Fail­ure did me a world of good

Pixie Lott’s been a pop star for al­most a decade now – but it took her years to get there. As she re­turns as a men­tor on The Voice Kids, she tells Kathryn Knight why all the knock­backs made her stronger

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Pixie Lott is a bouncy ball of en­ergy. Which is a good job, since her di­ary would make even the busiest of bees want to re­treat to the hive for a lie-down. There’s the to- ing and fro- ing from Los An­ge­les, where she’s record­ing some new mu­sic, and a se­ries of festivals – nine in all – which will see her boomerang­ing around the UK to per­form through­out the sum­mer.

Then there’s her role as a judge on The Voice Kids, the younger sib­ling of The Voice UK, which re­turns for its sec­ond se­ries tonight and takes Pixie back to the stu­dio along­side fel­low judges Will.I.Am and McFly singer Danny Jones.

Oh, and there’s a wed­ding to plan, as the glint­ing whop­per of a di­a­mond on the fourth fin­ger of her left hand makes plain. Pixie has been en­gaged to her model fi­ancé Oliver Cheshire for a year and a half now, al­though – un­sur­pris­ingly – t hey’ve been strug­gling to pin down a date to say the ‘I dos’.

‘ We’re now look­ing at May next year,’ she con­fides. ‘It’s all been a bit mad be­cause we’ve had so much on. We had hoped for this year but it’s a bit late for that now. We want it to be a sunny day and it’s go­ing to be in the UK so May is look­ing good. My mum and my sis­ter are al­ready plan­ning hen dos, which is ex­cit­ing. I love sur­prises so I’m quite happy I don’t have to do any­thing apart from turn up.’

Right now though, Pixie’s fo­cus is her ‘gang’ – the gag­gle of Voice Kids who have made it through the au­di­tion stages, which were filmed back in April, and over whom she is pre­sid­ing as a men­tor.

The show, which airs over eight con­sec­u­tive nights, with a live fi­nal on the last night, sees chil­dren aged between seven and 14 show­cas­ing their tal­ents, and last se­ries Pixie was de­lighted when the con­test was won by then-13-year- old Es­sex pow­er­house Jess Fol­ley, who was one of her team, beat­ing ri­vals in­clud­ing Ric­cardo Ather­ton, then also 13.

‘Wasn’t she amaz­ing?’ she says. ‘She now just needs to get in the stu­dio and start mak­ing her own songs, so I’m go­ing to help her do that.’

Given the high stan­dard set by last year’s com­peti­tors, she con­fides she was wor r ied that the se­ries’ re­turn would not be able to match its de­but sea­son.

‘I’ll be hon­est, I didn’t think the kids were go­ing to be that good again, but I’ve been mas­sively blown away by the range of tal­ent,’ she says. ‘ There are some real su­per­stars of the fu­ture.’

Among them are a fair pro­por­tion of chil­dren at the younger end of the range, who have to hold their own against teenagers twice their age, which hardly seems fair.

‘When you’re young, a year makes such a mas­sive dif­fer­ence and I did worry about that,’ she agrees. ‘But ac­tu­ally all the kids are re­ally dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, so they’re all great in dif­fer­ent ways. And what I love is they all have a sheer love of per­form­ing – you can see it as soon as they step out onto the stage, and it re­minds me of when I was that age do­ing the same thing.’

In fact, Pixie seems to have emerged al­most fully formed as a singer from the mo­ment she bounced into the world 27 years ago.

The youngest of three, Pixie – her nick­name, which came cour­tesy of her mum Bev­er­ley when she ar­rived sev­eral weeks pre­ma­ture – was born Vic­tor ia Louise and raised in south Lon­don and then Es­sex by Bev­erl ey a n d h e r stock­bro­ker hus­band Stephen.

No- one in the fam­ily had any ex­pe­ri­ence of show­busi­ness, but from a young age Pixie knew she wanted to be a pop star.

‘My par­ents were pretty thrown – it wasn’t in the fam­ily at all – but they sup­ported me 100 per cent even though they didn’t re­ally know how it worked. I used to go out and find my own au­di­tions and stuff,’ she re­calls. ‘I was at drama classes from five so I was pretty de­ter­mined from the start.’

At 11, Pixie was awarded a schol­ar­ship to the lead­ing per­form­ing arts school Italia Conti, at 13 she was writ­ing her own mu­sic, and at 15 she had a record deal, al­though it took an­other frus­trat­ing three years be­fore she gained her place in the spot­light.

All ef­fort­less vo­cals and cute­blonde- pop­strel style, she was 18 when her de­but sin­gle Mama Do went straight to num­ber one – al­though, as she points out, as well as spend­ing a long time in the stu­dio honing her craft, she had been at the coal face of au­di­tions too for years be­fore she hit the big time.

‘I guess the gen­eral pub­lic thought I’d just c om e o ut f r om nowhere but I was a very long overnight Pixie with win­ner Jess and Ric­cardo in the fi­nal of

The Voice Kids last year suc­cess,’ she smiles. ‘There were a lot of failed au­di­tions – but as I tell the kids on The Voice, some­times not get­ting through is as valu­able a les­son as suc­ceed­ing, be­cause if you want to be in this pro­fes­sion for the rest of your life, you have to get used to re­jec­tion early.

‘I cer­tainly did and I think it re­ally helped me be­cause now when it hap­pens, I just think, “OK, move on to the next thing”. I still go for au­di­tions now and you never know if it’s go­ing to be a yes or a no – but it’s wa­ter off a duck’s back to me, gen­uinely it is, be­cause I’ve grown up with it.

‘The im­por­tant thing is learn­ing as much as you can from the ex­peri- ence and giv­ing the best per­for­mance. And when it doesn’t work you don’t sit mop­ing, you think, “OK what can I do next? How can I be pro-ac­tive with this?”’

She re­calls a time when, as a young teen, she ex­ten­sively au­di­tioned for a new high- school drama. ‘ They fol lowed us around and filmed the au­di­tion process, there were loads of rounds of au­di­tions and I made it to the last round so I was pretty in­vested. But then I didn’t make the fi­nal cut. And at the time, I re­ally wanted it, of course I did, but I had to just get over it. And I did learn a lot from that ex­pe­ri­ence and I made a lot of friends who I am still friends with now. It was learn­ing how to turn a neg­a­tive into a pos­i­tive.’

Al­though most peo­ple would con­sider 18 a pretty ten­der age to hit the charts in any case, Pixie, at the grand old age of 27, is just grate­ful that suc­cess didn’t come sooner. ‘Ob­vi­ously, there’s peo­ple like Justin Bieber who did it at 16 and he did pretty well. But in hind­sight any younger for me wouldn’t have been a good de­ci­sion,’ she says.

These days, of course, it is hard to talk to any young fe­male star with­out ref­er­enc­ing the #Me­Too move­ment, against sex­ual har­rass­ment.

Did she have any dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ences of her own? ‘ Ob­vi­ously I started out very young, but I was lucky that my fam­ily were al­ways there, so there was never re­ally

‘I started drama classes at five – I was de­ter­mined’

go­ing to be an op­por­tu­nity for it to hap­pen,’ she says.

‘So that’s some­thing I ad­vise young artists – to al­ways have some­one who has your best in­ter­ests at heart there with you. But what­ever my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence I think it’s in­cred­i­ble that every­one is stand­ing to­gether, and that’s the im­por­tant mes­sage, isn’t it, just to get every­one talk­ing about it?’

The near decade that has passed since she shot to fame has, she con­cedes, brought greater wis­dom. ‘Of course I’m savvier now – I’ve trav­elled ev­ery­where and met so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple. I don’t think I’m as naive as I was be­fore and I stick by what I want to do more.’

It helps that along­side her close-knit fam­ily Pixie has been with Oliver since she was 19. The pair met at a Se­lect Mod­els event and now share a flat in east Lon­don.

‘We’ve grown up to­gether re­ally, we’ve had loads of ex­pe­ri­ences and mem­o­ries to­gether and I wouldn’t want to share them with any­one else,’ she says. ‘And he knew what he was let­ting him­self in for from the be­gin­ning, the crazy sched­ules. We’re just com­pletely used to how it works with our jobs.’

Oliver, 30, pro­posed over break­fast in Novem­ber 2016 shortly af­ter a jet­lagged and over­tired Pixie had re­turned from a trip to Amer­ica. ‘He just sort of did it out of nowhere,’ she says now. ‘I re­mem­ber I was re­ally tired and I didn’t see it coming at all and I was so shocked, I just cried my eyes out. I didn’t think I would do that, but I ab­so­lutely did.’

She is de­ter­mined not to be­come a bridezilla. ‘It is meant to be the hap­pi­est day of your life, isn’t it? So I don’t want the build-up to be stressed, and over- com­pli­cate things. And I’m pretty laid-back re­ally.’

What­ever the date, the wed­ding will def­i­nitely be a Bri­tish af­fair. ‘It won’t be abroad,’ she says. ‘I’ve got loads of fam­ily and I want my grand­fa­ther to be there. He turned 90 ear­lier this year and he’s lovely.’

Pixie’s close­ness to her fam­ily shines through – dur­ing our chat she ex­cit­edly con­fides that she is phon­ing her older sis­ter Char­lie-Ann to tell her she’s booked a sur­prise fam­ily ski trip to Ver­bier to cel­e­brate her 30th birthday. ‘It’s her favourite place so she’s go­ing to be over the moon.’

She’s also ex­cep­tion­ally close to her brother Stephen, who is just a year older and as a teenager was di­ag­nosed with Perthes’ Dis­ease, a crum­bling of bone in the hip that meant he could be con­fined to a wheel­chair for life.

‘He’s my in­spi­ra­tion,’ she says. ‘I watched him over­come some­thing that could have changed his life for ever and it makes you re­alise noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble.’

The fam­ily bonds cross gen­er­a­tions: Pixie was dev­as­tated when, between 2012 and 2014, she lost both grand­moth­ers to Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Her pa­ter­nal grand­mother, Peggy, had par­tic­u­larly en­cour­aged her grand­daugh­ter’s singing am­bi­tions and Pixie sang to her i n her nur si ng home, al­though to­wards the end Peggy didn’t know who she was. ‘She had her eyes closed and my dad was say­ing to her, “Just blink if you know I’m here,” and she didn’t,’ she has said. ‘ That broke my heart. We both sat there with tears rolling down our faces.’

It’s no sur­prise then that Pixie wants to start a fam­ily of her own. ‘ With chick­ens and grow­ing your own veg­eta­bles and stuff, all that,’ she laughs. ‘Ab­so­lutely. But I don’t know when. I guess we need to get the wed­ding sorted first.’

I imag­ine that chil­dren are some way down the line, what with her sched­ule stretch­ing well into 2019 and be­yond al­ready. The Voice Kids has al­ready been ear­marked for a third se­ries next year and as Pixie clearly has a hoot record­ing it, I think she will be back. ‘We have a lot of fun on set,’ she says. ‘I love Will and Daniel; we gen­uinely get on so well. We’re all so dif­fer­ent but that’s why it works. Danny’s like the rock star one, I guess. Will’s a ge­nius, and he’s re­ally good with the kids.’

Pixie, who was a hit on Strictly Come Danc­ing in 2014, last­ing un­til the quarter-fi­nals, also has more stage am­bi­tions af­ter play­ing Holly Go­lightly in a 2016 stage adap­ta­tion of Break­fast At Tiffany’s. Her well-re­ceived per­for­mance con­founded the naysay­ers who thought this pop chart Pollyanna might be more style than sub­stance.

It was the first time in a long time, she con­fides, that she had ex­pe­ri­enced nerves, partly as a re­sult of the fact that she had to play the gui­tar, which she had learned es­pe­cially to get the part.

‘A good few months be­fore I started per­form­ing the play I had to record it for a show at the Pal­la­dium,’ she re­calls. ‘And I got on the stage, sat down, and these nerves just came out of nowhere and I thought, “What the hell is this?” But then I just had to get on with it.’

It’s Pixie down to a tee of course, and a mes­sage she’s pass­ing on to her young charges on The Voice Kids. ‘It’s all about the chal­lenge, isn’t it?’ she says. ‘That’s what makes life in­ter­est­ing.’ The Voice Kids re­turns tonight at 8pm on ITV.

‘I’m savvier now, less naive than I was be­fore’

Pixie and with fel­low judges on The Voice Kids, Will.I.Am and Danny Jones

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