals could probably extinguish a fire with their sheer power, Lisa’s are more befitting of a karaoke bar in Zante.
But what I now realise is that Lisa Scott-Lee has had to be like this. She’s had to push, harder than most of us, to get what she wanted, because what she wanted was so ridiculous, so above what she had any right to achieve. But she did it anyway. Because Lisa Scott-Lee does not cower before glass ceilings, she shatters them. She goes way beyond what anyone thinks she can do – and sure, she fails along the way – but she gets there in the end. And in my humble opinion, that raw determination, that refusal to stay in her damn lane, the steely resolve to keep going even when everyone is telling her to stop, makes her a god-damn hero.