Cheryl Cole

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At the end of 2004, Cheryl Cole said: "The past year has been the best ever. I feel like I've got a fairy godmother watching over me!". The Girls Aloud star couldn't have imagined her life getting any better – but it was about to.

Born Cheryl Ann Tweedy in Newcastle on June 30, 1983, the pretty brunette seemed destined for fame. She was named bonniest baby by high-street chemist Boots and won a children's modelling competition aged just six. The photogenic youngster then went on to scoop the titles of 'Best Looking Girl Of Newcastle' and 'Most Attractive Girl' at a local shopping centre.

It wasn't just Cheryl's good looks that propelled her forward, though. The talented teen was also a gifted dancer and, at 16, enrolled at the Royal Ballet Summer School in London, beating 9,000 other hopefuls for a place on the coveted course. Despite her range of skills, however, it was in singing that Cheryl saw her career.

After years of doing TV commercials, her big break finally came in 2002, while she was working as a waitress to make ends meet. Keen to establish a name for herself as a singer, Cheryl auditioned for ITV's nationwide talent search Popstars: The Rivals. A pitch-perfect rendition of S Club 7 hit Have You Ever earned her a place in the second round of the competition, and the then 19-year-old made it to the live finals where she competed for a place in all-girl group Girls Aloud. She became the first contestant picked for the five-piece band, which went on to score the Christmas number one that year with smash hit Sound Of The Underground.

Cheryl and her bandmates – Nicola Roberts, Sarah Harding, Nadine Coyle and Kimberley Walsh – became overnight sensations in the UK. And as the hard-working group's professional careers went from strength to strength, so too did Cheryl's personal life.

Romance blossomed between the singer and her future husband, Premiership footballer Ashley Cole, when they found themselves living in the same London apartment block. In 2005, after eight months together, the England star whisked Cheryl to Dubai for a romantic holiday and, after an exotic camel ride through the desert, got down on one knee to propose to his delighted girlfriend.

Dubbed the new Posh and Becks, the engaged couple found themselves the centre of attention at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. With Ashley garnering praise for his performances on the pitch, it was Cheryl's bond with fellow WAG Victoria Beckham that got the nation talking. "She's not a typical footballer's wife," Cheryl said of her new pal. "She's very ambitious, so we have a lot in common."

On July 15, 2006, Cheryl wed her footie-ace beau at a lavish ceremony in Hertfordshire. The star, who had previously expressed a desire for a simple wedding – "...just him and me, alone on a beach" – revealed the stress of organising the big day was "like another full-time job".

By 2008 Girls Aloud had enjoyed phenomenal success in the UK. The girls saw four of their albums go platinum and broke a music industry record when 17 consecutive singles made the UK top ten.

In June 2008, Cheryl signed on to join the judges panel of Simon Cowell's TV pop star search The X Factor, a role that propelled her into the spotlight and saw her recognised as the nation's sweetheart.

The programme also helped her launch her solo career. In October 2009 she took to The X Factor stage to perform her first single, Fight For This Love, which made it to number one and quickly became the year's fastest-selling record. Her album, 3 Words, was released just a few days later, premiering at the top of the UK music charts. "I'm just getting over the fact I have recorded my solo record and now it's number one," she said of her success. "I can't take this all in. It's hard for me to put into words how I feel."

While her career was in full-swing, Cheryl's personal life was thrown into turmoil as claims her husband had been unfaithful with three different women surfaced in 2008. Ashley denied the allegations and Cheryl remained by his side, saying that he had "a beautiful soul". And as rumours of a split continued, months later she posted to her Twitter page a photo of her wedding ring with the line: "3 words. Diamonds Are Forever."

In February 2010, however, the couple were again rocked by stories of the football star's alleged infidelity. Shortly after, Cheryl announced their separation in a statement from her spokesperson that read: "Cheryl Cole is separating from her husband Ashley Cole. Cheryl asks the media to respect her privacy during this difficult time. We have no further comment to make."

There was one friend in particular who rallied to support Cheryl in her hour of need – Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am. She sang guest vocals on his 2008 smash hit Heartbreaker before he produced her solo album, and the US star wasn't shy about proclaiming his admiration for the Newcastle lass in the wake of her separation.

"Cheryl's too nice to be cheated on..." he said. "She's the prettiest, hottest girl. She deserves better."

Further fuelling speculation of a potential romance between them, when Cheryl supported the Black Eyed Peas on the UK leg of their tour he said: "She's the most beautiful girl in the world. Once you have her, a man can't do any better."

In May 2010, the singer confirmed she was divorcing Ashley. "Cheryl made a swift decision to put England's World Cup dreams ahead of herself," reported a source, who claimed the pop star didn't want emotional turmoil to distract the footballer during the World Cup campaign. "The divorce should be finalised before England's first touch of the ball in South Africa on June 12."
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