Former Pussycat Doll singer Kimberly Wyatt tells Gabrielle Fagan how life as a pop star helped her come to terms with being molested as a child.
At first sight, Kimberly Wyatt is pure pop diva — blonde hair, a dramatic make-up job enhancing her eyes and figure-hugging outfit emphasising a tiny, hour-glass figure, as well as that essential celebrity accessory, a small retinue of helpers in tow from an agent to a publicist.
Her glamorous look and the protective entourage is hardly surprising because she was, after all, one fifth of the globally famous Pussycat Dolls.
Hailed for her extraordinary agility in raising her leg so high it went behind her ear, earning her the nickname ‘Flexi-cat', Wyatt is now the forthright ‘tell-it-like-it-is' judge on Sky One's hugely successful Got To Dance, currently in its third series.
But what's unexpected — away from the spotlight and in the privacy of her dressing room — is Wyatt's willingness to set aside her public face and reveal not just her inner vulnerability which stemmed from a troubled childhood, but also the fact that she's needed extensive therapy to help her find self-esteem and happiness.
“People tend to look at the stereotypical image of a pop diva and assume all sorts of things. But there's so much more to me than someone who's been in a famous girl-band and had the ability to do that leg lift. There's a person behind that,” she says with a smile.
“It used to really hurt my feelings when people were so focused on that move and regarded it as somehow X-rated and put into some sexual context just because it was a pop production and we wore tiny costumes and stilettos.
“Actually, that physical flexibility was just one element and only possible because of dedicated training for literally years in ballet and contemporary dance, but that somehow got ignored.”
It was, in fact, her extraordinary natural talent in dance which, she says, helped her survive a childhood during which she claims she was molested at the age of three, and aged 14 left her family in Missouri to train at a prestigious New York dance academy after winning a scholarship.
After graduating at 17 she worked as a dancer on cruise ships, but then, she says, was the victim of an attempted rape.
“I went through tough, difficult times as a kid and dance was really what saved me,” she says.
“I could really throw all my emotions and everything I was feeling into it. It enabled me to escape my confusions and my questions about why so many things were happening to me at such a young age.”
But the relentless demands of six years in the Pussycat Dolls, from 2003 to 2010, exposed her deep-rooted insecurities and unhappiness over her experiences.
She also had to cope with a rift with her parents because of what she considered to be their less-than-adequate parenting during her early years.
“Being in the Dolls was an absolute whirlwind and an amazing experience — the best entertainment ‘boot camp' I could ever ask for,” she insists.
“It really opened my eyes to this industry and showed me what it requires to survive and cope with relentless travelling, and the sometimes overwhelming physical and mental demands.
“It gave me the platform to live out my dreams and perform in front of millions around the world, but there were also trials and tribulations I had to learn from as well.
“While I was in the group, I sort of had an epiphany and realised that I was holding on to all sorts of negative emotions which I'd never known how to deal with as a kid, and which I'd buried deep inside me.
“They were creating cycles in my life that I didn't like, so I took therapy so I could make changes in my life and learn what happiness was and find out how to attain it.
“As a result I felt very prepared, once I left the Dolls, to forge my own path as I'd discovered my self-worth, which is so key to contentment.
“After all, if you can't enjoy your life, what's the point?”
Her therapy has, she says, enabled her to move on from her past and she now conscientiously safeguards her wellbeing by using self-help strategies she has learned, meditating, and exploring spirituality in a variety of faiths.
“You can sort of lose your mind living the life I live, but I have strategies which keep me grounded and help me make good choices and ensure I keep a balance between my personal life and my career,” she explains.
Wyatt will perform with D.inc. Dance Corps at the UK's biggest dance event Move It (www.moveitdance.co.uk) at London Olympia next week
“I'm so excited about Move It,” she enthuses. “I love performing and it will be amazing as there are so many different and exciting types of dance exhibiting, including a collaboration between street dance group Flawless and the English National Ballet. It will be awesome,” she says. She also devotes time to US charity RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and has set up her own website, Beautiful Movements.
“It's a place where I speak my mind and show my fans the person behind the performer,” she says.
“Because I've been open about my life and my problems, many of them connect with me and open up about their own troubles such as suicidal thoughts, self-harm or rape and molestation.
“I hope I can inspire them to figure out how to deal with their lives, and overcome their problems.”
While there were reportedly tensions within the Pussycat Dolls, who included Nicole Scherzinger, Melody Thornton, Ashley Roberts and Jessica Suter, shortly before they split, Wyatt says they all stay in touch with each other and are like “sisters”.
She recently split from American actor Kevin Schmidt and is happy with her single status but says she eventually dreams of marrying and have children.
She adds: “Also, I've come to a stage of forgiveness with my parents. Compassion and love is at the heart of that, and I'm able to recognise that my mom at 16 was a child herself when she started raising a family, and that must have been very hard.”
Kimberly’s website is at http://beautifulmovements.dipdive.com
moving on from life as a Doll
- The 30-year-old left the Pussycat Dolls in 2010
- She spends her time between London and Los Angeles
- She is a judge on Got to Dance with Andy Garcia and Ashley Banjo
- She has also formed a group Her Majesty & The Wolves and launched her solo career with the single, Candy