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Rula Lenska (born 30 September 1947) is an English-born actress of Polish extraction who is best known for a television ad that presented her as a celebrity, even though she was not widely known at the time the ad was produced.

She has acted on television and was married to actor Dennis Waterman. She has appeared extensively on television in the UK and is notable for her red hair and "40 a day" voice.

Early life

Born as Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska in St Neots, her father, Major Count Ludwik Maria Lubienski, had led Radio Free Europe in Polandmarker and was the chief of the Polish military mission in Gibraltar during World War II. Her mother was the former Countess Elzbieta Tyszkiewicz. She has two sisters, Gabriela and Anna, an actress who appeared in a few films in the late 1950s and early 1960.

Early career

Her big break was as Little Ladies' band member, "Q," in the Britishmarker TV series Rock Follies (1976) and its sequel Rock Follies of '77 the following year. By this time, she had renounced her title as a Polish countess; she has said of the decision, "In England it doesn't count, if you'll excuse the pun."

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she became famous in the United Statesmarker and Canada as well for her Alberto VO5 hair products commercials that began with a closeup of her stating, "I'm Rula Lenska." People assumed this was a product endorsement by a celebrity whose name the advertisers expected them to know, but it later was revealed that this was a marketing ploy. It worked, and thus in the United States she became famous for pretending to be famous. Most people in the U.S. were unaware that she had an acting career in the United Kingdommarker, and believed she was just a model.

At any rate, the "discovery" that she was not that prominent in the United States led to Alberto-Culver's eventual decision not to renew its contract with her, bringing an end to her commercial "starring roles."

Film, TV and radio

She has appeared in television series such as Special Branch,Minder, Boon, The Detectives, Footballers' Wives, To the Manor Born, One Foot in the Grave, Casualty,Space: 1999, Return of the Saint, Robin Of Sherwood, the Doctor Who serial Resurrection of the Daleks,Doctors and EastEnders, in which she played Frank Butcher's girlfriend, Krystal, in a Costa del Sol special (2002). She played Mrs Peacock in series 2 of Cluedo.

She starred with the late John Inman in the short-lived (six episodes were screened) 1981 series Take a Letter, Mr. Jones, with Lenska as an executive and Inman as her secretary. In 2003, she starred in the black comedy Paradise Grove alongside Ron Moody. She played the Lintilla clones in the original Radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and can also be heard in the third, fourth and fifth radio series which debuted on BBC Radio 4 in May 2005. She has presented travel programmes for the BBC and has recorded many audiobooks.

In the 2005 film Gypo, which was the first UK feature film to be made under Dogme rules, she plays a Roma refugee from the Czech Republicmarker living on a caravan site in Margatemarker.

Lenska can currently be seen as "Garvey" in the new independent Britishmarker film Jack Says. opposite her one-time EastEnders co-star Mike Reid, which was released on dvd on 22 September 2008. She lent her voice to the upcoming animation film Agent Crush.

Stage roles

She has toured extensively both in the UK and abroad and appeared in several West End shows (most recently in The Vagina Monologues and 84 Charing Cross Road) and in many pantomimes and is a regular performer (and part of the original cast) of the long-running touring play Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners produced by Marc Sinden.

In December 2005, she appeared on stage with the London Gay Men's Chorus for their Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay. She sang and danced while also hosting the show at Symphony Hallmarker in Birminghammarker, the ([73939]) Dome Concert Hall in Brightonmarker and the Barbican Centremarker in Londonmarker.

At the equivalent show in December 2006, comedienne Sandi Toksvig corrupted the lyrics of a song to suggest Lenska had a Christmas job in Debenhams. In 2007 she was to tour alongside Marti Webb and Sheila Ferguson in a new musical about menopause called Hot Flush.

Celebrity Big Brother

Her work on tour with the London Gay Men's Chorus is assumed to have prompted her participation in the UKmarker version of Celebrity Big Brother in January 2006. Her reason for accepting the invitation to go on the show was "I'm a crazy Polish countess who likes a challenge".

During the show, she declared that she had been a “Tibetan Buddhist” for many years but had been practising “Buddhism for the common man”, which has no hierarchical structure (Nichiren Daishonin), for two years.

On 13 January 2006, with fellow housemate, renegade British MP George Galloway, she attracted the attention of the media by indulging in a role-play task set by Big Brother, in which Galloway, as a cat, pretended to lick milk from her cupped hands, and Lenska stroked his ears and moustache. This incident has actually benefited Rula. After her departure from the Big Brother house she was offered a five figure deal to promote a famous cat food brand. The commercials are yet to be broadcast. On another occasion during her time in the BB house, when accidentally locked in the toilet, singer Pete Burns quipped, "Oh dear, what can the matter be, clapped out actress stuck in the lavatory." Lenska was voted out of the show on 20 January 2006, the third housemate of the series to be evicted, after Jodie Marsh and Faria Alam.

On 23 January, three days after eviction, she gave an interview to UK radio station BBC Radio 5 Live berating Burns for his attitude and unfriendliness towards her. She also expressed disgust at Burns's wearing of a monkey fur coat. The "cat" incident with Galloway was highlighted, but Lenska insisted that there was nothing "untoward" about it, and laughed off any suggestion that she was romantically interested in the controversial MP.Her chosen charities were Wildlife Line and Children in Crisis.

Personal life

She has been married twice, first to actor Brian Deacon (4 June 1977 – 1987), with whom she had one daughter, Lara Parker, and secondly, to actor Dennis Waterman, from 3 January 1987 until 31 March 1998. Both marriages ended in divorce.

She and Waterman met on the set of Minder in 1982. They divorced amid reports of his violence and heavy drinking. Waterman's daughter Hannah Waterman, was starring in EastEnders at the same time Lenska made her guest appearances there.


  • She is a blood donor and also an ardent conservationist, and has travelled widely raising awareness about the world's dwindling wildlife.

  • In an interview with The Independent, she described herself as "passionate, romantic and slightly eccentric". She is a heavy smoker and also practices yoga.

  • She can fly a Hot Air Balloon and has made TV documentaries about ballooning

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