Fri 13 Mar 2020
Elesha Paul Moses has paid her dues in the entertainment world; she’s been striving for success in the music business for 20 years, via traditional grafting and TV talent shows.
And now, she’s taken her singing career to a new level starring in the critically-acclaimed international stage sensation Whitney: Queen Of The Night, travelling the country throughout 2020. The latest tour follows five sold-out performances at The Savoy Theatre in London’s West End and performances across the UK, Europe and Brazil during 2019.
Elesha, 39, who lives in Hampshire and grew up in Surrey, appeared on The X Factor in 2010, alongside One Direction, winner Matt Cardle and in the same category as the big-haired, bongo playing wild card contestant Wagner. She then reached the battle rounds – twice – on The Voice, working with will.i.am in a duo in 2013 and Tom Jones as a solo act a year later. She had previously been mentored by Mathew Knowles – Beyonce’s dad – on a Channel 4 talent show.
She’s also touring the UK as Tina Turner in smash hit new mammoth theatre show What’s Love Got To Do With It? which is entering its second year.
Elesha spoke to Rhodes Media about her love of performing and recreating the stunning Whitney vocals.
Whitney: Queen Of The Night has been touring for a few years now. When did you join the show?
I’ve been touring with the show since 2018, initially understudying Whitney and as a backing singer, then moving into the lead role, which continued throughout 2019 – including the amazing West End shows and some gigs in Brazil. I just love that feeling of being on a big stage.
You perform as both Whitney Houston and Tina Turner – they’re very different artists. What’s it like recreating these iconic female performers live on stage?
It’s been a big learning curve, in the sense of keeping pushing on with everything I do for the two shows.
Doing Whitney as well as Tina, you need a huge amount of stamina – vocally, physically and mentally, but in such different ways for each performance. Tina is much more the physical challenge, Whitney is the vocal challenge. But working hard to be at my best in both areas pays off on both shows.
And it’s funny really. They are such different sounding performers! Each role strengthens my voice in such different ways, but that only helps make me better in each show.
You’re so exposed performing as Whitney, there’s nowhere to hide as it’s a much slower, more mellow pace of show. I actually had to focus more on Whitney when we started doing the two shows together, even though I’d been in Queen Of The Night for longer, to keep that laid back vibe.
Compare that to Tina and What’s Love Got To Do With It?... Once you’re on stage, there’s no letting up from the moment you start. I love that very strong contrast between the two.
You have such a busy schedule with both shows running alongside each other. With two young children, how do you manage that with family life?
Mark, my husband is amazing; I have the best man in the world. I definitely couldn’t do it without him.
My eldest daughter Kookie is turning eight soon, and she’s only ever known me to be a singer. So, in some ways, she’s used to it but occasionally she’ll say something. My little one Teddy doesn’t know any different to the schedule we now have, I’m lucky she’s so young.
For me, I’m able to shut it off to an extent, as I know this is all about building for their future – whatever job you have, you have to balance family life. I also think we’re so lucky to have things like Facetime now so you can catch up easily and see them if you are away for a few days at a time.
What’s the secret to the lasting popularity of singers like Whitney?
I’d say Whitney audiences are 80 or 90per cent female – it’s people getting together for a real girls’ night out. Her songs have never gone away. People still know the hits, I Wanna Dance With Somebody or I Will Always Love You. You do those songs and they’re all over it, it’s not fading away.
It’s such a shame that Whitney’s life ended too soon. I sometimes wonder what it’d be like if Whitney had come through her problems, if she was still alive and I was able to see her live.
What’s your favourite Whitney song to perform?
From Whitney, Love Will Save The Day, I just love the music and singing that song.
How did you get into singing and performing as a tribute artist?
When I first realised I could properly sing I was about 13 – I was always mimicking others and that’s how I taught myself. But that real big belting voice wouldn’t necessarily come out. Then, listening to people like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, those kind of artists, was when it really came to me.
I was singing in a club and a friend said ‘We should do something different’, I said ‘Shall we try Whitney or something?’. I went home, put down a couple of lines of Whitney and thought ‘Oh, I can sound like her’, and it went from there.
I wasn’t necessarily a die-hard fan as a kid, but things were different; when I was growing up, we were out playing on our bikes and running in fields. You had tapes or albums maybe, but you didn’t listen in the same way as kids do now to get into singing like their favourite stars. Music wasn’t so available where you click a button and have an album on your phone. But then the older I got, the more I appreciated the music and her voice and character.
I’ve never done a typical tribute show; I didn’t go out there and speak with an American accent, I never performed ‘Whitney as Whitney’. I performed Whitney’s music as Elesha; it was always me singing how she sang. And Queen Of The Night is the same. I work really hard with her actions, how she holds the mic and bring those elements of Whitney to the show.
You’ve been working in the music industry for a long time – you started writing with a record company aged just 17 and have been on TV reality talent shows. Can you tell us about the switch to the world of tributes?
I never used to do tributes, I was striving to do my own stuff and put out my own music. Things happened in my life, and I was in between things not really knowing what to do. I didn’t know how to get into the tribute business, but at the same time I felt that by doing that I would miss doing my own thing too.
But I’d done my album and did lots of trying to make it before doing the TV shows. I’d tried the traditional, old fashioned methods to get signed. It was just never meant to be. So, I decided it was time to take it away from being me and into being someone else.
How was your time on The X Factor and The Voice – and what did you learn from the experience?
When I did X Factor – in 2010, 10 years ago, wow – I was in the year of One Direction and Cher Lloyd, and Wagner, he was in Louis Walsh’s Overs category with me, but I went home after judges’ houses.
I was asked to audition for The Voice, and I first went when I was pregnant with Kookie – but I realised the live shows would be on when I was due with her so had to back out. But I auditioned again in 2013 as part of a duo [getting to the battle rounds in Team will.i.am], and again in 2014 [again, getting to the battle rounds with Team Tom].
Doing both of these did give me a boost at the time, even though I got so close but ultimately wasn’t successful. I don’t know what people think of me as an artist having done those shows, but I’m so grateful and glad to have moved on to what I’m doing now.
I’m 99.9per cent – no, make that 100per cent sure I wouldn’t be tempted to do it again.
Forget being mentored by Louis Walsh – tell us about working with Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s dad!
So, yes, I did a TV show a long time ago, where I was mentored by Mathew Knowles – Beyoncé’s dad – that was pretty mad. It was Chancers on Channel 4’s T4, and I won the chance from UK auditions to spend a month in Houston, America, where the group of us chosen had various challenges. Mine was to sing at the same studio where Whitney Houston had recorded, little did I know what was to come all these years on.
But, that experience gave me a really tough skin, to know that whatever you do don’t worry about what’s happened in the past; it’s all brought me to where I am now.
Tickets are on sale now for the show at Derby Arena on Web 18 Mar. Don't miss out on this fantastic night.