Bullied and depressed she walked out on the Sugababes in 2001: So just what has made Siobhán Donaghy reunite with Keisha and Mutya?By Richard Price
Forgiven, but not forgotten: Siobhan Donaghy left the band in 2001 but has joined forced with the original Sugababes
For this stunning redhead, nobody can bring her so much happiness as her best friends Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan.
The living embodiment of Girl Power, the original Sugababes have been sharing every last detail of their lives lately. Whether taking photographs of Mutya cheering on the Olympic torch in the western suburbs of London or painting Keisha's nails a fetching shade of red, white and blue, Siobhán in particular has gone out of her way to reinforce the bonds of friendship.
There is only one problem with this picture: the fact that a short while ago these 'best friends' were more like sworn enemies.
Siobhán in particular - always something of an outsider with her natural Irish beauty in conflict with her bandmates' tougher urban style - made little secret of the fact that she was waiting for karma to 'come round and bite them in the a***'.
Tough talk, but then this is the same feisty young woman who walked out on the Sugababes just at the point when they were about to hit the platinum-selling big time, citing chronic bullying as a reason.
Never one to mince her words, she accused Keisha of driving her to the brink of a nervous breakdown. It is a matter of public record that the stress of being a Sugababe resulted in Siobhán being prescribed antidepressants and becoming so low that she wanted to leave the music business altogether.
That was then, however, and a decade on all has been forgiven, if not quite forgotten. Hence their excited Twitter announcement. Just ten days ago, Keisha posted a picture of the trio online - proudly declaring that the original line-up of the band would be reuniting.
In an age of seemingly endless pop group reunions it is tempting to dismiss it as yet another swift cash-in on past glories. But to make such an assumption would be short-sighted.
There is the small matter of a €1.2million contract to make a new record which shows categorically that, unlike some lesser rivals, the Sugababes have a genuine pedigree and a rock-solid fanbase which has been clamouring for a reunion for some time.
Indeed, contrary to contemporaries such as Atomic Kitten and All Saints, they have never been regarded as anything other than a credible act staffed with genuinely gifted singers.
For Mutya (whose mother is also of Irish descent) and Keisha, who both banked seven-figure sums during the golden years of the Noughties, this is another bite of the cherry.
For 28-year-old Siobhán, however, it represents much more than that.
Back together: The original Sugababes, now named Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan show they're back to the best of friends as they travel to the Olympics Opening Ceremony
Indeed for Siobhán - a cousin of Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy, who was raised in London by her Irish parents, Linda and Charlie - it represents a golden opportunity for one of the most underrated talents of her generation to finally garner the recognition she deserves.
Unable to use the name Sugababes for legal reasons (the latest manufactured incarnation of the group continue to stumble along with ever-diminishing chart returns) they are reuniting under the pragmatic moniker Mutya Keisha Siobhán, or MKS for short.
Posing up: The girls have been spending more and more time together since announcing their big comeback under the new moniker last week
'Make no mistake, this is no flash-in-the-pan vanity project,' says a senior industry source and self-confessed admirer. 'They've signed a deal with Polydor for a ton of money and there's a real buzz around them.
'Labels don't take punts on outside bets these days. You can rest assured that they've done their research and have a solid reason to believe this group is going to sell a lot of records.
'People underestimate just how much these girls achieved from a ridiculously young age. They were 13 or 14 when they got together, but they co-wrote all their songs and were being nominated for awards from the very beginning.
Comeback: The girls have so far only been seen in these promotional shots but have since been taking to Twitter to show what good friends they are again
Avoiding those problems certainly seems to be uppermost in their minds, as Keisha herself confirmed last week.
'We've had discussions,' she said. 'We have a way of working: we trust each other. We look after each other. We are genuinely there for each other. If we were unhappy we'd tell each other and we'd figure it out, between ourselves.' And while some have voiced cynicism about the motives for this sudden rapprochement (none has any obvious source of income these days) sources who have worked with the three say that relations are 'genuinely warm and positive'.
Here they are! Mutya Keisha Siobhan pose up in their first official picture, after revealing their new name yesterday
Their last two albums are the only ones in the band's history to fail to reach gold status, and the most recent one was a bona fide turkey. Such is their dire state that the group are now officially 'on hiatus' with no plans to release any music before the end of 2013.
All of which must be music to the ears of Siobhán, who left the group just at the point when they were about to take the music business by storm.
It was during a promotional tour of Japan that she walked out - excusing herself on the pretext of going to the bathroom, but instead heading for the airport and catching the first flight home. Recalling that day, Siobhán later said that she 'took the decision to make myself happy'. Such was her animosity towards the others that for years she refused to even speak to Keisha.
To coin her own words: 'At [that] point I was happy never to work again. I had got to the point where I'd look in the mirror and not know who I was. I felt like I didn't have a personality. I'd lost my identity. I felt like a zombie. A dead person.'
Larking around: The trio appear to have put any former differences behind them to concentrate on their musical comeback
Still aged only 19, she released her first solo album Revolution In Me in 2003, which was a critical success but failed to shift as many copies as the glowing reviews suggested it would.
The commercial failure of that record led to a parting of the ways with London Records. Siobhán, still a young and somewhat contrary individual, brashly blamed the problems on poor marketing and promotion.
Nevertheless, she had no problems securing another deal, this time with Parlophone, who demonstrated their faith in her talent by giving her free rein to record her follow-up album however she saw fit. This resulted in Siobhán holing up in a studio in northern France and producing Ghosts in 2007 - a contemplative album which once again wowed the critics but sold slowly. 'Siobhán has always had industry support and she's lived a great lifestyle for somebody the public rightly don't recognise as a star these days,' says the industry source.
As they were: The girls haven't released anything together as a trio since 2000 but are currently working on their new album
'Her talent counts for a lot, and she is treated with respect because there has always been a sense that one day the world will see what we in the business have recognised since day one. Siobhán is a star. She just needs a chance to shine - and it looks like she's finally going to get it.'
After her second solo release struggled in the charts, Siobhán took a role on the West End stage, appearing in a successful production of Rent in early 2008.
Despite her apparent travails, friends say she has never wanted for self-belief, something they attribute to her upbringing by first generation Irish-immigrant parents.
Siobhán has always been extremely close to her sisters, Bevin and Róisín (who for many years has worked as her personal make-up artist) and, as one friend puts it, 'was raised to believe that if you work hard then everything will fall into place'.
Back in the day: Aged only 19, she released her first solo album Revolution In Me in 2003 - but it didn't reach commercial success
As she blithely put it: 'As long as you're confident you can make a great record, you'll get a deal. I've never considered doing anything else. I got my first manager when I was 12 and signed my first deal when I was 14 with the Sugababes. I've never known anything else.'
It is a fact rarely acknowledged that when the Sugababes recorded their debut single the producer, Cameron McVey, insisted that Siobhán sing the lead vocal.
Even at 14, it seems, she was marked out for a greatness which has so far eluded her.
More recently she has struck up a lucrative sideline as a DJ in various fashionable London venues (she has a fiercely loyal gay fanbase which has never dwindled) and earned more than enough money to holiday in style several times a year.
This year alone she has been away twice, and when at home has enjoyed her pick of invitations to society events. During the Chelsea Flower Show in London she was given the full celebrity treatment, posing happily for the cameras with her good friend Denise Van Outen.
Friends say she is 'very happy' with her long-term boyfriend, who works in the business, but is in no hurry to settle down. There is unfinished business - something she hopes to settle up in the near future.
Work was well underway on another solo album when the offer came to rejoin her old bandmates. (Keisha had abruptly left the Sugababes in 2009, once again amid dark mutterings from bandmates of bullying on her part.)
Mutya, who had parted company with the group in 2005, began busily building bridges and despite failing in a court bid to reclaim the Sugababes name, by the time 2011 dawned there were strong whispers of a reunion.
That it has taken until now is evidence of the bad blood which previously poisoned the band. But after a series of tentative meetings, bridges were built and Siobhán - the final piece in the jigsaw - was finally persuaded to return.
All of which is great news for their fans, who are now eagerly anticipating a new release before the summer is out. These days the three of them are barely out of each other's company. Publicity shots for the new project depict a trio who are comfortable together, in a manner reminiscent of the schoolgirls they were when they first got together.
The reality, however, is rather more hard-nosed than that. While they have been having great fun in the studio this week, behind the scenes the reunion is secured by a watertight deal.
In May, they set up a Limited Liability Partnership to share the spoils of their venture. The name, titled Sacred Three, is the only remotely romantic aspect. For, as Siobhán learned to her cost the last time around, playground allegiances are no basis for lasting happiness.
Forget the PR spin: this is strictly business, and business is good.
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