Well, hello Mol­lie!

She’s skied for Bri­tain, made friends with Prince Harry and topped the charts. But Mol­lie King says get­ting into the swing of Strictly nearly floored her

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

One of the most talked­about mo­ments of this year’s Str ictly was when new head judge Shirley Bal­las mud­dled up her blonde bomb­shells and called break­fast telly pre­sen­ter Charlotte Hawkins ‘Mol­lie’ by mis­take. The real Mol­lie – The Satur­days singer Mol­lie King – was backstage at the time and ad­mits she missed the ker­fuf­fle.

‘But when we came back up to talk to Clau­dia – to the Clau­di­to­rium as we call it – ev­ery­one was laugh­ing about it,’ she says. ‘They started call­ing me “Charlotte”, say­ing things like, “How are you, Charlotte?”.’

Mind you, of all the peo­ple to get con­fused with, Charlotte Hawkins isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the worst, she says. ‘I mean, she’s an ab­so­lute god­dess, isn’t she? When she came out in that sil­ver dress for her cha-cha-cha, I said to her “Oh my God, Charlotte, you look like a Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret model”.’

Mol­lie her­self was al­ways billed as the sex bomb of this year’s line-up so it’s in­ter­est­ing that she doesn’t seem to put her­self in this cat­e­gory. ‘Put it this way, when I read that I did laugh and think, “You should see me sit­ting on the sofa with my hair in a topknot, eat­ing a take­away”.’ If she also seems en­vi­ous of Charlotte’s curves, per­haps it’s be­cause she doesn’t feel that well en­dowed her­self. ‘Oh I have body is­sues. I’m al­ways won­der­ing if they should add a belt or some­thing to the dresses to nip my waist in. I’m not ex­actly cur­va­ceous.’

Of course, Shirley won’t be get­ting con­fused any more be­cause Charlotte is out of the con­test – while Mol­lie, at the time of go­ing to press, is still in the run­ning. Should Charlotte have gone when she did, I ask her? ‘No, but some­one has to and that’s the fear of Strictly be­cause you don’t want it to be you. That week I was ter­ri­fied. I didn’t know that I was through and they an­nounced that Davood [Ghadami; the East­End­ers ac­tor] was in the dance-off, but he had scored higher than we had, so you know there are no guar­an­tees.’

Mol­lie King was the first celebrity an­nounced for this year’s con­test but what lit­tle most peo­ple knew about her didn’t ex­actly mark her out as a favourite with the masses. This was a pop star known mostly for be­ing posh, wasn’t it? She was a pri­vately ed­u­cated for­mer cham­pion youth skier, used to hang­ing out in Val d’Isere and at polo matches. She had dated – at least that’s the ru­mour – Prince Harry, model David Gandy was an old flame too and she some­how fit­ted into that beau­ti­fulpeo­ple jig­saw of pop stars and roy­alty and the so­cially-con­nected.

So far so off-putting? Ac­tu­ally, in the flesh she is rather charm­ing and any­thing but grand. At our pho­to­shoot she gamely pitches in with ev­ery sug­ges­tion the pho­tog­ra­pher has – even the ones that in­volve her clam­ber­ing on a trapeze. And it could be that her im­pec­ca­ble con­nec­tions are ex­ag­ger­ated. She tells me her fam­ily was once of­fered an up­grade when on hol­i­day be­cause a re­cep­tion­ist saw the name Stephen King on her dad’s doc­u­ments and prac­ti­cally gen­u­flected. ‘She said “Oh I love your books” and they were go­ing to up­grade us.’ Alas, her dad is not Stephen King the hor­ror au­thor, but Stephen King the re­tired ac­coun­tant from Sur­biton in Sur­rey – a fact her dad saw fit to point out. ‘So they down­graded us again. We were fu­ri­ous with him for be­ing so hon­est.’

So how posh is she on a scale of one to ten? ‘I couldn’t pos­si­bly an­swer that,’ she laughs, but clar­i­fies that no her fam­ily did not have their own ski chalet. Given that her mum works as a doc­tor’s re­cep­tion­ist, we can safely as­sume that she’s fur­ther down the ‘posh’ scale than many as­sume.

The ski­ing pedi­gree is un­ques­tion­able, though. Mol­lie was at school in Sur­biton with Chemmy Al­cott, Bri­tain’s great­est- ever fe­male skier, and her­self rep­re­sented Bri­tain at ju­nior level be­fore bow­ing out of the sport to pur­sue a ca­reer in pop.

Is be­ing able to hur­tle down an Alpine slope help­ful in ball­room danc­ing? Ac­tu­ally, no. As Craig Revel Hor­wood might say, it’s a dis­aaaaster, dar­ling. ‘In ski­ing your feet have to ei­ther be par­al­lel or in the snow­plough po­si­tion, with your toes to­gether and heels out. With danc­ing it’s the op­po­site,’ she ex­plains. ‘I’m still get­ting my head around it. When Shirley told me I needed to have them in the ten-past-two po­si­tion I didn’t know what she meant. And my dance part­ner AJ even had to ex­plain what a pointed toe was.’

What’s sur­pris­ing (and en­dear­ing) is that she’s com­pletely can­did about how the thing ev­ery­one as­sumed she would be good at – ooz­ing sex – hasn’t come nat­u­rally ei­ther. In truth she thought her forte would be with the sassy, raunchy dances too, given that you can’t be in a girl band th­ese days with­out ex­celling at that sort of thing. And The Satur­days were masters at it. Formed in 2007 the five mem­bers – Mol­lie, Frankie Bridge, Una Healy, Rochelle Humes and Vanessa White – had nu­mer­ous hit sin­gles and al­bums, sold five mil­lion records in the UK and Ire­land, and sold out are­nas be­fore tak­ing a break in 2014. But Mol­lie says that the reality of Strictly has proved rather dif­fer­ent to the band’s rou­tines. Luck­ily, she’s had moral sup­port from her bandmates, who have been spot­ted in the au­di­ence. And Frankie, who was a run­nerup on Strictly 2014, also vis­ited Mol­lie in re­hearsals to give her en­cour­age­ment and even blasted the judges when she thought they’d been too harsh on Mol­lie. But it’s still been a chal­lenge.

‘On the week we did the salsa, I was sur­prised at how dif­fi­cult I found it. I thought, “Oh the salsa. That’s just how I dance with my girl­friends”, but no way,’ Mol­lie tells me. ‘I re­mem­ber think­ing, “I’ve never done this be­fore”. It was ter­ri­fy­ing. I thought I’d be suited to the Latin dances with those loose move­ments, but ac­tu­ally I’m more com­fort­able in ones like the waltz where I’m in AJ’s arms, where he’s got me rather than me shak­ing it on my own. It’s like a se­cu­rity blan­ket, I guess.’

Nor was she ex­actly com­fort­able with press­ing her­self up close to AJ in a man­ner that can only be de­scribed as pro- voca­tive. ‘Now that is re­ally awk­ward. I mean, you’re so close your bod­ies are touch­ing and oh my good­ness it’s a strange feel­ing.’ A nice strange feel­ing? ‘No, it was a bit “you are in­vad­ing my body space” at first, but the thing is it’s all so nor­mal for AJ. He was say­ing things like, “Pull your face into me and look pas­sion­ate” and I was say­ing “AJ, your mum’s go­ing to be in the au­di­ence”. I found it all so em­bar­rass­ing.’

Ob­vi­ously since she is sin­gle (she started see­ing model David Gandy in 2011 but they split af­ter a year to­gether, with a source cit­ing the pres­sures of his jet­set­ting life­style), there have in­evitably been ru­mours about a brew­ing ro­mance be­tween the two. Any truth in this? Well, for those des­per­ate for a Strictly love af­fair, the en­cour­ag­ing thing is that she says she hasn’t hugely no­ticed the age gap be­tween them (he is a mere 22 years old, to her 30 years). ‘He doesn’t seem younger than me. He’s quite ma­ture,’ she re­veals. She says she loves be­ing around him, that he makes her laugh. And, a lit­tle bizarrely, that he has ‘won­der­ful skin. It makes me want

‘I have body is­sues – I’m not ex­actly cur­va­ceous’

to ask him what prod­ucts he uses’.

But a ro­mance?

Alas no. ‘It’s not like that!’

If ever there was a woman ripe for be­ing swept off her feet, though, it is

Mol­lie. There is some­thing quaintly old-fash­ioned about her and we aren’t just talk­ing about her new found love of the Vi­en­nese waltz (‘I’m ob­sessed with it. I find my­self us­ing all the tech­ni­cal terms, which my friends laugh at. They say, “Waltz over to the toi­let, Mol­lie, will you?”’).

But ob­vi­ously it won’t be Prince Harry do­ing the sweep­ing. It was re­ported that Princess Anne’s daugh­ter Zara Phillips (a friend of her fel­low Satur­day Una Healy) had played Cupid, set­ting Mol­lie and Harry up with sev­eral dates. They’d met at a polo event in 2010 when Harry was with Chelsy Davy but by 2012 were said to have danced the night away at a karaoke bar in Bat­tersea, south Lon­don, called Bunga Bunga, although the re­la­tion­ship cooled soon af­ter.

Mol­lie said at the time, ‘Yes, I have met Harry, and we did go out for a drink. We’re friends. The at­ten­tion has been a bit over­whelm­ing. But yes, we’re friends and that’s all there is to it re­ally. We have a good time and we make each other laugh... well, he makes me laugh any­way.’ She also tweeted, ‘Guys, I’m get­ting a lot of tweets about Prince Harry but...

I’m not dat­ing him and we’re not in a re­la­tion­ship. We’re just friends.’

Now, she won’t con­firm those Harry ru­mours (nor does she rush to deny them, in­ter­est­ingly, just say­ing, ‘I’d rather not talk about that’) but she does have the air of a woman wait­ing for h e r prince, although she in­sists he doesn’t have to be fa­mous, or ti­tled. ‘The peo­ple I’ve been in­volved with in the past I’ve met or­gan­i­cally. It doesn’t mat­ter what their back­ground is.’

I ask if she’s hap­pily sin­gle. She sug­gests not. ‘I am a bit of a ro­man­tic. I think I’d be ly­ing if I said I didn’t want to be in a re­la­tion­ship. I love be­ing in love, and I would love to find that per­son. But I’m quite old fash­ioned in that way. I don’t ac­tu­ally date a lot. If I’m with some­one it’s be­cause I see my­self be­ing with them for a re­ally long time. ‘ My fr iends tease me about it. They say, “Mol­lie, you ro­man­ti­cise every­thing”, and I do. I try to make every­thing into a movie. I try to see the best out­come.’ Her dream, she says, is to repli­cate the mar­riage her grand­par­ents have. ‘They are in their 90s and have been mar­ried for 70 years and I still see the way my gran­dad looks at my grandma and I think, “I’d love to have that”.’

Kids, of course, would be part of the pack­age. ‘I def­i­nitely 100 per cent would love a fam­ily and chil­dren run­ning around the kitchen. I have four neph­ews now and my sis­ter gave birth to twins just a few weeks ago. I was in re­hearsal and I had to say to AJ, “Stop every­thing, I have to go”. I was at the hos­pi­tal hold­ing them just a few hours af­ter they were born and it was the best thing ever. Fam­ily re­ally does trump every­thing.’ None of this re­ally squares with the image she has in cer­tain quar­ters as a ruth­lessly am­bit ious op­er­a­tor, des­per­ate for fame by any means. The ru­mour is

that she is so com­pet­i­tive her fel­low band mem­bers in the Satur­days re­fused to play cards with her. She doesn’t deny this at all, but laughs. ‘I am com­pet­i­tive, but then I was com­pet­ing since I was eight. I’m not sure I’m in com­pe­ti­tion with other peo­ple in this case, though. It’s more that I’m in com­pe­ti­tion with my­self.’ That sounds tougher, in some ways. ‘It is. I’m quite hard on my­self. Craig only gave us a four in week one, and the dream is to get a run of eights, but some­times that does seem like a dis­tant dream. AJ keeps telling me not to worry about the scores, but I do. I can’t not.’

Which judge ter­ri­fies her most? ‘Def­i­nitely Craig, but also Shirley. They don’t let you mix with the judges so you stay very much in awe of them.’

The young Mol­lie must have baf­fled her par­ents Stephen and Su­san. Her older sis­ters Ellen and Laura are a banker and a lawyer re­spec­tively, and were al­ways stu­dious and tra­di­tional in their ap­proach to school and study. Mol­lie’s child­hood am­bi­tion was to be Kylie Minogue. ‘I wanted to be Kylie do­ing the Lo­co­mo­tion. That was it. I’d just play mu­sic con­stantly, and study it, I’d know who’d writ­ten the artists’ songs. I’d do cha r ts say­ing Christina Aguil­era was wi th this record la­bel and Brit­ney was with that one. I planned out how my life would be.’

Even her ski­ing team­mates used to laugh at her odd pop ob­ses­sion. ‘In the ski lift ev­ery­one would be try­ing to get fo­cused, and I’d be singing.’ Mol­lie had taken up the sport when she was on a fam­ily ski­ing hol­i­day aged six and im­pressed her in­struc­tors, which led to her later join­ing the Bri­tish Chil­dren’s Ski Team. Her fa­ther was less than thrilled when she de­cided at 17 to give up her ski­ing, just at the point where a pro­fes­sional ca­reer was look­ing like a pos­si­bil­ity. ‘He thought that if I gave it up, I should at least go to univer­sity. He’s still say­ing that,’ she laughs. ‘He never un­der­stood the pop world. When The Satur­days did our first big tour he said, “What, you ac­tu­ally have fans?”. He’s bet­ter with the Strictly thing, though, be­cause it’s some­thing his friends watch.’

At school she strug­gled – not be­cause of a lack of in­tel­lect (she’s clearly bright) but be­cause she had dys­lexia. It was for-

‘You dance so close, you’re touch­ing... oh my good­ness’

mally recog­nised when she was nine. Be­fore, she just thought she was ‘one of those slow kids’. The scars are still there. ‘I was the slow­est kid in the class, and oh yes I re­mem­ber that.’ Her most vivid mem­ory is of the teacher go­ing round the class, ask­ing each pupil to read a para­graph. ‘I hated that. I used to get so anx­ious. I re­mem­ber count­ing ahead try­ing to work out which para­graph I was go­ing to get. I’d do things like try to time it so that I went to the toi­let and missed my bit. It was hideous.’ She went on to get three A grades at A-level, which sounds like a mir­a­cle given that start, but she says it was down to ‘sheer hard work’. She says, ‘I work hard, al­ways have. I do think it comes from my school days when I had to work harder than any­one else.’

It was that tenac­ity that helped her get a foothold in the mu­sic busi­ness – even­tu­ally. Quite sim­ply, she just kept go­ing un­til some­one said ‘Yes’. As a teenager she wrote to one ma­jor record la­bel so many times, beg­ging for work ex­pe­ri­ence, that they even­tu­ally gave in. ‘They called my mum and said they didn’t nor­mally of­fer it, but I’d writ­ten in so many times they were go­ing to make an ex­cep­tion.’

She fa­mously ap­peared on The X Fac­tor twice, once as a solo act when she was 18 (when Sharon Os­bourne de­spaired at her skimpy at­tire), and again two years later, as part of the band Fallen An­gelz. This time she got through to the end of the boot camp stage be­fore be­ing elim­i­nated. Most would have given up on the dream of a show­biz ca­reer by then. She hung on. ‘And it was from some­one see­ing me on that that I was of­fered a place in The Satur­days. I’m a great be­liever in just slog­ging on.’

And she’s cer­tainly slogged for Strictly. ‘I’m not a nat­u­ral dancer,’ she ad­mits. ‘But I’m pre­pared to put in the hours, and I’m hop­ing that’ll keep me up there with the oth­ers who are bet­ter dancers.’

She says the con­tes­tants have all formed a What­sApp group and she’s made un­likely new friends. The co­me­dian Su­san Cal­man helped her quell her nerves, she says. Deb­bie McGee is ‘the mother hen of the group’.

She is fizzing about the Strictly ex­pe­ri­ence, the dresses, the glitz, the old-school glam­our. ‘I’m ob­sessed. I’ve al­ways been afraid of pink be­cause, with the blonde hair, I’ve al­ways thought I’d look a bit Bar­bie, but ac­tu­ally the Strictly ex­pe­ri­ence is that you just say yes to any­thing. Pink, se­quins, tas­sels, sparkles, what­ever. The joy is that it brings out a dif­fer­ent side to ev­ery­one.’

How good a dancer can she be, though? Given that she’s put in eight to ten hours train­ing a day, any­thing is pos­si­ble – pro­vid­ing she gets those skier’s feet sorted out, that is. Mol­lie’s solo songs Hair Down and Back To You are avail­able to stream now. Strictly Come Danc­ing, tonight, 6.35pm, BBC1.

‘Dys­lexia made me the slow­est kid in class. I’m still scarred’

Mol­lie (sec­ond from right) with her Satur­days bandmates

Mol­lie with her Strictly part­ner AJ

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