Natasha Hamilton - Atomic Kitten star on her career move into skin therapy
- Credit: Raw Focus North West
In the picturesque village of Farndon, near to Chester, Natasha Hamilton, member of one of the most successful girl groups of the noughties, meets Cheshire Life Editor, Katie Mulloy, to prove that her second career as a facialist is based on more than just a famous name…
Quaint little Farndon isn't really the place to live a pop star existence. Between the village butcher's, the antiques shop, a very good café and a backdrop of winding Georgian charm, there's plenty of appeal; it just isn't glitzy. But then Natasha Hamilton, one of two remaining members of the pop trio Atomic Kitten - who probably would be Farndon's only resident with pop credentials if it wasn't for the fact that the father of her youngest child and ex-partner, Richie Neville of Five fame, lives down the road - doesn't particularly want to live a pop star existence.
She had enough of that life some time ago.
So nowadays, on a typical morning, she'll do the school run (her eldest son Josh, 17, has recently left to join the army but she still has Harry, 14, Alfie, nine and Ella, four at home) and then head to the modest room in The Beauty Studio - a polished and very pleasant beauty offering in a converted barn at the far end of the main street - from which she operates Natasha Hamilton Skin, her recently launched business and personal passion project that's been four years in the making.
'When I had the launch party [in June] I literally went home and cried,' she said. 'It was just the relief that I'd actually done it.'
Natasha is part of a growing group of 30-somethings embarking on a second career. A 2017 survey by the human resource firm Robert Half found that 35 is the age whereby you're likely to start to feel unhappy and unfulfilled at work - and instead of settling for a life of mundanity more and more of us are choosing to make a change.
Natasha was 32 and had just had Ella when she began thinking about a career that wasn't just about performing.
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'My earnings dropped dramatically [when I was pregnant]. So I was back at work after having Ella way quicker than I wanted to; within weeks,' she explains. 'I was travelling, touring. I was breastfeeding and I'd have to rush off stage to give Ella her night feed. It was hard. I just thought there's more to life than this. I'm not a teenager anymore.'
It took its toll and she spiralled into post-natal depression. She found herself ruminating on the past, worrying about things she had no control over anymore. Most of all, she had no idea what she was going to do next - and it terrified her.
Then an idea came out of the blue: 'My sister had gone back to college to study beauty and she was thriving,' explains Natasha. 'And I just thought, "I have a genuine interest, I could do this".'
Still, the depression meant her confidence was low. She found a college nearby she liked. 'I took my mum with me to the college to enrol. I was just thinking, "How will people perceive me?"'
Her fears were unfounded. 'I don't think anyone knew who I was,' she laughs 'It was mainly younger girls anyway who'd totally missed Atomic Kitten.'
She loved it immediately. 'It just empowered me. Studying for my anatomy and physiology exams took my head out of that rut. I had something to focus on. Once I got the bug I did more and more diplomas,' she says.
Her passion for her business is visceral. Her face becomes animated when she talks about the skin and the ingredients she believes works best for it. But as is often the case with life - and especially when you're a known name with lucrative opportunities being thrown your way - new paths aren't always linear.
It was meant to happen quicker than this but things got in the way - business opportunities that fell through, a house renovation project, a stint in Celebrity Big Brother. 'It was a good pay cheque,' she says when I ask why on earth she wanted to do that particular reality TV gig.
Which is what a lot of this comes back to - money and the need for a reliable, sustainable income that doesn't involve selling your soul as part of the working conditions.
'I'm not complaining about what we achieved when I was younger,' she says of the Atomic Kitten days, which you may or may not recall involved more than five years of pretty solid chart success. 'We went from sharing rooms in two-star hotels to flying in private jets and having butlers. It still amazes me and it almost feels like it wasn't me. There were a lot of good times. There were bad times too.
'At some point or another we were all burnt out, stressed out, unhappy because we were literally pushed here, there and everywhere. Don't get me wrong, we weren't doing it under duress. But we weren't looked after very well. We were just kids.'
And when you're a kid, the spoils of pop stardom don't last forever. 'We were supposed to know what the lawyers and accountants were saying to us. But I was 16 - I had no idea. Nobody told me about investing money or financial advisers. The only good thing I did was invest in property. Then in 2007 that all went wrong.'
She has never been destitute. Even in the bad times her property investments were enough to pull her through and she recognises that the work she does now - she still gigs once a week - brings in an above average pay cheque. But at the same time this isn't a vanity project funded by a bottomless pot of royalty cheques.
'I've only been able to do this because I've saved up my money from my gigs, I've invested in myself. And it's an investment I probably won't get back for quite a few years,' she says.
'I'm just like all the other mums trying my hardest. This is life now - trying to change careers and create a good future for me and the kids. It was so stressful. I don't have a clue about the business or paperwork. It's hard but I say to women, "Don't be afraid; go out of your comfort zone". You'll never move forward if you don't.' u