Lena Zavaroni was a phenomenally talented Scottish singer who made history as the youngest artist to have a record in the top ten of the UK Albums Chart. Lena accomplished the accomplishment at the tender age of ten, a record that she still holds. She was hailed as a kid genius who earned a chance to perform on the TV show ‘Opportunity Knocks,’ winning five episodes in a row. She appeared on the ‘Royal Variety Show’ as a 13-year-old teenager, sharing the stage with Lucille Ball, Barbara Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. She was also asked to host a number of television shows and even emceed her own. Her glittering professional career, however, was severely harmed when she began to exhibit symptoms of anorexia nervosa, a severe eating problem that plagued her until her untimely death at the age of 34. She was diagnosed with serious depression at the age of 15, and she spent the rest of her life bouncing between hospitals. Her parents’ divorce and her mother’s suicide, which occurred just months after her marriage, rendered her a near-invalid as her despair and anorexia worsened. Following a procedure at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, she died of bronchial pneumonia after a chest infection. Lena Zavaroni brilliantly epitomizes the negative consequences of early celebrity and excessive public and media attention.
Her Childhood and Adolescence
Lena Zavaroni was born on November 4, 1963, to an Italian-Scottish family in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Her father, Victor Zavaroni, was a vocalist and her mother, Hilda, was an accordionist from Genoa. Her parents owned and operated ‘Zavaroni’s,’ a fish and chip shop in Rothesay, Isle of Bute.
Lena began singing at the age of two and frequently performed in local bars with her father during her childhood. In 1973, she grabbed the notice of Tommy Scott, a music producer, while performing as a band member with her uncle and father.
Tommy Scott, a music producer, introduced Lena Zavaroni to Philip Solomon, who passed her on to his wife, Dorothy Solomon, who became her manager. She moved to Glasgow with her mother to audition for a TV show called ‘Opportunity Knocks’ before relocating to London to study as a ballet vocalist.
The Career of Lena Zavaroni
Lena’s audition for Hughie Green’s ‘Opportunity Knocks’ proved to be a huge success, as she was named the winner of five consecutive events on the programme in 1974. Her CD, ‘Ma! He’s Making Eyes At Me,’ was released shortly after, and it was an anthology of iconic pop songs.
The album ‘Ma! He’s Making Eyes At Me’ reached number eight on the UK Top 10 Album Chart. Lena, who was just ten years old at the time, became the UK’s youngest singer to have an album in the top ten, an accomplishment that has yet to be duplicated by any other artist.
She dropped out of primary school after the release of her CD and moved to London to enroll in Philip Solomon and Dorothy Solomon’s Italia Conti Stage School. She studied ballet under the Solomons’ tutelage and lived with them.
In 1974, Lena joined Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra for a charity event in Hollywood. She then appeared as a guest on ‘The Carol Burnett Show,’ followed by singing appearances on ‘The Morecambe and Wise Show,’ and the ‘Royal Variety Show,’ where she sang for the queen.
Lena Zavaroni performed in the White House for Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States. Stax Records, an American record label, agreed to promote and distribute her tracks in the United States. She did not, however, have the same amount of success in the United States as she did in her native country.
Despite starring in a number of television shows and programs in the United States, as well as singing in live concerts, Lena remained mainly disliked in the United States. Her debut album was not even included in mainstream music or record rankings such as the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ or the ‘Mainstream Top 40.’
While studying at London’s Italia Conti Stage School, Lena met Bonnie Langford, a child star, and the two built a friendship that lasted until the latter’s death. Both kid prodigies starred in LWT’s (London Weekend Television) one-off television show “Lena and Bonnie” in 1978.
In September 1978, the BBC broadcasted ‘Lena Zavaroni on Broadway’ in the United States. In 1979, Zavaroni starred in a TV series called ‘Lena Zavaroni and Music,’ which was taped and produced expressly for her by the BBC.
In 1980, she appeared in another BBC programme, ‘Lena,’ which followed the same pattern as ‘Lena Zavaroni and Music’ and lasted three seasons and 18 episodes.
Major Projects of Lena Zavaroni
In her professional career, which spanned 13 years from 1974 to 1986, Lena Zavaroni, a promising vocalist whose life was tragically cut short by her premature death, published a total of 8 albums.
‘Ma! (He’s Making Eyes At Me),’ released by Philips Records in 1974, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now,’ and ‘Lena Zavaroni in South Africa’ are just a few of Lena’s significant albums.
Her Personal Experiences
The change from her Scottish council home to the Solomons’ stately home in London overawed Lena Zavaroni to the point where she grew uneasy. She admitted to being overwhelmed by London’s cosmopolitan atmosphere and fast-paced lifestyle, as opposed to Rothesay’s quiet pastoral setting.
When she began taking ballet classes (at the Italia Conti Stage School) among teenage girls who were taller and slimmer than her, she developed an inferiority complex. She began to feel terrible about her little size and obesity, and she assumed that eating less would instantly slim her down and make her appear taller.
Lena developed signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa, a dangerous eating illness, as a result of her desire to be slimmer like the other girls at the ballet academy. She, like most other child stars, struggled with issues such as childhood loss and the stress of dealing with excessive public attention.
She was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 13 and her weight dropped to 25 kg while attending ballet school. She was certain that her unusual weight loss was caused by her urge to wear tight-fitting dance clothes.
She was admitted to a Glasgow hospital at the age of 16, after appearing in a number of live events, TV shows, pantomimes, and concerts. She lost her celebrity as a kid sensation and spent the remainder of her life in and out of hospices.
Lena Zavaroni married her computer professional lover, Peter Wiltshire, in 1989 when she was 26 years old. She was on antidepressants for a long time and was unable to work on a regular basis. After 18 months of dating, they decided to call it quits. Peter struggled to cope with Lena’s introverted manner and her solitary lifestyle.
Hilda, Lena’s mother, committed herself in the same year she married, after taking an overdose of tranquilizers. Lena moved to Hertfordshire after her divorce to be closer to her father, who had remarried, and to live in a municipal flat. She was able to get by on state benefits for the next few years.
To deal with her depression, Lena had to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and take various psychiatric drugs. She begged doctors to help her with her sadness, and in 1999, she was admitted to the ‘University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff’ for a neurosurgical procedure to address her mental illness.
Lena Zavaroni appeared to be recovering from surgery, as she was pleasant and social. However, she developed bronchial pneumonia a few weeks later and died on October 1, 1999. She was laid to rest in Hertfordshire’s Hoddesdon Cemetery.
Estimated Net Worth
Lena has a net worth of about $5 million. The majority of Lena’s revenue came from her Yeezy sneakers. While she had overstated the size of her business throughout the years, the money she made from it was real–enough to make her one of the richest celebrities of all time.