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Former X-Factor star Janet Devlin talks body issues, Tinder and why she's excited about her new material


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Janet Devlin

Janet Devlin

Janet as a child

Janet as a child

Janet Devlin

She was thrust into the limelight at just 16 years old, leaving her quiet country life behind after a life-changing stint on X Factor.

Now, almost nine years later, singer-songwriter Janet Devlin has released a stunning new music video that's got her back up there in the spotlight, raising one or two eyebrows on the way.

"I guess it looks like I'm naked," laughs Janet.

"But I'm not. Not completely."

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Janet Devlin Honest Men video

Janet Devlin Honest Men video

Janet Devlin Honest Men video

Yes, there's the gold paint and glitter, and a pair of nude pants. But that's a lot of body confidence right there - and a long way from where she was just a few years ago.

Anxious about the way she looked and hundreds of miles from home, the young singer was obsessed with work, counting calories and doing all she could to stay thin. "I was on a diet every day for years," says the 25-year-old.

"I had this mental calculator and I knew the number of calories in absolutely everything. I still have it in my head, I know what everything's worth. I just don't use it any more. But that's how I stayed so trim. I knew what snack would take me over my calorie allowance, and I knew what exercise I needed to do to offset what I ate."

By the time she hit her 20s, Janet's weight had plummeted, and at one point the star had a worrying BMI of just 13.1.

"When I was 22 there was this awful picture that came out of me wearing a pair of avocado pyjamas and my legs were like twiglets," she recalls. "People were worried about me. My family at home, of course."

But the real kick up the behind she was waiting for came when Janet realised young girls were using images of her online as "thinspiration".

"When I was very skinny I didn't post many photos online because I was feeling terrible," she remembers. "But I started to see comments and these young girls tagging their mates saying stuff like 'Body goals'.

"I knew by then I wasn't well."

Janet, who has a huge following on social media, with more than half a million subscribers on YouTube, 280k followers on Twitter and almost 90k on Instagram, says she's aware just how impressionable some of her young fans are.

"When you've got a fanbase like that you have to realise there are some girls that look up to you," she says. "When it dawned on me what that meant I was heartbroken to think I could be fuelling someone's disordered behaviour. I've got body dysmorphia. I still have it now, even though I'm so much better than I was, so I know how damaging it can be.

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Janet Devlin on X Factor

Janet Devlin on X Factor

Janet Devlin on X Factor

"You don't see how you look the same way other people do. As soon as I realised what was happening with these girls it's like a switch went off. I got myself together and started putting weight on."

Janet, who has released three EPs and a string of singles, took advice from her GP. And while she was never diagnosed with an eating disorder she went on to have counselling, which she says has helped. "The doctor asked if I realised how small I was," she recalls. "And I said yes, because by that point I did. He took bloods and thankfully everything was fine. I was iron deficient, but that was it and I promised by the next time he saw me I'd have made big improvements. And I did."

Taking her weight gain on as a project, Janet went vegan - temporarily - and learned to cook from scratch, getting to grips with nutrition.

"It took a while, and of course I still have good days and bad days, but just taking the time to figure it all out really helped," she says.

Now back home in Gortin, Co Tyrone, for a short stint before returning to London in March, the musician says the time away has done her good.

"I've been eating well and I'm big into my exercise," says Janet. "The days of heroin chic are long gone.

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Janet Devlin as a child

Janet Devlin as a child

Janet Devlin as a child

"There was this feeling that to be feminine I needed to be a waif, but that's ridiculous because I felt skinny-shamed when I was a kid too, that not being curvy meant I wasn't feminine either." And with her incredible video for new single Honest Men - which follows previous tracks Confessional and Saints Of The Sinners from her latest album - making waves for the singer, she was cautious about how she looked there, too.

"I've got a healthy body now," says Janet. "I look grand. It's taken time to figure this stuff out, and I'm not completely there yet but I'm starting to get it."

And getting to grips with her own self-confidence, Janet, who came out as bisexual last year, says she's ready to start dating.

Janet Devlin

"I wad on Tinder for a while," she says. "But I don't have time for the swipe life and, truth be told, I'm not having much luck in Northern Ireland." So, says the star, she's signed up to exclusive dating site Raya, whose subscribers are rumoured to have included everyone from Cara Delevingne and Harry Styles to Ben Affleck and Channing Tatum.

Reports have claimed just 8% of applicants get approved, so Janet's doing well to even get that far. "Well I can't tell you much, obviously," laughs Janet. "It's very top secret. But I'm even chuffed to have got on it."

And when it comes to work, there's lots on the horizon for Janet too. Working alongside top producer Jonathan Quarmby for her second studio album, Confessional, which comes out on May 1, she's also written a book called My Confessional to accompany it as well as artwork to illustrate each of the tracks.

"I did loads of artwork to go with the album and I'm excited to see what people think," says Janet.

Confessional, the new album, and My Confessional - An Autobiography by Janet Devlin, are out on May 1.

Belfast Telegraph