An Interview with Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud
The Sound of the Undergrowth
You would think that with Girls Aloud taking a well deserved break, Nicola Roberts might be enjoying a long holiday after nearly a decade in the spotlight.
Well, there’s little chance of that – Roberts is one busy girl. When the singer speaks to me from her hometown of Runcorn, she reveals, laughingly, that “time off doesn’t sit well with me”, and you only have to look at her schedule for the proof.
Not content with finishing promotion for her debut solo album Cinderella’s Eyes, Roberts will shortly commence work on a TV show with pop royalty Rihanna, as well as launching the spring/summer range of her makeup line Dainty Doll.
But before all that, Roberts is lending her support to a cause that has become close to her heart, namely the Sumatran Orang-utan Society (SOS), which is striving to save the critically endangered ginger orangutan.
Amusingly, the flame-haired popstress has been joined by a host of red-headed celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Chris Evans to raise the campaign’s profile.
“At first I thought it was kind of funny,” Roberts says with a chuckle, “because it was trying to get all red-headed people involved. It’s a charity that’s not always mentioned and once I looked at the statistics, I was really surprised to learn more we share 96.4% of the same DNA with orangutans. That’s actually quite creepy! And apparently there are only 6,000 apes left in the world. So when I was approached I wanted to get involved right away. It’s kind of cool.”
“I found myself in a world which I wasn’t familiar with”
What makes Roberts the perfect charity ambassador are the exact same traits that have endeared her to the public at large. With a ‘girl next door’ manner and grounded outlook, Roberts’ transformation from has come full circle. From being the meek teenager thrust into a fame she was ill prepared for a decade ago, the 26-year-old now parades the catwalks at London Fashion Week and works with the some of the coolest names in music.
“I think looking back the fact I’d just left school didn’t help,” she recalls of her early days on reality show Popstars: The Rivals. “I found myself in a world which I obviously wasn’t familiar with. That is what it was. My dreams were coming true but it was a crazy, scary time.”
Becoming one fifth of Girls Aloud in 2002 has led Roberts to enjoy 15 top five hits, but since the band went on hiatus in 2009 she has refused to rest on her laurels. Cinderella’s Eyes, a deeply personal album which features collaborations with Diplo and Joseph Mount of Metronomy, was a great critical success, and Roberts now spends most of her time in the studio, trying to perfect the art of songwriting.
“It’s just about being creative – that for me is where I am happiest”
Fashion has also become more than an active passion. Danity Doll was launched in 2007 because, as Roberts explains from bitter experience: “Companies weren’t catering with girls with really pale skin because at the time it wasn’t really that fashionable to want to be that pale.” Dainty Doll set out to right the wrong and its success has opened doors to Roberts within the fashion world. So much so, Rihanna came calling when looking for a presenter for her forthcoming TV show. She is looking for the next British up-and-coming designer who doesn’t have the means to go to a fashion college.
Yet despite all this, Roberts feels uneasy with the ‘fashion icon’ tag.
“Hmmm, I don’t know about that really,” she says coyly. “I think everyone just likes what they like. And fashion is something that I have found a lot of ‘like’ in. I feel that all girls like clothes and I’m more of a creative person. If it’s writing the album or developing the makeup range, it’s just about being creative. That for me is where I am happiest.”
Roberts talks with such enthusiasm, it is easy to conclude she is enjoying blossoming away from Girls Aloud.
“It’s not about that,” she counters. “The situation is we’re on a break, so while the break is still happening I’m just delving into different things. I’m fortunate enough that everything that I’ve done while we’ve been on a break is something that I’ve really enjoyed and loved. The SOS campaign included. I’m really happy.”
Nicola Roberts, Chris Evans, Tim Minchin and other are participating in the Jungle VIP Auction at junglevip.org. SOS aims to raise awareness for the plight of Sumatran orangutans and local neighbouring communities. It helps them work towards a more sustainable future for their forests.