Katherine Jenkins: “I’m only human”

(News of the World)

Difficult, a diva and downright demanding or classical music’s sweetheart? Rumours abound about opera’s blonde bombshell and today we’re here to uncover the real Katherine Jenkins. Understandably we are somewhat nervous.

Did La Jenkins really have a musician sacked after she dared to make a negative remark about her? (Later, KJ claims not, insisting the story was exaggerated).

Fortunately, the day gets off to a good start. Katherine is up for our shoot, which plays on the Welsh mezzo soprano’s good girl image versus bad girl rep. Until she sees the clothes. Our vision of uber-vamp (all thigh-high leather boots) does not tally with Katherine’s. So we have to compromise – KJ opts instead for a body-con dress, black leather gloves and agrees to hide her Marilyn-curls with a fake-fringed peroxide wig. She looks fierce, super-vampy and pretty darn hot. And, although she was initially unsure, Katherine seems to like it too.

“I’ve always wanted a fringe, but I didn’t think it would suit me,” she says, curiously inspecting her reflection in the photography studio’s bulb-framed mirror. “I’m enjoying it, but I don’t experiment with my hair. I’d never cut it in case I changed my mind,” she confesses. She’s clearly impressed by our transformation, but doesn’t say so. We wonder if she’s out of her comfort zone and that makes her nervous.

Because it soon becomes clear Katherine, 29, is a woman obsessed with order who leaves nothing to chance. A self-confessed “hands-on artist”, she signs off everything personally – the albums, the graphics on the sleeve, the words on the back. She makes herself responsible for everything and, she tells us, being Miss Perfectionist can be exhausting. “Sometimes I do think I’m a little hard on myself,” she admits. “Yes, it’s annoying and I wish I could let it go because it’s more work for me. I write lists because if I don’t everything is a complete mess. I used to be all over the place, but now I have to be organised and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

With a nervous laugh, she adds: “I sound really OCD!”

Workaholic might be a better description. Her latest album, Believe, which reached number six in the UK charts, is being launched in America and it’s at times like these that Katherine switches up a gear. “When albums come out I go to bed at midnight and get up at 4 a.m. because there’s so much to do,” she explains. “I don’t believe that these things come to you on a plate – it’s all about hard work. I got my really strong work ethic from my mum. She always told me to work hard and to be an independent woman. But I love what I do. I work unsociable hours, and I enjoy it. When I was growing up I didn’t go out on my bike playing with the other kids, I was always keeping myself busy doing musical things – choir or piano or dance lessons. I’m used to being driven like that.”

With worldwide work commitments, coupled with a recent judging role on ITV’s reality show Popstar to Operastar, it’s no wonder business brain Katherine has little down time. On the rare occasion she flicks off the busy button, Katherine says it’s “absolute bliss” to kick back at the north London home she shares with her boyfriend, ex-Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones.

“I’d rather stay in than go out,” she admits. “I prefer to cook as I eat out so much and love making a roast dinner. I get into my pyjamas, light candles and catch up on episodes of Spooks, 24 or Grey’s Anatomy on Sky+.”

Suddenly an endearing, girl-next-door version of Katherine emerges and, girl-to-girl, we ask how she copes being apart from her man for weeks on end while she’s off doing concerts, promotional tours and the like.

“It’s tough,” she admits. “But I speak to my friends and family on Skype, so it doesn’t feel as far away and that helps.”

Ask Katherine whether she’s a good girlfriend and she replies with “generally” before adding: “I’m quite easy-going. I’m a mother hen and I like to look after everyone. I’m always the one who cooks.”

She and TV presenter Gethin, 32, met in 2005 when she was a guest on Blue Peter. Although fellow Welshman Gethin was said to be smitten, Katherine was already in a relationship. It was only during a shared appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in October 2007 – Gethin was dancing while Katherine was performing on the show – that love blossomed.

So, was it love at first sight we ask? Katherine answers instantly: “No comment,” her expression suddenly going stony. We ask if she and Gethin will marry. “No comment,” she again snaps.

Okaaay. Perhaps we’re beginning to see the harder side of La Jenkins. So what about babies? “No comment.”

In the flick of a switch, Katherine closes up – just like an oyster protecting its pearl. We can’t help thinking if gorgeous Gethin was our boyfriend, we’d be showing him off proudly to the world like a shiny pair of Louboutins. But Katherine seems determined to keep her relationship off the media radar.

“I protect my privacy fiercely,” she responds. “We don’t pose for photos together because we want to be private. I don’t want to look like I’m using my relationship to publicise something. I draw a line.”

It’s fair to say the cosiness of our chat has significantly cooled. Katherine’s not naming names, but says that female celebrities “who aren’t talented and sell everything about themselves to be famous” wind her up. The irony, perhaps, is that by keeping her relationship so clandestine, Katherine is surely fuelling media interest. In any case, all this effort must make for a pretty awkward way of living?

But Katherine disagrees. “I feel like I’m really open about everything else in my life. I just want to keep something personal.”

Next, to mirror the theme of our shoot, we fire some good girl/bad girl questions at KJ. She could answer them all tongue in cheek, play the game. She doesn’t. We go for it anyway. Have you ever had an inappropriate dream about a friend, colleague or ex-boyfriend? She fixes us with those baby blues. “I’m not talking about that,” she says. We try again. Have you ever cheated on a boyfriend? “I don’t want to talk about that,” she replies. Have you ever faked an orgasm? “No comment,” she pouts.

We can’t help laughing and gently remind Katherine that all women have at some point faked the Big O, and joke that we may as well be asking: Have you ever had a number two? She replies: “If you asked me that I would say no comment because the headline would be: ‘Katherine Jenkins, I poo’.”

It’s clear that Katherine’s been badly stung in the past and she’s petrified of it happening again. Two years ago, she admitted she had dabbled in both cocaine and ecstacy as a teenager. “People perceive me as someone who doesn’t make mistakes but the truth is everyone has a little bad in them – I’m only human,” she explains. “I’ve made tons of mistake. I was worried it was going to have a negative effect, that people would turn their backs on me.”

But they didn’t. In fact, Katherine’s honesty helped people warm to her. She took a risk, she was open, and she admitted she had learnt from those wayward days. She earned respect and since then, her career has gone crazy. When Katherine – who currently ranks 13th in the list of richest musicians under the age of 30 – signed a £5.8 million deal with Warner Bros Records in 2008, it was dubbed the biggest in classical history.

But Katherine’s not your usual cash-flashing celeb, which she credits her parents for. Her mum, Susan, is a mammographer, while her late dad Selwyn worked in a factory. “I’ve been sensible. My parents didn’t have credit cards and didn’t buy anything unless they had the money, so I always live within my means,” she says. “I don’t go mad. My biggest splurge has been a grand piano. I love shoes but the piano is something I’ll have all my life.”

Her father’s death from lung cancer when she was just 15 is a loss that still cuts her deeply. He was immensely proud of his daughter, who joined the church choir aged seven and twice won BBC Radio 2’s Welsh Choirgirl Of The Year. When he retired, Selwyn devoted everything he had to Katherine’s passion for music, ferrying her from the family home on a council estate in Neath, South Wales, to weekly lessons and recitals. “He always said if I worked hard, I’d make it,” she says. “I can feel him around when I sing. I think he’s what spurs me on. And when I hear the Luther Vandross song Dance With My Father, that’s when I miss him the most,” she says, her voice cracking with a hint of emotion.

Katherine is a deep thinker, and when you delve into her past, you realise she’s endured a lot. She fell victim to a stalker in 2008, and when she was 19, she survived an attempted rape. Katherine won’t talk about the attack, focusing instead on the outcome.

“I had counselling after my experience and I think that’s a good thing. I had counselling for lots of things,” she admits.

We wonder if she means her body issues: While a student at London’s Royal Academy Of Music (she won a scholarship there at the age of 17), Katherine became obsessed with her weight and plummeted to 7 stone.

“I did lots of silly diets – including the Atkins for far too long. I remember a Weetabix diet too. I had issues with food at the time, but I don’t think it was an eating disorder. It was me being silly about my weight and wanting to be skinny,” she says. “Like all women I have days where I think I need to diet or be taller but I’m comfortable in my own skin now. I’ve grown into acceptance. Cancer really frightens me because of my dad so I try to be healthy by eating fish, eggs, vegetables and not drinking too much. I run to keep fit.”

Katherine admits she may get a little assistance in the looks department in years to come if she felt the need. “I’d have a nip and tuck when I’m older if it would make me feel better,” she explains.

So has she had any work done already? And, just as we thought we’d won the battle, she answers “No comment.”

Super singer, skilled businesswoman and a master question-evader Katherine, you really are a class act.

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