Friday, 8th October, 2004

News Menu Button Living the dream

Karen Price, Western Mail

SHE answers the door to her apartment looking every inch the celebrity. Her long, blonde mane has been teased to perfection, her make-up is expertly applied and she's wearing a stylish powder blue off-the-shoulder top and matching short skirt - you just can't help but take it all in.

With a huge smile on her face, a bare-footed Katherine Jenkins ushers me inside.

The North London home she shares with her songwriter boyfriend Steve Hart, who was once in boy band Worlds Apart, is immaculate - all cream walls and sumptuous pale carpets.

She takes me to the first floor living room, which leads to a decked balcony complete with a hot tub and views of central London.

With such a glamorous lifestyle, it's hard to believe that just two years ago, the mezzo soprano from Neath was living life like any other typical student.

But since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music in July 2002, her career has taken off at record speed.

Earlier this year she signed a £1m recording contract with Universal Classics, which was the largest deal for a new artist in UK classical recording history.

Today she has a diary packed full of engagements, including a series of shows in Las Vegas next summer, and she has celebrity friends like New Zealand's teenage singing export Hayley Westenra.

Her voice is obviously the main reason for her overwhelming success but Katherine also has that other vital ingredient loved by the music industry - glamour.

For concerts and showbiz events she turns up in long, designer gowns - for this year's Bafta Cymru Awards she wore a revealing £8,000 dress borrowed from celebrity designer Bruce Oldfield.

So does she ever slob around in faded track suit bottoms and scuffed trainers?

"When I'm at home I wear no make-up - I like to be completely relaxed," she insists.

"I wear track suit bottoms and my hair is tied back."

She works with a stylist for major events - although she will never wear anything she doesn't like.

"I'm quite strong-minded about my clothes. I don't like people telling me what to wear.

"I don't think clothes have to be by a designer - some of my clothes are designer and some aren't.

"I know instantly if I see a stage dress - I like long dresses for performing. I generally like bright clothes or something that's just a bit unusual. Performance is about image as well as sound."

With her stunning looks, the 24-year-old has in the past been described as the Kylie Minogue of classical music.

But Katherine is adamant that she would never follow in the Australian's footsteps and become a pop singer.

"It's not me. I feel like I've really trained hard and it's important to stay true to yourself," she says. "I'm not really interested in pop - I like everyone else doing it but it's not me."

Instead, she is keen on becoming the female answer to Bryn Terfel. "Maybe in six or seven years I would like to combine full-scale operas with recording, like Bryn does - he's got the balance exactly right."

Katherine's rapid rise to fame has certainly been the stuff of fairytales.

A year ago, most people didn't know her name but today, with a chart-topping debut album under her belt, she's often stopped by fans, particularly when she returns to Wales to see her mother Susan.

Katherine's father Selwyn died when she was just 15 and mother and daughter enjoy a close relationship.

"I went for dinner recently with my mum in Cardiff Bay and I forgot that people may recognise me," she smiles, looking slightly embarrassed.

"Everyone who passed me was saying, 'It's Kath!' and people were coming up and asking me to sign napkins. It was strange but really nice. Mum was laughing - she thought it was hilarious. I think it proves to her that I'm doing well."

Although her fans are all ages, she has many young male admirers.

So has she had any marriage proposals?

"Not yet!" she laughs. "I don't think I get any attention like that - but I'm not looking for it."

Her younger sister Laura, 22, who recently graduated from Cardiff University, was travelling when Katherine released her debut album Premiere in April and she is amazed to suddenly have a famous sibling.

"She got back and all this had happened. My mum's still showing her the endless newspaper cuttings."

Katherine believes her success stems from her singing the national anthem at the Millennium Stadium in August 2003 before the Wales v England World Cup warm-up. (Check it out HERE)

"It gave me the chance to sing to so many people and represent Wales," she says. "When I was asked to do it, it felt like a dream come true. I only had a couple of weeks to prepare and was actually really panicking as it was my first public performance after signing the record deal so I felt I really needed to impress."

She certainly impressed the crowd and from there she toured with Aled Jones. The day the tour ended, she flew to Australia to perform at Sydney Opera House with Max Boyce as part of the Rugby World Cup celebrations.

"I don't know how I kept going because the jet lag was terrible," she says. "I didn't see any of the sights of Sydney - only the views I could see from the hotel window. So I went to Australia and didn't see a thing!"

Out of all of the highlights of the last year, which include supporting Sir Cliff Richard during his tour, singing with Hayley Westenra in New York and performing at the Millennium Stadium, Katherine says her greatest moment was topping the classical album chart with Premiere for seven weeks. It also entered the pop album chart at number 31.

"I cried my eyes out when I heard. I had stayed in and made a Sunday roast and had a few friends round to take my mind off it. I had a call from my manager to say it was number one and I just burst out crying."

Although it's just six months since she released Premiere, Katherine has already recorded a follow-up, Second Nature, which will be released on October 18.

The new album is more opera based and Katherine will perform some famous tenor arias, including Caruso.

As far as her success is concerned, Katherine admits she's still pinching herself.

"I never imagined it would come so quickly - I was in the right place at the right time and had a lot of good luck."

Not to mention those good looks and a voice like velvet.

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Article located by Jon Voslo


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