Martine McCutcheon is a British pop singer and actress. Born Martine Kimberley Sherri Ponting in London in 1976, she endured a difficult upbringing thanks to an abusive father from whom she and her young mother spent much of her early life in hiding. She secured a place at the Italia Conti Stage School after receiving sponsorship from a local church trust. Her first acting role was in an advertisement for the U.S. drink Kool-Aid when she was 12. She won other bit parts on British television over the next few years, and appeared in the video for Enya's single "Caribbean Blue" as a fairy. At the age of 15 she formed the girl group Milan with two other Italia Conti students. They won a record deal and supported boy band East 17 on tour, but split up after failing to find mainstream success. She also lent her vocals to the dance hit "Are You Man Enough?" by Uno Clio, which entered the U.K. charts in 1995. Later that year she won the role of Tiffany Raymond on the soap opera Eastenders, one of the most popular shows on U.K. television. McCutcheon's character quickly became beloved by the show's viewers. When she left the show to pursue a pop career in 1998, 22 million viewers tuned in to see her character's death in a car accident.
In 1999 she released her first solo single, "Perfect Moment," which went straight to number one in the U.K. charts. Her debut album, You, Me & Us, was released soon after, and went double platinum in the U.K. Two further singles, "I've Got You" and "Talking in Your Sleep," also entered the U.K. Top Ten. McCutcheon's follow-up album was released in time for Christmas 2000, and was supported by the hit single "I'm Over You," which reached number two in the U.K. The album failed to match the sales of her debut, but still went gold with over 200,000 copies sold in the U.K. A brief hiatus from recording found McCutcheon playing Eliza Doolittle on the West End stage in My Fair Lady, for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award for best actress in a stage musical. Inspired by this, her third solo album was a selection of Broadway standards entitled Musicality. Despite a prime time TV special promoting the record, it was her least successful release to date, selling less than 60,000 copies in the U.K. McCutcheon subsequently found herself without a recording contract. In 2004 she starred in the worldwide hit movie Love Actually alongside Hugh Grant. ~ John Lucas