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Name Suzanne Shaw

Born 1981

Job Singer and actress

Attended Oldham College,1998-99

Studied Btec, performing arts

Suzanne performed in her first show, Annie, when she was five. Since then, she has had a string of theatrical, TV and musical credits to her name. Her biggest break came in 2001 with the ITV show Popstars which catapulted her into in the newly formed pop band Hear'Say, alongside Kym Marsh, Myleene Klass, Noel Sullivan and Danny Foster. They had beaten 4,000 other hopefuls to form the group. Their debut single was the fastest-selling, non-charitable record ever, selling 1.3 million copies. Their album, Popstars, sold 1.2 million copies in Britain and led to their own television show. The group had two No 1 singles, and two other top 10 hits.

Suzanne is on tour until December 9 in the Rocky Horror Show.

I have had a handful of mentors along the way, but Joan Illingsworth from Oldham College is one of the best and someone I respect a great deal. She was my teacher and she still teaches, but it would be accurate to call her a dream-maker. She helped make my dreams come true.

Joan gave me confidence and belief and she taught me a lot about performing and much of what she told me has proved so useful. I can't thank her enough. She was always friendly and gave people respect. She made a mark on other people too. I was in panto at Milton Keynes and met this guy who was in my class at Oldham. We talked about Joan the whole time.

Joan introduced me to musicals like Chicago and Cabaret and the work of Bob Fosse which I love. I did my project on Fosse. The lectures were great.

They'd bring in people like agents, so you would get to know about the workings of show business.

The facilities were fantastic and there was the Grange Theatre next door to the college which we would use for our shows.

It had all the lighting and sound systems that were needed and there were also recording studios. The whole thing helped me become independent and brought me out of my shell. My confidence grew and it prepared me brilliantly for my career.

Going to Oldham College also showed that you don't have to go to Rada or Italia Conti to do well. My parents could not have afforded to send me to those places, but Oldham was just as good for me. I would recommend anybody in the Manchester area to go to there.

Being in Hear'Say was great fun. I have nice memories, but the advice I got in college was perfect. It was: be nice to people on the way up as you'll meet them on the way down.

I will be able to show my child the DVDs of Hear'Say and play the records and say that was what I once did. But college prepared me nicely for my work as an actress.

When I do musicals now, such as Joseph in the West End, I understand all the work that goes into them because I have studied the engineering and lighting side of it. It has helped me feel part of the whole team and not just a performer. I will always be thankful for my college days and especially to Joan Illingsworth.

Suzanne Shaw was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

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