Stacey Solomon: 'Why I have put my love life on hold'
Singer Stacey Solomon found fame on X Factor, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and The Jump, but she's still searching for her own happy ever after. She tells Gabrielle Fagan about her lack of luck in love.
There's a new steeliness about Stacey Solomon as she poses - a picture of elegance in a black jumpsuit - and declares: "I don't feel I need a man in my life."
True, the trademark Dagenham drawl, regular high-pitched giggles, and engaging bubbly personality are still there, but the single mother who was recently dumped by Jackass daredevil Steve-O, is weary of being portrayed a loser in love.
That said, it's undeniable that her romantic history's been up and down.
Prior to her six-month long-distance relationship with LA-based Steve-O, the relationship with the father of her three-year-old son, Leighton broke-up after five years in 2014. She was 18 when she had first son, Zachary, seven.
Now she shrugs and says: "If Prince Charming comes along one day, that would be wonderful, but I'm not going to wait around for it. I only want something that's pure and honest and true - and I'm not going to settle for anything less."
Instead, Solomon would rather focus on the success she's achieved since finding fame at 19 on The X Factor, and a year later, won I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! by a landslide vote.
"I am still a hopeless romantic, but underneath these days, I'm also a strong independent woman. I don't feel I'm missing out on anything by being single, so I'm pretty content," insists the 25-year-old, confidently flashing that megawatt smile.
She's got plenty to smile about. Toned and tanned from a recent trip to Spain for a fashion shoot for her new clothes collection, her long-awaited debut album, Shy, has received positive reviews, and it's just been reported she'll host a new E4 show, I Lied For Love, helping those who've faked their dating profiles to come clean and find love for real.
She's certainly formed a well-honed strategy for mending a broken heart.
"You can sit around and go 'woe is me' for a little while - we all do that - but then you have to pick yourself up and say, 'I don't want to spend any more days being sad because I've got an amazing life and I'm unbelievably lucky'. I've always been determined to make the most of every minute and to take every opportunity," says the TV presenter, who met Steve-O while taking part in Channel 4's daring winter sports competition, The Jump this year.
"I'd been single for 18 months before we met and I actually didn't even want to be with anyone but people can convince you and be very persuasive," she says darkly.
"I don't know why I bothered with it and I don't know why we finished - you'll have to ask him. I just didn't hear from him any more."
Love may be transitory but motherhood clearly fulfils her, and she bursts with pride when talking about her boys. "It can be tough being a single mum, but my priority is providing for them and I hope I'm giving them the wonderful childhood I enjoyed, surrounded by love. It's pretty full-on as they're normal, boisterous little boys, and I'm such an animal lover - we also have two cats and a dog - so it's a bit of a menagerie, but I love it," says Solomon, who's backing animal charity Blue Cross's #suppawt appeal to re-home an animal every hour until the end of this year. "Leighton can be cautious and anxious, but also really open and comfortable with people. Zach is quite emotional and really sensitive but not scared of anything. I can see all those traits in me."
Emotional and brave is an apt description of Solomon, who says: "Inside I'm scared of everything and am a bit of a wimp, but fear makes me determined to do ridiculous things so I know I'm living 100%. That's why I did the jungle and The Jump, to prove to myself I could do it.
"But on the other hand, I'm such a blubber. I'm definitely not a hold it all in person - movies or sad stories about people or even happy family occasions set me off crying. I'm such a loser," she says.
"My sister and I are total opposites and she laughs at me. She's a paediatric nurse caring for really sick children every day and yet she's really calm and self-contained. But when I go in at Easter and Christmas to take the kids gifts, I'll just come out and start sobbing because no matter what they're suffering, they're so brave and positive."
That positive attitude is, she says, what's enabled her to cope with the uncertainty of life in show business. "I learnt from X Factor that you have to focus on just enjoying the experience - you never know when it's going to end, which is nerve-racking."
She's avidly watching the current series as her friend and fellow 2009 runner-up, Olly Murs, is presenting the show. "I'm so thrilled Olly's doing so brilliantly. We bump into each other a lot at events and I love him so much. He's got everything he deserves and is a truly genuine person."
Despite her lack of luck in love, Solomon's writing her own happy endings - she's recently completed her second novel and her first, Walk On By, was published earlier this year.
"The publishers had to sift through my terrible grammar before they published the first one, but I'm really proud of both books. They're romantic comedies of course - they'd have to be coming from me, wouldn't they?" she says laughing.
"I have drawn on some of my experiences and changed them. I don't know where I'll get my inspiration for the next one as I'm not dating at the moment. I don't feel the need at the moment as I'm not looking for anyone and I'm so inundated with love from my family and my friends that I feel very secure. So I'll just wait and see what happens. Every day I wake up and reflect on the incredible time I've had so far and that I just want to carry on enjoying life and being happy."
- Stacey Solomon is working with pet charity Blue Cross to help change the story for sick, injured and homeless pets. Text BAXTER to 70907 to donate £5. Visit bluecross.org.uk