Gabrielle reveals her eye covering origins and how she inspired others with "differences"

12 January 2022, 16:46

Why did Gabrielle decide to wear a eye patch?

By Tom Eames

Gabrielle became one of the UK's biggest stars when she burst onto the music scene in the early 1990s with 'Dreams'.

Not only did she have an incredible voice and likeable personality, but she had a distinctive look that made her instantly recognisable.

Gabrielle has famously used some kind of eye covering over the years. Appearing on Smooth's Famous Firsts podcast, Gabrielle explained the origins of her famous style.

"It was something that I didn’t come up with," Gabrielle told host Jenni Falconer. "There was a lady called Corinna Pike, who was responsible for my styling. I guess that everybody… you know, it was her; it was the record company.

"There weren’t any other females who looked like me. As a woman, you don’t see women who are not supposedly perfect on our screens. And so for me to be a singer and to have this lazy eyelid, and made me look like I was half-asleep half the time – the idea of covering it so that I could be more confident… I guess that it wouldn’t be a distraction for others."

Gabrielle's different eye coverings over the years
Gabrielle's different eye coverings over the years. Picture: Getty/Alamy

She continued: "Because I spent a lot of my early youth… If I was working, people – absolute strangers – would come up to me, and say, 'What’s wrong with your eye?'. It was the norm for them. But it’s quite rude! But I got so used to it.

"So to be in a position of being a singer and having to do all these interviews, and trying to be this confident 23-year-old, as I was at the time – and I wasn’t as confident as I wanted to be.

"For the first time in my life, could make eye contact with someone without looking away for fear of them noticing my eyelid and maybe asking the dreaded question. The moment I wore that eyepatch, it was a game-changer and a life changer for me.

"And after that, I only ever wore it for a year. I think people think I wore it forever, but I had the eyepatch, and then I had this one-eyed monocle kind of glasses – like sunglasses. And then I went to having my fringe.

"But I feel confident. And this is just who I am. Again, it is what it is, and this is who I am. If you don’t like it, you can look away. I’m just comfortable in my skin – and with my hair like this!"

Gabrielle added that she was pleased to discover that she had helped inspire others in a similar situation to hers.

"I found that when I first came out onto the scene, I had mothers messaging me and sending me letters – because we didn’t have social media then – saying how it was an inspiration for them. Because they had young children, whether it’s boys or girls, who actually had the same condition I had, and sometimes they didn’t have an eye.

How did Gabrielle get her name?

"To have somebody on TV who’s wearing an eyepatch, they no longer felt like they were – how do I say it? – the child that everyone had to be looking at. They had someone to aspire to.

"I think the way society was – and sometimes can still be – is that we isolate and alienate people who are different. I like to think that when I was receiving those letters, and people had their kids at home watching, they no longer felt that they couldn’t do things. There was nothing they couldn’t do.

"Whereas in my time, it was a case of: 'Oh, I don’t know. You think you’re going to be a singer? You don’t even look like anyone on the TV.' So to do that, and have people be inspired by that, I’m really happy.

"And although it was a challenge for me, that was the times of which I’m from. I like the way that now we have so many people coming to the forefront, whether it’s Olympians who are disabled – the Paralympics have just given this amazing platform to these amazing athletes.

"It didn’t matter that they had things wrong with them, because they were able to do things that people with all their limbs couldn’t even dream of doing. So I’m just happy to live in a time where we can see this, and be like, 'Yeah, you know what? It’s great to celebrate differences.' And I’m proud to have been a part of that."

Gabrielle appears in the latest episode of Smooth's Famous Firsts podcast, where Jenni Falconer speaks to pop music icons about the various firsts throughout their career so far.

Previous episodes have featured Ed Sheeran, Michael Bolton and Westlife among others, with future guests including Tony Hadley and Marti Pellow.

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