She stropped to the X Factor final as one of the most polarising contestants ever. But one year on, newly engaged Cher Lloyd is a changed girl, and it’s all down to the love of one man
Photography by Mark Hayman
Perhaps we expected more of a fanfare entrance from someone with such aCher Lloyd arrives unannounced, without a fuss and so quietly that no one
notices her slip into hair and make-up.
fearsome reputation, but a few minutes in her company and it’s almost
impossible to equate the girl here today with the tantrum-throwing
super-brat who apparently regularly unleashed her temper on members of the
beleaguered X Factor crew.
She timidly introduces herself to our team, her sing-song voice at times
barely audible, her big brown eyes fraught with apprehension. She’s
incredibly petite – so delicate she resembles a china doll. Only with a lot
Cher herself admits she doesn’t recognise the person she claims The X Factor
turned her into. “I was a beast!” she says. “Everyone hated me. I was young
and foolish. Part of me was trying to show I was strong enough to do it, and
then I think it all got too much for me.
“But I was angry at the way I was being edited. And because I was getting
really angry with it, I turned into someone that I don’t even know. I turned
into this horrible, horrible person with a terrible attitude. Part of me
thought: ‘Maybe that’s how I have to behave to make it.’”
Brutal, yet an astute self-analysis from one so young – Malvern-born Cher is
still only 18. But then, she’s had to grow up quickly over the last year
since finishing fourth in the 2010 series Matt Cardle won. She knows where
she went wrong and says it won’t happen again.
“I’ve definitely changed a lot. I know how to deal with certain situations
now, and I’ve learned to compromise. If there’s something I’m not happy
with, I say so, but in the right way. Nothing’s so bad that it’s the end of
“I’ve also learned now that people aren’t always going to like you. That’s
just everyday life. I wish I’d known then what I do now and been more
carefree. I could have had a good time and not let everything get to me. But
anyway, once I was out of the competition, I was free. I had nobody to hold
me back, nobody to ask questions, no cameras in my face.”
And so off Cher went, she wrote, recorded, and came back last summer with a
vengeance with debut single Swagger Jagger, which went straight in at No.1.
The album Sticks + Stones reached No.4, as did follow-up single With Ur
Love. The third release, Want U Back, which features The X Factor USA rapper
teen Astro, is out later this month, and Cher is looking forward to
launching her career in the States after signing a deal with US record exec
Perhaps understandably then, she remains quite adamant it was for the best
that she didn’t win the show, which has become something of a poisoned
chalice for recent champs.
“It’s a blessing that I didn’t win,” she says. “I mean, a girl like me was
never going to win anyway, but I’m glad I came fourth because otherwise I
wouldn’t be doing all this now.
“I don’t have no one holding me back. No one ever will. I’m allowed to do
whatever I want creatively. I might have come from a reality TV show, but
I’m not a puppet and I won’t be treated like one. You can’t put me in a box.
If you’re going to be somebody, do it your way.”
She’s a complex character, is Cher Lloyd. One minute she’s bolshy and ballsy,
brimming with attitude and refusing to be pigeon-holed.
The next, she’s a shy, vulnerable teenager racked with insecurities and
clearly affected by a tough childhood about which she can’t yet bring
herself to share the more distressing details.
Despite her obvious confidence in some ways, in others she’s overcome with
self-consciousness, and momentarily panics when coming face to face with our
weird and wonderful cast of extras. And at one point it looks like she’s
going to refuse to try any of the clothes the stylist has brought, worried
that her figure is too slight to carry them off.
Thankfully, a few reassuring words from her fiancé Craig Monk (who now
accompanies her everywhere and is brilliant with her) convince Cher
‘I’m not a puppet and won’t be treated like one’
“OK, I’ll try them,” she agrees, scuffing her feet on the floor.
“I struggle with my appearance,” she says later, explaining the wardrobe
difficulties. “It’s a big task for me. I’m really picky with clothes and
sometimes that can put me in situations where people think that I’m being a
brat. But really it’s my self-confidence. I feel I’m too skinny and it’s
“I’m getting there. Once I’m on stage I become a different person. I feel
really tall and really good about myself. Nothing fazes me. I hope girls can
look at me and know that it’s OK to not be perfect. No one totally loves
themselves, or we’d all be walking around like Kim Kardashian.”
Hairdresser Craig, 21, has been a calming influence since they met last spring
at the Mayfair salon where he worked. He proposed at the end of 2011 and,
while there are no immediate wedding plans, they are very sweet together and
clearly adore each other.
“He knows me completely,” says Cher, talking about the relationship for the
first time. “Like, he helps me see that it might be better if I say things
this way rather than like that. That’s what Craig does. He just gets me.
“I get confidence from him. If he thinks that something will work, then I
listen to him and I try it. It’s funny isn’t it? You can go somewhere one
day and meet the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.
One chance, one instant and everything changes.”
She’s keeping coy about how he proposed. “I’m not saying, I’ll get really
embarrassed. It’s a bit private. What we’ve got together is so close and
I’ve got him to myself. The one thing I’m allowed to myself.
“We’ve lived together for quite a while and I’d already thought about marriage
before he asked me. We’re very, very happy and our families are too. I know
him inside out and he’s my best friend. Like, my best friend ever.”
Cher readily admits she has very few friends in her life, one of the reasons
her relationship with Craig is so precious.
“It takes time for me to trust. I’m able to let people in, but only when I
know they’re there for the right reasons. I’m very good at sussing out the
As a result, Cher’s friendship circle is small and she spends a lot of time
with her fiancé. “To be honest, my fans are my friends and they are the best
gift ever,” she says. “My fans are different to Britney fans or One
Direction fans. They’re something else and they know me. I’m not some
hard-faced celebrity to them, I’m a normal person.”
That sounds quite lonely. She nods.
“I’m scared of being lonely. You can have all the money, the big houses and
the flash cars, but still be so bloody lonely. I just want to be loved.”
Suddenly Cher is that fragile little girl again. She’s discussed her gypsy
roots before, and how she and her family felt like outcasts, but today hints
at other demons in her past. It’s why she struggles to stay positive – when
she experiences happiness, she’s almost waiting for it to crash.
“I’m only 18 and already had the most crazy life,” she says. “There have been
times when I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve had the most rough
time you could imagine right from the very start.
“I look back and wonder what on earth I did to deserve the s**t I’ve had
to deal with. Whenever I’ve had little moments of happiness, someone has
dropped a bombshell, life’s gone to s**t again and I feel like I’ve got
“There’s a lot of serious s**t that people don’t know about me. If people knew
they’d be like: ‘Give that girl a break’. I wonder why I’ve been put on this
earth and if the bad things that have happened were only meant for me.”
She doesn’t feel able to elaborate further. “There will be a time and a place
where I feel ready to express the s**t that I’ve gone through. When I’m
ready, I’ll talk. And I just pray to God that I can be happy now and life
has thrown all it can at me. But I just feel that I shouldn’t get my hopes
up any more because there’s always something or someone that will try to
ruin it for you.”
Does her success give her satisfaction at proving the doubters wrong? Her
knowing smile when she left The X Factor said more than words ever could.
“I wouldn’t say satisfaction, but it makes me happy knowing that I’ve done
what I wanted to do. The smile was to let everyone know that it ain’t the
At the end of the day, my mum and dad have something to be very proud of. All
the people that messed them around and called them names, just look at their
kids. We’re all doing good. My brother [Josh, 16] for instance, looks like
he’s going to be a professional footballer. So, hey, my parents didn’t do
too badly after all.
“Karma is a b***h and so for all the people that used to say I was a skank,
and I didn’t have nice clothes and I had hand-me-downs – look at me now.
It’s not an evil feeling, it’s not revenge, but despite all the people who
hurt me, I’m OK. Life is a healing process.”
Comparisons between Cher’s success and that of her fellow X Factor contestants
rile her. Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction have both done well since the
2010 series ended, although Matt Cardle’s career has stalled somewhat.
“You know what, even when you’re out of that show, you still have f*****g
competition. So and so just released their single, but this person’s single
isn’t doing so good. F**k off. We’ve gone through all that s**t, we don’t
need it no more.
“I came from that show, and I’ll always be referred to as the girl from The X
Factor. I’m not embarrassed. But it didn’t make me. It was a platform for me
to make something of myself. That’s all.”
She’s no longer in touch with Cheryl Cole, although she isn’t sure why she and
her former mentor haven’t spoken recently. “It would have been nice if we’d
stayed in touch, because I found her to be a very genuine person. She
understood me and she helped me a lot and so it’s sad that I haven’t heard
from her. But if she wants to give me a ring she can. If not, that’s fine
Cher might be many things (and she’s probably capable of being an extremely
tricky customer), but her sincerity is refreshing. She doesn’t swerve a
single question, demonstrating a wisdom way beyond her years. Nor does she
rely on help from her management or PR, who stay away during the interview.
“I’m an old head on young shoulders,” she agrees. “I’ve watched so many
interviews with people I’d previously admired and think: ‘Who is this
freak?’ There’s no personality. I’m not naming names, but it’s so
disappointing. I’m not media trained and nor would I want to be.
“I don’t see myself as a celebrity or a star because I ain’t. I’m just Cher. I
come from a gypsy background, so I do all my own hoovering and cleaning. Why
would I want a cleaner? I can do it myself.”
She’d love a holiday this year and can’t remember the last time she had a
break. But for now, work comes first and she’s determined to seize this
“Do you know what annoys me? You get this massive platform with The X Factor,
then some acts do a few gigs and disappear. Why don’t they try a bit harder?
“I’ll never ever stop. Work, work, work. I’ll be 40 and still be up on that
stage whipping my hair.”
- Want U Back featuring Astro is out February 19. Cher’s album Sticks + Stones
is out now.
It’s good to Cher
When were you happiest?
I’m happy all the time!
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Tulisa, Dolly Parton, Nicki Minaj and Dot Cotton from EastEnders.
What would your super power be?
I’d say flying but everyone wants that. So to be different I’ll say I’d like
to turn things to ice.
What’s your favourite smell?
Doughnuts at the fairground. When they’re hot and covered in sugar.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Probably getting my No.1. That was massive.
Tell us a joke.
I can’t! I don’t know any and if I did they’d probably be s**t.