Rebecca Ferguson has admitted she refused to reveal details about her life while she was competing on The X Factor - because she didn't want to end up being the show's "sob story".
The X Factor runner-up was passed from "pillar to post" in care homes and foster homes as a child, and then struggled to make ends meet.
But she told The Sun: "I never mentioned any of this during The X Factor because I didn't want it to be a sob story. I didn't want people thinking I was trying to get votes through sympathy."
The 25-year-old said: "Growing up, we didn't have anything. My mum wasn't well so I was in three care homes then foster homes before me and my little brother went back to her. I was passed from pillar to post.
"When I was 16 and my mum had moved to London, we were living in this flat. We were really struggling to do things like put money in the gas meter.
"Constantly having to think about money is not nice. People used to say, 'Being rich doesn't make you happy'. And I'd think, 'I've got no electricity, nothing - tell that to my empty fridge'."
Rebecca - who split with Karl Dures, the father of her two children, in 2009 - dated One Direction's Zayn Malik earlier this year.
The songstress, who is releasing her debut album Heaven, said: "It's not easy being in a high-profile relationship. I'm glad it started early in my career because it was a great big lesson for me.
"I was getting a lot of criticism and it's not nice to be attacked. I was 24 and he was 18 so it's not perfect but it's not that bad. If I had been a man, nobody would have batted an eyelid."