Aabout a year ago, Cher Lloyd was shopping in the Disney Store on Oxford Street when she was approached by a new fan: a middle-aged man who told her he had seen her recent appearance on Loose Women. “He said,” I just want to say, you’re nothing like what I thought you would be – you’re not horrible at all, “recalls Lloyd.” My heart sank. “
The experience remained with her as an example of her “harrowing” perception in the UK, not that she was ever allowed to forget her. Almost a decade has passed since the audition of Soulja Boy’s X Factor and Keri Hilson’s Turn My Swag On, still hailed by many as a milestone in the show’s history.
Then, Simon Cowell’s eyes lit up with his potential: a promising singer, with an unpleasant presence that made the unmissable reality TV. Neither the judges nor the public could believe the brass of this Cher from Malvern, in Worcestershire, which appeared convincingly older than his 16 years, “in a pair of homemade ripped jeans, with the hair gathered in a bun crazy, crazy eyebrows “, as you remember now.
Perched on the sofa of her PR home in north London, swimming in a large orange hoodie and Doc Martens with jeans, Lloyd looks younger than she, softer, her defenses not exactly lowered, but softened by a disarming humor .
The eyebrows are fine, I say. “Thanks,” she explains. “My eyebrows and I went on a journey – a transformation. Now we are better. Steel returns to its voice. “But really, if you can imagine the shit I had, just for my eyebrows. Would you go to a 16 year old girl on the street and say, “I don’t know you, but you look disgusting, with your disgusting eyebrows”? This is what people have done to me. “
Lloyd is now 26 years old, with a young family and a third album, finally coming up – yet, she is still called to explain her teenage self. Since 2010 she has been portrayed, obliquely in The X Factor and explicitly by the media, both as a captivating diva and desperate script of her mentor Cheryl Cole, and as a fragile child, grappling with the spotlight.
“I won’t lie; at the time I was very hormonal, a bad boy,” says Lloyd. “I wanted so desperately to be listened to for who I was, and I didn’t understand why a million people now had something to say about me.”
He still hadn’t learned to express himself, he says. And it was as if only the footage she had come across badly – inarticulate or frustrated – was the footage that was being used. He felt his walls rise. “I had no control over how I was editing. I think this has influenced me to date, for example, I am always a little touchy with what I say. “Look at my voice recorder.” Will it be made to turn in a certain way to make me look like an asshole? “
To revisit the X Factor footage and coverage today, it seems to show an unhappy girl trapped in a situation to lose. A few weeks after the competition, tonsillitis stopped his performance of Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me, twice, before an impervious will.i.am.
“Oh, one flask “he says, rolling his eyes. He learned to laugh, he says, as well as the dress he wore: a short, red and curled number. “Hideous! I got Asos on sale for around six pounds. I remember thinking: “I look crazy”. “
After a series of idiosyncratic mash-ups, influenced by hip-hop and powerful vocal performances, Lloyd was among the bookmakers’ favorites to win the competition, but the public targeted her when she progressed at the expense of Gamu Nhengu and Mary Byrne. At a press conference shortly before the final, she was asked about the “growing and hateful online campaign” against her. “I didn’t know there was a hate campaign,” she replied, in tears and surprise.
With all the bravado of her audition, she claims to have been a “naive girl” who had never been to London. “On Friday I was a normal 16 year old girl. Saturday: I just woke up and apparently now I’m a celebrity? I don’t think anything could have prepared a 16-year-old to handle these pressures. “
Malvern – where Lloyd grew up and spends most of his time – is the type of town where the local shopkeeper knows everyone’s regular purchases, says Lloyd (Cherry Coke and a pack of Doritos in his case). She was the eldest of four, a protective older sister who would “have something to say” about any bullying of her brothers. Their mother is a Roma gypsy and the first year of Lloyd’s was spent traveling in a caravan; later he lived on a municipal estate. His family “went through some times when there was a judgment,” he says. “For the Gypsy community, there is certainly still a stigma.”
This was perhaps even more pronounced 10 years ago, when the term “chavs” was in common parlance and there was little positive representation of the working class in the media. A popular Facebook page nicknamed Lloyd “the Primark Cheryl Cole”; when My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding aired on Channel 4, it was made fun of by jokes on social media.
Control of his family peaked in the middle of The X Factor when his uncle died of a methadone overdose. (The coroner admitted that Edward Smith had been “tricked” into taking drugs, recording an open verdict.) Lloyd did not attend the funeral for fear of attracting paparazzi and gave a tear in the Stay by Shakespears Sister show – considered as one of his best. “I love that song and that performance was great, but I was in mourning and didn’t know how to do it,” he says.
Lloyd remembers being taken at the start of the competition, along with the other competitors, to talk to two mental health professionals about how she was dealing – but she still felt unsupported and sometimes exploited. “I think about it and I think, God, who put me in such a position.” Even now he feels guilty for losing his service. “The titles would have been:” Big Fat Gypsy Funeral. “I know I’m right, I’ve been around long enough. I know what people want from me.”
When Lloyd finished fourth with the lowest number of public votes, Swiss Post cast her as “thankless thankful factor X”.
Far from making his career as a musician, the “reality TV show” almost destroyed it. “What baffles me is that they created a character but then, after the show, they expected me to be a respected and respected artist. I had to do the damage check. And again, at 26, I have to do damage control. Years later, I have a little bit of anger towards the people who did this to me. “He chuckles. “I’m definitely not greeting and shaking hands with certain people.” He even refuses to play Swagger Jagger, his first single post-X Factor and a UK no. 1, because it reminds her of her “angry, scared” teenage self: “I look back and think it’s a sad song.”
Yet he hopes that the public is now more aware of how reality TV can turn participants into caricatures and, after the suicide of a former Jeremy Kyle guest, of the stakes. “This awareness will continue, hopefully – where people think,” You know what, I don’t want to be involved in this process of destroying another person. “
Lloyd herself was able to start over in the United States, where she moved in 2012 after Want U Back hit no. 9 on the Billboard pop chart. That December, she performed at Madison Square Garden, the moment she says she feels further from the council estate she grew up in – “like being on another planet,” she says dreamily.
It has been the best time of his life to date. In the United States, “it was not” Cher Lloyd, the gypsy chav, blah blah blah “. It is literally” the singer-songwriter Cher Lloyd participates in the Today Show. “The word of her success has also gone back across the Atlantic:” There is it’s definitely a lot of pride when your country supports you to do well elsewhere. “
By then Lloyd had started seeing Craig Monk, a hairdresser whom he had seen for the first time in a “swanky” salon in Mayfair; they married in 2013. She attributes the credit for keeping her humble at the height of her success, even though being a 20-year-old wife (not unusual in the families of travelers, she notes) holds her away from some professional opportunities. “There was this” If she’s married, she’s out of the market “thing and that angle is subtracted from the possibility of selling my music.”
There have been other comments. “‘If you had to wear slightly softer clothes, if you wore a little shorter skirt, maybe you would get a little more recognition’ – yes, it happened.” It was also suggested that being romantically linked to another celebrity would help his career. “” If you go to this club, meet someone and make friends with them, it would be a great way to kick off the next single. “I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen a meeting for the sake of a single.” Lloyd teases me for being shocked. “It’s the joy of being a woman in the music industry,” she says dryly. When her second album, Sorry I I’m Late, hit number 12 on the Billboard 200 in 2014, Lloyd felt he wasn’t pushed sufficiently by Epic Records and left the label. It was a daunting new start. But this time , he felt in charge.
Lloyd spent his break from the studio industry trying to get a new sound; make a house in Essex to sell (“Really fun. Very stressful”); and become a mother. Her daughter was born in May 2018.
That October he released his return single, None of my business, for positive reviews, and a year later M.I.A. – an elegant and smart pop song and the main single from his third album. Lloyd was determined, he says, not to give in to fear that motherhood would stop his career. “Two weeks after I had the baby, I went back to meetings and took the baby with me.” Six weeks later, he had a photo shoot.
On his recent regional radio tour, a “current topic” was a mock concern for “balancing” motherhood and music. “Of course I can do both, ”he says with contempt. “There are thousands of women across the country who do really difficult jobs – and they also balance motherhood.” Monk and his family in Malvern (where he plans to buy a house) make it possible. When I ask Lloyd if she’s a feminist, she looks at me and mimics “duh”. Many shy celebrities of the label, I say, appropriately punished.
“If I were a boy, do you think they would have asked me if I was able to do it on tour? Hmm? Can’t my husband look after the boy?” Lloyd is so focused on the laser during his interrogation that all I can say, meekly, is: “Yes, Cher, I agree.”
Before having her baby, she says, she was in talks about a great promotional opportunity that has fallen. “The comment I received was: ‘It could be viewed negatively, she comes back so soon after having a baby.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow, OK, so I can’t decide when my body is ready, when my baby is ready?’ I remember being blown away by that … a career opportunity that I haven’t had because of my mother. But it didn’t stop me, “he adds.
It is difficult to know what he would do. As he embarks on this last phase of his career, he hopes to be able to move on from his past. A recent interview referred to her as “the most hated teenager in Britain,” she says, with something between disbelief and frustration. “I am a mother of a little girl. I have released two albums and I have achieved success in the top 10 in America. I am not” the most hated teenager “, I am 26 years old! We went on!”
However, the interviewers will continue to comment on her, “in the hope of triggering a certain reaction,” he says. What observation do they keep trying to hold back? “I can’t even mention it, because you know what would have happened – that will be the title.” Raise those perfect eyebrows, touch your temple. “Nine years later, I got smarter.”