I almost didn't go to the audition for role that's simply the best
She swapped the gym for Tina Turner. Last September, Emi Wokoma was invited to audition for a new musical about the iconic singing star.
Emi, who was working as a fitness instructor at the time, admits she was initially doubtful about the opportunity.
"My first instinct was that I wasn't going to go," said Emi, who is starring in Soul Sister at Hull New Theatre this week.
"I was quite nervous – I didn't think I would be good enough. There are plenty of feisty black female perform- ers who I thought would be more likely to get the job.
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"But I was encouraged, so I got my shift covered at the gym and went along."
Two days later, she had a recall – though was still uncertain about the role.
She said: "I'm quite a confident person, but I am also realistic.
"I had got into the routine of another career that was suitable for me and I was settled.
"I am a practical person and not a dreamer – so I simply thought I would see what happened. And here we are."
Soul Sister, which has seen Emi appear in the West End, follows the violent relationship between Tina and her ex-husband, Ike Turner.
The couple met when Ike was a struggling musician in his mid-twenties and Tina an aspiring teenage singer, then known as Anna Mae Bullock.
They proved a potent mix, on stage and off – while they had established themselves as major stars during the 1960s, their relationship was scarred by domestic violence.
"He renamed her Tina and made her the leader of his band," Emi said. "As the relationship crumbled, their careers blossomed.
"She was 45 when she finally left him after years of domestic abuse.
"I think why she stayed with him so long was that she understood his troubles.
"People are not bad for the sake of being bad. "Ike saw his dad beaten and left for dead by white men when he was a child and then struggled as a black musician.
"It all affected him, so when he saw his girl getting more attention than him, he could not express how he felt and lashed out.
"She understood that struggle. It's the same as when someone badmouths a friend, you want to protect them.
"She was protective of him but it got to the point where she had to leave."
Emi first heard Tina's music when she was growing up – it was a favourite choice for her mum and dad's parties.
"I think of her as a true original," she said. "If you look at someone like Beyoncé now, her first video was an homage to Tina Turner – so without her lead, we wouldn't have those sort of artists now.
"Tina set the path. She was this pretty raw performer, which is what I love about her music.
"It has been fun getting into the role. She is an outgoing person and friends believe I am, too, though I think I am quite reserved.
"It is nice to play the diva in a positive sense."
What happens next, though, is not quite as clear cut.
"Hopefully the show will lead to something, but I am a practical person," she said.
"You might well find me back in front of the fitness class."