A lot of people don’t recognise Kate Nash these days. Even some of those who have been watching her in the hit Netflix show, GLOW, haven’t realised that sweet-natured lady wrestler Rhonda is the same woman whose North-London-infused pop, dry wit and cute but cutting lyrics had become a pop-culture phenomenon back in 2007.
But not because, despite what BuzzFeed might think, she’s past it.
Instead, it’s a lot to do with the fact that, despite her breakthrough album being released over a decade ago, she has been frozen in time by the media: “The press have always used pictures of me when I was 18, and my height of success was when I was 18… It used to frustrate me more when I was younger because I was trying to grow and have people catch up with me. I was like let me do different types of music, let me look different, let me change what I wanna wear.”
She’s right, though. Although she is now 30, Google Images is still full of pictures of her fresh-faced and rosy-cheeked, in vintage dresses and oversized cardies, or with two-tone victory rolls. If anyone was ever put in a box, it was Nash. So much so that her record label dumped her by text after she tried to change her musical direction.
She has since been candid about how the industry chews people (especially women) up and spits them out, how her looks were scrutinised and her experience of sexual assault.
Being unfiltered and honest in this way comes naturally to Nash, whose upbringing was in a home of “opinionated and loud people” – though she’s aware that any woman speaking openly in the entertainment industry runs the risk of being characterised as angry. But, despite peppering her thoughts with swearing and straightforwardly explaining cold hard industry truths, Nash is not a ranter.
If you’re not angry you’re just fucking asleep or in denial, honestly… I’m not going to take a valium and pretend everything is fine
“It’s just funny because you have to almost decide whether you’re one thing or not,” she says. “I’m not an angry person. I’m very positive, like, I’m an idealist. I think I’m very romantic; I have dreams for the future. I love the planet and animals and I want to change the world. But I don’t think you can care about changing the world and not be fucked off. I mean, Donald Trump is the president – of course I’m angry. And if you’re not angry you’re just fucking asleep or in denial, honestly… I’m not going to take a valium and pretend everything is fine.”
Reflecting on her early career, she had a moment of realisation a couple of years ago: “I was looking at these 18-, 19-, 20-year-old musicians that I know and how I would treat them and how I care for them, and thinking about myself in that position with all these old men and how they would treat me and care for me. That makes me pretty pissed off; no one actually cared about my wellbeing and did anything. But then made loads of money off me and then kind of fucked me over.”
It’s ironic that, having started her career surrounded by old men, she is now in the rare position of working on a Los Angeles set surrounded by women as part of GLOW, Netflix’s breakout show about 80s ladies’ wrestling.
“It’s fucking amazing. I love it,” she gushes. “I mean, I have a lot of women around me in my music career, too. I have an all-female band, a lighting girl and a lot of women on the road with me, so for me that environment just feels so healthy and safe and positive and confidence-boosting.”
She raves about the fun she’s having with castmates and the camaraderie of the costume department: “It’s like, people come out of their trailers and we’re all just like ‘Oh, my God, what are you wearing today?’ I just can’t believe that women wore thong leotards to work out in. They actually did that. It’s fucking amazing. I can’t believe it was a normal style. I had a pair of jeans [on the show] and they were my enemy. They looked amazing but they were the biggest wedgie I’ve ever had in my life. Camel-toe blockers are used a lot.”
Even when facing her biggest challenges, she felt supported: “Having female creators, you feel like you really can talk to them about the choices that are being made for your character. I did my first nude scene, for example, and I don’t think I would have felt that comfortable doing that with male creators and an all-male cast. I had women that I could talk to when I felt nervous about it or upset about it. And it was really empowering, actually, because I just feel like our bodies are so political and that’s just so fucking exhausting.”
Nash uses the word empowering a lot when talking about the set of GLOW, making it sound like a sort of blissful, lycra-clad feminist utopia. After a year of horrifying #MeToo stories, it is a relief. Could her experience be evidence that there might just be hope at the end of the tunnel? Let’s hope so.