Gabrielle: The pop star on 20 years in the business, her Swarovski eye patch, and sneaking out to McDonald's


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The Independent Online

I had a difficult childhood I even felt I didn't deserve a place on Earth, and people were always taking the piss over my droopy eyelid. So no one was expecting me to do anything of note before "Dreams" [her chart-topping debut single, released in 1993]. Now I say to myself: "I am worthy, I am of good character with a little bit of talent sprinkled in there, too."

I started singing in the school canteen I was 11 and I'd written my first song, called "Teenage Love", so I got up on the canteen table and started singing it. I remember being amazed that the dinner-monitoring ladies didn't kick me off. Everyone stopped and listened. I thought, this is so cool. My voice wasn't huge back then, it was just different.

I remember feeling lonely and scared just before my first album caught fire I got taken to Champneys Spa and my manager dropped me off and said, "You can have any thing you want." I remember feeling really scared about what would happen next. So I snuck out and got a McDonald's.

My mum was scared that I'd be singled out for wearing my eye patch on stage But I felt liberated by people talking about it. I got all these letters from mums saying, "My daughter has one eye and just seeing you on TV has given her confidence." Having a lazy eyelid didn't resemble the norm of what was on TV: all these women with two perfect eyes. I had a whole line-up of patches. One girlfriend made this wonderful diamond-encrusted one for me, which I loved. And I had a Swarovski dark crystal one, too.

I just make music I love Some artists have a concept they base their album around, and can be quite thematic. But I've never had that; I just make music according to what I hear and feel at that moment. My new album is quite classic in some ways, but updated. The song "New Me" – it's the kind of thing I think CeeLo Green would do. And I'm glad to be a part of the stuff [the producer of the moment] Naughty Boy has done [remixing "Dreams"] for the album.

I fancied the pants off Colin Firth in 'Bridget Jones's diary' I first heard about the book when I was approached to write a track ["Out of Reach"] for the film adaptation. I read the book on holiday and I was a big fan of Mr Darcy. I was gutted to hear he'd been killed off [in the new book].

I love other people's music videos With my own, I've always said to the director, "Can't you put other people in them?" I don't think I'm good at performing [in them]. I particularly hate the one for "Out of Reach"; I look awful in that video – just horrific!

James Arthur has a sexy voice He's sort of my guilty pleasure, because you're supposed to feel guilty when you're listening to an X Factor-produced record .But with his music I've no shame, as he's so good and he's got such a sexy voice, I'm like, oh my god… I'm a big fan.

I'd love to play a bad bitch in a movie Though I can't act for toffee so I really need to get some drama lessons under my belt. I need to do that before I die!

Religion makes me cross A lot of people I know who are religious are stubborn hypocrites who don't do as they preach. And what if someone has been kind their whole life, but never known God. Would God then say, "You've never known my name, you can't come to the Kingdom of Heaven"? It's what they believe, but that's a mean God.

Gabrielle, 43, is a Brit Award-winning singer. Her new album 'Now and Always: 20 Years of Dreaming' will be released on 25 November