Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle on LGBTQ+ allyship, RuPaul and the ‘audacity’ of bigots
Spooky season is upon us, but you will absolutely not find Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle trick-or-treating, watching scary films, or scouring her local graveyard for spirits.
In 2006, the 38-year-old, Derry-born singer and notorious Gemini was the only member of Girls Aloud to opt out of ITV series Ghosthunting With Girls Aloud, telling furious host Yvette Fielding that she was “so, so scared… of ghosts, birds, dead things – anything”.
Nearly 17 years on, and celebrating Halloween is still off the cards. “I’m completely terrified,” she tells PinkNews via Zoom from her home in London, curled up on the sofa in a white hoodie, sipping from a cup of tea.
“Absolutely not. No ghost hunting. No seancing. I feel bad even saying the word.” She feigns a gasp: “Do I even say the word? Who knows what you’re conjuring up!”
All five members of Girls Aloud – Nadine Coyle, Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh and the late Sarah Harding – are bona fide gay pop icons for their glitzy discography alone. In the UK, the group sold more than four million albums and singles before their split in 2013, and won a long-overdue Brit Award for their mammoth single “The Promise” in 2009.
Ten years after they parted ways, and they remain arguably the best British girl band of the millennium to date.
Nadine has since released a string of her own solo singles, including 2017’s capitalist banger “Go To Work”, and established her as a perpetual figure in LGBTQ+ spaces, be that at queer festival Mighty Hoopla, where she performed earlier this year, at Pride shows, or just Gay Twitter lexicon.
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Her refusal to partake in Ghosthunting With is one moment that has developed a life of its own on social media – giving a false age and embarking on an ill-fated search for her passport on Popstars: Ireland in 2001 is another that has cemented itself in pop folklore.
Through her ambitious teenage deception, she’s achieved certified hun status, and guaranteed herself a home within the LGBTQ+ community. In November, she’s performing at London’s Clapham Grand, as part of “The Grand Goes Girls Aloud”, a one-night party celebrating the gays’ favourite girl group.
Signing herself up for events where the crowd is predominantly queer people is “absolutely” an active choice.
“I get to go and perform at these events that I would be at anyway if I wasn’t performing,” she says. “I’m basically just going to party. Like, sing for half an hour, and then be with all the people and have such a great time. That’s why I actively try to have as many as many shows as part of the community – my community.”
Sometimes, she lets her hair down a little too much: “At some point I’ll be like, ‘great idea to have a cigarette’. Once that happens, it’s all over for me. I’ve gone too far.”
There was never a single moment where Coyle and the rest of the band realised they’d racked up a huge queer following, though it was after their first performance at a Pride event that Coyle “suddenly really enjoyed doing live stuff”.
She also describes the first time seeing a drag queen dressed as her, at a cinema in Manchester, as “a big moment”. London-based drag collective Gals Aloud – featuring Drag Race UK favourites Cheryl Hole and Kitty Scott-Claus – have been performing as the band for years (Nadine is played by HERR). Nadine hasn’t seen the show, but she’s watched clips of it, and has met the drag group. “It’s such an honour,” she says.
In 2021, she appeared on Scott-Claus’s Drag Race UK season, season three, as a celebrity contestant on Snatch Game. Would she ever consider ruturning as a mainstage guest judge?
“Aaaaabsolutely,” she drawls, in her thick Derry accent. “I love Drag Race.” During her time on the show, she got to speak at length with RuPaul who was, incredibly, fully aware of Nadine’s Irish Mist, the Irish pub and restaurant Coyle opened in LA in 2008, which closed in 2015. “I was like, ‘Ru! Using me like that, knowing all my business,” she jokes. “I love it.”
Nadine knows that, while there is a lot of fun to be found in supporting the LGBTQ+ community – the drag queens, the parties, the one-too-many-prosecco cigarettes – there is a serious side to allyship, too.
As hate crimes rise and British politicians continue to use the rights of queer people, particularly trans people, as a pawn in their fight for power, Coyle is clear that she wouldn’t align herself with anyone who takes a stance against LGBTQ+ equality.
“It’s always just been part of my life for people to just be themselves. Be yourself! Be who you are. I think anybody that disagrees with that, then they really have no place in anything that I’m doing,” she declares.
She appears to get emotional talking about what the community is going through right now. “It’s so upsetting that that’s happening and that people feel that they have the right to tell people how to live their lives. The fact that they have such strong opinions on what other people are doing blows my mind. The audacity of some people.”
As such, she’s keen to find out how she can become a better ally to queer people: she doesn’t want to be a musician who shares space with the LGBTQ+ community when we’re having a good time, and goes silent when things are tough.
“I would always be willing to be told or directed to be like, what could I actually do? I’m always up for advice on what somebody would think I could be doing more or doing better,” she says.
Addressing the community directly, she adds: “Feel free to reach out and guide me and advise me on where I could be a better ally and or what I can do more to help and I’m more than willing to. Because it does, it makes me upset.”
While Girls Aloud songs and Nadine’s own solo material have soundtracked the most euphoric of times for a generation of queer people, the band themselves have also enabled some young people in the community come out to their families.
Nadine’s been told by some young fans that her relationship with the queer community swayed their parents to believe that “clearly there’s nothing wrong” with being LGBTQ+.
“I’d never considered that,” she reflects. “Never had that crossed my mind that that would that that would be a possibility.”
Being in a girl band for over a decade is hard work, from the music video shoots to the national tours, endless interviews and inevitable fallouts. Yet for Coyle, the connection she’s built with her queer following is one of the best things that’s come from her time in the spotlight.
“It’s just entertainment, it’s just fun at the end of the day. Not saving lives,” she says. “But to hear the depths of how it’s helped people? I’m so glad I got up at three o’clock in the morning all the time and worked constantly for all those years, because it was something other than just putting on fancy dresses and sashaying around the place.
“It’s deeper than that. That makes it all worthwhile.”
Nadine Coyle will perform at “The Grand Goes Girls Aloud” at London’s Clapham Grand on Saturday 4 November.
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