Jesy Nelson says she was the ugly one in Little Mix, I know what that feels like, says S Club's Jo O'Meara

IN every pop group there is a member who feels like the outsider . . .  even if they are the most talented one.

So when Jesy Nelson dramatically quit Little Mix last December — saying she could no longer deal with the comparisons to her ultra-slim bandmates — it was a familiar story to Jo O’Meara.


As one-seventh of the Noughties pop phenomenon S   Club   7, she enjoyed an incredible four-year run in which they won two Brit Awards and all 11 of their singles reached the Top Five of the charts.

But she wound up with crippling insecurities and feeling like “the ugly one” for years as a result of the intense body shaming she faced — even though she arguably had the best voice in the group.

In an exclusive chat, Jo — now 42 but who was just 19 when she landed her place in S Club — says: “When I look back, I wasn’t that big really.

“But because I was standing next to three absolutely stunning girls, I was always ‘the ugly one that sang the songs’.

“It made me feel very insecure as a singer and as part of that group. I did have a hell of a lot of insecurities to overcome.

“Obviously there wasn’t social media back then. But the headlines would be ‘Fat Club 7’ and ‘Flab Club 7’ and it would be a photo of me.

“Whenever I did TV appearances I’d always sit with a cushion to hold over my tummy so people wouldn’t pick up on it.

“The more weight I was starting to put on, the worse it got.”

'TOTALLY RELATE'

Jo’s story is very like that of Jesy, 30. While Jo did not face abuse on the likes of Twitter and Instagram, she can understand very well why Jesy decided to walk away from the chart-topping girl group.

Jo, who yesterday relaunched her solo career with new single Sweet Surrender, says: “I can totally relate to Jesy and how she feels because it’s a very real thing, body shaming.

“It’s a horrible thing to be on the receiving end of.

“I don’t know what advice to give to people out there because I don’t know the answers. I don’t think I overcame those issues for a very long time.

“It’s only now I’ve overcome it, and I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

“I feel like I know exactly who I am and I’m happy in my skin.

“I know what I want to do musically and I’m career-focused. It’s been a long battle to get here but I got here finally and I’m going to make sure that I enjoy every second this time.”

‘I was next to three absolutely stunning girls and
I felt very insecure. I wasn’t that big really butthe more weight I put on, the worse it got’

In 2002, while promoting S Club’s fourth and final album Seeing Double, Jo suffered a serious back injury that left her struggling to move.

She says: “That was a really tough time for me. On the tour I was just plonked in different parts of the stage to sing and it was very frustrating.

“Putting on a lot of weight at that time didn’t help because I felt really bad about myself. It was a horrible time.”

Yet Jo achieved remarkable success alongside bandmates Rachel Stevens, Hannah Spearritt, Tina Barrett, Bradley McIntosh, Jon Lee and Paul Cattermole.

As well as scoring hit albums and four chart-topping singles, they were telly regulars and even starred in their own movie on top of gruelling tours.

While Jo was the group’s vocal powerhouse, that talent ended up adding to her insecurities, as she feared her bandmates might come to resent her.

She says: “I’d think, ‘Oh no, it’s me singing again. They’re going to hate me for it’.

“But it’s just that the songs that were released suited my voice more than some of the others.

“We were told who was going to be taking what parts on the songs and we did what was asked.

“It just happened that I did take most of the leads on the songs that were released.”

Despite multiple nominations, the group were working too hard to attend Brit Awards bashes, setting a pace that put all seven members under strain.

Jo says: “We didn’t have time to stop and appreciate the things we were achieving because it was just continuous. We didn’t stop.

“There were times when I absolutely loved it, of course, and there were times when I absolutely hated it.

“That was purely from being tired and away from home.”

The seven reunited in 2015 for their sell-out Bring It All Back tour — and another return could now be on the cards.

But Jo is cautious about the prospect, saying: “There’s been no official meetings or chats about it. At this second, I’m concentrating on my solo stuff — the album and singles — but I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future. I’ll leave it there.”

That “solo stuff” is With Love, her first album since 2005’s Relentless, released on August 27.

FRESH START

Jo is taking her music more seriously than ever, having quit smoking to improve her voice and overhauling her diet and exercise regime, while spending more than a year crafting the record.

On restarting her solo career, she says: “I wanted to do it all the time but I was always nervous of taking that step in case it didn’t work.

"Rejection is quite a tough pill to swallow sometimes, isn’t it? I was a bit frightened that people wouldn’t want me because of my age and stuff. But my friend said, ‘You’ve got nothing to lose’ .”

Jo got in touch with the producer of her first solo record, Brian Rawling, who has also worked with the likes of Cher, One Direction and Tina Turner.
Within days, they were in the studio.

Jo says: “There was definitely unfinished business there. I wanted to do it again, to be stronger, with more songs and a different sound.

“This album is particularly important and special to me because I feel like I’ve been a lot more creative this time around.”

They went to work on the album last March — a fortnight before the first lockdown.After a year’s delay forced by the pandemic, the new single Sweet Surrender came out yesterday.

The song is about falling for the wrong guy despite the warnings of friends — although Jo has no concerns on that front.

Since she gave birth to her son Lenny, now 13, in 2008 and split from his dad, Bill Slate, she has remained proudly single.

Jo says: “I‘ve been on my own for a very long time and I’m quite happy with it that way, to be honest.

“I want to concentrate on what I’m doing and my career. There’s not anything to report on that front.

“I don’t think there should be any pressure on a woman that they’ve got to have a man. I’m fulfilled in every way I need to be.

“I love my job, I love working and I love being a mum. I’m very happy on my own.”


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