Interview with Stacey Solomon: XFactor Finalist and Im a Celebrity Star
PUBLISHED: 16:58 08 August 2011 | UPDATED: 12:04 28 February 2013
Stacey Solomon won the hearts of millions after competing in 2009's X Factor and being crowned queen of the jungle in this year's I'm a Celebrity...
STACEY SOLOMON, X Factor finalist and queen of the Im A Celebrity jungle, is sitting upstairs at WH Smiths in Chelmsford, signing copies of her new autobiography, Stacey: My Story So Far.
Shes looking demure in a cream blouse and beige skirt, her hair shorter, darker and straighter than before. Im struck by her flawless complexion and expressive dark eyes, accentuated by strongly drawn eyebrows. She looks more sophisticated more grown-up.
Her accent, of course, is as broadly Dagenham as ever, the giggle just as infectious and her words still tumble out in a breathless rush. But theres also a depth and determination about her which belie her years. Shes only 21, but as her autobiography reveals, shes experienced more than many people might in an entire lifetime.
In three whirlwind years, she has gonefrom a teenage single mother with postnataldepression to becoming thenations sweetheart with a promisingmusical and TV career. Rarely has a lifebeen turned around so dramatically.Even her entry into the world wasdramatic. Stacey and her mother nearlydied because her mothers placenta hadtorn away from the womb, causingsevere internal bleeding. The chances ofit happening, apparently, were a millionto one.
She was born prematurely, weighingjust 4.4lbs. Doctors warned she mightbe slow to develop and risked serioushealth problems and even brain damage,but instead, she shot up in height andbecame an intelligent and healthyyoung girl.
Stacey grew up in Dagenham, thesecond of three children. Her dad, awedding photographer, is Jewish andher mum, the daughter of a Church ofEngland vicar, converted to the faithwhen they married. The family of fivelived in a small two-bedroom house andStaceys childhood was uneventful, untilher parents divorced when she was nine.To be honest, 50% of people I knewhad parents who were divorced anyway,says Stacey. It was only afterwards Ithought about it more, and startedanalysing it a bit. She became angrywith her mother, whom she blamed forthe split. My mum divorced my dad,and we never knew why. To this day,she wont tell me. She looks sad for aminute, but suddenly brightens. Mymission is to get my mum a boyfriend. Ihavent succeeded yet, but Im workingon it!
Her dad moved to Hornchurch andremarried, starting a new family. Staceystarted at Abbs Cross School inHornchurch, an arts college strong onmusic and drama. It should have suitedStacey, who had dreamed of becoming asinger as far back as she can remember.Instead, she was nearly expelled fordisruptive behaviour. She broke therules, played truant and spent hoursdrinking alcohol in the park with hermates. She thinks it was partly becauseshe knew her mother could not controlher. I had no boundaries. I was like,Oh, who cares? My dad wasnt there,and my mum was a bit of a pushover.
Bright but bored
Stacey was also bright and felt bored inlessons she found too easy. Im not bigheaded,but I knew everything. I learntso quickly that I knew everything theywere trying to teach me. So when theywent over it again in class, I thought, Iknow this. Im going to pass my exams.I dont need to be here.
But the school and her parents hadhad enough. There was talk of possibleexpulsion, so her dad took her out ofschool, there and then. She was bundledinto a car and taken to her aunts homein Hackney. And there she stayed forfour months until her parents couldpersuade another school to take her.
Stacey was accepted at a Jewishschool, the King Solomon High inIlford. She arrived two days before her SATs exams and still passed with flyingcolours.
Once at King Solomon, Stacey turnedover a new leaf. If people were getting good results, they were cool andpopular, says Stacey. If you did well,you were rewarded and challenged. Ithink it really changed me.
She passed 13 GCSEs and began tostudy four A Levels in English, biology,maths and law, but she missed music,and decided to leave school to studymusical theatre at Havering College.Her ambition was to study at RADA,but then, she fell pregnant. She and herthen boyfriend had been careful, and shewas devastated. I just felt, How didthat happen? Why did that happen? Iwas gutted, really gutted.
She decided on an abortion, butchanged her mind at the clinic when she learnt she was already four-and-a-half months pregnant. But she did not want a child and felt her dreams were shattered. She endured a long, difficult labour, crying hysterically after the birth. Exhausted and unable to bond with her baby boy, Zach, she returned home. Post-natal depression set in. She felt hopeless and helpless. I didnt want to talk to anyone. I just hated everybody. I didnt want to be a mum. I just wanted to be a kid.
Her mother suggested she went on a weeks holiday to Greece to recuperate. The trip not only helped her regain her spirits, but made her realise how much she missed her baby. From that moment on, Zach became the most important thing in her life.
Stacey had already been rejected twice by theX Factorby the time she applied in 2009. So why does she think it was third time lucky?
I think you have to show them how much you want it by turning up again and again. They need to see youre strong enough to do the show. Its a really hard show and I dont think anyones ready at 16 to be thrust into something that intense. Its hard to lose your private life at that age. And I also think that if you got in first time and got right to the top, you wouldnt turn out to be a very nice person.
She loved the show, drawing great strength from Dannii Minogues mentorship, although she says there were inevitably tensions in theX Factorhouse. I think in those situations theres always tension. The minute we left and went on tour, everyone was fine. But when you all want to be the best and at the top of your game, everyone is always a bit nervous and on guard.
X Factor and Olly
She and fellow Essex contestant Olly Murs became inseparable during the competition. Stacey loved him as a friend, but when, during theX Factortour, Olly saw her with her new (and current) boyfriend, Aaron. He stopped talking to her and for a long time they had no contact, but later they met by chance, and all the past difficulties were forgotten. Theyre now best of friends again.
I get on with him really well now, thank God, says Stacey. I love him. Stacey came third in the competition to Ollys second. Joe McElderry won. Yet, given her popularity during the contest, many found it surprising she was not offered a recording contract afterwards. She says she has no idea why her career failed to take off. Was she disappointed? I think I was at first. Then I grew up and realised what its all about so no, not at all.
Then last year, she was offered the chance to take part in Im A Celebrity...Get Me OutOf Here. She jumped at it. From the start, her cheerful, positive attitude made her by far the most popular contestant, gaining over 80% of the final vote.
Since becoming queen of the jungle, Staceys career has taken off in a big way. She has signed with Max Clifford Associates, become a presenter on ITV1sSing If You Can, sung the national anthem at this years FA Cup final and is the new face of the Iceland food store. Shes also working on a debut album.
She felt her performances on theXFactordid not truly reflect her musical personality, and is now writing songs, as well as reworking covers to reflect her own style. Im not power-ballady and Im not poppy, she says firmly. The album will be really calm, sweet music.
She, Zach and her painter/decorator boyfriend Aaron now live in her house in Grays, which she bought earlier this year. She has no desire to move far from Dagenham. Ive got friends here. I cant move away and live somewhere where my friends cant even afford to buy a pint. Whats the point in that? I love my family and friends, so Ill just stay right here, where everything is good around me.