The 35-year-old revealed all to STELLAR Magazine.
Vicki Notaro sits down with Samantha Mumba as she turns 35 to talk life after pop stardom, priorities, and the magic of saying no…
The name Samantha Mumba is still one of the most recognisable on the Irish showbiz scene, despite the absolute peak of her pop star fame being more than 15 years ago. The Dublin girl turned noughties superstar now resides mostly in LA with her husband and daughter, but for women coming of age around the millennium, she was our Britney Spears. She howls with laughter when I say that to her, but it’s true; an Irish female pop star that went international, she’s peerless. And to look at her, you’d be forgiven for thinking she was a small child around the turn of the century, as the nearly 35-year-old looks at least a decade younger.
I’m not even being sycophantic, she is absolutely radiant. I pestered her on the day of our cover shoot asking her what she uses on her skin but she swears it’s down to plain ol’ Nivea products and good genes. Wagon.
Samantha is back in Ireland at the moment to star in panto at Limerick’s University Concert Hall. She’s playing the villainous stepmother in Cinderella and says “I’m way too natural at it!” howling once again. “It’s great fun, and it means I’ll be home for Christmas for the whole stretch, and it’s a nice short run as well. I’m really enjoying rehearsing and I know I’ll love the show itself as well.”
It’s work that often brings Samantha back home, but she says she loves that. “It’s weird, I came back earlier this year for a few weeks and ended up staying the guts of six months! Work opportunities just presented themselves, and I had brilliant fun presenting on the Six O’Clock Show. People alway ask me, are you going to come home for good, but at the moment I feel like it’s not necessary, and I’m quite happy going back and forth. Obviously my home and my husband and my life are all in LA, but I get to come home enough to the point where I’m not homesick. Sage always comes with me, and she’s young enough now that I have this freedom, so for now, it’s all good.”
While career and the ability to work is important to Samantha, she says that her family are her priority. “With hindsight, I see now that locked in what I was going to do for the rest of my life at a young age, and I’m actually quite an introvert now, believe it or not! I really have to put in the effort to be outgoing. I’m quite low key now, obviously my passion is singing, I will always sing but I realised I love being creative, whatever way that is, and I’m so lucky I have the freedom to do that. My main priority is my daughter and my husband, but I love being able to do a panto, a few weeks work and then back to being a full time mammy. I really appreciate that I have the choice, and that I have the ability to be with Sage all the time. She’ll be three in March, time goes so quickly.”
It does indeed; can you believe that Samantha was launched to pop stardom 18 years ago? She was only 16 when she signed her publishing deal to write music professionally, and her recording deal followed not long after. She went to Billie Barry’s stage school as a kid; I wonder if she always wanted to be a star?
“It was all by chance, my parents moved to Fairview in Dublin and it was around the corner, so they put me in there when I was 3. I think I’d a load of energy, it was probably as much to give them a break for an hour! There was never any pressure, but I just loved it, I took to it.”
Then in her mid-teens, she met pop svengali Louis Walsh and her career took off like a shot. “It happened fairly quickly, all of a sudden I was out of school, then I was recording and writing. But it was like a bubble, I remember we got the midweek sales for Gotta Tell You, I was in London at the time, and it was between me and Eminem for number one. I just remember not being able to believe people outside of Ireland were buying my song! You can do all the hard work and have no guarantees, and it was much harder to know back then, there was no social media.”
Does she ever miss being a pop star? “I genuinely do not, no,” she laughs. “Oh it was amazing, I went to so many countries, traveled the world, but it was just so nuts. I would only see airports, hotel rooms and venues… it was amazing and great to do at that age, an amazing experience. I have some stories! I should probably write a book but I can’t, I couldn’t put any of them in a book!”
Samantha caused a bit of a stir online earlier this year when she professed that she’d love to do Eurovision, with fans delighted by the idea. I ask her what’s happening there.
“I don’t know what’s going on, your guess is as good as mine!” she says. “It came from Twitter, somebody said I should do it and I said I totally would, but I haven’t been approached, no. I haven’t heard from the Eurovision powers that be, whoever they may be! If it was the right situation and the right song, I think it would be an honour to represent the country.”
And far from a one trick pony, it’s not just singing occupying her mind. She’s a movie in the works, hoping to be shot this year between Ireland LA. “We shot a sizzle reel for the producers and investors and it went really well, it’s based on a true story and I’m really excited about it!” It won’t be her first time on the big screen, having starred in Hollywood flick The Time Machine in 2002.
She’s no stranger to reality TV either, but is very picky about what she does. “I get approached about almost every single reality show that’s been out, but I turn almost everything down. I only do things I have a genuine interest in, like when I did Dancing On Ice back in 2008, it was because I loved watching figure skating growing up and thought it would be fun, then with Celebrity Masterchef Ireland, I absolutely love cooking and had genuinely been thinking of going to culinary school, but then Sage came along.”
So what else is planned for the new year? “In 2018 I want to expland, work on my brand.” I ask if she sees herself as Ireland’s answer to goop? “Ha, no, I don’t have a goop in me! But no, I don’t dread the new year but I never make resolutions because it’s like setting yourself up for failure and putting pressure on yourself. I do have a new mantra though, and that is ‘no’. I plan on being much more selective. I’m the type of person that finds myself agreeing to everything, and then think why did I do that?! So I’m going to be saying no without an excuse or an explanation, without apologising.”
As mentioned, she looks incredible, with abs to die for as you can see from our shoot. “Honestly, other than when I was nine months pregnant I don’t think I’ve ever been this heavy in my life, but you know what, I am very comfortable in my skin. I love food, eating out, and I love to cook. I’m like any woman in my thirties, fluctuating and a bit, and that’s all right! I have a toddler, sometimes I don’t get to the gym and it’s not a priority. But I like lifting weights if I get to it, blasting music and just getting to it.”
She’s also turning 35 in January. “I like the thought of 35, it feels solid and like this is a good age. I’m at my peak, I’m at my most comfortable and confident, and I’m in a good place. And I mean what’s the alternative?”
It’s actually hard to believe that she’s only 35, having had the career she’s had and fitting in so much, but it seems this is the phase of Samantha’s life where she’s most contented. She’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s sound, she’s successful, she’s happy… and really, what more can a gal ask for?
This article first appeared in the January issue of Stellar Magazine. Our February issue is on shelves now.
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