Talking meal deals and Madonna with gay Twitter’s ‘laydeh’ in waiting, Charity Shop Sue.
Photography by VIDEO MAT
For many of the folk out and about on this miserable November lunchtime, it’s simply another grey Friday in West London, about as “feel-good” as doing the washing up in a long-sleeve, with the added dampness essential for an authentically ‘British’ autumn. For this budding journalist, however, today is the day I come face-to-face with the biggest star the Midlands has seen since the rise of Julie Walters and Jason Statham, a talent with more cultural impact than the pair combined, might I add.
I arrive at a charity shop somewhere along the über opulent Portobello Road, a location renowned for its historic market stalls and amazing vintage fashion scene. Almost instantly I recognise Charity Shop Sue’s trademark amber pixie cut, British Heart Foundation red lips and fresh-from-the-Next-catalogue striped tee and blue cardi combo from across the street. The Instagram star is hard at work, bobbing and weaving around the shop with the effervescence of a catherine wheel, notably as comfortable in this pre-owned paradise as she would be on stage with the drag queen’s and ballsy naked men that frequent G-A-Y’s weekly stripping contests, or strutting down the runway for kooky Brighton-based fashionistas Rottingdean Bazaar.
Sue made a name for herself on Instagram, where she still regularly uploads the hysterical videos that have made her a household name among the likes of Lily Allen, mega-fan Rylan Clark-Neal and pretty much every gay person I know. Her allure comes from the reality of what she does, and what you see is certainly what you get with Sue; a mischievous laugh, plenty of catchphrases and an entrepreneurial drive that practically seeps out of her pores. The Instagram fame hasn’t changed her though, she’ll be the first to tell you that.
In fact, her local-celebrity status is only boosting the profile of Sec*hand Chances, the charity shop she runs in her eccentric market home-town of Bulwell in Nottingham. Sue is currently the star of an online documentary series about the goings-on of the store, shot by a filmmaker from the local area in 2014. Despite her objections to the project hitting our screens a mere five years later, worried about how she and her workers may be portrayed, the series had quickly earned cult-classic status, showing that the life of a secondhand connoisseur is not all vintage Chanel two pieces and selling jumbo Dior necklaces to Miley Cyrus (we’re looking at you Pechuga Vintage). Oh no, prepare for rowdy locals, anxious OAP’s and more than a few shitty surprises.
We spoke to the lovely ‘laydeh‘ below about her raving days, keeping her fellow cast members on their toes and her stance on meal deals…
Photography by TOM MORLEY
Retail can be a pretty boring place, I know from experience, what are your best tips to stay active on the job?
I tell you what right, make sure you’ve got good music. Now, I’m all for keeping the team happy, it’s not just about myself… but I am the manager. So I put my own playlist together, some of the girls they don’t like it at all, and they get very upset. They’re like, “Sue, you’ve had that on for 4 weeks!” The thing is though darling, I’m the one that’s selling, I keep them all on their toes, so I put on good music. And also, if the customer is happy, that’s gonna get you vibing. You do a bit of research, some songs increase how much people spend in the shop, so if you put a good track on all of a sudden the taking for that day is gonna go up 5%. Those kinds of things, it keeps the retail interesting, keeps the buzz in the shop going, you know? You’ve got to think of these things.
If this was BBC3 and we were on Snog, Marry, Avoid… who would you pick out of cast members Vera, Kersch and Viki?
I’m gonna have to say Kirsch, cause she is my main girl, she’s always got my back when I’ve had trouble because you know… I’ve got a past. Sometimes I get a few people coming in saying, “Oi, give me your money out of your till!”, and I’m like “Excuse me…” You know, people I’ve owed money to from years ago. Come on, forget about it, it was only a tenner here and there. Kirsch has my back, and that’s the type of person you want in marriage, they’re with you for life
I would snog my girl Viki, because you know what, I’m not just saying this, we have been out, and when she’s got that Panda hat on… she looks lovely! I’d snog her, and I would avoid Vera, and I know she’s not gonna like it but the thing is she can be very annoying and she can be very rude. She brings the whole energy of the shop down, but there’s nothing I can do with her. Can’t get rid of her. She’s been there ten years, she’s just like a bloody piece of the furniture, there you go.
Who’s your hero in life?
Madonna. Madonna. You know, I’m seeing her in February. I am. I am! Honestly. I’m going, because you know what right, I’ve had it when I was younger, when I’ve been in between jobs and stuff, and I put Madonna on and I tell you what, it makes me well up. All of a sudden I go from 1 to 10, it’s just the stuff. She’s my icon.
What’s your favourite song by her?
I like ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ because that’s what I used to say to my dad when I was younger and he used to try and have a go. He was a market trader you see, lovely guy, but I used to put it on to him when he’d be like, “Sue you’re not doing this! Sue you shouldn’t be seeing that guy!” I’d put it on and say, “Daddy don’t preach to me darling,” you know what I mean?
You’ve been a muse to Rottingdean Bazaar, and you’re beloved by the fashion world, Would you ever consider doing your own line?
Well! I have got a little bit of a past, I did fashion I went to Paris and Milan a long long time ago, they didn’t get me. That’s one of the times when I was down and my dad said ‘get your bloody life together’. Would I do my own line? I’ve seen how busy it is and it is hard work, but I tell you what, I do love Rottingdean Bazaar you know. If they ever said to me, ‘Sue, right, how about a collab? Do you want to do a collaboration?’ I’d say ‘why bloody not darling? Come on, stick some bloody dots all over me, let’s raise some money for charity.’ Let’s do it! Let’s design some bloody clothes.
I’d definitely buy every piece
Would you? Well could you tell them that please!
Photography by VIDEO MAT
If you were anything in this shop, what would you be?
Tell you what I would be, that little wooden… I don’t know what type of bird that is, like a Herring? I’d do that because you know what, maybe I’ve not hit my target that week. It gets me down because I want to help people, and I’d like to be that because in those moments of time I’d like to fly away like a bird – into another charity shop where people fucking respect me.
You’re from Nottingham, have you ever been to Stealth?
My nephew used to go to Stealth, and I have been in there ‘cause sometimes me and the girls have been to Rescue Rooms because you’ve got the theatre around the corner. Stealth, to be honest darling, I know what it’s about because I’m not stupid, my glow-stick days are over… I’ve been there, I can’t do it anymore, I’ve gotta be up and doing the shop, and if I’m out all night raving I look like shit the next day. It takes me about five days now, I don’t look right I don’t feel right and I feel very down – I suppose that’s why they call it a comedown. Very bad.
What’s your favourite thing about Bulwell?
Bulwell Bogs! You take the ‘old family there, you make a picnic, some places you go they try and get your money and some families can’t afford it, there’s this bloody supermarket up the road where you can go and get some sarnies (sandwiches), slap a bit of butter on for the kids and even feed the pigeons while you’re there! People lose their virginities in ‘The Love Tunnel’, that is a Bulwell thing. It’s a beautiful, iconic place. My fave.
I’ve seen some of the latest episodes, and I just have to ask, what is Poophoria?
Right, ok sweetheart. Have you googled it?
I can’t say that I have.
It’s a bit embarrassing for her but what it actually is, when you have a poo, a number two, some people when it’s going out have an orgasm at the time. So when you hear her, it’s not like she’s having trouble, because she has quite a lot of fibre Gloria. She has supplements and all sorts, she’s got very regular toilet habits, but yes, that’s what it is.
You’re speechless but I bet you wish you had it, come on!
Obviously at the moment you’re the star of your very own documentary, but if Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Madonna. And actually, I tell you who I do love, RuPaul. I would be in awe, Madonna is my icon, but in fact, do you know Rebecca More (More Milf), she’s a laydeh. I love Baga Chipz. There are just these iconic people, so one of them. If one of those played me in a Hollywood movie, that’s it! I’m not doing anything else, I’m shutting the shop up and I’m going home, life’s done, thank you!
Have you got a favourite meal deal combo?
If I’m honest, what I like to do is go in when it’s reduced at the end of the day, save the money and put the change in the pot, for charity, yeah? I think it’s too expensive now so I’ll just wait, sometimes I even go into town at night because Nottingham city do more, in Bulwell everyone’s got it by 6. So I go into town about 9:55 before it shuts and do a little supermarket sweep. Do you love Rylan? I love Rylan you know, can I say, he’s a sweetheart. And also, actually, another one to play me. Me and the girls love him, we love him!
Doing anything nice this weekend?
I tell you what, there’s a little fair down the Embankment in Nottingham. Then I’ve got