Pete Waterman has paid tribute to Sarah Harding following her death from breast cancer, aged 39.
The former Girls Aloud star passed away on Sunday, 13-months after sharing her cancer diagnosis, with her family confirming the news in a statement.
Remembering Sarah during an appearance on Good Morning Britain on Monday, record producer Pete, 74, who was a judge on Popstars: The Rivals – the show that catapulted Sarah to fame, praised the singer for her ‘realness’.
‘She was the girl next door’: Pete Waterman was seen remembering Sarah Harding during an appearance on Good Morning Britain on Monday and praised the late star for her ‘realness’
The series, that formed Girls Aloud, aired in 2002, with Sarah auditioning in front of the judging panel – made up of Pete, Louis Walsh and Geri Horner – with her rendition of Steps song Last Thing On My Mind.
She won a place in the girlband alongside Cheryl, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle and Nicola Roberts.
Recalling her appearance on the show, Pete fondly remembered Sarah as the ‘girl next door’ when asked what his first impressions of the star had been.
He said: ‘She was just a lovely, lovely young kid. She couldn’t believe she was in this competition, she’d bubble with enthusiasm. She was just real and that’s what the programme picked up – her ordinariness.
‘She’d bubble with enthusiasm’: Pete recalled seeing an instant star quality in Sarah when she auditioned for the talent show, as he insisted the public ‘loved’ the late singer
Paying tribute: The record producer was on the judging panel on Popstars: The Rivals the show that catapulted Sarah to fame back in 2002
‘She had enthusiasm, she was the girl next door, that’s why she was in the band. The public loved her.’
Insisting that he spotted Sarah’s star quality instantly, Pete added: ‘Certain people when they walk in the room have an aura about them and you pick it up, that’s what you’re looking for.
‘She did that, there’s no question about that. There was no question she would be in the final band. There were probably 10 people that could have made it.’
Pete explained that Sarah had often doubted herself while competing on the show and he had told her on multiple occasions that she was always going to have a place in the final band.
‘I remember talking to her at times during the show, saying, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, you’re going to be there.” Because she always doubted herself. She had the enthusiasm, but she didn’t over self believe,’ he revealed.
Success: Sarah won a place in Girls Aloud alongside Cheryl, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh (pictured above L-R in 2004)
Host Ben Shephard recalled Sarah penning in her memoir, titled Hear Me Out, that she was ‘winging it’ from week to week during her time on Popstars: The Rivals, Pete agreed and insisted it was the ‘beauty’ of Sarah’s appearance on the show.
‘Of course she was winging it, that was the beauty of it. Isn’t that the kid next door that suddenly wins a tenner and gets in the sweet shop and doesn’t know what to buy next? Of course she was winging it, but she was absolutely excellent at it – that’s why she’s so good,’ he insisted.
‘I guess there comes a point where you think, “That’s real, I can do this.” That’s when it becomes a little bit looser.’
He recalled meeting with Sarah and her mother Marie, after she had won a place in the band, and said: ‘You read about the wild child, but she was very, very polite. Her and her mum were smashing.
‘When I went to their house, we went upstairs, jumped on her bed with excitement and then had a cup of tea. That was the Hardings, it was fantastic.’
Heartbreaking: Sarah revealed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2020
Of the troubles Sarah faced, Pete said: ‘The first thing all people forget about this job – it is hard work. It’s 20 hours a day, cameras in your face, journalists on the phone, it can be not fun… it becomes a little bit tiring and the shine goes off it a bit and all the demons start to kick in.
‘That is absolutely natural. It’s very hard to say to young people, “Calm down because this is not going to last forever,” because everybody thinks it’s going to last forever and of course, it never does.’
Sarah confirmed her breast cancer diagnosis in August 2020 – telling fans at the time that she had been battling the disease for several months with weekly chemotherapy sessions.
Asked if he had spoken to Sarah during lockdown, following her diagnosis, Pete said: ‘No, this is an incredibly personal thing and this is something only a lady can deal with. She’s locked down, I didn’t bump into her at all during this period.
‘It’s an incredibly personal thing’: Pete revealed he hadn’t spoken to Sarah following her cancer diagnosis in lockdown last year
‘It’s an incredibly difficult period, I don’t know how you’d deal with that. And Covid and lockdown must make it worse because you don’t feel like you can go out and feel normal.’
Sarah’s mother Marie confirmed her death in a statement shared on Sunday. It read: ‘It’s with deep heartbreak that today I’m sharing the news that my beautiful daughter Sarah has sadly passed away. Many of you will know of Sarah’s battle with cancer and that she fought so strongly from her diagnosis until her last day.
‘She slipped away peacefully this morning. I’d like to thank everyone for their kind support over the past year. It meant the world to Sarah and it gave her great strength and comfort to know she was loved.’
It continued: ‘I know she won’t want to be remembered for her fight against this terrible disease – she was a bright shining star and I hope that’s how she can be remembered instead. Marie.’
Tributes flooded in for the star, with her former Girls Aloud bandmates Nadine and Nicola remembering Sarah on social media.
Nicola said ‘my heart is aching’ as she posted photos of the pair on their first video shoot for Sound of the Underground back in 2002.
‘Electric girl’: Tributes flooded in following news of Sarah’s death, with her former bandmate Nicola Roberts telling fans her heart is ‘aching’
She wrote: ‘I’m absolutely devastated and I can’t accept that this day has come. My heart is aching and all day everything we went through together has raced round my mind.
‘Especially this last year since her diagnosis, as hard as the year has been, our new memories are strong in my heart. There are so many things to say and at first it felt to personal to put them here and then I remembered that there are so many other people grieving her too.
‘A part of me or us isn’t here anymore and it’s unthinkable and painful and utterly cruel. She would have loved your messages today.
‘Electric girl, you made us. You gave it everything and still with a smile. A white butterfly flew past my window this morning before I knew, it must have been you.’
Nadine wrote: ‘I am absolutely devastated!! I can’t think of words that could possibly express how I feel about this girl & what she means to me!! I know so many of you will be feeling this way. For now I’m sending so much love to you!!!’
Girls Aloud achieved twenty consecutive top ten singles – including four number ones – in the UK and six platinum studio albums before the band took a hiatus in 2009.
Sarah, who also modelled and appeared in movie St Trinian’s, was reportedly planning a solo career as a blue singer prior to her cancer diagnosis.
Devastating: Sarah’s mother Marie confirmed her death in a statement, revealing Sarah had passed away following her breast cancer battle aged 39