It only took the jury of the TV reality show Popstars: The Rivals a few seconds to decide that Sarah Harding has star quality.
& # 39; You're through. You go to london! & # 39; An animated Pete Waterman told her just a few lines in her foreplay.
She kissed Waterman and fellow judges Louis Walsh and Geri Halliwell before bursting out excitedly. Her blonde ponytail was buzzing.
That day at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester – August 16, 2002 – was the start of an extraordinary roller coaster ride that saw Sarah become a key member of Britain's most successful girls' band, bringing in her fortune, fame and reputation as a wild child.
Now, 18 years later, the 38-year-old has withdrawn behind closed doors as she embarks on the biggest battle of her life against metastatic breast cancer.
"I fight as hard as I can," she said yesterday and shared a photo on Instagram of herself in the hospital, where she is receiving weekly chemotherapy.
It only took the jury of the TV reality show Popstars: The Rivals a few seconds to decide that Sarah Harding (pictured) has star quality
Dark-haired and in a hospital gown, she has been barely recognizable since her time as the blonde bombshell from Girls Aloud, who scored hit after hit together with bandmates Nadine Coyle, Cheryl Tweedy, Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts.
Now known to the other girls as "Hardcore Harding" for her wild party, her past struggles with depression and alcohol addiction – not to mention her checkered love life – are well documented.
But outside of her family and close circle of friends, no one seems to have known about her last battle.
Sarah grew up in Staines, Middlesex, and played in front of her bedroom mirror with a hairbrush in hand.
The family moved to Stockport, Cheshire, at the age of 14 in 1996, and three years later their parents divorced. Sarah left school without completing her GCSEs and later said she didn't get the point.
Pictured: Sarah with Cheryl Cole, Nicola Roberts, Nadine Coyle and Kimberly Walsh in Girls Aloud
She explained, "I started hanging out with the wrong amount and drinking a lot, just to block out the pain of my parents breaking up."
In addition to alcohol, she also experimented with cannabis.
After graduating from high school, she attended performing arts classes at North Cheshire Theater College and completed an NVQ in Hairdressing and Beauty so she could make money while continuing her singing career.
She was 17 when she changed her last name from Hardman to Harding because she thought it sounded more starry.
With the help of a music producer, she began playing in clubs and pubs in North Wales and was a member of a short-lived Stockport pop act called Project G.
In August 2002, she saw an ad for a TV talent show looking for the biggest UK girl band since the Spice Girls. Then, at the age of 20, she auditioned with a friend and camped overnight to secure a spot at the top of the line.
Sarah (pictured in hospital) has embarked on the biggest battle of her life against metastatic breast cancer
The next day, she wowed the judges in cut jeans and a black wrap-around ballet top.
She was among 30 young male and female candidates sent to London and unveiled to the public in September 2002 when Pop Stars: The Rivals began their run.
Housed in two Surrey mansions – one for the boys, one for the girls – one candidate was evicted from each house each week until two groups of five were left to fight for Christmas spot.
Sarah was the oldest member of the last Girls Aloud line-up, and her debut single Sound Of The Underground took her to the top of the charts in December 2002, securing overall victory over her all-male rival One True Voice.
The following years brought success that most musicians can only dream of.
There were four No. 1 singles, 20 top 10 hits and two No. 1 albums. By 2008, the group had a net worth of £ 30 million and two Guinness World Records mentions thanks to the number of records sold.
Music aside, they've been part of extremely lucrative merchandise stores, including those with Mattel, each of which has been recreated as a Barbie doll, as well as Samsung, Eylure False Eyelashes, and Sunsilk Shampoo.
Sarah signed a £ 100,000 contract to model Ultimo lingerie in 2006, and in 2007 the girls appeared as a cameo in the film St. Trinian's.
Sarah continued to focus on acting when the group announced a hiatus in 2009 to focus on solo projects. She appeared in the 2009 BBC film Freefall alongside Dominic Cooper and starred in St. Trinians 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold.
The price she paid for her success seems to have been lasting love. Her two-year relationship with mechanic John Turnbull did not survive her newfound fame.
She fell into the arms of competitor pop star Mikey Green in 2002, but was single again within a few years
Sarah was the oldest member of the final Girls Aloud line-up, and her debut single Sound Of The Underground took her to the top of the charts in December 2002
In the years that followed, she was briefly associated with footballer George Best's son, Calum, and T4 Welsh presenter Steve Jones. She also crossed romantic paths with Jennifer Lopez's ex-husband Cris Judd and Hollywood actor Stephen Dorff.
In 2011, DJ suggested Tom Crane, her four year old friend, in the Maldives. He finished things off later that year, six months before their scheduled wedding.
Until then, Sarah's concerned bandmates urged her to get professional help with drinking. Her party lifestyle had made her a tabloid favorite, and she was photographed swallowing liquor bottles and stumbling out of nightclubs that were worse.
In October 2011, she visited a clinic where she was being treated for alcohol and sleeping pill addiction. She later admitted using alcohol to numb the pain of her failed relationship with ex-fiancé Crane.
"I was so confused the day I went to rehab," she said in an interview with Hello! Magazine. "I've been told by those around me that I've met my worst."
When she thought about this time, she said she hoped for a more peaceful future. “I've turned 30 and while there will always be a bit of rock chick in me, I try to embrace my softer, more feminine side. And I try very hard to be healthy. & # 39;
Pictured: Sarah Harding in December 2013
The years after she split from Girls Aloud in 2013 have been mixed for her.
While her solo career never really began, she returned to television work, taking part in the BBC gymnastics show Tumble in 2014 and Celebrity MasterChef the following year.
She tore herself apart in 2016 while filming the Channel 4 series The Jump.
That injury also forced her to retire from a UK tour of Ghost: The Musical, while there was reports of a "breakdown" on stage at the time.
She appeared to have made a comeback in 2017 when she won the final series of Celebrity Big Brother, but a three-month relationship with contestant US reality star Chad Johnson ended due to the long distance relationship. The last three years have been relatively calm for Sarah.
She lost a close college friend to breast cancer in 2018 and voted for campaigns for cancer and mental health.
While on Celebrity Big Brother, she admitted losing touch with her former bandmates and hinted at an argument with Cheryl after years of feuding rumors.
She said to her competitor, Jemma Lucy, “I haven't spoken to her in a while. Nothing is forever.
& # 39; We've been through so much. Even if we had an argument, it sure wouldn't be a big deal in the future. & # 39;
Amid reports that she had turned her back on fame, she changed her Twitter bio to "Take Time Out" last year.
It reappeared online in May of this year with a series of tweets. None of them gave any indication that they were already battling breast cancer. It was diagnosed earlier this year, and two weeks ago she was devastatedly told that it had spread to other parts of her body.
"I do my best to stay positive," she wrote after thanking the "wonderful NHS doctors and nurses" who were always on hand.
In the midst of yesterday's good wishes, their former bandmates sent their love. Nadine Coyle wrote: "They always worked miracles when needed!"
Sarah's family, friends, and fans will fervently pray that she can do the same again.
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