The fabulous Cheryl Cole
From chavtastic to fashion icon, we run through her amazing transformation
Reality telly has been very good to Cheryl Cole. Very good. First, Popstars: The Rivals gave the Geordie lass her big break as part of the five-strong girl-band Girls Aloud. Fast-forward six years and the pop princess was back for more, this time on the other side of the reality-TV table, as an X Factor judge.
In a move that made it perfectly clear where Cheryl sits in Simon Cowell’s affections, Dannii Minogue was shunted over to the departing Sharon Osbourne’s old seat next to Louis Walsh, while Cheryl took the plum seat next to him. Within weeks of being on air her tearful response to the contestants’ stories, down-to-earth manner and ability to stand up to the Cowell catapulted Cheryl to the top of the nation’s affections, too.
A year on from joining The X Factor, the Newcastle lass is being hailed as a fashion icon in magazines from Glamour to Tatler; she has graced the cover of the ultimate fashion bible – Vogue; there’s a solo album in the pipeline; a second series of X-Factor is in the making; oh, and there’s talk of her heading up Simon Cowell’s new entertainment company. Phew!
But life’s not always been this good for the 26-year-old whose humble beginnings on a Newcastle council estate were definitely more chav than fab. It’s taken years for Cheryl to smooth off her rough edges, but now that the transformation is all but complete (more on that later), just how did she pull it off?
The birth of a chav
On 30 November 2002, in front of millions of viewers of Popstars: The Rivals, new band Girls Aloud (GA) was formed. Cheryl Ann Cole (née Tweedy), then only 19 years old, was the first to be chosen for the all-girl line-up. That Christmas, GA’s debut single took the number one slot the charts, trouncing their boy band rivals, One True Voice.
In those early days, Cheryl’s look didn’t even register on the fashionista’s barometer. As part of GA, her generic sex-kitten look was pretty predictable teen girl-band stuff. Off stage, Cheryl’s chavtastic tomboy image was even more unremarkable. ‘I used to wear baggy jeans, baggy jumpers and Timberlands,’ she says.
At the start of January 2003, just weeks after celebrating the band’s first number one, Cheryl was making headlines again, but for all the wrong reasons. In a well-publicised brush with the law, after she assaulted a toilet attendant in a Guildford club, the Geordie singer proved that while you can take the chav out the estate, it takes a little longer to take the chav out of the girl.
In court, Cheryl claimed she’d acted in self-defence. But she was subsequently found guilty of actual bodily harm. During her high-profile trial, a very different Cheryl was seen entering and leaving a Guildford court. Then, she was rounder faced, and her tough-chav look of unflattering jeans and an ill-fitting jacket and shirt was million miles away from the super-groomed persona of today.
From chav to a wag
Two years later, in October 2004, Cheryl started dating millionaire footballer Ashley Cole. From the start of their relationship Cheryl, who once vowed she’d never date a footballer, was keen to distance herself from her WAG status. She has rarely been seen at a Chelsea game since she started dating Ashley and has publicly denounced her fellow footballers’ WAGs as: ‘As bad as benefit scroungers, just a higher class of sponger. These women have nannies, they don’t cook or clean and never do a day’s work. What kind of aspiration is that?’
But as recently as 2005, Cheryl’s style choices were pure WAG. Pap shots of her out on her early dates with Ashley trussed up in cleavage-boosting Roberto Cavalli frocks, her fine hair a nest of honey blonde highlights, branded her a wannabe WAG, whatever she may have said to the contrary. When she joined the wives and girlfriends of the England team in Baden Baden in Germany, for the World Cup in summer 2006, her hotpant and see-through top get-up was little more than bargain basement Victoria Beckham.
Later that year, in July 2006, her £1.5 million wedding to Ashley was splashed across the pages of OK! magazine, and captured all the worst excesses of a WAG wedding. For her fairytale day she wore a £110,000 Cavalli ivory gown. The dress may have marked a high point in Cheryl’s life, but for some spectators the diamante-encrusted frock was one of the most unflattering examples of WAG bling; style guru Gok Wan branded it ‘The worst of all time’.
From WAG to fab
Eighteen months ago, Cheryl’s idyllic world came crashing down when philandering hubby Ashley’s extra- marital away games came to light in a much-publicised affair. Wounded and humiliated, Cheryl took herself off with her GA gal pals for a period of soul searching, which culminated with her accepting a job on The X Factor.
Since Simon Cowell gave Cheryl her brig TV break back in August 2008, no one, not even Simon himself, could have imagined the impact the singer would have. The carefully organised image overhaul for her solo role on X Factor saw her fashion status soar, and she proved her style credentials by wearing established and up-and-coming names in fashion, such as Kristian Aadnevik on the show.
As the nation looked on, Cheryl began shaking off her WAG image. She blossomed from the pretty girl about whom a slack-jawed Peter Waterman, back in 2002, had declared: ‘You’d have to be dead if you didn’t think she was gorgeous’, into a trendsetter whose super-glossy look everyone suddenly wanted to copy.
In the past year, Cheryl has been hailed as the leader of the fashion pack and for that she can thank her stylist, Victoria Adcock, who’s worked with Victoria Beckham and Christina Aguilera. Were it not for her talents the GA singer may still be forking out for dodgy blonde highlights and Timberland work boots rather than Louboutin heels. But Cheryl’s the first to admit that the fashion thing did not come easy. ‘We all make mistakes – it’s about growing up. I have to be honest, this has all been a learning curve for me, this whole wearing clothes business,’ she says.
With Victoria’s help, Cheryl has traded in the brash prints, asymmetric hemlines and frumpy court shoes for cutting-edge labels including Preen, Luella, and Alexander McQueen, Victoria says: ‘[Cheryl] does the ladylike look well. But then she can switch to jeans, heels and leather jacket.’
Seven things you didn’t know about Cheryl
- In 2003, she was ordered to pay £3,500 and carry out 120 hours’ community service, after being convicted of assault.
- She’s a big fan of street dance, which is how she came to work with US producer Will.i.am on Heartbreaker.
- Growing up, she had to wear hand-me-down clothes. ‘The girl up the road [would] be like, “Ha, ha, Cheryl’s got my jumper on”, ‘ she says.
- At the age of nine she won a place at the Royal Ballet summer school. The local paper ran a campaign to raise her £300 fees, but she hated her time there.
- Her older brother Andrew, has been in court over 50 times and has served prison time twice, one for a brutal robbery.
- When she started on The X Factor, Simon Cowell thought she was a real pushover: ‘I was saying yes to tone deaf people for about four hours on the first day,’ says Cheryl.
- She wants to buy her home football team Newcastle Utd.
From fab to fashion icon
But for many style commentators, Cheryl’s style turning point came September 2008, when she strutted down the catwalk at Naomi Campbell’s annual charity show in a stunning red Jean Paul Gaultier gown. GMTV Stylist Mark Heyes, who worked with her at the event, says: ‘It was a breakthrough moment, when the fashion world started taking her seriously.’
Two months later, at the Music Industry Trust Awards show, Cheryl wore an ultra-trendy dress by Brit label PPQ. ‘Her style has always been there, it’s just now is the time for her to shine,’ says the PPQ designer
At the Brit Awards earlier this year Cheryl wowed everyone again in a bright white, floral A-line dress by Georges Chakra couture. She completed it with sky-high Jimmy Choo sandals, Adler jewellery and her signature blowout hairstyle.
And just like that, and with a bat of her fabulous fake eyelashes and a flash of her dimpled megawatt smile, a host of top British designers have given Cheryl the run of the their collections including Matthew Williamson, who personally styled her for last year’s The X Factor.
And so Cheryl’s transformation is complete – or is it? Last month, she proved that she’s still a hair’s breadth away from a fashion faux pas. The £375 Melissa Odabash monokini she wore on holiday with Ashley, went down like a lead balloon. Then at her 26th birthday bash some think the £4,000 Alexander McQueen frock did little to cement her fashion-icon status. ‘It’s a show stopping dress, but it looks like it belongs on Dancing On Ice,’ says Mark Heyes. ‘What concerns me is that [she’s] going for labels over actual style. She’s had the fashion pack eating out of her hand but this shocked me – it’s a bit of a disaster. Not a classic at all.’
But as X Factor 2009 auditions kicked off in Glasgow this June, Cheryl was back on form stepping out in a black trompe l’oeil T-shirt, skinny black leather trews and Rupert Sanderson sky high platforms. At the same time, she was taking the US by storm, arriving at LAX airport in an adorable Marc Jacobs mini-dress and Charlotte Olympia red polka dot heels.
While Cheryl has said she can’t believe people view her as a fashion icon, she is very aware of just how precarious her position is. Clearly taking nothing for granted, Cheryl still feels the need for a style overhaul. She is reportedly planning plastic surgery to remove the tattoo around her thigh, because it doesn’t fit her image. ‘You do daft things when you’re young, don’t you?’ she says.
Cheryl is also planning to update her style ahead of the return of The X Factor: a new make-up artist is on the cards, and she has consulted with her hair stylist Julien Guyonnet about something a bit fresher. And her newly dyed red locks have sparked a hair revolution, with Asda reporting a huge increase in sales of red-hair dye…
One thing’s for sure, if all goes to plan Cheryl’s all set to shine for some time – on both sides of the Atlantic.