Sarah Harding: 'Girls Aloud wouldn't have stuck around as long without our gay fans'
Not even a broken leg can stop Sarah Harding. On the cusp of recovery from her accident on Channel 4's The Jump, the Girls Aloud singer is set to make a full comeback at Leeds Pride in August. Raring to turn it out for her LGBT fans this summer, the self-professed 'loudmouth' of the group sat down with us to chat about her roots, her future and why she has no intention of slowing down.
“When I get on stage I like to get over the top,” Harding teases in our hotel meeting room. Rocking her signature platinum-blonde hair, the singer is all smiles as she recalls her past performances in gay clubs. “When I did G-A-Y last year I went all out and put my boys in gimp masks and came on in a rubber outfit with a rubber whip, and a top hat and tails on, like ‘come on boys!' I just love to ham it all up and put on a good show.”
Hopefully Sarah has something similarly debauched for her appearance at Leeds Pride on August 6, where she'll be belting out a selection of solo tracks, as well as Girls Aloud classics - which is good news for the band's army of gay fans.
The support of LGBT fans hasn't gone unnoticed by the 34-year-old, who reckons the band's success is partly down to connecting with a gay audience. “They're amazing, they mean everything to me. We probably still wouldn't have stuck around as long as we had without you guys. We love our fans - whether they're gay, straight, bi - but performing for our gay fans have always been the best gigs.”
As the conversation moves on to her Leeds Pride performance - where X Factor stars Lucy Spraggan and Ray Quinn will also perform - it's obvious that the Ascot-born singer is pumped to be performing there. “I love it, I love doing all the Prides. I wish I could do them all.”
Sarah's no stranger to the electric revelry of pride crowds, having performed in Manchester last year. Whether she’ll bring out the gimp masks is another story, but she’s determined to “raise a few eyebrows”: “I'll think of something, I always do - I'm a bit twisted like that,” she said.
'Twisted', 'outgoing' and a 'loudmouth' are just some of the ways Harding describes herself. Carving an identity as the 'lairy one' in Girls Aloud, the singer says she embraced this as her caricature.
“I was always outgoing, the loudmouth,” she said, reflecting on her time with the group. “They used to say on the tours 'big mouth's back wheeeey!’.”
While she’s usually very energetic, once she hits the sofa it's a different, calmer story. And it's no wonder, with new music, a doggy fashion brand and TV appearances to boot to juggle.
“I've grown up a little bit, people can see more of a softer side to me,” she said, insisting that in her 30’s she’s grown fond of looking after her dogs and binging on Orange Is The New Black boxsets. “But I'm still going to be that lairy one on stage who's going to be bringing it all out of the hat and being all feisty. As soon as the red light goes on a camera it's like someone presses a switch and I just completely come alive”, she assures us.
And it wasn't just on the stage where Harding's wild side would come out to play back in the day. Well known for her partying ways, Sarah was a regular on the Soho scene: “I had such a blast back in the day,” she said. “It's just such a lovely vibe, it's great. I’ve hit those poles in Freedom, darling - I love a good pole dance!”
Don't we all.
Although she was one fifth of one of the most successful pop acts in UK history, Harding reckons her roots are in rock and roll, and grew up around "real live music" thanks to her session musician dad. A fan of The Prodigy and Primal Screen, her music tastes are a little at odds with her own music, and popstar public image - and the star is all too aware that she can't “venture too far” from her Girls Aloud heyday.
But with acts like Gwen Stefani (whom Sarah Harding is a major fan of) sliding between rock and pop sounds throughout their careers, the singer feels inspired to take her music to new, "weird, twisted, sweet but sick" heights.
When it comes to bands, individual personalities can sometimes come seconds to a group's overall image. But, as she chatted away, Sarah showed passion, enthusiasm gritty determination - decidedly different from the gloss and sheen of pop music videos.
“I'm not as hard-faced as people think I am,” she insisted, reflecting on moments she’s shared with fans. “I have a very good resting bitch face."
“Until people actually meet me they think I've go the hump or something. I'm actually not like that, I was born with it - it's my face! When people get to know me they're really taken aback and say ‘you're actually really lovely’, and I'm like ‘thanks, what did you think I was?!’" Sarah laughs heartily, showing an easy-going, approachable attitude that has undoubtedly won her the heart of many a fan.
So what's next for the singer? She's currently penning new material (which she hints will be likely performed at Leeds Pride), and “has her fingers in all pies”, with fashion ventures and more reality elision on the cards. Although she reckons she would almost certainly “cry and p*ss and moan" in the I'm A Celebrity... jungle
When asked if she fancies herself as the next Madonna or Kylie, Harding quipped: “I'll have to work on the old bottom, tone up the old butt cheeks!"
"There's only one Kylie, but I could be the Harding.”
Catch Sarah Harding at Leeds Pride on Sunday, August 7. For more information, visit leedspride.com.Why not take a peek Sarah’s doggy fashion brand Yogi Snap, a collection inspired by her adorable French bulldog Yogi.More stories:How many gay men would actually use PrEP? The results are in…‘Decision to withhold PrEP shows the government and health services are contributing to the HIV epidemic’