Kimberley WalshThe Girls Aloud and Strictly star reveals her secret talents – scones anyone?

It’s 2002 and the newly formed Girls Aloud are in a drafty boxing gym in the East End of London, doing one of their first ever photo shoots to promote their debut single Sound of the Underground. Rob Chilton, Woman’s Own Entertainment Editor, was there to interview the unknown group…

The group were ready to talk and I and walked up to one of the brunettes and greeted her with a stuttering, ‘Hello, Nadine, nice to meet you.’ Her withering reply: ‘Me name’s Cheryl, pet.’

A decade later and with over 5 million records sold, I caught up with one fifth of the band, Kimberley Walsh, 31, to talk about her debut solo album, Centre Stage, a collection of songs from hit musicals. ‘It feels scary being out there on my own,’ she admits.

After a successful run in West End show Shrek last year and a runner up spot on Strictly, Kimberley, who has been dating former boyband star Justin Scott for nine years, next tackles the Girls Aloud 10-year reunion tour, which starts on February 21.

I’ve met you before Kimberley, in a sweaty boxing gym…

Oh my god, yes! That was one of the first photo shoots we ever did. I can see in my mind what everybody looked like. We were all dressed as boxers, Eye of the Tiger was blaring on the stereo and I had those funny waves in my hair. I recall I was wearing a yellow and blackboxing outfit.

Does it seem like a long time ago?

Yeah, it really does. I was 21 then. I was quite old for my years, but I was also a little too nice and naïve for the business. I’d been at stage school and I needed a bit of toughening up.

What were your expectations of Girls Aloud back then?

I knew it would be hard work. We hoped we’d get a few years out of it, but I don’t think any of us had any idea how it would pan out – it just kept going on and on and on. And here we are ten years later. Crazy!

Are you daunted by the upcoming Girls Aloud tour?

Not really. It’s what I’m used to and I’ll be with the girls so there’ll be less pressure – and it’s only a month. It’ll be a celebration. Shrek was intense and Strictly was pretty full on, so it won’t be any harder than that.

What music inspired you as a child?

In our house we listened to Elaine Paige, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, Billy Joel, Elton John, Diana Ross. Proper songs sung by big voices. That’s what I enjoy singing the most.

Do bad reviews hurt you?

It’s easier when I’m with the girls because any criticism gets diluted. I didn’t read any bad stuff about my performance in Shrek, which was lucky because it would have affected me. Then again, I want to improve so maybe criticism is good because it would keep me on my toes.

Do you feel pressure to have a hit solo album?

I don’t feel as much pressure as I thought I would actually. It’s not in the pop arena, so that means less pressure.

Are you saying goodbye to pop with this album?

Yeah, kind of. I feel like I’ve taken it as far as I want to. I want to do something different now so I’m going back to my roots. I’ve enjoyed pop and I’ve had the best of that experience but, personally,. This album is true to who I am and it suits my voice.

Do you feel like you’re getting a bit too old for pop music?

I’m only 31, so it would be wrong to say I’m getting old. Look at Beyonce and J-Lo, they’re still going. Going down the musical route feels right for where I’m at in my life.

Do you like the sound of your singing voice?

Well, I think it’s quite inoffensive! But people say my speaking voice is boring and all on the same level, a bit like nuuurrrr!

Do you like hard graft?

Yeah, I’m a workhorse. I don’t like sitting around. I get itchy feet and I’m always looking for the next thing. My mum Diane brought the four of us up on her own a lot of the time. She was a full time teacher but she gave piano lessons on the side and made and sold clothes to make extra money. I suppose hard work has been instilled in me.

Do you think you’ll still be performing together in 2023?

We’ve always said we’re never going to split up. We’ll just ride the wave and if we feel like doing something together, we will. If we do more stuff as a group I’d be more than happy to be a part of it.

Apart from performing, what else are you good at?

I’m good at painting and decorating – I enjoy getting my hands dirty, it’s therapeutic. I’m quite good at baking too. I do a mean banana cake and I can whip out a batch of scones quickly.

Sounds like you should go on Great British Bake Off…

I love Bake Off, but I wouldn’t want to put myself under that pressure. I’m not doing any more reality TV. It’s too much pressure. I just like watching it.

To read our Five Minutes With… Alison Hammond, click here: