'I hope this is the happy ever after ending I always wanted'
Natasha Hamilton's endured pain and heartbreak over the years. But, as the mum of four tells Gabrielle Fagan, a new baby has changed her outlook
It's understandable that Atomic Kitten star Natasha Hamilton is wary of making personal predictions about her future, but you can tell by her glowing appearance and beaming smile that she believes she's finally found Mr Right.
After three doomed attempts to find personal happiness over the last decade, it seems the singer and actress has achieved the contentment which has eluded her for so long with Ritchie Neville, actor and singer with band, Five, with whom she has an eight-month-old daughter, Ella.
"I hope with all my heart this time it's forever and the happy-ever-after ending I've always wanted," the 32-year-old says fervently of her two-year relationship.
Their romance blossomed shortly after her six-year marriage to businessman, Riad Erraji, father of her four-year-old son, Alfie, broke down in 2013.
She also has a son, Harry, 10, from a two-year relationship with dancer, Gavin Hatcher, and eldest son, Josh, 12, from her partnership with nightclub owner and Celebrity Love Island winner, Fran Cosgrave.
"I don't think I've ever been as happy and secure as I am now. I've never had a relationship before where I was able to talk so honestly and openly about my feelings as I can with Ritchie," says the petite, glamorous redhead during a candid chat at the couple's beautiful home, a barn conversion in the countryside.
"I don't fall in love willy-nilly - there has to be something really special there and there was with me and Ritchie. But I certainly wasn't looking for a relationship after separating from my husband. Actually, I felt it wasn't the right time and I was very wary, nervous because my trust levels were really low," she admits, recalling their early dates.
They met when she and her bandmates, Kerry Katona and Liz McClarnon together with Ritchie and Five bandmates (J. Brown, Sean Conlon, Abs Breen and Scott Robinson), appeared in ITV's The Big Reunion and took part in the subsequent tour.
"I hadn't seen Ritchie since I was 16, when we knew each other because we were both in bands and I definitely never fancied him then. Actually, I thought the boys in Five were arrogant and he thought us Kittens were 'gobby Northerners'," she says, roaring with laughter.
"It was a surprise to realise he was actually a really nice guy. For quite a while, we were just friends bantering and getting on well together on the tour for the series. When it ended, we began working together writing music and it was then I found myself falling in love with him. In the end, we talked it through and I felt some things are just meant to be and you can't deny your feelings."
Ritchie, who famously dated Billie Piper in the late Nineties, and was briefly married to Australian model, Emily Scott in 2008, had no doubt about his feelings and pledged early in their romance to mend her broken heart. He's said "she's stuck with me forever now, no matter what happens".
A patently equally devoted Hamilton explains: "He's been through a lot in his life, like me, so we just seem to understand each other. We feel very blessed to have found each other and have our lovely family."
It was their little girl's birth - a much-longed for daughter after three sons - which proved a turning point for Hamilton.
"Having Ella has taken me into a new chapter in my life. Her arrival's helped me finally be able to make peace with my past. I feel like I never used to have a good opinion of myself, but now I actually love me, because I'm not a nasty person. Although my job may be in the public eye, when I'm not working, I'm just at home with the family like any other mum.
"I do get people saying nasty things because my children have different fathers, but I feel I would have been a worse mum staying in relationships which were detrimental to me and my children's happiness. Sometimes you have to walk away," she insists.
The couple's busy lives - Ritchie's recently toured with Five - mean currently marriage plans are on the back-burner.
"We talk about marriage, but it's time-consuming to plan a wedding and we want to give Ella and the boys all our time before we start thinking about something else. We're not in any rush," she says.
Hamilton's helped launch new online children's animation series, Herbie Hound, whose message is that every youngster is special and it's something she tries to impart to her own children.
"I want to build them up as much as I can, although I know I can't wrap them up in cotton wool. They can hear negative things and sometimes other children can be cruel. I say to them, 'Don't take it in, it's just words'.
"They're wonderful kids and hopefully I can pass on some wisdom to them, so they make good decisions later in life and have their own happy-ever-after."
- Natasha Hamilton helped launch new animated series, Herbie Hound. All 10 episodes of the new series are available to buy from the Herbie Hound website (story books will be available soon) with a percentage of the proceeds going to Dog's Trust & Birmingham Children's Hospital. Visit herbiehound.co.uk