Working with Keisha was too hard and we couldn't take the put downs anymore, says Sugababe Amelle Berrabah
Feb 28 2010 John Dingwall, Sunday Mail
HEIDE RANGE and Amelle Berrabah have - for the first time - revealed the unbearable demands of Keisha Buchanan, which led to her being ousted from the Sugababes.
Speaking openly for the first time about their decision to carry on with new member Jade Ewen, the pair claim Buchanan's constant putdowns made them dread being in her company.
The bullying left Amelle so stressed she checked into rehab to try to rebuild her self-esteem.
Though they stop just short of using the B-word, Heidi, 26, and Amelle, 25, paint a picture of life in the Sugababes which explains their decision to risk their careers rather than continue as they were.
Amelle admits: "Bullying is a strong word. It sounds bad. But no one likes to be treated horribly. I was being singled out every day and I didn't like the way I was being treated. I dreaded going in to work even though I had worked so hard to get here.
"I didn't have a voice, Heidi didn't have a voice and the people who worked around her didn't have a voice. Even people who worked with us threatened to quit because they couldn't take it. I took a lot of s*** from her as did Heidi and the rest of the team.
"Morally, you can only allow youself to be treated a certain way for so long. It got to a point where we couldn't do it anymore. I still respect Keisha. I would never speak badly about her or go into detail but we tried for a long time to make things work and it just got worse and worse.
"Me and Heidi were struggling for a year and trying our best to make things work. But it was so negative on a daily basis, it upset me. It affected my health. The stress got to me."
Amelle adds: "I didn't know what I wanted any more. I was lost. I didn't feel like myself. Heidi said I was like a shadow. I kept asking myself why it was happening. I can take a lot and don't hold grudges. Sometimes that gets abused. I felt like I was being used and spoken to a certain way.
"I used to be bubbly and outgoing but I became quiet. People told me I would never speak in interviews. I was paranoid that I would get the eye. I would let her carry on and live my life quietly.
"There is only so much you can take. It came to a point that I wasn't going to let that happen to me any more. It was the same with Heidi.
"I didn't want to lose what I had spent my whole life trying to get. I wanted to believe I could handle it. But I couldn't. It got to the point where I decided, no, I'm not going to allow it to happen anymore."
The first hint that the Sugababes were set for yet another line-up change came when Heidi and Keisha turned up without Amelle for an anti-racism concert in Glasgow.
At the time, the pair claimed Amelle had discovered a friend had been in a car accident and was too shocked to join them on the road. But quickly the truth emerged.
Amelle had checked into rehab suffering from stress, just days before the group were due to fly to Los Angeles for a video shoot.
Heidi recalls: "We were told her friend had been in a car accident but she had gone away for a week because she couldn't take any more. The day before we flew to LA, it came to a head. I couldn't take it any more and neither could Amelle. How we allowed ourselves to be treated had gone on too long.
"It was pretty bad the last year of the previous line-up. I respect Keisha for the eight and a half years we have been together so I wouldn't want to tell tales. But we had to make a decision whether to work in that environment. This job is our life and it wasn't a nice atmosphere. It wasn't a happy environment."
Amelle picks up: "The story came out that I had disappeared and there were even rumours that I had been kidnapped. But the truth is I had just had enough. I didn't want to go to LA. I was willing to throw away my dreams because I had to think of my mental health. By then, every day was a struggle.
"My head was so full of s*** that I had to go somewhere different. I went off to a centre to relax. For the first time in my life I went somewhere for me. I was healing.
"It is not in me to be nasty. I hope Keisha has a great career ahead of her. She is a very talented lady. But I know I made the right decision staying with Heidi."
That Heidi had sided with the newest member of the Sugababes, rather than founding member Keisha Buchanan, came as a shock to many who had seen a revolving door policy with the group's other founding members Siobhán Donaghy and Mutya Buena departing in 2001 and 2005 respectively.
Buchanan had been the one constant and was widely seen as the driving force behind the Sugababes.
The penultimate twist came when Heidi got a call from the record label two days after the split, asking if she would consider carrying on with Amelle if the label could find a new member to replace Buchanan.
Heidi reveals: "I landed at LAX and me and Amelle made the decision that it wasn't working anymore so we left the Sugababes. As much as I knew I had made the right decision it was still heartbreaking to come to the end of a relationship.
"I thought the Sugababes were over but I wasn't even thinking about that. We had another four days before we were due to fly home. It was during that time the label phoned and said they wanted us to carry on with someone else. Even that was a scary thing to think about.
"They told us they had someone in mind and that they would fly this person out. By this point the video had been shot with three body doubles. There was no band on the day of the shoot.
"They made the video without us because they'd paid for the director. They told us if we got on with the new girl we could be part of that video. That's when they flew Jade over. We met on the Sunday and shot the video on the Tuesday."
Amelle adds: "We got a phone call from the record label saying they wanted to keep us on with another girl. I was emotionally drained at that point. I was shocked. However, it was Keisha's turn to get a shock but I hope she can be happy and do her solo stuff. At the time, me and Heidi had left the band and we thought that was it. But it also felt like a release. I had put my career on the line not to work with Keisha."
Former Eurovision Song Contestant Jade Ewan, 22, flew to Los Angeles straight away to meet the girls and took part in the video shoot. It was Keisha's turn to be left out in the cold.
"Now Jade is on board we are really happy and it is nice coming into work," Amelle admits. "Jade is a breath of fresh air and a nice girl. We are so looking forward to the future. I am the happiest person ever."
Initially, set for release last November, the group's latest album Sweet 7 is out on March 15 - with Keisha's vocal wiped and Jade's vocals added to the songs.
Heidi explains: "Jade went in and re-recorded the parts that Keisha had done. We also recorded a brand new track with Jade. She sounds amazing and has made the parts her own. She has been incredible recording it after being put under so much pressure.
"Things are so much better with Jade. We are really enjoying working together. It is like a fresh start. I'm not going to say we are best friends because we are still getting to know Jade but she is a lovely girl."