Sunday Sun, August 26, 1990

Tiny Tina's big change

Once a  Young Talent Time starlet, Tina Arena has overhauled her image. She talks to reporter FIONA CHAPPELL.

Former Young talent Time starlet Tina Arena is back with a vengeance. Once the darling of Australian television, she is fast becoming the country's new queen of pop.

But unlike many young stars, Arena is not controlled by puppet strings - she is determined to make her own decisions. "When I was in Young Talent Time it wasn't me", Tina said. "They basically dictated to me how to dress and act". "Today I am totally in control of things. I am a strong person and I won't be overridden. "My image is not moulded. I can be straight, wild, eccentric or boisterous - whatever I feel the number calls for.

"Sometimes I want people to think, wow, she's a wild girl."

Arena exploded back into the limelight with her steamy singleI Need Your Body which soared to  number three on the rock charts. A couple of weeks ago she released the single The Machine's Breaking Down which she said is raunchier, sexier and more feminine. Tina Arena is clearly not the Tiny Tina we remember. While she still has puppy dog eyes and large, sensuous lips, the 22 year old has added maturity, determination and fire to her showbiz weaponry.

"When I was growing up I was paranoid about my lips as it wasn't fashionable to have big lips", Tina said. But now the fashion has changed.

During her time away from the camera, she has also grown tougher. "I have had people say to my face I would never make it," Tina said. "But you just can;t take every criticism to heart."

Through hard work she is at last showing her critics that she not only has an outstanding voice but that she can dance and act. She has a starring role in David Atkins' song and dance show Dynamite which is touring Australia.

Arena believes she was destined for stardom. She said she was born under the right starsign. "Scorpio's enjoy socialising," she said. "They are friendly, ambitious and extroverted people and they are good lovers. "Scorpios can be nasty if they are pushed."

Instead of showing temper, Arena has fought off her critics with her sense of humour. "You have to be able to laugh at yourself" she said. "There are many pits you can fall into so that if you took all criticisms seriously you would end up being a nutcase. "And I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinions."

Arena first hit the public spotlight in the television series Young Talent Time which she left seven years ago. "It was probably the best grounding in the country for entertainment. The show was part of Australian history," she said.

In 1987 Arena recorded several demonstration songs with Elton John's band in Sydney for Tour de Force and toured with Lionel Ritchie in Australia the following year. The past two years have seen Arena sing with Network, a nine piece band which mostly plays funk music. Now that Arena has found fame again she said she is striving for the credibility of her idols - Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. "I tasted fame when I was on Young Talent Time," she said. "The show was amazingly successful and I received recognition but you need more than that to make it - you need credibility."

She said the people she admired were true artists. "While I admire Madonna I think she is an entertainer. There is a big difference," Tina said. All these women are expert in every facet of the industry. "Streisand is a woman who has absolute credibility - she is smart, beautiful, intelligent and talented."

But Arena's talent and early recognition didn't give her exemption from the school of hard knocks. "Sometimes I wanted to give it all away and thought I never would succeed. I just wasn't happy," she said. "I am lucky my friends helped me through." That is all behind her for the moment. "I was very surprised at my single doing so well," Tina said. "I had no idea it would do so well. I still can't register how well that songs has done.

"I am very surprised at how fast the past few months have been, as I have been trying to get this success for a few years."

Arena is not resting on her laurels. She has set her sights on the future. "I have proved I have perseverance and ambition. One day I will win a Grammy and an Aria," she said. "That is my dream."