WITH her infectious laugh and trademark Essex drawl, it’s clear Stacey Solomon is just as friendly and vivacious in person as she comes across on TV.
She has the boundless enthusiasm of someone who’s still amazed by just how much their life has changed in the last 18 months.
As a 19-year-old stood on stage in tiny shorts belting out Wonderful World in front of the X Factor judging panel, Stacey couldn’t have imagined the successful journey she was about to embark on.
Third place on the hit ITV show, Queen of the Jungle, a prime-time Saturday night presenting gig on Sing if You Can and now – aged just 21 – an autobiography on bookshelves across the country.
“I don’t think it’s an autobiography, more like a diary of what I’ve done so far,” said Stacey, who’s heading to Kirkham tomorrow to sign copies of My Story So Far at SilverDell – the reason for our chat.
“I really enjoyed writing it. It was strange, but nice. But there isn’t a best bit for me – everything has been brilliant. Coming back to my family and saying, ‘Guess what’s just happened’, telling my friends, being a presenter, going on I’m a Celebrity, doing the book – I can’t pick a best bit, I love it all.”
Stereotyped as the quintessential Essex girl, Stacey has spent the last couple of years adding strings to her bow, taking on everything that comes her way.
It was, of course, The X Factor that catapulted her to fame.
After coming third in the 2009 series she took to the stage with the show’s tour before, in November last year, she threw herself head first out of a plane and firmly into the public’s hearts on the 2010 version of I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here.
Chatting to her, it’s easy to see how she won over the nation to storm to victory and be crowned Queen of the Jungle.
She insists – despite all the bugs, creepy-crawlies and being forced to spend days on end with Gillian McKeith – that she had a “really good time” deep in the bush.
“A lot of people said, ‘Wasn’t it disgusting?’, but I loved it,” Stacey laughs.
“I got to jump out of a plane, meet new people and do some things I’ve never done before so I really enjoyed it.”
Anyone who hadn’t heard of Stacey before she went Down Under certainly had after she took the crown – and she proved so popular with TV audiences she’s now presenting prime-time Saturday night TV show Sing If You Can alongside comedian Keith Lemon.
There’s more to come from her musically as well.
“I’m in the studio and hopefully there will be an album out by the end of the year – that would be amazing,” she said.
“It will be really chilled out, full of lovely young songs – nice songs.”
Her list of achievements makes you realise how she’s managed to fill a book with her life so far.
And her book, she says, covers everything – “right from primary school”.
Talking about trying to put her life into words, Stacey said: “I think people will see even more of a normal side to me through the book and relate to me.
“It’s just as hard being a mum now – everyone has to face that. I worked as soon as Zac was born, I always had to work.”
The X Factor tour gave Stacey the opportunity to travel all over the country, but she’s still excited about meeting her fans in person on her book-signing tour.
And there’s something about visiting Kirkham that’s sure to make it a highlight – Stacey’s never had anyone make her a special ice-cream before, and it’s a Silverdell trademark.
Elaine Silverwood, the Poulton Street shop’s co-owner, has whipped up “Stacey’s Bush Tucker Trial” ahead of her arrival, a toffee ice-cream with kiwi swirl and jelly frogs, crocodiles and eyes.
With genuine excitement, Stacey said: “I’ve never had a Stacey ice-cream before, that will be nice – I hope it’s a good one! I love meeting people, they made me who I am and put me where I am and it’s really nice to meet everyone.”
Stacey’s back in her native Essex as we talk, having just completed her first book-singing in Chelmsford which she said “went really well”.
She describes her life as being “all over the place”, but it’s clear her home and family – she has a three-year-old son Zachery – is where her heart lies.
“I go back home as much as I can,” she said. “I miss Zac so much when I’m away but I’m really lucky because my family try to follow me round as much as they can and bring him to places. Out of everything, I’m most proud of my son. He is the only reason I get to go do everything I do. He is my most prized possession.”
Stacey will be signing books at the shop between 1pm and 3pm tomorrow.