Natasha Hemmings - former Miss England launches music career
- Credit: not Archant
She wowed the judges to become Miss England in 2015. Now Nantwich’s Natasha Hemmings wants fame in the music world with an album featuring some superstar help. Paul Taylor reports
Natasha Hemmings cannot remember a time when music was not vital to her.
‘It’s is the one thing I’ve done my whole life,’ she says. ‘As a little girl, I always had a microphone, running around the living room.’
At the age of nine, she was taking piano and singing lessons, and by 14, she was attending the junior Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
She is due to graduate from RNCM this summer with a Bachelor of Music degree. At the same time, her debut album Whispers will be released, featuring songs based on famous classical themes, with airy, layered arrangements and some impressive guest stars. Irish folksters Clannad feature on some harmony vocals, and veteran Puerto Rican-born guitarist José Feliciano plays on all the tracks.
‘That was what Miss England was about for me: having a platform to share my music,’ says Natasha, aged 23.
She won that crown in 2015 and went on to represent the nation in the Miss World contest in China.
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‘I have been forever defending it, because it’s really hard to change views, particularly in the older generation who know it for what it was years ago,’ Natasha says of the Miss England concept.
‘Things like the bikini round, parading women. Nobody really likes that; I’m not a fan of that. Miss World don’t do the bikini round any more and neither do Miss England. Instead they do the sports round to promote health and fitness. There are pageants out there which are just about being beautiful on the outside. That doesn’t give Miss England and Miss World a chance to show that they’ve changed. They still get compared to these old-style pageants.’
Natasha grew up in Weston, Crewe, and then Nantwich, mum Kirston and stepdad Brian were involved in building services firm Hemway.
‘My mum and dad are 100 per cent supportive of me,’ says Natasha, one of five children in the family, including her twin brother Brandon. ‘They’ve always helped me pursue my music even when I was younger, going to the RNCM. They were running me to lessons and picking me up, waiting for me all day on a Saturday, because it was every Saturday. They’ve put just as much into it as I have.’
While Natasha was in the first year of an English literature degree at Nottingham University her mum suggested entering Miss England as a way of making new friends. Soon, Natasha was Miss Cheshire, then Miss England, having performed O Mio Babbino Caro, from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi in the talent round of the contest. She then put her degree on pause for a year of ambassadorial work, including charity fund-raising.
‘The Miss England who crowned me was a doctor from Cambridge,’ she recalls. ‘She’s a really clever girl. They’re not just models.’
‘Miss World was a crazy experience. I’ve never felt so away from home, not just because I was in China but because everyone is so different, obviously, all coming from different countries.
‘On one hand, you had Miss USA, who’s got five suitcases and designer dresses, and then Miss Ethiopia, whose dress had been made by the tribe.’
After her spell as a beauty queen, Natasha opted to study music, also spending the last two years writing her songs, using classical favourites such as Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Grieg’s Morning Mood as the foundation.
The self-funded album, to be released on Natasha’s own Raspberry Records label, was recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios in London – once the creative home of The Beatles. Through an intermediary, she sent her tracks to José Feliciano.
‘We didn’t expect anything to happen because he’s such a big name and so busy, but he loved the tracks and he sent me a little video clip of him playing to one of them, improvising,’ says Natasha. ‘I said I would love it if he could play across the album. When I was talking to him, he was on tour with Jools Holland, so I got to meet him there.’
So José added his Latin guitar style to the songs.
‘I’ve been working towards this for such a long time and I wanted to do everything well, especially when you’re dealing with classical music,’ says Natasha. ‘So many people pick up classical music and use little snippets in songs. I’ve always hated that. I’ve always thought there needs to be a certain respect with this kind of music. When I added vocals, I wanted to it to be in a respectful way.’