The humble surroundings of an east London pizza restaurant is about as far as you can get from the glitz of the X Factor studio, but that is where Stacey Solomon found herself this week, as she relaxed and reacquainted herself with her family after her 10-week stint on the nation’s favourite talent show.
More than 12 million viewers watched the former King Solomon High School pupil crash out of last weekend’s final, coming third behind eventual winner Joe McElderry and Olly Murs.
Three days on and she has recovered from the numbness she says she felt the moment her dream of winning the competition came to an end, and is facing up to the challenge of turning her X Factor popularity into a meaningful singing career. Most of all, she says, “I don’t want to be forgotten.”
Predictably perhaps, she has mixed feelings about the events of Saturday night. “As much as I was sad to hear my name called out, I was really proud of myself,” she says.
“I never thought I’d come first, and I thought getting to the final was an amazing achievement. Every week I thought I was going out and was always surprised to go through. I felt a bit numb afterwards when I’d lost, but I knew it would happen one day.”
Immediately after the show, she returned to the X Factor house in Golders Green where, she says, she “went to sleep straight away”. Later, she returned to her home in Dagenham, which she shares with her mother Fiona and 20-month-old son, Zachary.
“Everyone was concentrating on Joe and Olly afterwards, so I just relaxed,” she says. “Since then, I’ve been spending time with my family — we all went out together for pizza. It’s really nice to be back. It’s weird to wake up and hear Zachary call my name, but it’s really lovely.
“Lots of people are coming up to me in the street and saying ‘well done’ and that they’re proud of me.”
The support from the Jewish community particularly moved her, she reveals. “I was so lucky that the X Factor house was in a Jewish area like Golders Green — everyone was so nice to me when they saw me. People would come up to me and say ‘Happy Chanucah’. I’m so grateful for all that support.”
She seems also grateful for the friendship she built with fellow contestant, Olly Murs, and her denial of a romance — “I’m not with Olly, unfortunately,” she sighs, before quickly changing the subject — will do little to quash the tabloid rumours.
Solomon will not have much time to relax and catch up with her friends and family. In February, she will join the other finalists on the X Factor live tour for three months and, before that, she will be travelling around the UK to sing at various venues.
“I can’t wait,” she admits. “I think it will be really nice doing something without being judged or hearing Simon Cowell say that I’m rubbish.”
She is well aware of the obscurity that has swallowed up previous X Factor contestants, but is determined to avoid sharing their fate. “I just want to carry on singing — I never want to stop. I’d love to do some live lounge singing because I think it’s cool. I wouldn’t say no to anything though. I want to do as much as I can and work as hard as I can to build up my status.
“I would love to interview or present. I love everything in the industry. You know when you feel you were born to do something, well, I feel I was born to do this. In a year’s time I’d like to be singing somewhere like the V Festival. But I don’t want to get too excited. Like everyone, I’m worried that I’ll get forgotten. You start thinking: ‘I haven’t won — what’s going to happen?’ But I think if you work hard and want something bad enough you can do well. Good people get good things given to them.”
She may well be right — if the opinion of some top entertainment industry experts are anything to go by this week. Almost unanimously, they feel the “Dagenham Diva” has what it takes to succeed in showbusiness.
“She’s obviously funny and has got a very natural personality,” says celebrity publicist, Max Clifford, who manages Simon Cowell. “It doesn’t matter that she didn’t win — neither did Susan Boyle or JLS. Unlike the other contestants who are just obvious musical talent, she’s more than that. I could see her in musical comedy or on the West End stage, playing someone like Eliza Doolittle. She could present or interview people and be quite funny.
“The most important thing is she needs a manager and agent who understands her and has the contacts to maximise her potential. That will make the difference between 15 minutes of fame and a long career.
Steven Howard, of the TCB Group, is Susan Boyle’s agent. He says: “I think people really liked Stacey’s naturalness. It can be so hit and miss — sometimes the ones you think will make it, don’t. I really think Stacey will be successful but it does depend on what her managers do.”
According to Jon Smith, founder of First Artist sports and entertainment agency, Stacey “has to capitalise on what she’s built. If I was her representative, I would want to bulldoze the media with her now and in the new year. She needs to be seen everywhere, going on every television show she can and getting into all the magazines. I would capitalise on her duet with Michael Bublé. He’s got a concert series coming up and if she could get a guest spot there it would be great. She’s got the ability to make people smile. It’s nice to have someone Jewish out there because you don’t often get a big-name singer. She’s not the next Barbra Streisand but she could be very successful.”
“The unique appeal of Stacey Solomon lies in her amazing transformation from shy Essex girl to superstar every time she starts to sing,” says Colin Lester, head of CLM Entertainment which manages singer Craig David. “That fabulous voice contrasted with her somewhat goofy but utterly charming offstage personality is hugely compelling and is the key. She has that rare quality, the common touch, so bring her personality to the fore and that amazing voice will do the rest.”