Pauline Tomlin: I learned how to look confident

Pauline Tomlin. PIC: James Hardisty
Pauline Tomlin. PIC: James Hardisty
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Her first job was in Leeds market and she only lasted a day - but decades later Pauline Tomlin is teaching others how to achieve. Jayne Dawson reports.

Pauline Tomlin has given up her job as a teacher to work as a life coach. She is a divorced mother of three and lives in Burley, Leeds.

I took my first job because it was the only one I could get. That was back in the early ‘80s and the fact that I am black had something to do with it. I was very innocent and I didn’t realise at first, but I soon did. The job was on a fabric stall and I was given no lunch break or even toilet break, so I didn’t go back.

Not enough people have given me advice, I tend to be the one giving it. My mum and dad were not those sort of parents. They came from Jamaica and met here in Leeds. They had three children but then they split up so my mum was a single parent. I don’t remember my father being in our family home, but he was in our lives.

My guilty pleasure? That’s a hard one. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I’m a vegetarian and I eat healthily. I’m not a goody two shoes, it just fits me. I will, however, happily dance along to Rick Astley while vacuuming.

The thing I hate most is lying. It makes me angry. people lie for selfish reasons, not to spare other people. If you love someone and something is painful to say then you must still say it, just do it with love. It is not right to make a judgment that someone else should not know something.

The person I would most like to meet is Maya Angelou. Her wisdom was grounded in life experience. She had a beautiful way of packaging what she had to say.

My favourite weekend would be spent in a log cabin in the Dales, if I was in England. But there are beautiful places all over the world so I would also love to wander around Barcelona, or relax somewhere hot and tropical. I think it is great that people like me can now think globally, when I was younger I wouldn’t have imagined it. That wasn’t for the likes of us. But life changed not only for me but for my sister - she lives in Canada now and has just graduated, aged 47.

My advice to my teenage self would be to not underestimate who you are or what you can achieve. I did suffer some racism. I can still feel the lurch in my stomach now, it shakes you. I would hold everything inside and I became quite bookish. I would tell my mum that someone at school had called her a monkey and she would just say that they didn’t know any better.

I use social media. I am on Facebook and Twitter and I have a blog which I am proud of.

My philosophy on life is that we are here to connect. I am spiritual but not religious.

I am ambitious but it has taken me a long time to find my direction in life. I became a teacher but I have just given up my job as head of English to be a part time supply teacher so I can work as a life coach.

Lots of people limit themselves through their own thoughts, which is what I used to do. Now I choose how I think and feel. I have had a tough life and I have learned things I now need to share.

I have always worked.When I was made redundant I got a job in a school as a teaching assistant. I was good at it and eventually I qualified as a teacher.

I couldn’t live without fruit. There are not many days go by when I don’t eat it.

I am too controlled to do anything embarrassing, but I do remember a moment when I was shamed. At school I was made to sit in the hall with my hands on my head as a punishment for something I hadn’t done. Everyone was walking past to lessons and looking at me.

It might surprise people to know that I learned to play the violin to grade seven. I used to sing in bands when I was younger so people see me as very soul and funk, but I used to play my violin at Town Hall concerts.

My childhood was about responsibility. I meant I learned how to look confident even when I didn’t feel it. I was the eldest so I was mum when my mum wasn’t there.

Here is my joke. A man was driving along when he saw a man with three heads, no arms and one leg.

He stopped the care and said: “Hello, hello, hello, you look ‘armless, hop in.”

My first kiss was with a boy called Ian at his house when I was doing backing vocals for his band. I was about 18 or 19. I was a late developer.

The first record I bought was Milk and Alcohol by Dr Feelgood. At school I was a black punk, I had a Grace Jones haircut, I was quite edgey.

The best thing about Leedsis that it is a pretty city with a lot of its architecture preserved. It also holds some great events, and is full of friendly people.