Smouldering at the camera in a Shoreditch studio, dressed in jodhpurs and brandishing a whip, Stacey Solomon doesn’t look much like the gawky, 19-year-old Dagenham girl of her first X Factor audition. Back then, she giggled constantly, was dressed in plimsolls and cutoffs and burst out with things like “I can’t believe you just said my name!” But Simon Cowell and the rest fell head over heels with the way she sang.
Stacey was an easy-to-love character, both on The X Factor, where she was self-deprecating, upbeat and sang power ballads in floor-length gowns; and on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, where she got regularly covered in cockroaches and made an unlikely new BFF in Madchester survivor Shaun Ryder.
There was the heart-warming back-story, too: Stacey is a single mum (although she’s been going out with her decorator boyfriend Aaronfor over a year now); she had a job in a fish and chip shop called “Oh My Cod”; her life’s dream was to buy a house for her and son Zach. Although she lost out in The X Factor to Joe McElderry, Stacey’s good-natured and surprisingly wise attitude in the outback won her plenty more fans. She was crowned Queen of the Jungle, and is making the most of the attention with an autobiography coming out in May, a freshly inked album deal with Warner Brothers, and a TV presenting gig for a charity singing contest lined up alongside Vernon Kaye. Oh yes, she’s also the new Iceland mum.
Has fame changed you?
Me? Nah. My job’s different, but nothing else is.
Who’s the best celeb you’ve met?
I met Bob Hoskins which was massive, because he’s Smee from Hook and that was one of the best films ever made! And I met the man who drew the characters for Aladdin – I was in awe. I love Disney so much, it’s the best. Not because I’m a cheesy over-excited weirdo, but because I just think that it’s so clever, and it’s happy. It’s the nicest thing to grow up seeing happy endings all the time.
Is that your secret to being so cheerful?
I don’t get why some people are constantly miserable. I’m so happy that I’m alive, I don’t really care about anything else.
And you must have nothing left to be afraid of, after I’m A Celebrity.
My only fear is dying. There’s so much I want to do.
Who’s your TV idol?
Who I’d like to be like? I don’t know, I try and be whatever I am. I think that genuine people are easy to see. I’m always honest, and I’m not interested in bitching.
What’s the closest you’ve come to throwing a diva strop?
Nothing means that much to me that I’ll get nasty.
Max Clifford does your PR work, is he not pushing you to get some fake celebrity boyfriend?
No! No one can tell me what to do, ever.
What are you singing in the shower these days?
I love Kate Nash, Jamie T, Two Door Cinema Club. I’m not really a chart music person, I like bands like Mumford and Sons. I’d love to do a duet with Coldplay.
That’s funny, people associate you with ballads and pop songs.
Yeah, because that’s the show that you’re on, you have to sing that kind of thing. There’s no getting away from it.
Will your album be quirkier?
Well, not too quirky or it won’t be played on the radio, so you have to find a happy medium. You know that iPod advert? [Sings a line from Feist’s “1234”] I love things like that.
Will there be any covers on there?
Not on the first album. I don’t feel like I can cover people’s songs because I’m no one. I haven’t even had my own songs, so who am I to sing someone else’s?
Do you ever meet up with Shaun Ryder for a pint?
I haven’t seen him in ages actually. He does ring and texts and keeps in touch. He leaves really funny messages, swears a lot.
Have you always been confident?
I’ve just never cared. I’ve got a Jewish nose and big hips, I’m not perfect but I’m happy.
Are you sick of any of those ballads that you had to sing over and over again?
Yeah, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve sung “Who Wants to Live Forever”, God!
When you sing it’s like this hidden side of you comes out, that’s more passionate and serious.
I think I’m very serious, but I don’t take life too seriously. People misconceive it as being not so serious or not so clever.
You must be ambitious too.
Yeah but one minute you’re here, the next you’re not. You have everything, then you have nothing. If I took everything too seriously I’d go mental.
Photography: Amarpaul Kalirai
Words: Jess Holland
A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #26, April/May 2011