Life & Culture

Interview: Stacey Solomon

Thanks Simon, but I’m quitting reality TV


What's eating Stacey Solomon? In the past few weeks, the Dagenham diva emerged triumphant from the Australian jungle as winner of I'm a Celebrity… and made an emotional return to the X Factor. She is widely feted for her bubbly girl-next-door naturalness and generally regarded as the nation's sweetheart. Everything in the garden should be rosy. So what's the problem?

First of all she has had enough of reality TV. Then she is anxious about her employment prospects and craves a steady job. And to cap it all, she has got a bone to pick with Simon Cowell.

The 21-year-old singer, who found a place in the nation's hearts when she came third in last year's
X Factor contest, was hoping 2010 would bring a record deal and high-profile concerts, even the start of a proper TV career. Instead, she ended up eating distinctly unkosher bits of a kangeroo and sharing a camp with Gillian McKeith. It was not exactly what she had in mind.

"I don't want to be Miss Reality TV," she protests, reflecting on events of the past 12 months. "That's definitely over for me now. Who can say what might happen in 10 years' time, but that's me done for the moment."

Solomon, an ex-pupil of King Solomon High School in Essex, is setting her sights on nothing less than her own show. "I would just love to be able to say: 'That's the programme I present', and just go to work every day," she says. "Everyone wants security but I'll just have to wait and see what comes."

There is a hint of frustration that promises may have been made to her and not honoured. "Please, please God, everything works out fine. There's always disappointment. One minute someone will say you'll definitely get this and the next minute you hear it's gone to someone else," she complains.

And she seems uneasy with Simon Cowell's comments about her appearance on I'm a Celebrity… "Put your money on her to win - she makes brilliant television," he told the JC after watching her arrival in the jungle last month.

Says Solomon now: "I don't know if being 'good on television' is a compliment - thanks Simon!"

And she adds: "I have no idea why people want to watch me. I never expected to win in a million years."

Simply being regarded as pleasant by the tabloids and the viewing public is not enough, as far as she is concerned. "I don't think I should get extra praise for being a nice person. I don't know why it's such a special thing to be."

While she has reason to remain grateful to Cowell for her big break, Solomon is clear that the time has come to escape his influence.

"I would love, just love to make an album," she says. "I've got lots of my own ideas about how it should be. I don't want it to be the same as the X Factor. I want something sweet but funky, something modern. And I want to sing in my own accent. But who knows, we'll see what happens. I want to try everything - TV presenting, singing, even musicals and stage acting. I love all of it. I feel like I was born to do it."

One of the problems with exploring new career opportunities is finding the time. Solomon's schedule over the past year, she says, has been hectic.

"I haven't stopped since X Factor. I was on the tour with the show for 57 nights and I played so many different venues, so it doesn't feel like I ever stopped. I didn't have time to worry about anything, or what was next."

And of course, there was I'm a Celebrity… Solomon was offered Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice, but the jungle appealed most.

"I didn't want to have to train for three months for something like Strictly. With the jungle, it's in and out again - boom, done. And it's my favourite programme - everybody watches it."

She was rumoured to be releasing a version of the song, Fairytale of New York, in time for Christmas with fellow I'm a Celebrity… finalist, the singer Shaun Ryder, but the record somehow never materialised.

Solomon seems able to keep the highs and lows of showbusiness firmly in perspective, however. Whatever success or otherwise being famous may bring, for her, family - particularly her two-year-old son, Zach - will always come first.

"I know that if everything collapses and the whole world hates me, then I'll still have my baby. That's what matters. And that's what I mean if it goes well too, even if I'm back to see my mum and dad every few weeks or every day, they'll still be there for me."

Solomon's father, David, is a well-known photographer on the strictly Orthodox simchah circuit. He was less than unimpressed with comments in the JC about her diet in the I'm a Celebrity… jungle. Being asked about it now gives her a chance to display a previously unsuspected knowledge of Judaism.

"My dad said you wrote something about eating the kangaroo - he said the JC was cross about it. Ha!

"But I know it was OK. It says in the Torah that you can break some rules if you absolutely have to, out of necessity. And it was necessary. I had to do it - we had to do the task to win the food or we would have been starving.

"I'm so proud of being Jewish," she continues, "and just because I don't keep kosher and don't cover up to my ankles doesn't change that. For me, religion starts with being a good person and that's what I'm trying to be."

For a moment it is as if Solomon is channelling Rabbi Hillel. So, can her philosophy be summed up by the Talmudic sage's view that you should "not do unto others what you would not have done to you" and that all the rest is merely commentary.

"Something like that, yeah!"

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