Born in London, England, her early appearances were in British TV sketch comedy shows with Rik Mayall in "Kick Up the Eighties" and "Three of a Kind" with Lenny Henry and the English comedian David Copperfield. She also appeared with French and Saunders & Ruby Wax in "Girls on Top".
In 1984, she had great success as a singer on the legendary punk label Stiff records, although she herself was more comic romantic than punk. She had six songs on the British Top 100 in less than two years, including her first hit "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places", "My Guy", whose video featured the British politician Neil Kinnock, and the international hit "They Don't Know". Her songs were over-the-top evocations of 1960s and 1970s pop music with an 1980s edge, "somewhere between Minnie Mouse and the Supremes" as England's Melody Maker put it, or "retro before retro was cool", as a retrospective reviewer wrote in 2002.
She has appeared in films that include Love You to Death, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Household Saints, and Small Time Crooks. She is also the cartoon voice of Little Lulu.