Jackie Clarke is no stranger to the spotlight, wowing Kiwi crowds for more than three decades with her maverick entertainment style. But with age, she's found fewer opportunities, so the 57-year-old diva decided to create her own.
"I love my wrinkles!" she declares. "They're an expression of the life and love I've experienced, and my humanity. So when the doors started closing on me, I just built my own house and opened my own doors, making my own opportunities."
Her determination to stay on the stage is hardly surprising, given she joined her first band, Marching Orders, at the age of 16, stole hearts with her rock group The Lady Killers, then spent the last three decades pursuing various other roles, including as a judge for New Zealand Idol and Saturday Live co-host.
"You have to really want to make it in this business in New Zealand because it's such a small country and it's hard to keep going. I'm proud of the fact I'm still here. I refer to myself as a hardy perennial," she laughs.
Her latest adventure includes touring a new show, Jackie Goes Prima Diva, around the small stages of New Zealand. She'll be showcasing exciting renditions of songs from iconic female artists, including Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Kate Bush and Lady Gaga, which she's avoided for most of her life because "they're too precious and too fabulous".
"I learned you can't take for granted the gift of performing in front of people," she says of her change of heart. "Coming out of Covid, I said, 'I'm going to shout these divas from the rooftops' because I've never had the guts to do it before. Now, I'm not going to let anything stop me doing exactly what I want to do."
Her husband of 30 years, film director Grant Lahood, 61, will also accompany her on tour.
"It's a real first in our relationship!" she explains. "My tour schedule is going to be really harrowing, so Grant offered to come and help cook meals, put up lights and look after me. It's going to be great."
The couple live in Auckland with their sons Stan, 23, and Ernie, 20, who Jackie is thrilled share her passion for music.
"They're both really into it," she reveals. "Stan sings and drums, but he hasn't made the leap to doing it in front of people yet. My fingers are crossed he will, but I'm keeping out of it.
"I think they see my job as something similar to a plumber or an accountant. It's nothing out of the ordinary for them because it's what I've always done. They love saying 'Mum, shhhh!' because I'm always singing around the house," she says, adding that her tour might bring Stan and Ernie some peace for a while.
"My favourite thing to do after wrapping up a busy work period is to just let my voice rest and not speak much for a couple of days," the glamorous singer tells. "But I'll go to a really big mall and just wander around, and treat myself to some fabulous little thing, and then sit and have a nice lunch on my own. There's nothing I love more than shopping.
"Although I do absolutely love The Beths and the uniqueness of Elizabeth Stokes' voice," she says of the Kiwi rock band. "I've taken one of her songs and I'm performing it in a more classic ballad style in Prima Diva because I just love the song writing. I find her so inspiring."
And the party doesn't end with her tour. Jackie will also perform with The Lady Killers, alongside her good friends Tina Cross, 64, and Suzanne Lynch, 72, in the Chatham Islands in January.
"I'll still be performing on stage in my 90s if I have my way!" she laughs. "People nowadays want to put you out to pasture once you turn 30, but I can honestly say I feel like I'm just getting the hang of this. I think it's an act of political defiance to keep performing at my age, but I'm literally in my prime. There's no stopping me!"
For dates, tickets and information about Jackie Goes Prima Diva, visit aotnz.co.nz
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