Turn! Turn! Turn!
I had the ambition but couldn't make a go of my singing career earlier because I had other commitments. My mother was very ill, and I had to look after her. Your parents come first. But those are not lost years. You have to prioritize. There's a time and place for everything, and the time will eventually come.
Just say yes
People have to say no to you before they say yes. I'd been in church choirs and done musicals, and I had 12 failed auditions. But when the opportunity for Britain's Got Talent came up, I just thought, "If you don't do it right now, you never will." It's a matter of not taking no for an answer.
Take it on the chin
When Simon [Cowell] doesn't like you, he sure tells you. That's the big risk. But don't be afraid to take that risk — just grab it with both hands. You have to take criticism. I look upon criticism as productive.
Dress to impress (yourself)
You don't have to have a heck of a lot done to you. You don't have to go on a crazy diet or anything. I look pretty different from when I started out. Nice makeup does it. A nice hairdo, a nice dress. That's all you need to feel good.
I have quite a few wee quirks, but I think I'm down to earth. I'm not your conventional pop star. I still live in a [public] council house. I don't overspend. I take the bus.
Don't let a label limit you
In 2012, I was diagnosed with Asperger's, which is a high-functioning form of autism. It's frustrating, but I don't view it as a major catastrophe. It means I've got to try harder to win people over, to be good at what I'm doing and to prove it can be done. It also means I can help others who have it by being a voice.
Keep your cool
I have a bit of a temper and I tend to make a lot of noise, but I'm learning to cope with breathing exercises, which help a lot. Breathe and count to 10 — that's it.
Hold on for love
I have to have patience because eventually the right person will come along. It's just about waiting for someone kind I can have a good laugh with — because a good laugh is so important.
My best friend, Lorraine, is very good to me. She's been like a second sister. It's fantastic. In a lasting friendship, there has to be a sense of loyalty, a lot of respect, and empathy. Those are the three most important things, really.
Reported by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
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