A study in self delusion: Cheryl Cole’s memoirs reveal her as bitter, foul-mouthed – and prone to violent rages
She looks like she couldn’t hurt a fly, but Cheryl Cole’s autobiography, released this week, tells a different story
The woman on the front cover — with fluffed-up hair, Bambi eyes, pale pink lips and a wounded expression — doesn’t look as if she could hurt a fly.
But Cheryl Cole’s autobiography, which was released this week, tells a rather different story.
Within its pages, in her own words, she tells how she slaps and later punches one boyfriend, punches a lavatory attendant in a nightclub in what she says was an ‘instinctive’ action, and punches and kicks her then husband, footballer Ashley Cole, after the first revelations about his infidelity.
When a second scandal breaks over him ‘sexting’ a blonde with intimate photos and lewd suggestions, she observes: ‘Part of me wanted to just chin Ashley right there and then.’
Indeed, petite Cheryl, who is 5ft 6ins and known for her prettiness and dimples, comes across as quite the Geordie bruiser in her book.
She even says that she sent Simon Cowell the following text message after being sacked from The X Factor USA last year: ‘F*** you. F*** Fox. F*** Britain’s Got Talent. F*** the orange and purple outfit. F*** big hair. F*** the UK X Factor. F*** you all. I hate you.’
It rather sounds as if the nation’s sweetheart has anger-management issues.
Cheryl, 29, insists that having been raised on a tough council estate, she learned early on she needed to ‘take care of herself’ — physically if needs be — and the message over the book’s 304 pages is that it is one life lesson she has hung on to.
‘If someone attacked a Tweedy [Cheryl’s maiden name] we were taught to defend ourselves,’ she writes. She even remembers her older brothers Joe and Andrew teaching her how to punch sofa cushions in preparation for taking on bullies — telling her: ‘Come on Cheryl, if you don’t hit back you’ll get chinned.’
And it’s not just a spot of physical aggression that Cheryl is partial to. For the book includes two utterly unsparing verbal portraits of Simon Cowell and Ashley Cole. Both men come out very poorly indeed.
Ashley Cole is portrayed as a faithless egotist who drives her to a near breakdown because he never admits to or takes responsibility for any of his infidelities or other shortcomings.
He is also shown to be a sort of inadequate man-child, who has had his every need taken care of either by a football club or his mother Sue. He barely knows how to make a cup of tea, and never once in their courtship or three-year marriage made Cheryl a meal.
Cheryl writes: ‘He was used to being pampered and having literally everything done for him and he didn’t know any different.’
Furthermore, he is so self-absorbed that he even fails to text or call to congratulate her for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity in 2009.
Meanwhile, Simon Cowell cuts an almost comic figure, such is his vanity and ego. In one of their earliest conversations, he spends the whole time looking over her shoulder because he can see his reflection in a mirrored building opposite.
Ashley and Cheryl were a glamorous couple but here he is shown to be a sort of inadequate man-child, who has had his every need taken care of either by a football club or his mother Sue
His capricious last-minute professional judgments are laid bare, too, with Cheryl apparently trying her damnedest to embarrass him.
She says that at one point, while sacking her from the American X Factor, he offered her the position of head judge on the UK version, even though he had already given that honour to Gary Barlow.
He then allegedly offered to sack either Tulisa or Kelly Rowland to make way for her, and said that she could choose which one should go.
That won’t make Tulisa — currently an X Factor judge — think any the more kindly of her boss, will it?
As to why Cowell dumped Cheryl from the U.S. show, she’s not clear. He tells her that she needs to be ‘more herself’ and to lose her big hair after the first audition, but that’s the only pointer she gets.
She spells out the support she has had from various professionals at X Factor USA, saying that the TV network Fox didn’t want to get rid of her — and that it was all Simon’s fault.
She believes that they are friends but his comments betray an interest in her commercial value: ‘If I knew what made you so special, I would literally bottle it and sell it.’
Cheryl also dismisses as utterly mystifying Cowell’s comments to his biographer Tom Bower about wanting to have an affair with Cheryl.
‘There was nothing sexual between us, and there never has been,’ she writes. ‘Why he came out with that line in his book saying he would have liked an affair with me, I will never know.’
The possibility that perhaps he said it because he would have actually liked an affair, even if he didn’t spell it out, does not appear to occur to her.
In her book Cheryl describes the moment she punched lavatory attendant Sophie Amoj Amogbokpa in a Guildford nightclub as an ‘instinctive’ action
As is customary with celebrity autobiographies, there is a sense throughout Cheryl’s book that just one side of the story is being told.
So what does she have to say? Perhaps predictably, she tells the tale of her perceived triumph over various obstacles. She talks about growing up in Newcastle, and the family having very little money.
When her father left home following an affair, her mother Joan, a redoubtable woman of 4ft 10in, had to raise five children alone.
Cheryl left school at 16 and worked in a café in Heaton. She also smoked marijuana like her siblings, and was even offered a puff on a joint in front of her mother, who said she’d rather Cheryl did it at home than elsewhere.
But Cheryl says that despite a fairly long-standing teenage cannabis habit, she is ‘anti-drugs’ because her older brother Andrew is an addict, after first getting into glue sniffing. He is now in prison for his part in a raid on a Post Office. Cheryl also describes a wretchedly unhappy romance with an early boyfriend, Jason, who was a heroin addict but kept on denying his addiction.
When she found him with a piece of tin foil — used to smoke the drug — tucked behind his ear, it sent her into a rage. ‘I must have knocked him into the middle of next week, I hit him that hard,’ she muses.
Her entrée into fame comes via the TV talent show Pop Idol in 2002, and she feels she is ‘living the dream’ when Girls Aloud are formed and get their first No.1 single. But that early moment of triumph is spoiled.
Not long afterwards she went to a nightclub in Guildford, Surrey, and noticed a female attendant selling sweets and perfume. Cheryl says she picked up five lollipops and was fishing in her purse for some change.
‘Completely out of nowhere, I was hit in the face,’ she writes. ‘I swear on my mother’s life that’s what happened . . . It was the toilet attendant who had hit me, and in confusion and self-defence I hit her back instinctively.’
Photos showed that the attendant, Sophie Amogbogkpa, suffered a very nasty black eye.
Cheryl asks for sympathy over the ‘stress’ of the court case but writes: ‘As the months went on and I prepared for the trial, I started to see that it was not acceptable to have hit her under any circumstances, even in self-defence.’
Cheryl was cleared of racially aggravated assault but convicted of assault causing actual bodily harm, and fined and ordered to do community service. She felt that it was ‘unjust’ to have to do community service when the woman ‘got away scot-free’.
Simon Cowell cuts an almost comic figure, such is his vanity and ego
Not long afterwards, in 2004, she started dating Ashley Cole. They met because they both lived in separate apartments in a development in Friern Barnet, north London.
After first bumping into her in the car park, he asked her several times for her phone number, which she declined to give. Eventually she passed on her mobile number.
A few days later she received the text: ‘Wot u up 2?’ She wrote back: ‘Not much. Wot u up 2?’
It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet.
They dated for three months before ‘going public’, and when he proposed on a holiday in Dubai in 2005, she was utterly ecstatic. She thought he was the kindest person she had ever been out with — certainly nicer, one would hope, than Jason the heroin addict — and observed that she ‘felt safe’ with him.
She planned the wedding, and was horrified to discover that her chosen venue, Highclere House in Berkshire, had also been picked by Jordan and Peter Andre.
She phoned her bank to stop the deposit going through that she had agreed to pay — which you might think a little ruthless — and then phoned her wedding planners and ‘sobbed down the phone’.
After the wedding in 2006, at a stately home in Hertfordshire, came Ashley’s deal to leave Arsenal for Chelsea. He observed in his auto-biography that he had been terribly affronted to be offered £55,000 a week by Arsenal during contract negotiations.
In 2004, she started dating Ashley Cole. They met because they both lived in separate apartments in a development in Friern Barnet, north London
Cheryl says: ‘Ashley was absolutely hated, and as his wife I found that difficult to deal with.’
The couple’s first scandal came in January 2008, when hairdresser Aimee Walton sold her story of a sexual encounter with Ashley the month before, after he’d been on a night out with his male friends at a boxing match.
Just before the story was published, Cheryl was called by her PR and saw Ashley talking to his agent on his mobile across the room. ‘It was completely surreal, hearing two halves of the two conversations, knowing that Ashley was being told the same things at the same time,’ she says.
When she asked him what was going on, he said: ‘Like I told you before, it was a horrible night, I got too drunk and I can’t remember it.’
Cheryl writes: ‘I was in proper shock now, convulsing and wanting to vomit. To me that was like he was admitting it.’
All Ashley said was: ‘Something happened but I don’t know what.’ A few hours later Cheryl was able to read the newspaper story online. Miss Walton said Cole had been incoherent and vomiting during sex. Cheryl called him downstairs to read the story but he refused and said again he couldn’t remember.
‘Before I knew it I was lashing out at Ashley in every way I possibly could,’ writes Cheryl. ‘I hit him in the face. I couldn’t help it. I was shaking him, kicking him, scratching his face, pushing and shoving him like I was a lunatic.
”I hope you enjoyed it,” I screamed. ‘I hope she was worth it! It’s the end of your marriage. You don’t understand what you’ve done. It’s f***ed!”’
In fact, on mature reflection, Cheryl decided that one drunken mistake was not sufficient to end it. She insisted there should be no more drinking, no more going out with footballers, and that if there was any repeat, the marriage would be over.
Sure enough, in February 2010, there was more trouble.
The couple’s first scandal came in January 2008, when hairdresser Aimee Walton sold her story of a sexual encounter with Ashley the month before
Ashley was recovering from an operation on his ankle when Cheryl’s manager called her at midnight saying: ‘It’s another girl saying Ashley’s cheated, and she’s got pictures.’ Ashley’s reaction was to play the victim.
‘When are they ever going to leave me alone? This is beyond a joke,’ he moaned.
The following morning, Cheryl saw the story — including images of Ashley in his underwear. She knew by his tattoos that the pictures were recent, and that the liaison had taken place since the previous cheating scandal.
Ashley made an excuse, saying that they were just pictures from an old phone showing what his tattoo looked like.
‘I couldn’t get any sense out of him whatsoever,’ says Cheryl.
Later, when she returned from work, she asked for ‘answers’ but Ashley offered only feeble excuses and said people wanted to split them up because he’d left Arsenal. He didn’t answer any of her questions.
It’s impossible not to sympathise with Cheryl who, with touching naivety, truly seems never to have seen the multiple infidelities coming
Every morning for the next four days, she took a call at 5am from her manager telling her each time that another girl had come forward in the papers — but Cheryl refused to read any of the accounts.
She performed at the Brit Awards then left the country for two weeks.
‘He had let me lie in bed beside him for five nights now, crying myself to sleep, and he hadn’t given me one word of comfort,’ she says. ‘There was no trust and no communication left in the marriage, and so I had no choice but to leave.’
It’s impossible not to sympathise with Cheryl who, with touching naivety, truly seems never to have seen the multiple infidelities coming.
Naturally, she was furious — telling Cole with a flourish to ‘shove the house’ and that all she wanted was custody of the dogs.
Over time the anger has faded and she writes that she thinks a part of her will always love Ashley.
Poor old Derek Hough, the American dancer on whom she leaned in the aftermath of the split, is repeatedly referred to as a ‘little angel’ — clearly that relationship was all sentiment and no sex. And the book was completed before she fell for her current beau, dancer Tre Holloway.
She writes that she just wants peace and no more drama. No more X Factor, no more cheating husband, no more media storms.
It is all rather contradictory to plead to be left alone while taking £350,000 for a tell-all book published in the middle of a solo tour — and while planning a comeback with Girls Aloud.
But if she steers clear of Cowell and Cole, and can keep those fists to herself, she might just manage it.