Cheryl Cole: a biography
Cheryl Cole née Tweedy was born on 30th June 1983 in Newcastle upon Tyne, in Northern England.
She had a tough upbringing on a council estate, where she lived with her mother Joan, father Gary, a brother, a half-sister and two half-brothers. She was the youngest child. According to the Times, she didn't realise till she was 11 that her parents were not actually married.
However, despite her deprived neighbourhood, her parents, in particular her mother, were supportive of her attempts to get on in life. Her mother, recognising her good looks, entered her into modelling competitions, and signed her with a modelling agency, where she featured as a young child in television adverts for British Gas.
She was given dance lessons, and at the age of nine won a place to join the Royal Ballet's summer school. Her parents couldn't afford the £300 fee, so the local newspaper took up the cause, raising the money to send her there. The family struggled to make ends meet - for her 18th birthday, Cheryl went to a £5 all-you-can-eat Chinese
Cheryl's father wanted her to go to university - he wasn't quite sure the entertainment industry was stable. While her full brother Gary also did some child modelling and then took parental advice and went to university, her older half-siblings (who have a different father) didn't fare as well - her older half-brother Andrew spent four years in prison for grevious bodily harm and her half-sister Gillian is a classic chav often in trouble for brawling. It's rumoured that they are uneasy about their half-sister's fame and have refused financial help from her.
Cheryl was determined to try to break into the world of entertainment, and when the TV show Popstars the Rivals (the fore-runner of X-Factor and the numerous "Idol" shows around the world) started auditioning in 2002, the 19-year old leapt at the chance.
The show's premise was to create a girl group and a boy group and let them battle it out in the music charts to see who would win. Ten boys and ten girls made it to the live finals and were all chosen to "fit" the look of either a girl or boy band - in other words they needed to be able to sing, but they also had to be good-looking and under 25. The later reality show format where only the ability to sing was required to qualify, wasn't applicable to this early show.
Once the live finals started, the viewers voted to say who should stay and who should leave, till there were five girls left who would form the girl band and five boys left to form the boy band.
The girl band, which comprised Cheryl Tweedy (as she was then), Nicola Roberts, Sarah Harding, Nadine Coyle and Kimberly Walsh, decided to call themselves "Girls Aloud". Polydor, who were handling the record production of both the girl and boy bands, seem to have decided that the girl band had more potential - they were given an edgy mettalic pop single to perform, Sounds of the Underground, which was written by song-writing company Xenomania. The boyband by contrast had an anodyne song, and duly lost when Sounds of the Underground hit the No 1 spot in the charts and stayed there for four weeks.
Everyone expected the band to fizzle out fairly quickly - but Girls Aloud shrewdly decided to stick with the original team of Polydor and Xenomania, and have had racked up 20 UK Top 10 singles.
Cheryl's career nearly went off the rails before her career started. In Jan 2003, just two weeks after Sounds of the Underground went to No 1, she ended up in a drunken brawl in a nightclub with a toilet attendant, after the attendant tried to take back lolipops that Cheryl had helped herself to, thinking they were free. She got convicted of assault and ordered to do 120 hours of community service. She said later that she had behaved exactly as she had been taught on her council estate - reacting with maximum force.
She cleaned up her act though and Girls Aloud settled down to hard work and making records. In 2006 she married Arsenal Footballer Ashley Cole, but her marriage was reputed to be in trouble when the newspapers reported in 2008 that he was cheating on her. Cheryl after a short separation where she conspicuously removed her rings, decided to take him back. Opinion was divided as to whether she did the right thing. Paradoxically it made her popular - the girl who was beautiful and famous had a downside in the form of an unpopular husband who everyone agreed she was a saint to put up with.
However, after taking him back. Ashley cheated on Cheryl again - and she ended up divorcing him in 2011. For an interview where she talks about the pressures she was under, click here
In 2008, Cheryl Cole replaced Sharon Osbourne as a judge alongside Simon Cowell on the X-Factor, the successor show to Pop Stars the Rivals, which looks to find a recording artist (soloist or group), chosen in live auditions by the viewers.
She was an instant hit. The camera got to get closer to her than it did in Girls Aloud videos, and Cheryl, a veteran of the process from the other side, proved to be an unusually empathetic judge. The act she was mentoring in the show - Alexandra Burke - ended up winning, and Cheryl was established as not just a pretty face but able to judge her industry professionally too.
The 2009 has seen the emergence of Cheryl the style icon. Viewers tuned in to see what she's wearing as much as to listen to the performances and the banter between the judges. She released a two successful solo albums on the back of she fame.
In 2011 Cheryl got offered a place on the US version of X-factor, but was then dramatically sacked after just a few weeks. For several tough months she was mocked in the press - till the show was broadcast, and critics declared they preferred her to her replacement Nicole Scherzinger. Cheryl then released her third album which was a huge success despite her not being on broadcast TV, finally proving that Simon Cowell needed her more than she needed him.