Sunday, January 13, 2013

The life and times of Cheryl Cole

book review

Cheryl opens up about being a judge on The X Factor UK, getting sacked from The X Factor US, and her subsequent feelings towards music mogul Simon Cowell

Author: Cheryl Cole
Book: Cheryl: My Story

A young girl fulfills her childhood dream of becoming a pop star, only to realize that fame comes at a price, in Cheryl: My Story, the autobiography of the Girls Aloud singer. The book details the British entertainer's transition from Cheryl Tweedy to Cheryl Cole to just Cheryl over the course of 29 years, discussing some of the highs and lows she encountered along the way.

My Story follows Cheryl's life and the events that took her from living in a council estate to becoming one of Britain's biggest pop stars, as well as the aftermath of her success. She talks about her upbringing and formative years in Newcastle, the troubles that crept up in her family when she was a child, her aspirations of becoming a performer fuelled by her conviction in her own abilities, and the tumultuous relationships that almost derailed her dreams. The singer says she knew early on that she wanted to “dance and sing and entertain people”. No matter what was going on in her life, she never had any doubts about her eventual success; for her, it “was not a question of 'if' I was going to make it, just 'when'.” Living in a town ravaged by drugs, she watched as the young people around her wasted their lives after falling prey to addiction, but music eventually helped her find a way out.

Cheryl recalls the story as she becomes a part of the reality television singing competition Popstars: The Rivals which leads her to a place on the female pop group Girls Aloud. After that, it's a revisit to the things that have been tabloid fodder ever since - criticism in the face of the rising success of the pop group, her marriage to footballer Ashley Cole and its subsequent dissolution amidst cheating allegations, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Comic Relief, contracting malaria while on a safari in Africa with Derek Hough, being a judge on The X Factor UK, getting sacked from The X Factor US, and her subsequent feelings towards Simon Cowell. All the while the tabloids are delivered a hefty hammering by the singer for hounding her and invading her privacy.

Cheryl is particularly candid about Ashley's cheating and its aftermath (and her heartbreak over the break up is clearly obvious), plus it's interesting to read her perspective on Simon Cowell, but while she opens up about some issues, other things - like the internal rifts in Girls Aloud, for example - seem glossed over. Much of the book feels guarded and sterilized to dissuade rumors and controversy and present a favourable image of the singer.

There is a lot that still remains in the shadows; for instance, if you were unsure about the nature of her relationships with Derek Hough and, you will come out none the wiser after perusing the book. The focus of My Story doesn't seem to be on discussing interesting anecdotes and details from her life, but on retelling the tales that are already out there. This isn't so much her story, but her version of the events that you've already read about elsewhere. Plus the privacy angle seems less convincing based on some of her own decisions; she seems to be drawn towards fame, then despise the publicity, and simply does not come across as an artist concerned with the art of music. And while her Geordie dialect makes her writing more personable, we never really get a proper sense of her personality.

On the whole, My Story isn't exactly the most fascinating autobiography you will ever read. It isn't as exciting and captivating as reading about the life of a rock star or music industry insider who is sharing decades of anecdotes and experiences that you will be fascinated by even if you're not a fan of that particular musician. Instead, it is a guarded look at the singer's life that aims to air her perspective on all the media hoopla surrounding her. The main purpose of the book seems to be to present Cheryl's take on events, and if you are a fan or have been following the tabloid stories and want to know her side of things, then the book might interest you; but if you don't belong to either category, then this autobiography is probably not going to be high on your must read list.

- By Sameen Amer

 Instep, The News on Sunday - 13th January, 2013

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