Rula Lenska

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Rula Lenska
Roza Maria Leopoldyna Lubienski[1][2][3]

(1947-09-30) 30 September 1947 (age 76)
Years active1965–present
  • (m. 1977; div. 1987)
  • (m. 1987; div. 1998)

Rula Lenska (born Roza Maria Leopoldyna Lubienski[1][2][3] 30 September 1947) is a British actress. She mainly appears in British stage and television productions and is known in the United States for a series of television advertisements in the 1970s and 1980s. She is known for the films Queen Kong and Aura, and she portrayed Claudia Colby in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street.

Lenska was married to the actors Brian Deacon (1977–1987) and Dennis Waterman (1987–1998). Both marriages ended in divorce.

Early life[edit]

Łubieński coat of arms

Lenska was born in England in the village of Diddington, near St Neots, Huntingdonshire, in a Polish resettlement camp that had previously been the EVAC American Military Hospital. Her birth was registered in nearby St Neots. Her family are members of the Polish nobility, bearing the Pomian coat of arms,[4] and before the war owned a castle and estate in Kazimierza Wielka, Poland. Her father, Major Ludwik Łubieński, was personal secretary to Józef Beck, Minister for Foreign Affairs in Poland before the German occupation of the country. Later, he became adjutant to General Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and was chief of the Polish military mission in Gibraltar during World War II. During the Cold War he headed the CIA-funded Polish Section of Radio Free Europe in Germany.

Her mother was Countess Elżbieta Tyszkiewicz, who escaped from Poland to Italy during the German occupation, but was captured with her own mother and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where they survived for two years.[5] Lenska has two sisters: Anna, an actress who appeared in films in the late-1950s and early-1960s, and Gabriela. Lenska was educated at the Ursuline Convent School in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

Lenska's big break was as the Little Ladies band member "Q" in the British TV series Rock Follies (1976) and its sequel, Rock Follies of '77, the following year. By this time, she had "discarded" her title as a Polish countess; she has said of the decision, "In England it doesn't count, if you'll excuse the pun."[6]

In the late 1970s, Lenska began to appear in commercials for the hair product Alberto VO5, which were shown on US television. Though she was known in Britain, she was almost unknown in the United States. In a Tonight Show monologue broadcast after the commercials started running, Johnny Carson asked "Who the hell is Rula Lenska?" and began using her name as a running joke on his show.[7] Around the same time, Jane Curtin played Lenska in a sketch on Saturday Night Live.[8] The ribbing culminated with a sketch on the short-lived 1980 variety program The Big Show, where Steve Allen dressed in drag to parody her as “Rula Shiksa" making a commercial by a swimming pool, and Lenska, making her first U.S. appearance, came onto the set to confront him. Allen was not told about her presence, it was a prank arranged by the show's producer Nick Vanoff, who kept her hidden during the entire rehearsal and filming, so he was legitimately shocked when she approached him. She delivered a punchline, “I’m Rula Lenska and you’re not!” and then pushed him into the pool.[9]


Lenska has appeared in the television series 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, Doctors, and EastEnders, in which she played Frank Butcher's girlfriend, Krystle, in a 2002 Costa del Sol special. In the 1970s, Lenska made it to the final five actresses short-listed for the role of companion Jo Grant in Doctor Who, and she later appeared in the serial Resurrection of the Daleks. She played Mrs. Peacock in series 2 of Cluedo. She also starred with John Inman in the short-lived series Take a Letter, Mr. Jones (six episodes, 1981), with Lenska as an executive and Inman as her secretary. She was also featured in the BBC serial Private Schulz broadcast in the same year.

In 1982 Lenska also appeared as a storyteller in five episodes of the BBC children's programme Jackanory, narrating traditional Polish folk tales. Lenska also starred in the black comedy Paradise Grove (2003). In 2009, Lenska joined the cast of Coronation Street as new character Claudia Colby, an old friend of Audrey Roberts. In May 2011, Lenska left the role to join the Calendar Girls tour in August 2011. In 2016, she appeared in a Christmas special episode of the comedy Inside No. 9. She reprised her role in Coronation Street in July 2018, before leaving the show again in April 2020. Lenska returned as Claudia for Norris Cole's funeral in September 2021, and returned again in August 2022.[10]


Lenska's film roles have included Soft Beds, Hard Battles (1974), Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975), Royal Flash (1975), Alfie Darling (1975), It Could Happen to You (1976), The Deadly Females (1976), and Queen Kong (1976) as Luce Habit. In the film Gypo (2005), which was the first UK feature film to be made under Dogme rules, she played a Romani refugee from the Czech Republic living on a caravan site in Margate. She starred in the independent British film Jack Says (2008), opposite her one-time EastEnders co-star Mike Reid. That same year she lent her voice to the animation film Agent Crush.


Lenska has toured widely, both in the British Isles and overseas, and has appeared in several West End shows, including The Vagina Monologues and 84, Charing Cross Road, and also in many pantomimes. She is a regular performer (and part of the original cast) of the touring play Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners.[citation needed]

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 Hall in Birmingham, the Dome Concert Hall in Brighton and the Barbican Centre in London.[citation needed]

At the equivalent show in December 2006, Sandi Toksvig corrupted the lyrics of a song to suggest Lenska had a Christmas job in Debenhams. In 2007, she toured alongside Marti Webb and Sheila Ferguson in a new musical about menopause called Hot Flush.[11] and hosted a mini-show at Lutterworth Piano Rooms 3 November 2012.[12]

Radio and voice[edit]

On radio Lenska played Lintilla and her clones in the second series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and was also in the fifth series which debuted on BBC Radio 4 in May 2005. She has presented travel programmes for BBC radio and has recorded various audiobooks including Peaches For Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris.[citation needed]

Celebrity Big Brother[edit]

Lenska's work on tour with the London Gay Men's Chorus is assumed to have prompted her participation in the United Kingdom version of Celebrity Big Brother in January 2006.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

On 13 January 2006, along with fellow housemate, Scottish politician and then-Respect Party MP George Galloway, she attracted the attention of the media by indulging in a role-play task set by Celebrity Big Brother, in which Galloway pretended to be a cat licking milk from her cupped hands, and Lenska stroked his ears and moustache. On another occasion during her time in the Big Brother house, she was accidentally locked in the toilet.

Personal life[edit]

Lenska has been married twice, first to actor Brian Deacon (4 June 1977 – 1987), with whom she had one daughter, Lara Parker (née Lara Deacon),[13][14][15] 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 1981 where their characters had a brief love interest. Some years after Lenska's second marriage ended, in a March 2012 interview with Piers Morgan, Waterman said: "It's not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her. She certainly wasn't a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different."[16][17] Via her friend, Denise Welch on Loose Women, Lenska said that she was relieved that he had now admitted beating her. Lenska had made allegations against Waterman shortly after their split and thought she could no longer be accused of lying.[18]

In 2016, Lenska was sentenced to a 16-month driving ban and ordered to pay a total of £526 after crashing her car while under the influence of alcohol. Her three-year-old grandson was a passenger in the car.[19]



Year Title Role Notes
1974 Soft Beds, Hard Battles Louise
1975 Alfie Darling Louise
Confessions of a Pop Performer Receptionist
Royal Flash Helga
1976 It Could Happen to You Rita
The Deadly Females Luisa
Queen Kong Luce Habit
1979 Jesus Herodias Scene cut
1981 The Seven Dials Mystery Countess Radzsky
2003 Paradise Grove Dee Perry
2004 Fakers Sylvia Creat
2005 Gypo Irina
2008 Jack Says Garvey
Agent Crush Olga Thyburn Voice role
2014 Bait Linda
2018 The Exorcism of Karen Walker Ada
2022 The Huntress of Auschwitz Amelia Kaminska
The Winter Witch Omi
2023 The Picture of Dorian Gray Narrator Voice role
Alice in Terrorland Beth


Year Title Role Notes
1965 Dixon of Dock Green Policewoman Uncredited
1971 The Doctors Josee Erlander 2 episodes
1973 Once Upon a Time Prince Charming Episode: "Buttons"
1974 Special Branch Lydia Episode: "Something About a Soldier"
Marked Personal Roz 2 episodes
1975 Edward the Seventh Hortense Schneider Episode: "The Invisible Queen"
The Brothers Fiona Lester Episode: "End of a Dream"
Space: 1999 Joan Conway Episode: "Alpha Child"
1976 Red Letter Day Ms. Fandom Episode: "Amazing Stories"
Rock Follies Nancy "Q" Cunard de Longchamps All 6 episodes
1977 Leap in the Dark Katerina Episode: "Dream Me a Winner"
Rock Follies of '77 Nancy "Q" Cunard de Longchamps All 6 episodes
1979 Return of the Saint Diana Lang Episode: "Hot Run"
BBC Play of the Month Gilda Episode: "Design for Living"
1980 The Cuckoo Waltz Holly Galinsky Episode: "A Love That Does Not Dim"
Leap in the Dark Harriet Episode: "Watching Me, Watching You"
The Big Show Herself Episode 7
1981 The Seven Dials Mystery Countess Radzsky Television film
Private Schulz Gertrude Steiner Series 1: Episode 4
Take a Letter Mr. Jones Joan Warner All 6 episodes
To the Manor Born Mademoiselle Dutoit Episode: "Cosmetics"
1982 BBC2 Playhouse Mabel Episode: "Aubrey"
Minder Kate Episode: "The Birdman of Wormwood Scrubs"
1983 Conversations with a Stranger Italian Woman Television film
1984 Doctor Who Styles Episode: "Resurrection of the Daleks"
Robin of Sherwood Morgwyn of Ravenscar Episode: "The Swords of Wayland"
1985 Minder Natasha Episode: "From Fulham with Love"
1988 Mr. H Is Late Bride Television film
Boon Renata Cartwright Episode: "Never Say Trevor Again"
1989 Minder Sandra Last Episode: "The Last Video Show"
1991 Cluedo Mrs. Peacock 6 episodes
Family Pride Eva Unknown episodes
An Actor's Life for Me Marjorie Episode: "May the Farce Be with You"
1992 Kappatoo Zeta 7 episodes
The Mixer Lady Pamela Osgood 2 episodes
1993 Stay Lucky Isabel Stevens 2 episodes
1994 The Detectives Duchess Episode: "Never Without Protection"
1996 One Foot in the Grave Fenella Fortune Episode: "Starbound"
2002 EastEnders Krystal 4 episodes
2005 Footballers' Wives Allana 1 episode
2006 Doctors Vicky Mullen Episode: "Blaze of Glory"
2007 M.I. High Vanessa Zeitgeist Episode: "Forever Young"
2009 Grandpa in My Pocket Princess Purpelovna Episode: "Princess Purpelovna's Plan"
2009–2011, 2018–2022 Coronation Street Claudia Colby Regular role; 149 episodes
2011 Ideal The Red King Episode: "The Red King"
2016 Casualty Vera Vintner Episode: "Where the Truth Lies"
Inside No. 9 Celia Devonshire Episode: "The Devil of Christmas"

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2013 The Night of the Rabbit Phosphera Voice
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief Baroness von Trebitz Voice

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Meet the Big Brother celebrities". BBC News. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b Brooks, Xan (6 January 2006). "Galloway enters Big Brother as unexpected house guest". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Polish dynastic genealogy,
  5. ^ Lenska, Rula (26 September 2013). Rula: My Colourful Life. The Robson Press. ISBN 978-1849545501.
  6. ^ Hauptfuhrer, Fred (14 April 1980). "This Is Everything You Wanted to Know About Rooo-La Lenzzz-Ka but Were Too Ashamed to Ask". People. 13 (15).
  7. ^ Zorn, Eric (18 January 2006). "Rula Lenska? Why, she's just showing some friends around London, of course". Chicago Tribune.
  8. ^ Saturday Night Live archive Archived 22 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ How to Be Funny by Steve Allen, pg. 243.
  10. ^ "'What am I good for?' Corrie episode to explore Audrey's sad suicide story". 7 August 2022.
  11. ^ Blackburn, Anna (17 April 2007). "Hot Flush! Review". BBC News.
  12. ^ "An audience with... actress Rula Lenska". Lutterworth Mail. 30 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Personal". The Official Rula Lenska Website. Archived from the original on 13 August 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Last word with… Rula Lenska". Candis Magazine. Newhall Publications. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  15. ^ "Lara 'Deacon' Parker Profile". Rummikub (players social network). Archived from the original on 7 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  16. ^ McAuliffe, Naomi (20 March 2012). "Dennis Waterman and the 'problem with strong, intelligent women'". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Smith, Joan (21 March 2012). "Blame the victim – a classic with wife-beaters". The Independent.
  18. ^ "Dennis Waterman accused of trivialising violence against ex-wife". The Guardian. PA. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  19. ^ "Rula Lenska banned for drink-drive crash". BBC News. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2022.

External links[edit]