Profile: Charlotte Church
She complains that she can’t afford to retire, yet has £3.7m in the bank. But — from Shirley Bassey to Cheryl Cole and Katie Price — former child star Charlotte Church is still best-known for the volcanic ferocity of her feuds, writes Una Brankin
It speaks volumes of her generation's sense of entitlement that Charlotte Church reckons £3.7m won't be enough to keep her in the style to which she is accustomed for the rest of her life.
Yes, it's a fraction of the £25m fortune she was worth as a teenager, but it will give her more than £50,000 a year until she's 100 – double the annual national wage.
Local music industry insiders have speculated that the £25m figure was most likely exaggerated: it could have included huge record deals that have to be paid back to the companies through sales. But it's fair to say she has never been short of few bob.
But, unlike most of today's manufactured music acts, it was her beautiful voice that earned it. She has more talent in her little finger than the flat Cheryl Cole, who notches up £10m in the Sunday Times Rich List – £1.2m for being Simon Cowell's favourite co-judge on X Factor, £500,000 deals with L'Oreal and Coca-Cola Zero and huge earnings from Girls Aloud and from her debut solo album, 3 Words, which went platinum within two weeks of its release last October.
Without powerhouse vocals, Cole is a glorified dancer who plays the PR game. Charlotte (28) doesn't. Their feud goes back to Cole's criticism in 2005 of Charlotte's No 3 hit single, Crazy Chick, her first departure into pop, when she described the tune as a Girls Aloud rip-off. "Try singing Ave Maria and I take you seriously," was Charlotte's retort.
She went on to brand Girls Aloud as "five dogs without b****" and slammed Cole for "having no backbone" for taking footballer Ashley Cole back after his alleged fair with hairdresser Aimee Walton in 2008.
The X Factor judge announced that when the pair came face-to-face for the first time though, Charlotte (28) was "scared" of her.
The irony is that, if she had played along with Simon Cowell in her try-out as a judge on the 2013 X Factor, it could have been Charlotte instead of Cole sitting up on this year's panel, £1m richer.
In a typically nasty response from X Factor, insiders on the show claimed the Welsh singer was "too boring" to be a judge. Charlotte had previously said she had turned down an offer to be on the ITV series, telling her Twitter followers she would rather "poke her eyes out" and that there was no room for any real creative control on the show.
She also claimed she would be a better judge for the reality show than any of the panel. "They don't not know the ins and outs of a voice, or music," she complained, adding the show was "cheapening music", an opinion shared by most serious musicians.
Her problems with her career stretch back much further than X Factor. While Katherine Jenkins, a less-talented operatic singer, toed the line and kept the record companies happy with her bland, saccharine albums, Charlotte fancied herself as a rock chick and decided to do her own thing – commercial suicide without the right material.
She rode high on the success of the catchy Crazy Chick for a while and had her own TV chat show for a couple of seasons. Although her debut 2005 pop album, Tissues and Issues, was released in Australia, it failed to reach the same level of success there and was available in the US only through Amazon.com MP3 shop and iTunes.
Predictably ruthless, Sony let her go and she took time out to devote to her boyfriend, Gavin Henson, the Welsh international rugby union player and their two children.
At the end of 2005, she bought a property in her native Cardiff – for a reported £500,000 – which she later sold for £900,000. The couple then bought a manor on 20 acres in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Their joint earnings of £12m placed them 49th on a list of richest young people in the UK. They bought a Princess yacht in spring 2008 for £800,000, following the birth of their daughter, Ruby Megan Henson.
A son, Dexter Lloyd Henson, was born soon after, in January 2009, causing her in-laws to raise their eyebrows – Henson was only 26 at the time and it came as no huge surprise when they split up in May 2010.
Meanwhile, Charlotte's outspoken views kept her in the headlines. She has always been mouthy, hitting back since being a teenager at criticisms of her behaviour.
Her first feud appears to have been with fellow Cardiff singing legend Shirley Bassey, who slammed her alleged excessive binge drinking in the summer of 2005.
In a radio interview for a London station, Charlotte fumed: "I mean, she's a bit wrinkly, isn't she? She has a cheek – she's always drinking champagne. She's always drunk. I go out once a week, I'm really not that excessive, so Shirley Bassey needs to shut up."
Not even Prime Minister David Cameron was spared a tongue-lashing after they met during Charlotte's time with privacy campaign group Hacked Off to discuss illegal tactics used by the tabloid press to pry into the lives of famous people.
"I just felt like Cameron looked at us like we were children," she told a radio interviewer. "It was like we were kids who he had to be nice to. So patronising. Him and Michael Gove; I can't bear them."
Church and her family were eventually awarded £600,000 in damages by News International in 2011 after its journalists were found to have illegally tapped her phone. She previously described journalist Piers Morgan as a "p****" for his lack of respect for celebrities' need for privacy.
Next on her hit-list were the "hyper-sexualised" pop princesses Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. "I don't want my little girl to hold her [Perry] up as an ideal. If [Ruby] had seen that, she would have loved it, sweets everywhere and then there's this naked singer in the middle of it."
As for crotch-fixated Cyrus: "It's so obvious this young lady has a skewed perspective, because of what she's been through.
"All she knows is to sell and to be sold. This sounds patronising, but in a couple of years she'll change her tune."
Male pop stars haven't escaped Charlotte's wrath, either. She described Blurred Lines singer Robin Thicke as "a mediocre artist", while denouncing his sexist video, which featured nude models. But her most vitriolic attack of late has been on Jennifer Lopez, after her controversial dance routine on Britain's Got Talent.
As she told radio executives at a recent conference: "Jennifer Lopez seemingly trying to engulf the camera on Britain's Got Talent earlier this year is a mild example of how frequently carnal images creep into the realm of what is deemed okay for kids."
Charlotte has admitted, however, that she allowed herself to be sexualised in revealing outfits in some of her videos – a decision she now regrets – claiming that the middle-aged Church involved in the shoots would tell her, "You look great; you've got a great body. Why not show it off?"
The acerbic Katie Price does not agree, recently calling the singer "plain" after Charlotte's described her as "cold" and compared her to an alien or a robot. The glamour queen immediately went on the attack, writing in her Now magazine column: "So Charlotte Church has been talking about me again. She must have a record or something coming out and needed to mention me to get some headlines." The model formerly known as Jordan may have a point – Charlotte recently released her latest EP on her own record label.
Katie added: "If you're quiet, boring and simply a little bit plain, you tend to drop off the radar. Just like she's done. These days, I only seem to see pics of her performing in pubs – wearing strange outfits with dishevelled hair, instead of the stadiums she used to fill."
Few would describe Charlotte Church as quiet or boring, but it's true that the hippy look and indie songs aren't earning her the wealth of the polished Katherine Jenkins and Leona Lewis, both top of the UK female singers Rich List at £11m.
She's by no means broke, but she's right to go back to university and study physics, as well as making documentaries on education.
As well a having the voice of an angel, one thing she always seemed was intelligent.
A life so far...
- Born: Charlotte Maria Reed, February 21, 1986, Cardiff
- Parents: Maria and Stephen Reed
- First career break: singing Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu on television in 1997
- Family: daughter Ruby Megan Henson (6) and son Dexter Lloyd Henson (5) with Welsh rugby international Gavin Henson
- She says: “I go out once a week. I'm really not that excessive, so Shirley Bassey needs to shut up.”
- They say: “If you're quiet, boring and simply a little bit plain, you tend to drop off the radar. Just like she's done.” (Katie Price)