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Date & time Oct 13
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We chat to Nicole Scherzinger about Lewis and life after The X Factor

Nicole Scherzinger just flew in from Venice late last night, after a romantic weekend with her Formula 1 beau Lewis cartier love bracelet rose gold diamonds Hamilton. She was up at 5am to appear on a breakfast radio show, took rolling phone calls in the car en route, and it's now past midday. She ought to be shattered, but as she sweeps into the YOU photo shoot, a vision of caramel skinned, sinuous beauty with voluminous hair and carmine lipstick, a hunk of olive bread and profanely calorific French cheese in her hand (yes, people, she eats!), she is cresting such a tsunami of energy it's impossible not to get swept up.

'I love British people!' she cries, discarding her vertiginous white Italian shoes and throwing herself on to a deep pile sofa. 'You British, you get me. I mean, you really get my quirkiness and my sense of humour. And you're so, so bubbly!'

Come again? Truth be told we weren't at all bubbly ten minutes ago, quite the opposite. I'd say we were flat as two day old cola. But Nicole fizzes with such a surfeit of to use her own catch phrase 'shamazing' effervescence, that just as the Queen probably thinks her kingdom smells like fresh paint, the former X Factor sweetheart and singer is under the bizarre impression that the UK is peopled by irrepressible euphorics. Which is really rather sweet.

It's also one of the reasons why, after two series spent watching Nicole laughing, weeping (she even cries prettily), gasping and emoting on The X Factor judging panel, the nation has taken the ex Pussycat Doll to its heart. But the thing is, she's off. Gone. Upped and left us. Contrary to reports, Simon Cowell didn't offer her 3 million and a herd of golden elephants to come back, because the 35 year old, who has been signed to record label Sony, is currently immersed in her music career and this month releases the first single, 'Your Love', from her long awaited and as yet untitled second solo album, due out in October.

The single is breathy, sexy and, thanks to an almost criminally catchy chorus, has the words 'sure fire summer hit' running through it like a stick of rock. Of course we know there is promotion to be done and personal appearances to be made, and then there are those kooky Mller yoghurt adverts on the go, fake cartier mens bracelet for sale but surely, Nicole, can't you just juggle a little harder and squeeze The X Factor into your schedule?

'I love my X Factor family but, you know, this next chapter is all about my music. Whenever I do anything I give 100 per cent; when I was a judge, I invested so totally in the contestants and helping them achieve their potential, and that took up all my head space and my heart too, so my music was put on the back burner. Now I want to express myself creatively in a different way, but I hope to be on the show performing. I really don't want you all to forget me!'

As if. It has to be said that the slightly gruesome all American triumvirate of positivity, sincerity and openness usually makes us cynical Brits wince. So it is with Nicole. Even when she talks about God and faith (which she does a lot and without any of the irony that is almost mandatory in this country), we still love her.

Her pop pedigree is impeccable: she was in a girl band that won Popstars, the forerunner of American Idol, before being cast as the lead vocalist in the burlesque Pussycat Dolls, a 50 million record selling band who were once supported on tour by the then relative unknowns Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

Their first single, 'Don't Cha', as in 'Wish your girlfriend was hot like me?' was a global smash that you'll now probably hum all day (sorry). The band went their separate ways and Nicole released a slew of singles, then an album, Killer Love, and bumped Adele off the top spot with her single 'Don't Hold Your Breath'. She then joined The X Factor in both the US and the UK, where she played neither good cop nor bad cop, more of a constructive cop who always had something encouraging to say.

She's gone so native, she's mildly addicted to Percy Pigs, those squishily moreish jelly sweets from Marks Spencer, and to seal her place in our affections, Nicole is dating our very own heart throb Lewis Hamilton, 29. Since they hooked up in 2008, their long distance relationship conducted over so many time zones it would take Stephen Hawking to calculate the likelihood of them being awake at the same time has been on and off more frequently than the brake lights on his W04 Mercedes.

Right now, Lewis is blazing a trail to glory on the high adrenalin, high stakes Formula 1 circuit, but the pair are continuing to carve out time for one another; and who could fail to be swept away by a romantic weekend in Venice? 'Lewis and I were at a tiny restaurant with, like, four tables and I noticed George Clooney was sitting at one of them,' says Nicole in her soft southern drawl. 'I told my boyfriend that the one time I met George Clooney, I made a complete klutz of myself. It was at the Hope for Haiti Now telethon, which he was organising, and he came up to me and said, "Nicole, thank you so much for coming today,"

and I was so starstruck I reached out my hand and said, "Hi, I'm Nicole Scherzinger," to which he replied, "I know, Nicole, I asked you here."' Lewis continued to be sceptical that Clooney would remember her, but just as the film star was leaving, he approached the table. 'George said, "Oh, hi Nicole, last time we met was at the telethon."' To Nicole's satisfaction, Lewis was impressed to the point of open mouthed wordlessness.

Apart from demonstrating that even that ill defined stratum known as 'celebrity' has a distinct pecking order, the incident shows the down to earth nature of the couple's relationship. There's more: they play board games, they watch knockabout comedies and, although they could, they don't always dine in fabulous eateries. 'Whenever we are in the same place at the same time, we love to go to' (Where, Nicole, where? Tiffany's? Gucci? Louis Vuitton?) 'the supermarket.' She beams.

'It makes me feel so normal. Usually my assistants go for me, so when we go together it's a real treat. Actually, I'm a market man's dream. I read all the labels avidly and if it says "our peanut butter is the best in the world", fake cartier love bracelet men I'll get all excited and buy it because that means it must be the best in the world, right? Usually I get stuff for simple meals like chicken fajitas or pasta with sauce.' But even she concedes such downtime is rare. 'If we lived in the same country or even the same continent it would make things easier. But I guess I like things complicated.'

The pair make an A list couple to if not yet match then certainly bear comparison with another glittering pop sport union. Would she and Lewis fancy being fted as the new Beckhams? After all, Nicole has already designed a clothing range (more of which later), albeit at the other end of the market. 'Ha ha! That would be funny, that wouldn't be bad at all. Look at how far Victoria's come; I love her cartier rose gold bangle fashion and when I was working on my collection I was totally focused and insisted on the reworking of hems and the redoing of zips again and again because I take pride in whatever I'm doing.'

There has been talk of Nicole and Lewis settling down together (at present she is based in Los Angeles and he lives in Monaco), but she refuses to be drawn. 'Everything else in our lives is out there, we need to have a tiny private bit that's just ours. Whenever someone asks me whether I want children, it's hard to answer because then the headlines will be, "Nicole wants a baby now," which isn't true. I do come from a large and close knit family and when the time is right, and it's God's will, I'd like to have lots of children. But not at this stage; that's much further down the line. Right now my self expression is my music.'

The self Nicole is expressing is more mature than previously. Because despite remaining highly driven and motivated with a work ethic that would make a world leader blush (if her stage outfits didn't get there first), there's acceptance, too, of herself and of others. Having garnered a reputation for being moody and controlling while in the Pussycat Dolls, she has relaxed considerably, she claims.

'I wouldn't say I was controlling I was a perfectionist. I still am; there's always more to be done, everything can be improved upon. But back when I was with the girls, I was lonelier than I've ever been. That was down to me, my psychology. I wasn't happy with who I was, I worried constantly about what other people thought of me, so I kept them at arm's length.' Insecure yet ambitious, she pushed herself harder and developed the eating disorder bulimia, with which she struggled for a decade. Judging by the impressive Scooby Snack she's just polished off, her food anxieties are a thing of the past.

'I am thankful that part of my life is over, that I'm older and wiser and not a 14 year old girl who feels she has to run as fast as she can for as long as she can for as far as she can because she's just not thin enough, not good enough. My self esteem isn't tied up with stuff that's not important. These days, if I put on a few pounds, I embrace the curves, hell yeah! I'm a woman now, I'm comfortable in my own skin and this album is a very personal reflection of that; I talk about everything from heartache to love to sexuality and I think the result is fun and fresh and hopeful.'

Born in Honolulu to a half Hawaiian, half Ukrainian mother and a Filipino father, who deserted the family when she was two, Nicole was brought up in Kentucky, where she was adopted by her German stepfather and took his name. They lived in straitened circumstances and were conservative, devout Catholics, who attended church and read the Bible, but Nicole had such a burning desire to act and sing (on Broadway, no less) that her parents sent her to a dramatic arts school where she strove to be the best at all costs.

'I had a very small voice, the size of a mouse, but inside I felt something different,' she says. But fame is a Faustian pact; when she joined the Pussycat Dolls, she famously cried when she saw the skimpy outfit she had to wear, although judging from her extravagantly provocative performance style, she's well over that particular trauma.

Earlier this year she launched her rather saucy clothing range with mass market website Missguided, modelling the designs herself. Her 35 cutaway bodycon frock looks fabulous on Nicole's toned figure; however, I strongly suspect this gorgeousness is non transferable. But Nicole, who is as happy in tracksuit bottoms as she is in flamboyant Vivienne Westwood or tailored Helmut Lang, is sanguine about such things because, hey, it's all about reaching the people. 'I'm living in the moment; when I take on a new challenge,

Top and skort, both Carven. Belt, Victoria Beckham. Shoes, Jimmy Choo. Large cuff, Adler. Pink rose ring, silver rose ring and bracelet, all Dior Fine Jewellery

I just dive in head first. This sense of never being finished used to feel like a burden, but these days I feel blessed that I am a work in progress, that there's always a new passion to be embraced, a new beginning on the horizon.' I think we can safely say we wouldn't take that sort of dreamy inspirational schmaltz from anyone other than Nicole. She's an odd mix of poise and gullibility, elegance and raunch, regal grace and humility; it makes for the sort of eccentricity we treasure.

'One crucial thing I have learnt is that time is the most precious thing we have to give,' she says. 'I used to be such a workhorse I never even went on holiday, but when my mom came to visit me recently, I took a few days off and spent them with her, just having lunch and hanging out and catching up, and that made me feel so good.'

For the foreseeable future, her time will be dedicated to the hard sell, although of course she would never put it so crudely. 'Here in Britain you're so receptive to my light, my shine, my shamazingness. I like to think I'm a positive, uplifting voice, and, you know, I'd perform every week on The X Factor if ya'll would have me.' That would be lovely, if unlikely; but maybe Nicole, when you go, could you leave behind some of your glorious life affirming bubbles? There's a bag of Percys in it for you.
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