Belfast Telegraph

Nadine Coyle: What is the secret of the original Derry Girl's appeal?

From fibbing about her age to get on TV talent show Popstars, to topping the charts with Girls Aloud, Nadine Coyle has enjoyed phenomenal success. As she tries her hand at I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! Leona O'Neill asks what is the secret of the original Derry Girl's appeal

Nadine Coyle during filming for I'm A Celeberty Get Me Out Of Here!
Nadine Coyle during filming for I'm A Celeberty Get Me Out Of Here!
Nadine Coyle
Nadine Coyle during filming for I'm A Celeberty Get Me Out Of Here!
Nadine Coyle during filming for I'm A Celeberty Get Me Out Of Here!
Nadine Coyle
Girls Aloud in their heyday (from left to right): Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh , Cheryl Tweedy, Sarah Harding and Nadine Coyle
Leona O'Neill

Leona O'Neill

Londonderry's vivacious Nadine Coyle is set to burst on to our screens as part of the stellar line-up on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! on Sunday night. The 34-year-old mother-of-one will spend the next few weeks in the jungle with former footballer Ian Wright, EastEnders star Jacqueline Jossa, radio DJ Roman Kemp, TV star Kate Garraway and former Olympian and head of the Kardashian household Caitlyn Jenner, among others.

She told the Press ahead of joining the celeb camp that she hoped the experience will "toughen her up".

"I really hope that, by doing this, it pushes me so far out the comfort zone and that I learn to be comfortable, feel relaxed and do the things that I used to be afraid of," she said.

She also admitted that she hated, "heights, rats, snakes - everything!" Before departing from her hotel, she quipped: "The worst thing that could happen in the jungle is death... or as far as I know."

Before finding fame, Nadine's early years were spent in the Creggan area of Derry. Her parents, Lillian and Niall - a well-known singer in his own right - first noticed their daughter's talent for singing when she belted out Saturday Night At the Movies as a toddler.

She went to Thornhill College - the school writer Lisa McGee modelled her Derry Girls series around - and, while there, she auditioned for the reality talent show Popstars, on which Louis Walsh was a judge.

After winning a place in the band Six, she caused massive controversy after being caught out lying about her age on camera.

Because she was just 16 years old and not 18, she was disqualified from the band and replaced.

In a famous moment in television history a panicked young Nadine is seen asking her mum back home if she knew where her passport was so she could prove her fake age.

Her faux pas sparked a tsunami of memes and jokes that still circle online to this day. Anyone who is panicking, lying about their age to be served alcohol, or who has lost their passport in comical circumstances at a crucial time, is said to have "done a Nadine".

She recently confirmed that her mum never found her passport. But things worked out okay for her in the end, despite the relatively shaky start.

The songstress officially started her career as one-fifth of the award-winning girl band Girls Aloud, who dominated the pop charts for an entire decade in the Noughties.

After being formed on reality TV show Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, Girls Aloud demolished all expectations when they burst on to the pop charts with their debut single Sound of the Underground topping the charts for four consecutive weeks.

The girls went on to become the UK's biggest-selling girl band of the 21st century, selling over four million singles and four million albums in the UK alone.

After 23 singles, six UK tours, five studio albums and a Brit Award for Best British Single for The Promise, Girls Aloud announced their split in 2013.

Nadine has recently said she hasn't spoken to most of her former band-mates since and admitted they might even vote for her to do the horrible trials while in the jungle.

Rumours had always pointed to a split, with Nadine and Sarah Harding being firm friends during the band's glory days and the trio of Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts being close.

Discussing her relationship with Cheryl last year, Nadine simply said: "There was no falling out, there was just no friendship to begin with." She also told how they all had separate dressing rooms on tour.

After the split, Nadine pursued other business interests. After her success in the music charts, she and her family bought a bar and restaurant at Sunset Beach in Orange County, California, calling it Nadine's Irish Mist.

Nadine had long said that it had always been a dream of her parents to run a bar and restaurant and, when it opened in time for St Patrick's Day 2009, it received rave reviews.

In 2010, one local television station described the venue, which hosts traditional and contemporary music nights, as the best Irish restaurant in the LA area.

However, the dream ended after public records in Orange County revealed that, since its purchase, no property tax had been paid and that the family owed close to $100,000 to the US taxman. Speaking in an interview after its closure, Nadine said that the family "were over" the bar and looking forward to their new venture.

"We had the restaurant for eight years," she said. "My family ran it. But they got bored. It was really hard work. People were over it. We sold it and are trying to think of our next thing to torture ourselves with."

Amid her business woes, Nadine launched her first solo venture in 2010, called Insatiable. She went head to head in the UK charts with her former band-mate Cheryl Cole, but her hopes for success were shattered after it failed to make the Top 40.

At the time, she said: "Insatiable, the album, was more of a project, really. It was more like a songwriting excursion and an exclusive deal that hadn't really ever been done that often before - me being, like, 'Ooh, I'm an entrepreneur', rather than, 'This is my singing career'."

After selling her business in America, Nadine packed up her family and moved back to Northern Ireland. In 2013, she revealed on Instagram that she was expecting her first child with fiance, American footballer Jason Bell.

She had started dating Bell (41) in 2008, when she moved to America to pursue her singing career.

She had previously dated one of Martin McGuinness' sons as a teenager, as well as Desperate Housewives star Jesse Metcalfe.

Nadine and Jason's daughter, Anaiya Bell, was born in February 2014. Nadine said at the time that motherhood had given her "a new lease of life".

Speaking to Hello! magazine, Nadine said: "I can barely remember my old life at all. I think, 'What did I do? How did I get through 24 hours a day without a baby to look after?'"

In September this year, Nadine and Jason ended their relationship after they realised they were leading increasingly separate lives. A source told the media that, "although Nadine and Jason were never married, they lived as a close family unit and remain good friends as they co-parent their young daughter".

"They still care for one another, but are no longer in a romantic relationship," the source said.

Nadine and Jason had been briefly engaged between 2010 and 2011, but split for a short period before reuniting in 2013 and later welcoming their daughter.

A year after Anaiya arrived, Nadine was asked by Michael Flatley to join Lord of the Dance, singing three songs in the show as Erin the Goddess.

While appearing in Lord of the Dance, Nadine reunited with Brian Higgins, the musical brains behind all the Girls Aloud songs. Together, they began writing new material and, after signing a record deal with Virgin EMI, she released the infectious pop banger Go To Work, followed by an EP. Her most recent single, the feelgood summer anthem Fool For Love, was released in May 2019.

Nadine's accent was almost as renowned as her musical prowess. The original 'Derry Girl', her strong accent was the source of much amusement and, indeed, much scorn over the years.

Broadcasters in the US were so befuddled by her Northern Irish/American hybrid accent that her US reality TV appearance on America's Next Top Model was subtitled.

This week, Nadine's thick Derry accent was getting more attention on social media than the bookie's favourite and presumed star of the show, Kardashian clan leader Caitlyn Jenner. Indeed, such was the vitriol directed towards Nadine, ex-MLA and fellow Derry native Eamonn McCann felt compelled to come out in her defence suggesting those criticising Nadine for her accent should "f*** away off, the lot of ye".

Mr McCann said: "This woman is a public figure, she is also Nadine Coyle from Derry and, as far as I am concerned, she is one of our own. I think that Derry people should stand up for her and I think this has gone far enough."

For her part, Nadine posted a video this week attempting London, Cockney, Lancashire, Australian, Southern United States and Los Angeles accents in a send-up of those who have taken a pop at her own accent in recent days.

The Derry Girls comedy series, which has now gone global, has tuned many more ears worldwide into the Derry accent.

Indeed, when one of the stars, Nicola Coughlan, was preparing for her part, she drew inspiration from Nadine's now-infamous Popstars passport debacle clip to nail the Derry accent.

Nadine herself has said that appearing on the next series of Derry Girls is "a possibility".

"The roles I have been offered over the years have been ones of a seductress," she said. "'Get Nadine with hardly any clothes on.' And they have ended up being really great films, but I just can't bring myself to do it. What if my mammy or daddy are watching?

"So, I would feel a lot more comfortable doing this (Derry Girls). And I love how Lisa writes. It is based on being in Derry.

"It is just finding something that will work; that will fit in to how great the rest of the show is."

The bookies may not think that Nadine will be crowned Queen of the Jungle - the odds are 9/1 on her winning - but with her warm humour, kind spirit and big heart (she has worked as an ambassador for the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice), she will always be the Queen of Northern Ireland.

  • I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! starts on Sunday at 9pm on ITV

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