The former Pussycat Doll opens up about her early career, overcoming obstacles and the future of female entertainers.
“I only care about being comfortable nowadays” says Ashley Roberts after emerging from our North London studio. She’s wearing a tonal nude loose fit blazer with matching high waisted wide-legged trousers. “They’re from River Island actually, I spend less time shopping than people believe!” she exclaims, much to everyone’s surprise.
About a decade ago (yes, we’re that old) Roberts was once one of the four Pussycat Dolls that wasn’t Nicole Scherzinger, the US burlesque act of Don’t Cha fame whose singer so dominated the spotlight the other members were cast into shadow, a blur of bedazzled bra and knicker combinations. “I moved to LA with £1000 cash and there was an audition for a group called The Pussycat Dolls and honestly, I had no clue who they were but my friend at the time described them as a really cool underground group of singers and dancers” Roberts recalls.
With barely any pennies in her pocket and a dream keen to pursue, the musician went for it without hesitation.” I auditioned and they found out I could sing which made them super happy. I started the Dolls back in 2001 and at that point, it was just a cool underground thing to do straight on the weekend rather than going to the club. Out of nowhere, it caught such a buzz from people like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stephani who wanted to come and see us” says Roberts.
The buzz turned into a crescendo and before she had enough time to comprehend the hype, Roberts was on the cusp of becoming the member of a girl band that would dominate the charts for approximately a decade. Gaining recognition from a plethora of established pop powerhouses, it was Gwen Stefani who ultimately gave The Dolls the push to stardom. “Gwen came to one of our shows with one of the head people in Universal Records and was like ‘I love this, I want to make something of it’, so they took a few of us, added Nicole and Melody then we started breaking records all over the world. Now when I have interviews and I look back I just can’t believe we did all of that, but at the time I was in such a bubble I didn’t see what was going on around me” Roberts reflects.
After spending her early adult life in the bubble of manufactured pop, the musician was faced with an entirely new reality once her days with the Dolls were placed firmly in her past. Without a clear direction, the world was her oyster. “Once I left the girls I didn’t want anything to do with music so I went into acting. I took classes in comedy and all that sort of things just so I could get out of the music stigma. I started hosting shows for MTV, which sparked a different direction in my career“ says Roberts.
Fresh out of The Dolls, the musician kick-started her solo career before venturing head-on into the jungle of reality TV. Her debut on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in late 2012 marked the beginning of her British TV career, going on to appear on Channel 4’s The Jump and Crystal Maze, ITV’s And & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and The Keith Lemon Sketch Show, as well as being a guest judge on BBC’s Let It Shine in 2017. On August 17th 2018, it was announced that Roberts would be a contestant on the sixteenth series of Strictly Come Dancing and became the highest scoring contestant.
What’s next then after her remarkable stint on Strictly? “I definitely want to remain in the entertainment industry, but I would like to have more structure around my life to make me feel more stable because I’ve lived quite a gypsy life” says Roberts.
And in her search for said structure, the multi-faceted performer decided to hire a life coach for guidance, a path taken by many celebrities ahead of her at a loss point. “I think we get chucked into school as kids and we learn the basic stuff like math and English but we never actually learn what everybody wants to know, which is how to understand life. When I got a life coach, I felt lost and confused in my own life. I didn’t know what inspired me, what I liked, what I didn’t like. It was an extremely confusing period.” states Roberts.
Has life coaching helped though? “The biggest part for me was the ability to understand emotion, which I didn’t have beforehand. As humans, we have feelings that exist for a purpose. Some of us ignore them but they exist to guide us. Life coaching helped me recognize my thought patterns, what I’m thinking and how that makes me feel.”
After more than 15 years in the entertainment industry, Roberts has accumulated a plethora of knowledge that she’s keen to share. According to the versatile performer, it’s an exciting time to be a woman in an industry that’s currently changing tides. Her advice for the next generation of female entertainers comes from a place of reflection.
“Listen to your gut and your intuition because trusting and being kind to yourself are the most important things.”
- Dress Zeynep Kartal