Show business as usual for domestic diva Kimberley Walsh
It's no surprise that Kimberley Walsh has become an organised showbiz mum juggling photoshoots with baby-groups, following marriage to a Tipperary man
Kimberley Walsh is sitting at a dining table, in the basement kitchen of a rented Airbnb property in deepest Peckham. It is a slightly incongruous setting for a veteran pop diva such as herself, but nonetheless, she looks pretty much at home.
Maybe it's her 1950s pin-up figure, her no-nonsense Bradford accent, her can-do, capable air, but there is something about Kimberley that invokes the spirit of showbiz past. In another era, you could imagine her here, same pose, same spot, but with rollers in her hair, cigarette in hand.
But we're in 2017, and as a modern mum-of-two, she's not the smoking type. And she's here today because it's the location booked by TK Maxx for a shoot to accompany its annual Give Up Clothes For Good campaign, which Kimberley, along with a host of other celebrities, is fronting. She's spent the morning posing for the camera alongside a group of child models for ads which will encourage customers to drop off their unwanted clothes, accessories and homeware to their nearest TX Maxx. These will then be passed on to Enable Ireland charity shops, to be converted into cash to fund therapy and support services for children with disabilities. It has come at a good time for Kimberley, this particular campaign. She was ready for a major wardrobe clear-out. Nine months ago, she gave birth to her second son, a boy named Cole (she also has four-year-old Bobby with husband Justin Scott). "I've been in that weird clothing stage where it's not really clothes that I would wear normally," she says. "Because they're pre and post pregnancy. I've just been like 'let's just get rid of it' because even if I have another child in the future, I don't want to be wearing these clothes for the third child. So let's just say goodbye. And it does feels good."
It's a cause too, that holds more significance for her now "being a mum" than it might have done before. "Because the charities are around children, it does hold a bit more of a place in my heart," she says. In the UK, the money raised by TK Maxx for Give Up Clothes for Good goes to a paediatric cancer charity. "I just can't even imagine what it's like for people going through these things... I can't imagine how hard it must be for parents so I think, definitely, that gives me a push to just give away as much as possible."
Getting rid of stuff, she says, is "therapeutic". She seems the kind of person who has a reflex for order. "My mum was a hoarder so I think she pushed me in the opposite direction. She can't bear it if I'm clearing stuff out... I feel much better giving it to a good cause if I haven't worn it."
Back in the days of Girls Aloud, when reality TV and Louis Walsh conspired to make her famous, Kimberley was always the steady one in the band. While Cheryl was getting arrested for a nightclub brawl, Sarah Harding was heading towards rehab, Nadine had one eye on solo fame in America and Nicola Roberts was struggling with low self-esteem, Kimberley was the sensible, stable one, who kept the same boyfriend throughout and always remained firmly in touch with her roots.
In the midst of the chaotic, disorientating experience of sudden fame, she kept her head level. Compulsively punctual, she'd always be the first dressed and ready to go, waiting for the others. "It used to drive me mad because in a band, everyone was always late. It's just the way it is. I'd be the loser sat in the car on my own for half an hour while everybody else was running around trying to find all their stuff." She met Justin Scott at a gig back in 2003. Born in Tipperary to an Irish mother and Jamaican father, he grew up in Bristol. "It's an interesting mix we've got going on in our family," she says of his heritage. "He talks about it all the time, and I'm like, 'Yes, I know, you're part Irish'. He goes on and on about it. And I'm like, 'Well, so am I somewhere back in the genes, because I'm Walsh'."
When they met, he was in a boy band called Triple 8, who were signed to Polydor, the same label as Girls Aloud. So he understands well the industry Kimberley is in, though he's long since left it behind himself in favour of more pragmatic pursuits. He's a builder and property developer now. In 2015, with more than a decade of history behind them, they got married in Barbados. "When we have a wedding anniversary - really it's not fair - we need to add another 10 years plus onto it," she says.
It says rather a lot about her that, no matter where her rather exotic day job has taken her, she has always remained safely anchored in the world of home; keeping the same, steady, reliable group of friends she's had since her earliest days growing up in Yorkshire. "You can't get much more grounded than Bradfordians," she says. "They definitely bring you back to your roots if you even dare to try and get above yourself... I've always had my brothers and sisters and friends from home around me the whole time. "It's really strange but my best friend - we literally met on the first day of primary school - she lived on my estate, she moved to London after me, and now she's one of the editors at Stylist Magazine. She moved down to do her thing, and she was always in magazines and I was always singing. And she's done what she wanted to do and I've done what I wanted to do. She's got three kids and I've got two kids.
"I do think that massively helped and even through the band I had these friends that I'd been to school with and who had known me my whole life. Even with the band, if we'd done a gig on a Saturday night, my friends from home would meet us for that night out. It was just normal, but just with a few more free drinks thrown in the mix. It worked for them too, I guess. And now we're all mums and juggling jobs with kids."
Kimberley grew up on a small estate in Bradford, the second child of four. It was, from her earliest days, a childhood steeped in music. Her mother was a music teacher. And her father, she says, "used to sing in a band when he was young. He still hasn't quite accepted the fact that it never worked out. He lived it through me instead, even my grandparents sang and played piano and stuff."
Though three of the four children have ended up in the public eye, she and her siblings weren't pushed into showbiz by their parents. Quite the contrary. "My mum didn't have time because there were four of us. It was more a case of us driving her mad performing and begging to go to dance class all the time that she just gave in and was like "OK, I can get rid of them all for a few hours if they all go to stage school every night. And it paid off for her because we all really did take to it - and ended up choosing it as a career. Well, the three girls anyway. Her eldest sister Sally had a long-running role playing Lyn Hutchinson in Emmerdale. She's since quit the soap to have a family and now the baby of the family, Amy has taken up the baton. She currently plays Tracy Metcalfe in the programme. "My brother kind of tagged along for the ride for a while and then he was like, nah. No thanks. I'd rather play football."
She learned first hand from Sally the challenges of having a public profile. "Being in a soap is really full on. You get recognised so much more than any type of job because you're in people's living rooms every day. She did find it quite hard actually and I got to see it from that side. So I guess I sort of had that in my head when it happened to me which helped me a lot. And then Amy, bless her, she's seen every which side of it. So she's very practical minded about it and just really grateful to be doing the job that she's doing and just loves it. I think it helps because you know what you're dealing with."
Her own relationship with fame has changed a lot since she had children. She blogs about motherhood for Hello! magazine, and publishes pictures of her children on social media, but admits to feeling conflicted, and fiercely protective. "It's hard because you want to talk about them and you want to put up pictures of them but you never know if that's the right thing to do. It is quite hard because everything is not about just you anymore it's about them and every work decision that I make it's definitely they who come first and I come afterwards and that's how it works. But it is just always trying to find the right balance and juggling everything."
She says she "dreads" the day her children start to understand what it means that their mother is famous. "My nephew is six and he's suddenly interested in me, and why people are interested in me and what is this whole thing... He's like why is everybody interested in my auntie? Why does nobody want pictures of us? And he's just trying to work out what it means to be famous. It's quite a strange one really."
At home she does her best to maintain an atmosphere that is as calm, stable and normal as possible. And the key to that, of course, is her relationship with Justin. "I honestly don't know how we've done it, to be honest," she says of their longevity as a couple. "I think if it's right you can just work through things and you sort of get to know each other so well that you avoid any arguments more and more as the years go on. Because you can literally just read each other so well. So it is quite a chilled household that we've got. The boys definitely pick up on it, I think. If I get animated and talk to Justin, Bobby's like 'Mummy! Why are you talking to daddy like that!?' I'm like, 'we're not arguing'. That's what he thinks is arguing, because everything is so chilled. I'm like, we're just getting excited about something!"
All this is perhaps of particular importance to her since her own parents split when she was small.
"I didn't lose anything by them being apart because they were still so loving in their own separate ways. But definitely it was bit volatile to grow up in that environment. I wouldn't want my children to." That's why she resolved, with Justin, that 'we are never arguing in front of our children'. You want the opposite of what you've experienced. And I know things happen and people just have to deal with it, but I have always tried to really work at that, to have a chilled, secure family life. It's so much easier if you've got the support of each other as well. I always think, god, 'it must have been so hard for my mum. To do it all on her own. It's kind of like crazy'."
She's been busy since Girls Aloud ended. She's released a solo album, taken lead roles in musical theatre, has appeared in the TV series The Lodge and has been working away on her own children's clothing range, that will launch, she says, either later this year or early next year. Her priority professionally, is to be able to pick and choose work that fits around her children. And her blog and social media heavily feature the ordinary, day-to-day life of a working mum, juggling meeting with outings to soft play.
Now that her youngest is past that all-consuming first six months, and is, for now, sleeping through the night, she's starting to feel a bit freer to make more significant work commitments. She picks and chooses work that fits around her children, rather than doing it the other way around. "Even if I have any more in the future it's not going to be for some time," she says. "I've got enough on my plate for a few years."
To take part, simply donate unwanted clothes, accessories and quality homeware items in any TK Maxx store and nominate a friend, colleague or family member to do the same. Each bag is worth up to €20 to Enable Ireland. Share your donations and nominations using #GUCFG at www.facebook.com/tkmaxxIE
Girls Aloud - What are the others doing now?
* Nadine Coyle
The Irish one, was widely credited with having the most talent and the best voice. She shot out on her own at the first opportunity, recording a solo album Insatiable which was released in 2010. It wasn’t a break-out commercial success. Earlier this summer, it was announced that she had signed with Virgin EMI. She and her partner, American footballer Jason Bell, welcomed their first child, a daughter called Anaiya in early 2014.
* Sarah Harding
The sassy blonde of the band, she branched out into acting while the band were on hiatus between 2009 and 2012, taking on roles in St Trinian’s 2, and the BBC drama Freefall. However, in the years preceding the band’s final split, she became better known for the tabloid stories surrounding her love life and her battles with drink and prescription drugs. She dated Calum Best, got engaged to DJ Tom Crane and ended up in rehab. She’s floated various acting and music projects since, but it wasn’t until this summer that she scored a huge boost to her profile and prospects, when she was crowned winner of Celebrity Big Brother.
* Cheryl Cole
Arguably Girls Aloud’s brightest star, Newcastle native Cheryl launched her successful solo career in 2009 when the group went on hiatus. She quickly notched up five No.1 singles, breaking records for female recording artists in Britain. Her love life has been chequered, and long the subject of intense tabloid interest. She’s been married twice, once to footballer Ashley Cole, whose infidelity became headline news, and later, after a whirlwind three-month romance, to French entrepreneur Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini. The pair split just 18 months later, and shortly afterwards she began a relationship with One Direction singer Liam Payne. Earlier this year, she gave birth to their first child, a boy named Bear.
* Nicola Roberts
Russet-headed Roberts was always the dark horse of Girls Aloud, the enigmatic outsider whose edgy look and more reserved personality set her apart. She has released a number of solo pop ventures over the years with moderate success but is perhaps better known for her activism, spearheading several initiatives, she’s lent her voice to campaigns against bullying and under-age tanning. In 2007, she launched a make-up range for pale skin, called Dainty Doll.
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