“Whatever happened to Duffy?” is a question that’s been asked by pop music fans for the better part of a decade — especially in the singer’s native UK, where, in the late 2000s, she seemed poised for the kind of massive neo-soul career that Adele has enjoyed in her wake. Occasional stories over the years attempted to probe the mystery and usually ended up pointing to statements she made during and after the promotion cycle of her second album about her disaffection for all that came with being a star.
Now, Duffy has taken to social media to reveal that she recused herself from her career and the limelight as the result of trauma from being kidnapped and raped. She did not offer a time frame for when the assault occurred, but said details would be forthcoming in an interview that will be made public.
In an Instagram post, she wrote, “The truth is, and please trust me I am ok and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days. Of course I survived. The recovery took time. There’s no light way to say it. But I can tell you in the last decade, (after) the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again, the sun does now shine.”
Duffy wrote that she decided to go public after finding one of the many journalists who’d tried contacting her over the years to be “kind” and telling her full story to him last summer. She added that an audio interview where she goes into greater detail will be coming in the next few weeks, although she did not clarify whether it is the same interview as the one she did with the reporter last summer.
“You can only imagine the amount of times I thought about writing this,” she said by way of beginning the stunning post. “The way I would write it, how I would feel thereafter. Well, not entirely sure why now is the right time, and what it is that feels exciting and liberating for me to talk. I cannot explain it. Many of you wonder what happened to me, where did I disappear to and why. A journalist contacted me, he found a way to reach me and I told him everything this past summer. He was kind and it felt so amazing to finally speak.”
Duffy said that her heart “unbroken” after years in which she did not feel she could perform publicly without having the trauma overwhelm her artistic persona.
“You wonder why I did not choose to use my voice to express my pain? I did not want to show the world the sadness in my eyes,” she wrote. “I asked myself, how can I sing from the heart if it is broken? And slowly it unbroke. In the following weeks I will be posting a spoken interview. If you have any questions I would like to answer them, in the spoken interview, if I can. I have a sacred love and sincere appreciation for your kindness over the years. You have been friends. I want to thank you for that.”
She ended the post with a plea: “Please respect this is a gentle move for me to make, for myself, and I do not want any intrusion to my family. Please support me to make this a positive experience.”
In 2008, Duffy’s single “Mercy” spent five weeks at the top of the British charts and became the third biggest selling track of the year, remaining on the chart for more than a year. Her debut album, “Rockferry,” was also a massive hit in Europe and won her critical acclaim in the U.S. as well. It won her a Grammy for best pop vocal album, and dominated the Brit Awards, where she won best British album, best female solo and British breakthrough. The album was said to have ultimately sold 9 million copies globally.
A follow-up album, “Endlessly,” released in 2010, represented a stylistic break toward more modern production and was not nearly as well received, peaking at No. 9 in the UK.
As years went by with no signs of Duffy in public, journalists began to speculate why she was MIA, seizing on statements she had made at the height of her popularity about how difficult newfound fame was to handle. After her second album was released, she was quoted as telling a newspaper in her native Wales that “I thought about walking away, I really did,” she said. “Not because I thought I’d done it. It’s just that I missed the simple things in life. Life had got so complicated.”
Duffy did some film work, appearing in the 2010 movie “Patagonia” and again taking to the screen in a role in the 2015 film “Legend,” which starred Tom Hardy in dual roles as the gangster Kray brothers. In 2013, she appeared at New York’s Beacon Theater as part of a tribute to Edith Piaf. Other than that, she went off the radar, except for a 2017 social media post in which she vowed “to see you, with something new, at some point soon.” In 2018, an attempt to track her down by a Welsh newspaper resulted only in word being passed along by mutual acquaintances that “if Duffy doesn’t want to be found, she won’t be found.”