SHE’S the girl who sang into her hairbrush at home and then ended up in one of the biggest girl bands of all time off the back of a cheeky lie about her age.
More than five years later, Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle – who was booted out of the Irish Popstars because she was underage – looks like she is employing the same brazen ambition to kick-start a solo career.
Other than band mate Cheryl Tweedy – who is marrying footballer Ashley Cole in July – Nadine has suddenly become the most talked-about member of the phenomenally successful chart-topping band behind such Number One hits as Sound of the Underground and I‘ll Stand By You.
And while she is widely acknowledged as the most talented singer of a reality million Euro-making TV spin-off, it is the hype surrounding her private life that is gaining her all important PR brownie points at a time when she needs them most.
The band’s sales figures are not a patch on what they were when it hit the charts off the back of ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals.
And all the signs about the five-piece indicate a split by the beginning of 2007 – once a greatest hits LP is recorded.
Few industry fans of the plucky Derry-born 20-year-old doubt she is waiting around for the proverbial axe to fall and is instead busy planning her exit from Girls Aloud.
This would explain why she appears to have more of a hand in her own hype than people – who conveniently forget her close association with accomplished pop PR and multi-millionaire svengali Louis Walsh – are prepared to give her credit for.
The most telling insight about what is going on with the petite star who is adored not just by her fans and the record industry personalities – like Walsh – but also by the photographers who watch her every move, is the way she is handling her relationship with ex-Desperate Housewives star Jesse Metcalfe.
While leaking news of their relationship was, Ireland on Sunday has discovered, not her doing and instead that of a band outsider who stumbled across the fact that she was about to go on their first date and then tipped off a newspaper – one could hardly accuse her of being ignorant of the PR potential of their association.
The most blatant aspect of this is the report that she wants Metcalfe to star in the band’s next video.
Quoted in a downmarket London paper’s website earlier this week, she reportedly said: “It would help our launch in the US.”
And she added: “The girls think I’m showing off, but I’m only trying to help.”
As to handling press interest in her affair with the far from bashful 27-year-old US actor – who has made little secret of his appeal to women – she appears to have been left to deal with that on her own.
And she has certainly risen to the challenge.
A few weeks ago, herself and Metcalfe arranged to meet in a London club at a time when rumours of their relationship hit an all time high.
He flew in from LA and while she was photographed cuddling and seen leaving the entrance of trendy London club Movida with a “mystery man”, he slipped out the back entrance.
Talking to the photographers who snapped her with a man who later emerged as a Girls Aloud dancer called “Anthony”, you would expect to hear them tell of how a record industry executive had grandstanded the whole event.
Not so, according to Mayfair Celebrities picture agency boss Glen Gratton.
It was Nadine herself.
Gratton said: “It was brilliant the way she did it. Stars much older and more experienced than her do it all the time.
“They spend the night with the person they don’t want anybody else to now about and then leave the club with either a friend or a willing stranger.
“Meanwhile, the person they are with slips out un-noticed, which is what Metcalfe did.”
He added: “Our agency has followed Girls Aloud for years and they are very difficult to get anything on.
“We knew about Nadine being at the club because it is one of the clubs on a list we have of those well used by celebrities.
“But at the end of the day, if you don’t want to be seen and you really do want to try and get to know somebody away from the limelight – you don’t go out in the West End of London however much you engineer a vanishing act.
“That said, while I‘ve got know her as being easily the most polite and down-to-earth of all of the girls in the band, she‘s no fool.
“I’m not going to say anything more than that but you can draw your own conclusions from that.”
Whatever she thought she had got away with was blown a few nights later when a random member of the public photographed her with Metcalfe in an intimate clinch at another London club.
Recalling the moment, the clubber – who does not want to be named – said: “She looked like the cat that got the cream.
“He was clearly annoyed at being photographed but she didn’t seem to mind.
“If I was a cynic, I’d say she wanted to be photographed. And if she didn’t actually ask for it, she certainly didn’t give me a hard time.”
They added: “I was surprised. I thought she’d be more upset about the intrusion to her privacy, but she wasn’t.”
It’s no surprise that behind Nadine is a crew made up of some of the most accomplished pop industry characters, including the legendary Walsh – who is unabashedly besotted with Nadine and privately regards her as one of Ireland’s greatest singing exports.
He has admitted both publicly and privately that when Girls Aloud split, she will have considerable mileage as a solo artist.
But although he refuses to be drawn on when she will go solo, the best money is on the beginning of next year.
While the band may have notched up as many rave reviews as they have top ten hits – an impressive 12 to date – sales are steadily heading south.
They haven’t cracked either the American or the foreign markets – except for the Netherlands and Greece – and they are starting to look as if they have finally reached their sell-by date.
Sound of the Underground – released in December 2002 – has made more than 560,000 sales.
This was followed up with the Number Two UK hit No Good Advice, which sold around 105,000.
But subsequent hits trail in comparison – last month’s Number Six Whole Lotta History sales are at around 30,000 while Number Nine’s See the Day from December has notched up around 45,000.
As one Dublin-based show business personality pointed out: “Girl bands have a very short shelf life.
“Their fans never stay as loyal as they do for boy bands and once the record sales start slipping – which they are in Girls Aloud’s case – then it’s curtains.”
But no matter how many singles and albums the band have sold – which is around 1.5 and 1.2 million respectively – it is unlikely any of the girls will be particularly rich.
Nadine is one of three band members who rent apartments on an exclusive north London estate yet – unlike many girl bands before them – have arranged a deal with a local cab driver to ferry them to and from venues and events.
Photographer Gratton said: “I suspect Louis Walsh has warned them that they need to watch the cash they spend.
“Instead of having a fleet of posh limousines waiting on them constantly, they appear to have come to an arrangement with a local cab driver that works out cheaper for them in the long run.”
An industry insider added: “No matter how well Girls Aloud will have done in the charts, there is no way the individual band members will have made as much money as people think they have.
“Girls Aloud aren’t the first and they won’t be the last manufactured band to leave the music scene with little change left after all the hard work they’ll have put in over the years.”
Indeed, it was reported in 2003 that the girls were making just 6p each on their single sales – with the bulk of their income going to their management, their songwriters and Grenada TV – who created them and their birthplace, the TV show Popstars: The Rivals.
Although a deal was renegotiated by the end of 2003 which gave the girls a greater share of profits, the income was already slipping at that stage.
A move towards a solo career would be the most financially sound move for Nadine, who has already banked her Girls Aloud earnings in the form of at least one property considerably grander than the modest home she was reared in by her devoted parents Niall and Lillian in her native Derry.
Said a friend who has known her since she was 14: “Nadine is a very astute young woman.
“She knows how lucky she is and while she enjoys what she is doing, she knows it is just a job at the end of the day.
“But it‘s one that happens to mean an awful lot to her.”
In the early days of her Girls Aloud fame, Nadine made little secret of this.
Telling one interviewer, she admitted: “I have never wanted anything so much in all my life.
“All I want to do is make it into this band – it means the world to me.”
She recalled how she felt being booted out of Irish Popstars band Six for being 16 instead of 18 as the rules had stipulated, when she said: “I didn‘t stop crying for a week.”
And she added: “People must think I‘m desperate for fame because I lied about my age but I‘m not.
“I haven’t always dreamed of being a singer. It‘s just what I enjoy.”
Such modesty is at odds with a quote she later gave another journalist when asked in a separate interview about her ambitions.
She said: “Deep down, I always knew I wanted to do this.”
Have you got a story? Call me on 07929 313 598.