of Tulisa Contostavlos as one of the celebrity judges for the eighth
series of The X-Factor may have surprised some, but for this young
singer of Greek and Irish descent, it was the prize at the end of a
arduous road starting with a difficult childhood in north London.|
Born in Camden on 13 July 1988, Tulisa came from musical stock; her mother having been a member of 1980s band Jeep, while her uncle was in English rock group Mungo Jerry.
However, Tulisa's upbringing was not that of pop royalty, and she soon found herself with separated parents and caring for her mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Speaking to the Sun in 2009, the singer explained: "Mum would hear voices, have dramatic mood swings, or become child-like or withdrawn. I'd do my best to help her with cooking or cleaning, but there's only so much a child can do.
As an only child, she turned to her wider family for solace, spending time with her cousin Dino and their friend Richard Rawson. Growing up on the same Camden estate, they soon created hip-hop group N-Dubz while just 12 and 13 years old. The trio received a great deal of encouragement from Dino's father Byron, who had played bass guitar in Mungo Jerry.
While Dino and Richard chose to take the stage names Dappy and Fazer, Tulisa decided to keep her first name. Quickly finding a strong following among the younger generation of the UK, N-Dubz were named the best UK newcomers at the 2007 MOBO awards. From this point, they enjoyed an upwards trajectory, with their first album, ‘Uncle B’ – named in tribute to Byron, who died of a heart attack before its release – reaching number 11 in the UK charts.
By 2010, they had released seven top 20 singles. Tulisa and co won Best UK Act and Best Album for ‘Uncle B’ at the MOBO Awards in 2009, and picked up an award at the 2010 show for Best Song with ‘Playing with Fire’. Featuring on Tinchy Stryder's hit single ‘Number 1’ also saw N-Dubz top the UK singles chart for the first time.
Away from the stage, Tulisa was involved in a relationship with DJ Adam Bailey. Despite reports in 2009 that they were engaged, they had split up by the following year and it later emerged that she was dating bandmate Fazer. She helped to cultivate a strong following for N-Dubz by embracing online media, regularly interacting with fans through Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.
Tulisa again showed her cutting-edge credentials by starring in ‘Dubplate Drama’, Channel 4's interactive programme that let viewers vote on the plot. She played the role of a cocaine-addicted pop star. Dappy and Fazer also appeared as different characters on the programme.
Arguably, Tulisa's biggest personal triumph came when she was named as Cheryl Cole's replacement on the hugely popular ‘X-Factor’, serving in a new-look judging panel with Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Louis Walsh.
Cole herself sang Tulisa's praises and the new judge quickly became a hit with the show's fans. In fact, there were even suggestions that people preferred the new team to the previous line-up (Cole, Dannii Minogue, Walsh and Simon Cowell), with Tulisa the most popular, thanks in part to her many male admirers.