Look at the girl everyone loved to hate! After being scorned as an X Factor reject, Katie Waissel is now a sexy rock chick
23:20 GMT, 24 May 2012
Love her or hate her, Katie Waissel will always be one of the most controversial X Factor contestants.
She provoked hatred among some of the show’s fans with her overt self-confidence, yet she managed to stay in 2010’s competition — often by the skin of her teeth — until almost the bitter end.
Two years on and I am meeting quite a different Katie. Gone is the blonde hair, wacky dress sense and diva-like attitude. She is almost unrecognisable with long dark hair, jeans, T-shirt and a beanie hat.
Whole new me: Katie Waissel with her new rock chick look and her Red Velvet bandmates
It’s a much sexier Katie, who is lead singer of poppy rock group Red Velvet (managed by industry veteran Mark Fuller, whose bands have included Iron Maiden).
‘When I walk down the street people don’t stare at me as the girl from The X Factor,’ she says. ‘I’m relieved. I am on to a new start.’
It is hard to believe now just how much backlash she produced. There were death threats on Twitter that the police had to investigate, she was shouted at in the street and, while out walking with fellow contestants, was even pelted with fruit.
‘I was in a car with Rebecca Ferguson when a motorcyclist followed us and I was convinced he was going to kill me,’ she says.
Now and then: Katie Waissel when she was a contestant on the X Factor
To add to her woes, thanks to her X Factor fame, it was revealed that Katie’s 83-year-old grandmother Sheila Vogel was a prostitute. After Sheila gave a series of interviews revelling in her infamy, Katie’s family no longer speaks to her.
‘I offered her an olive branch, I said keep quiet and we will sort this out as a family and she chose not to. She is still trying to pursue her “career”. The whole thing has been horrific and I feel it was exploited.’
No wonder The X Factor experience knocked Katie hard. ‘It really messed me up,’ she says. ‘I felt as if 18 million people hated me and I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t know how to deal with that.
‘When I finished The X Factor tour after the show was over, I took some time out to rebuild my confidence. It was only when I met people such as my song-writing partner Tommy Henriksen, who is Alice Cooper’s guitarist, that I came out of my shell.’
Now, at 26, she feels she has a little perspective on The X Factor. ‘There always has to be a baddie among the finalists and I drew the short straw,’ she says.
Katie has written two songs influenced by it. Straight Up Straight Laced is about The X Factor puppet master Simon Cowell. Lines include: ‘You tied me up with your sweet little lies and then stood back and stole the tears from my eyes.’
‘I’m fond of Simon and I would love to know what he thinks of it,’ she says. ‘I’m saying: “You manipulated the situation, but it’s your TV show so why shouldn’t you” I’m poking my tongue out and saying I know what you did. In a light-hearted way.’
Does she blame Simon for what happened to her ‘I don’t know who to blame. Simon owns the brand, but he was good to me. I would knock on his door in tears saying “What are you doing to me” and he would listen.
'I never talked to Cheryl [Cole was her mentor] about it. We barely spoke. We were given our songs by Syco [Cowell’s TV and record company] and only ever saw Cheryl at rehearsals the day before the live shows.’
Despite it all, Katie, from Northwood, Middlesex, does not regret taking part.
In Red Velvet, she is singing from a different place. When we first met her she wanted ‘to be a legend’. Now it’s all about the fight-back.
‘I want to show you can have knockabouts, but you can still pick yourself up and be proud of what you have achieved,’ she says.
Red Velvet will be at the Notting Hill Arts Club in London tonight.