Katherine Jenkins: “I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t perform”

(News of the World)

Movie-star glamour and the voice of an angel. But it’s only since she’s hit 30 that Katherine Jenkins has learned to love herself:

The studio has come to a hushed standstill. Katherine Jenkins is warming up her vocal cords before (very sportingly) recording a new ringtone for our photographer, and we’re all taking advantage of the free performance. “Mee mee mee mee mee mee mee,” she trills, pacing the floor. The power in her voice is astonishing but she giggles and blushes, all embarrassed when her impromptu rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro receives a round of applause. Not that the Welsh mezzo-soprano is bothered that she’s considered neither cool by the kids nor accomplished by the classical purists – snobs to you and me – who claim a crossover artist can never be respected as a musician.

“I’ve never been cool, I’ve always been a geek,” she says, laughing. “I am what I am and if I tried to be cool it wouldn’t work. And I’m doing something I’m passionate about. I can do a lot of the more popular stuff but classical music is my first love.”

From where we’re standing, 30-year-old Katherine looks like the girl with everything. Disney-princess good looks, a phenomenally successful singing career, a reported £13,000,000 in the bank, and a tall, dark, handsome fiancé in TV presenter Gethin Jones. She doesn’t so much walk as glide, a picture of elegance, always chirpy, always shimmering. It’s almost as if birdsong, butterflies and bunny rabbits should follow her every move. When asked what makes her angry in life, she airily replies: “Bad drivers,” her eyes still smiling. “Oh, and people who leave their phones on in concerts.”

If there’s an ugly temper lurking behind those beautiful baby blues, Katherine’s not about to show it. However, what did upset her was the suggestion in March that she’d moaned that her looks made it difficult to be taken seriously as a classical artist. Burns survivor Emily Savage criticised Katherine on the Channel 4 series Katie Piper: My Beautiful Friends, not realising that the singer’s original quotes had been taken out of context. Katherine says: “When I saw the show I was like …” She takes a sharp intake of breath. “Oh. My. God. You’ve got to be kidding. I got in touch with Emily and promised on my life I’d never said it. It was an interview translated from Belgian and had completely lost its meaning. I would never ever call myself beautiful. I was trying to say I’m a girlie girl. I’ve always loved glamour and I’ve tried to use that in a positive way with my music. Sometimes people say I got this far because of that image and I find that an irritation – I only ever wanted it to be about my music.”
In fact, Katherine admits it’s only now she’s hit 30 that she’s comfortable with how she looks. She went through her 20s lacking confidence. “I always thought thinner was better and it took me a while to accept that was never going to be me. I think you grow into your figure and you learn to appreciate what you’ve got. I’m 100 per cent more secure in my own skin than I was when I started out. Now I love my curves,” she says.

When it comes to maintaining the face and body that undoubtedly helped make Katherine the Forces’ Sweetheart in 2009 and a worldwide superstar, would she ever resort to a helping hand from a Harley Street surgeon? “Right now, I’m not keen on messing around with my face. Who knows what I’m going to feel like in the future? I’d never say never.” And what about her body? The low-cut summer dress Katherine is wearing today reveals a pert pair of suspiciously globe-like breasts … She shifts in her seat, looks slightly awkward and dodges the question. “Well, it’s a personal choice and up to the individual,” she laughs nervously. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Katherine’s ever so nice as she says this, but also makes it absolutely clear that the subject is officially closed. Make of that what you will. She’s certainly not afraid to experiment with her looks, as our dramatic beauty shoot shows. “I’ve never done anything like this before and it looks amazing,” she says. “But it killed me not being able to talk, eat or smile while the jewels were being applied to my lips for the cover shot. One by one!”

Born and raised in Neath, South Wales, Katherine’s meteoric journey began at the age of 17, when she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. After a brief foray into modelling and teaching music, she made a demo that resulted in Universal snapping her up on a six-album deal. Her debut, Premiere, went to No.1 in the UK classical album chart. She went on to sell millions more records, halo always firmly in place, butter-wouldn’t-melt image intact.

It was all going swimmingly until November 2008 when, terrified her drug-taking past was about to catch up with her, Katherine decided to publicly confess that she wasn’t quite the goody two shoes she’d been marketed as. “I thought it was a career-ending moment,” she says. “It was a scary time, but I had my family behind me and I had to believe I was doing the right thing.”

It certainly doesn’t seem to have done her career any harm. Her last record, Believe, gave her a seventh No.1 album and she was recently named as the UK’s richest young music star – pipping Cheryl Cole to the top spot. “I’m not sure if it won me any new fans, but I think it allowed people to understand me better,” says Katherine. “It showed I’m just like everyone else. I’ve made tons of mistakes and they’ve all been part of growing up.”

Dad Selwyn was always Katherine’s biggest champion. He died of lung cancer when she was just 15 and her eyes twinkle with tears and regret that he didn’t live to see her success. “He is here,” she says. “I feel like I’m being guided. He’d have loved all this. It’s my biggest sadness that he’s not here to see it. My dad was the one who was at home because he’d retired. He’d drive me to my singing lessons and joke about what would happen when I was famous and on This Is Your Life.”

He would have relished walking Katherine down the aisle when she eventually marries 32-year-old Gethin. The giant sparkler on her ring finger is a not-so-subtle reminder that there’s a wedding day looming large. “There’s no date yet but it will be in Wales next summer,” she says. “I’m so excited but I’ve hardly got my head around it at the moment. Someone asked me the other day if I was going to sing. Why would I do that at my own wedding? We’re family people so it’ll just be those who are close to us rather than a big showbiz do.” Katherine and Gethin have always been protective of their three-and-a-half-year relationship, refusing to discuss it in interviews and going to great lengths to avoid being photographed together. Yawnsome for us, because you wonder if you’re ever getting to know the ‘real’ Katherine but, according to her, a necessity for them as a couple. “From the start I’ve been careful about drawing that line because I don’t think you can have it all,” she says. “If you’re happy to talk about all those things then fair enough. But for me, my music is one thing and my home life is another.”

Katherine’s latest project sees her return to prime-time telly as a mentor on ITV1’s Popstar To Operastar. This year’s line-up includes Cheryl Baker, Midge Ure, and, bless his heart, Joe McElderry, who will be battling it out as they’re transformed into operatic performers. “I’m really excited,” Katherine says. “Opera is perceived as elitist. But I think the show helps to make it more accessible.”
She has already developed a soft spot for former X Factor winner Joe, who was dumped by his record label two months ago. “He’s adorable. I want him to do well,” she says.

She admits that if circumstances had been different, she might even have entered a show like The X Factor herself. “I was very lucky to get my deal. Had I not been in the right place at the right time, maybe I’d have sung for Simon Cowell. I didn’t know anything about the music business. But what worries me is when you get someone like Susan Boyle who becomes so famous worldwide in an instant.”

Cracking the States is next on Katherine’s list. She’s getting there, too. Following three performances on Dancing With The Stars (the US version of Strictly Come Dancing) in April, five of her albums went top 12 in the US classical charts. Her steely ambition will probably only dwindle, she says, when kids come along.

“I’d love to have children one day,” she says. “I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t perform, but I want to be a good mum and I’m not sure my life at the moment lends itself to that. I want to enjoy motherhood, it’s a gift and I’d like to be around for it.”

Katherine answers each question in gracious and measured tones. She’s tactile and warm but, a self-confessed perfectionist, being in control is where she’s most comfortable. However, she loses that composure when The Apprentice crops up in conversation. “Oh God, it’s freaking me out!” she squeals.

She’s referring to the fact that the £4.7 million home she shares with Gethin is being seen on TV as the pad where the Apprentice hopefuls are living. Before she moved in, Katherine rented it to the BBC while they filmed the series. “I do watch the show and it’s weird seeing the house,” she says. “But they filmed it a long time ago and none of the furniture is mine. My TV guilty pleasure, though, is Made In Chelsea! I think it’s hilarious there are people called Binky and Cheska.” She throws her head back in delight. “I want to be called Binky!”

And then she springs up from her seat and glides away. A consummate performer in every sense.

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