New Woman

Date : July 2000

 Louise is examining a Polaroid of herself wearing a low-cut top and worrying about her bust. Then she asks: 'Do my boobs look dodgy?' They don't - they look as near perfect as the rest of her. Tiny, slim, honey-skinned and stacked! If there is a God, we know He's not a woman. And let's not forget Louise is happily married too. In fact, after she wed Jamie Redknapp in June 1998, she disappeared onto wedded bliss and is only back now, two years later, to release her third album.

 Hating her already? Well don't. She's sparky, fun and she's got a fantastically dirty giggle. Best of all though, the singer who's had six Top 20 solo singles and two hit albums happily chats to everyone. To the make-up artist: Where do I put this shadow? I'm useless at putting on make-up! To me: 'Oh my God! Can you smell that food? I'm sooo excited about lunch. How sad is my life? [Giggle.]' After lunch, to chefs washing up: 'I'm very impressed. Three men in a kitchen and they turn this out. I'm not being chauvinistic, but...[Giggle.]'

 And, pen poised, ready to put her to the New Woman test, Louise scuppers me by saying: 'You know those stars you give at the end? Well don't give me five, because it'll look live I've asked you to. Four would be good!' [Giggle.] It's just a formality but here goes...

 Louise welcome back! You've been off the scene for over two years. Did you miss us?

 For the first year it was nice, but by the second year I was bitting my fingernails, going: 'Oh God!' Every time I turned on the TV, there was a new female singer. I was like 'Oh no!'

 So why did you take the break?

 I wanted to get married, and I also felt I needed to give the public a break! You can get so carried away with churning records out that, towards the end, you don't know if you like it, I needed to go away. I was getting older... Then I went ot Doncaster to write this album.

 Doncaster? Very showbiz. Let's talk about the album. What's it called?

 Elbow Beach. It's where I got married [in the Caribbean] and it's the most beautiful place I've ever bee. I was there when I got ideas of what I wanted the album to be about, so when I came home and had to think of a name for the album, I thought: 'What means something to me in life?' and that place does. When I say 'Elbow Beach', I just smile.

 So is the track First Kiss inspired by Jamie then? [Some of the lines go: 'Cos from the first kiss, I'll tell you this, I fell in love. And from the first touch, I knew this much, heaven above... I never want to be free, 'cos sleeping around just ain't for me.']

 It's totally about getting married to him. All the words are about how I feel about him. I'm not somebody who ever had loads of boyfriends.

 I read he that he's only your second boyfriend. Why? Surely you could've been a shagathon?

 [Laughs.] Damn! When I was in Eternal, we didn't think about that! We just worked for hours, full-on. So I didn't go with lots of men.

 Is he touched by the song?

 Yeah, but he's a guy about it! But I think he's proud. I'm proud of it! The other evening I said: 'You know what, Jay? If this album doesn't sell, I'll still hold my head up because I'm proud that I've done it,' if someone had said to me five years ago: 'You'll co-write your whole album,' I would've said: 'Yeah, right!'

 Indoors, are you a housey wife?

 I'm terrible because I'm very tidy.

 Do you mean 'anal'?

 Yes. I've got a bit of anal retention going on! It's sad to like cleaning, but I sort my head out - thinking of clothes, this routine, that song... All my mates take the mickey out of me saying: 'Oh, Louise is coming over. Are you bringing your mop?'

 Is it true you quit your flat in Liverpool's trendy Albert Dock because it was too lively?

 That makes us sound like old fuddy-duddies! It just got really touristy and we had to get through hordes of people just to get indoors. But, also, we wanted to get a dog and have a garden, and we just felt it was time to get a house. and the apartment only had two bedrooms and we both have big families, so they had to stay in hotels when they visited...

 Are you sure you didn't move because your neighbour Mel C kept popping round to borrow sugar and discuss tattoos?

 No! I only saw her twice, in the lift. She was always really friendly, always said: 'Hiya!'

 Do you see your mum and dad a lot?

 Whenever I can. When I come down to London, I very rarely stay in Barnes [her own house]. I'm straight round to my mum's.

 And you've got two brothers: Joseph, 13, and Sam, 11.

 Yeah, I'm very protective of them, and they're such good fun. last night I stayed at Mum and Dad's and at one stage I looked at the three of us, on the sofa, watching TV, sharing a bowl of fruit, and I thought: 'Aah.'

 Are they more impressed by you or Jamie?

 Jamie! It's all: 'Ooh, Jamie's coming over.' They go to school and everyone's like: 'What did you do last night?' And they're like: 'Oh Jamie was around, and Phil Babb and Jason McAteer,' and the other kids are: 'Ooooh', hyperventilating! My brothers are so cool about it: 'Yeah, Lou and Jamie are coming for a barbecue, but I'm going out with my mates.'

 I love the story that, aged five, you'd make tickets for your 'shows' and sell them to your family for 20p.

 Cut them up, sell them, pocket money... The other day my mum said to me: 'They were the longest shows in the world.' They'd all clap and I'd go: 'One more song, Encore,' and they'd sit there going: 'Oh God!'

 Did you have curtains and lighting?

 Everything. Make-up, costumes... My mum had these great boots - pointed, natural-skin ones - and I'd put them on with anything, sometimes with a big ra-ra skirt. And I even painted nail varnish on a bin liner for an outfit once. And I'd sing I Will Survive. Really sad!

 You went ot stage school at 11, joined Eternal at 16, and went solo at 20. do you feel like it all happened too young?

 Because I was young, I wasn't mature enough to enjoy it properly. I didn't appreciate seeing all those places because I was always desperate to get home. I was very homesick.

 Did that success [in her time with the band, Eternal had six Top Ten singles and a best-selling debut album] make you cynical?

 I think it could make you really cynical. Because you're so young, you have to trust who is looking after you, and I was very lucky that I had management I could trust. But I'm not a cynical person, naturally I'm trusting of someone until they do me wrong. It isn't always a good way to be, but, touch wood [she taps her head], I've been lucky. I think my whole life has moved early, I got married early. Nowadays, marrying at 23 is really young.

 It is. At the risk of sounding like a bitter old hag, why did you get married so young?

 I'd travelled the world, I'd been in a pop band, I was lucky enough to afford what I wanted, I had a great family. They say you 'know', when you meet that someone? And you think 'Yeah, right!' But you do know. And, with work and travelling, it's nice to have one stable thing in your life. And Jamie is it.

 You met backstage at a Take That concert...

 Robbie introduced us, in Milan, years ago. We were really good friends for years, we didn't go out straight away. when the press was saying that we were going out, we weren't.

 Did you get an instant 'Weh hey!' with him?

 I must've always fancied him, because I was busy and he was doing his thing, that's when that shield comes up. You go: 'I don't want to be hurt here.'

 So you protected yourself from him?

 For the first two years. Not that I didn't want to fall in love, but I was young... People didn't understand it! We had so much in common, but were just friends. I'd stay at his house and he'd come to mine, I'd even meet his girlfriends...

 How did you feel towards them?

 At first it was fine, but towards the end, I was: 'I hate her!'. And I'd tell him! And the he started saying it to me too, so we went: 'Hang on...' Within a year we were married.

 Were you scared to turn it into romance in case you lost a friend?

 No, by then I really liked him, I feel very lucky that I've met him. He's the most down to earth person I've ever met - he's so not Mr Showbiz. He lives for his football.

 Do you feel jealous of 'his football'?

 No. It's peculiar that I don't, but that's because I know how I feel about what i do, and he doesn't get jealous of that. and you know that your careers aren't forever, that you have to make the most of them while you can. In our work, he's Jamie Redknapp The Footballer, and I'm Louise The Singer. But when we walk through our door, we're just normal.

 So you're basically the Anti-Posh and Becks.

 The offers come in to do pictures together for magazines, and we feel silly saying 'no' - it's not that we're not proud of bine together - but we think there's so much pressure on what you do. It's hard enough being married and making it work - and there's a lot of pressure in what we do individually, so we just don't need the added pressure of every move we make being written about. i didn't marry him for a photo opportunity, I married him because I wanted to spend my life with him.

 Be honest now, can he sing?

 Not a note. Sorry Jamie, but you can't, babe.

 Moving on, is it true that at stage school you were obsessed with your weight?

 I'm the same now, and everyone I speak to is. It's so hard. All girls love fashion, they go through magazines and see hot pants and little tops and women looking fantastic... but it's computerized! I see myself, the changes from the Polaroid's to the actual magazine - and I thank God for stretching! - but it doesn't do young people any good.

 Did you do strict 'an apple for lunch' diets?

 I wasn't ill ill. I just got to the stage where it was all I thought about. I'd be in a ballet class, in my pink tights and leotard, and I'd started getting a chest and a bum and a pot belly, and the girl next to me would be ten and hadn't started developing yet. Now I try to step back from it. But it's hard. you've got to have good karma about yourself. Every week I say: 'I'm not going to let myself stress about being thin.' I still have days of: 'My thighs are huge.' And other days I think 'People are dying and I'm worried about my jeans being tight!'

 You're always topping sexiest women' polls [in FHM's '100 Sexiest Women' poll in '99 she was second]. I hate to be crude, but you are top wank material...

 [She blushes] Oh my God! It amazes me. I don't know how I get on those polls. I think my friends vote a lot! It does your ego good but, I take it with a pinch of salt. there's got to be politics there, if I'm near the top. I'd rather have a number one album. Mind you, this year, I'll be number 80 and going: 'I don't care, honestly, but why only 80?'

 Who would be your sexiest woman?

 Jennifer Aniston's brilliant. She's not the typical, although she is very slim at the moment. Sexiness should be about character, it shouldn't come down to how long your legs are. Mine are very long as you can see, all four inches!

 Are you still in touch with the Eternal girls?

 It's strange because we talk more now than we did when I was in the band. Kelle and I went to school together, so we always talk, but my relationship with Easther and Vernie is a bit strange. We're not on the phone once a month, we don't wish each other happy birthday or happy Christmas, but if I was stuck in Trafalgar Square at midnight I could call them and they'd be there. I wouldn't call it a friendship, but I've got there backing, and they've got mine. you experience so much together as a band, you have a bond.

 Do you see babies in your future?

 I one hundred per cent want them to be in my future. I hope I'd make a good mum. If I'm like my mum I'll be alright, 'cos she's a good lass.

 Would the kiddie be a 'Nurding' or a 'Redknapp'?

 Definitely a Redknapp. Nurding! I don't know where my name came from, but I feel sorry for my brothers. They can't get married and change their surname!

 Have you got a football song that fans sing about you? Like the Posh Spice one [Victoria's footie tribute is chant about her sexual preferences]?

 I'm sure I have! Luckily I don't go to many games to hear it. It would give me a right complex about myself.

 Do you know what Posh's footie tribute song is all about...?

 I so! I've heard it. I was sitting at a game going [Looks mock horrified]. But I didn't sing it.

 Yes you did! The rumour is...

 I started it! [Laughs.] What I like about her and her attitude, is it's very tongue-in-cheek. And I so think she must sit at home and laugh about it all. Good on her!

 So have you passed your driving test yet?

 Yes! Fifth try.

 I'm totally gutted. that's the only reason I liked you, because you were a fellow 'never be able to learn'-er.

 Sorry! It was such a proud moment for me, and, again, very sad, but about a week ago, i got my little card through, with my photo on. I was sitting there all on my own, eating my cereal, and I was looking at the card, thinking: 'This is really wicked. I love this.' Even now, when I drive along, I'm thinking: 'I'm a driver! Oh yeah!'

 DOES SHE SCORE?  It's hard to find anything wrong with our Nurding, but we've still totted up the fors and againsts:

For: Against: - She admits she thinks her thighs are fat and
  can't fit in her jeans - yey! - But then, she clearly hasn't got fat thighs. - She goes to Doncaster rather then LA to write
  an album. - But then dedicates it to the love of her
  millionaire footballer hubby. - She took five tries to pass her driving test. - But now she can afford to buy ten Ferraris.

 But we still love her, so (surprise, surprise) we award you four stars Mrs Nurding-Redknapp.

 Louise releases the first single, 2 Faced from her new album Elbow Beach, this month on EMI Chrysalis.