Sarah Nicole Harding (17 November 1981 – 5 September 2021) was an English singer, model and actress who rose to fame in late 2002 when she successfully auditioned for the ITV reality series Popstars: The Rivals. The programme announced that Harding had won a place as a member of the girl group, Girls Aloud. The group achieved twenty consecutive top ten singles (including four number ones) in the UK, six studio albums that were certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), two of which went to number one in the UK, and accumulated a total of five BRIT Award nominations. In 2009, Girls Aloud won “Best Single” with their song “The Promise“.
During the group’s break, Harding began acting, appearing in Bad Day, the BBC television film Freefall, Run for Your Wife, and St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold. Harding contributed three solo songs to the soundtrack of St. Trinian’s 2. She has also modelled for Ultimo lingerie. In late 2012, she reunited with Girls Aloud to celebrate their tenth anniversary. In early 2013, they announced that they had split up. In 2015, the singer briefly appeared in Coronation Street, and released her first extended play, Threads. She won Celebrity Big Brother 20 in 2017.
Harding was born Sarah Nicole Hardman on 17 November 1981 in Ascot, Berkshire. She attended St Cuthbert’s Primary School in Egham until 1993. She was raised with two half brothers and attended Hazel Grove High School from 1993 to 1998, and later attended Stockport College where she studied hair and beauty. She then worked as part of the promotions team for two nightclubs in The Grand Central Leisure Park in Stockport, as a waitress at Pizza Hut, a van driver, debt collector and as a BT telephone operator. She also toured North West England performing at pubs, social clubs, and caravan parks to support herself. In 2002, she was recording dance tracks when she decided to audition for Popstars: The Rivals. She auditioned for UK talent-search shows Fame Academy and Popstars: The Rivals and it was in the latter on which she found fame, pulling out of Fame Academy after being accepted into the first round of Popstars. Harding also entered FHM‘s High Street Honeys 2002, the magazine’s national beauty contest. Her pictures appeared in the top 100, but Harding withdrew upon achieving success on Popstars.
In 2002, Harding auditioned for the reality television show Popstars: The Rivals. The programme, the second British series of the international Popstars franchise, would see the creation of two rival groups – a boy band and a girl group each consisting of five members, which would then compete against each other for the 2002 Christmas Number One spot on the UK Singles Chart. Several thousand applicants attended auditions across the UK in hope of being selected. Ten girls and ten boys were chosen as finalists by judges Pete Waterman, Louis Walsh and Geri Halliwell. These finalists then took to the stage participating in weekly Saturday night live performances (alternating weekly between the girls and boys). Each week the contestant polling the fewest phone votes was eliminated, until the final line-ups of the groups emerged. Harding joined Nadine Coyle, Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts, and Kimberley Walsh to comprise the new girl group Girls Aloud, formed through the show by a public vote on 30 November 2002.
The group’s debut single “Sound of the Underground” peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the 2002 Christmas number one. Girls Aloud hold the record for the shortest time between formation and reaching number one. The group released their debut album Sound of the Underground in May 2003, which entered the charts at number two and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) later the same year. Their singles “I’ll Stand by You“, “Walk This Way“, and “The Promise” have charted at number one. Two of their albums have reached the top of the UK Albums Chart: their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud and 2008’s Out of Control, both of which entered the chart at number one, with over one million copies of the former being sold. They also achieved seven certified albums and have been nominated for five Brit Awards, winning the 2009 Best Single for “The Promise”.
The group’s musical style is pop, but throughout their career they had experimented with electropop and dance-pop. Girls Aloud’s collaborations with Brian Higgins and his songwriting and production team Xenomania earned the group critical acclaim, due to an innovative approach to mainstream pop music. The group became one of the few UK reality television acts to achieve continued success, amassing a fortune of £30 million by May 2010. Guinness World Records lists them as “Most Successful Reality TV Group” in the 2007 edition. They also hold the record for “Most Consecutive Top Ten Entries in the UK by a Female Group” in the 2008 edition, and are credited again for “Most Successful Reality TV Group” in the 2011 edition. The group was also named the United Kingdom’s biggest selling girl group of the 21st century, with over 4.3 million singles sales and 4 million albums sold in the UK alone.
In 2006, Harding signed a £100,000 deal to model Ultimo lingerie, following the likes of Penny Lancaster, Rachel Hunter and Helena Christensen. Alongside her Girls Aloud bandmates, Harding made a cameo appearance in St. Trinian’s in 2007. She took on her first major acting role in 2008, appearing in the low-budget thriller Bad Day. Harding wore a brunette wig for the role of Jade Jennings. The film also stars Donna Air and Claire Goose. She also collaborated with London synthpop band Filthy Dukes on a cover of “Real Wild Child“, recorded for the film Wild Child. In July 2009, Girls Aloud announced they would take a year-long hiatus to pursue solo projects, but would reunite for a new studio album in 2010.
During Girls Aloud’s hiatus, Harding decided to focus on her acting career. “Singing was always my main ambition, but acting was something else I wanted to achieve,” Harding said. Harding appeared in the BBC television film Freefall, written and directed by Dominic Savage. The film aired on BBC Two on 14 July 2009. Harding portrayed Sam, the beautician girlfriend of Dominic Cooper‘s character. The drama is a satirical take on the financial crisis of 2007–2008. Company magazine said that “Sarah Harding showed she’s got real acting potential in her convincing, but fleeting performance.”
Later that year, Harding returned to the St. Trinian’s franchise with a starring role in St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold. Despite her age, Harding portrayed teenage rebel Roxy, a new student at St. Trinian’s School. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews, holding a 10% ‘rotten’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Harding worked with Girls Aloud producers Xenomania to record three solo tracks for the film’s soundtrack – “Too Bad”, “Make It Easy”, and a cover of David Bowie‘s “Boys Keep Swinging“.
In December 2009, Harding appeared on MTV’s Sarah Harding in 24 Hours. To promote this, she also made a guest appearance on BBC Radio 1 with Chris Moyles. Harding and her then-boyfriend, DJ Tom Crayne, also launched a new nightclub named Kanaloa. Harding’s guest vocals appear alongside Kanobby on the Roger Sanchez and Far East Movement track “2Gether”; she also appears in snippets of the music video. Harding has recently finished filming Run for Your Wife in which she plays one of the wives of the lead character, John Smith. The film was released on 14 February 2013.
After three years of hiatus, Girls Aloud reunited in 2012 to celebrate their tenth anniversary together. The group released the single “Something New” in November, with proceeds being donated to Children in Need. Their second greatest hits anthology Ten was released on 26 November 2012, followed by the single “Beautiful Cause You Love Me“. In 2013, the group embarked on Ten – The Hits Tour 2013. Shortly after the tour, the group announced their split.
In mid-2012, Harding announced the release of her debut solo album. Harding first revealed that she was starting on a solo album in March 2010, naming Lady Gaga as her biggest influence. Despite this, an album never materialised. In June 2012, Harding restated her plans to release a solo album in 2013. In September 2012, she said that she had been “writing and experimenting with different sounds in the studio.” On 19 August, it was reported that Harding’s debut album would be released in the fourth quarter of 2013.
In November 2013, Harding hinted at the possible release of her debut solo album sometime in 2014. She said, “I’m doing all sorts of stuff at the moment […] A lot of it is music, music, music.”. In July 2015 her first solo release, “Threads“, was announced; it was released on 7 August.
It was announced in May 2015 that Harding had agreed to make a guest appearance on the ITV soap opera Coronation Street as Joni Preston, the wife of Robert Preston (Tristan Gemmill). The character made a few appearances in July and August 2015 as her marriage to Robert disintegrated when he began an affair with ex-wife Tracy Barlow (Kate Ford).
On 16 January 2016, Harding was announced as a contestant on the third series of The Jump which began broadcasting on Channel 4 from 31 January 2016. However she withdrew from the series on 26 February 2016 (Week 5) after tearing a ligament in her knee during a training session. In Autumn 2016, Harding appeared alongside Andy Moss in a UK tour of Ghost: The Musical. However, she was replaced mid tour by Carolyn Maitland after pulling out due to the subsequent pain from her injury after The Jump.
On 24 March 2021 Harding released her second single, “Wear It Like a Crown”, which she had recorded ten years earlier. However, she had found it and decided to release it with the profits going towards her chosen charity. The same day, the song went straight to number 1 on the iTunes chart.
Personal life and death
In October 2011, Harding entered a rehab centre in South Africa, citing alcohol dependence and depression. She did not stop drinking alcohol altogether, but “reined it in.” On 16 April 2013, Harding received a six-month driving ban and was fined £605 after police officers caught her talking on her mobile phone while she was driving through central London. Harding had nine penalty points on her licence for speeding prior to the incident.
Harding wrote a memoir, Hear Me Out, which was published in 2021.
On 26 August 2020, Harding stated that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer that had advanced to “other parts” of her body. In March 2021, she said that the disease was terminal and that she “won’t see another Christmas”. Harding died on the morning of 5 September 2021, at the age of 39. (Source)