It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 20 years since Nadine Coyle burst into the charts as one fifth of Girls Aloud, becoming a household name at the age of just 17. The now 36-year-old is in a reflective mood when we catch up, with much of our chat touching on growing up in Northern Ireland.
“I grew up feeling like dreams can come true and I’m living proof that they actually can,” she tells us. “I want other people to feel that, especially coming from a small town. I want to help people feel as confident as I did growing up.”
Understandably, questions about Nadine’s former Girls Aloud bandmate Sarah Harding – who tragically passed away from breast cancer at the age of 39 in September – are off the table, but it’s clear her friend is on her mind as she touches on the “heaviness” she has felt in 2021.
“I feel like the last couple of years have been so heavy and there’s been so much going on. I hope we get the positivity back and feel inspired again.
“I just hope for the heaviness to go and for us to come out the other side and feel happier,” Nadine – who shares seven-year-old daughter Anaíya with American football player Jason Bell – says.
Keeping her occupied, Nadine is hoping to inspire the next generation as she helps the National Lottery launch their new Build Dreams Create Change installations across Northern Ireland.
Here, the star reflects on memories of her time on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and why she’d never do Strictly…
Hi Nadine! It must be so special to be launching this campaign in your home country of Northern Ireland?
It is a fantastic thing to be a part of! I feel very lucky that I was able to be there to unveil the installations; I hope they’re able to inspire the next generation to dream big and show them there’s a lot they can do.
Would you have loved to have seen something like this when you were growing up?
Definitely! There are some lovely centres in Northern Ireland, like Kinship Care – a lovely project where kids can go that the Lotto funded. For example, there’s a young girl who’s a carer for her mum and younger sibling and it’s somewhere she can go and they help her with her studies. It’s not even just for kids, it’s for the whole community.
You’ve accomplished your own dreams of becoming a singer, but did you have any other ambitions growing up?
I wanted to be a chef. I wanted to open a restaurant, and I did that as well! I opened one in LA when I was 23. My family all lived there and we worked together; we did that for 10 years before I realised it was quite difficult to be a pop star and run a restaurant in a different time zone! I was spreading myself a bit too thin, but it was an amazing experience.
What are the other standout memories of your 20-year career?
There’s so many things. I love the Royal Albert Hall, that venue is so iconic. I’ve done the Royal Variety Show there a few times and they’re definitely pinch-me moments where you’re thinking, “Am I actually doing this?”
It’s just amazing that I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I still enjoy it and have these amazing experiences and people still enjoy what I’m doing. My job boils down to just showing people a good time and I love it!
Do you love performing as much as you did in the early days?
I love it more! I love it way more than I did at the beginning. I was 17 [when I got into Girls Aloud] and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I was still a girl, I’d never had a job – I was a babysitter and I’d get like £5 for a whole night’s babysitting. My experience was really limited because I was so young when I started singing professionally.
I was living in London and my family were living in Northern Ireland. I’d seen pop stars on TV but I didn’t realise the amount of work that goes into it and it was a huge learning curve.
I spent my first five years in the band knackered and trying to figure out what on earth was going on. 20 years later I’ve figured out the balance!
Do you think your daughter Anaíya will follow in your footsteps?
Anaíya loves to perform, I have videos of her standing on chairs and dancing along to Strictly Come Dancing, she even has a little Santa Claus that she uses as her dance partner. She goes from being the judge to the dancer and I have to judge her. If she gets a seven or an eight she’ll be really upset and say, “Oh, I should have done that better.”
She enjoys performing but she’s also just hilariously funny, we really have a laugh together. When she was younger, I was explaining to her what a best friend is and I said to her, “You’re my best friend,” and she said, “Mummy, I’m a child, you need to get a best friend your own age.” I was like, “Oh my God! I do have a best friend, I was trying to explain the concept to you.”
Would you encourage her to enter the entertainment industry?
I would, because I’ve had such a positive experience with it, but I know not everybody does. So many amazing things have happened in my life because I’ve worked in the industry. I know there are some people who would never let their kids do it but I’ve had a really, really good time. I’ll be the momager for sure! I will be handling all of her stuff.
I’m A Celebrity… is back! Do you have fond memories from your time in the jungle in 2019?
So many! Truthfully, if they asked me to go back I would, I’d go next week! I’d go into my peak meditative state, I’d just totally relax. I don’t care that there’s spiders walking all over me, you are so stripped back.
Everything becomes almost primal. Your sense of smell becomes really strong, your eyesight becomes amazing – there’s something about it that just makes you feel so alive. I should get my campmates all together and we should go back for the craic.
But honestly, we live in a world where we are so tucked up indoors, I’ve never spent so much time in the fresh air. I would love to do it again.
Are you still in touch with your campmates?
I am! I had a lovely long chat with Caitlyn [Jenner] the other day. Ian [Wright] and I hit it off straight away – from day one when we were on the boat together, we became really good friends.
He has two daughters around Anaíya’s age and they’re really good friends so we see each other all the time. Kate [Garraway]… I adore her; she is just an angel.
I had a really good bunch, I wish I could just click my fingers and take us all back. We’d wear the same clothes, sit in the sunshine and take in the fresh air. Yeah, you have all the horrible trials but they’re actually such a short part of your day.
Your former campmate Adele Roberts recently revealed she’s battling bowel cancer, how is she?
Adele is obviously going through a really tough time but has been handling it so well.
What advice do you have for the new campmates?
I’d tell them to wait for the jungle to come back and do that instead of the castle! “I slept in a castle in Wales” doesn’t sound as good as “I slept in a jungle in Australia for three weeks”.
But if you can’t do that, I would say relax. Enjoy your time with the people you’re there with and take it all in.
Would you do any more reality TV? Have your former bandmate Kimberley Walsh and your ex Jason Bell given you the Strictly bug?
No, they haven’t. I love watching Strictly Come Dancing and sometimes when I watch it I dance around my house and think, “Look at me, I’m a professional dancer,” and then I realise that’s just me in my living room being a bit delusional. I’m not a professional dancer at all. I think it would be really difficult and I’d be absolutely shocking at it.
I would love to be one of the singers in the Strictly band though. I would love to do that rather than the dancing. They do such great songs!
How about The Masked Singer then? Your former bandmate Nicola Roberts had amazing success with that…
Over lockdown I got so into The Masked Singer, and Anaíya loves it too, but she doesn’t know who any of the people are! She loves Perri [Kiely] from Diversity and every boy that’s on it, she says “I think that’s Perri.” But no, I don’t want to be on it; I enjoy watching it, I’m a fan.
One of my good friends, Beth Honan, who has worked a lot with Girls Aloud over the years, is a choreographer on it and she’s so strict, she won’t tell me who anybody is. When they did The Masked Dancer I kept asking but she wouldn’t say, I was raging!
Nadine Coyle partners with The National Lottery to celebrate its 27th Birthday by asking people to think of what change they want to see in their community. Find out more at lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/funding
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