The Masked Singer winner Nicola Roberts says she was “nervous to take the mask off” in case people weren’t happy to find out she was the show’s Queen Bee.
The Girls Aloud star fended off competition from “Hedgehog” (who turned out to be comedian Jason Manford) in Saturday’s finale.
Roberts tells the BBC singing in disguise was a cathartic experience.
“It’s so liberating and freeing,” says the 34-year-old, who actually wanted to perform as an angel or a mermaid.
“In the sense that when you perform normally it’s like, ‘What am I gonna wear? How is my hair? Is my makeup right? Oh my God, I’m so pale the light is horrific for me, this is awful!’
“My favourite thing to do is to just literally stand and sing, so that was what I was able to do and I just completely run with it.”
She adds: “I was able to sing some of my favourite songs [and] really stretch my voice out after a long time of not really singing like that.
“I was actually nervous to take the mask off because I was like, ‘Oh God, are people going to be happy? All that went into it, it was just a really crazy, crazy night.”
‘The world’s biggest ghoster’
After months of keeping schtum, Roberts was understandably buzzing to be able to celebrate her win with her friends – including former bandmates Cheryl and Kimberley Walsh.
She admits she’s “a really bad liar” and so had to “ghost” the many people who messaged her suspecting she was the insect entertainer. It was funny too, she says, to see those who hadn’t figured it out yet fully “lose it” when she was unmasked.
“My phone was about to set on fire,” she laughs.
“People were messaging me and I thought, ‘I’m a really bad liar’, it’s probably better that I just don’t reply than to try and create this web of lies that I’m blatantly gonna get caught out with.
“So I just didn’t reply to people,” she goes on. “I was like the world’s biggest ghoster for seven weeks.
“I’m gonna have to send out a group message to say ‘I’m so sorry, I just literally blanked your messages’.”
Not allowed to leave the room
As you can imagine, the show’s producers have to run a pretty tight ship to avoid anyone spoiling the surprises and so the contestants are largely confined to their own dressing rooms.
As a result, Roberts admits she was going “stir crazy backstage” and “about to lose my mind”. After reaching “boiling point” a few weeks back, she broke the rules and escaped into the outside world for a quick walk around the car park, just to get some fresh air.
“The production [staff] were freaking out and they’re like ‘Queen Bee’s left, everyone Queen Bee’s left!’ on their walkie-talkies.”
The Masked Singers are not even allowed to know who one another are.
But one night the sneaky star pretended she was having trouble getting her costume on so she could wait in the changing area for long enough to discover who it was performing before her.
“They’d already started filming with Monster,” she explains. “And then as soon as I heard him sing I was like, ‘Oh I can’t get my mask off, I have to stay in quick change’. I just pretended so I could hear the next performer, and it was Cee-Lo [Green].
“I went backstage to my manager and I was like, ‘the Monster is Cee-Lo, oh my God!”
The singer’s “liberating” anonymous singing experience culminated in the same weekend that many were calling for greater policing of comments made about celebrities on social media, and in the media in general, following the death of Caroline Flack.
Roberts’ only solo album to date, 2011’s Cinderella’s Eyes, contained lyrics about the negative press she received as a member of Girls Aloud.
In the track Take A Bite, she takes aim at those who “called me a rude ginger bitch”.
Now she says while “it’s great that we have free press”, she would like to see the back of the prevailing “witch hunt” culture online.
“There has to be a line,” says Roberts. “There is a culture of a slight witch hunt that happens and I think that social media certainly can prove to be toxic at times.
“I think that it would be great if we could eliminate those those elements within society.”
As part of Girls Aloud, who are officially still on hiatus, Roberts achieved four number one singles and two number one albums.
While her solo career has never quite reached the dizzy heights of her chart-topping friend Cheryl, Roberts is proud of her “body of work” so far and keen to add to it before too long.
Next up though she’ll make her West End debut as a singing actor in the musical City of Angels, which opens in March.
“I was gonna try and [make some songs] alongside the play, but now that I’ve started with the play it’s a lot more time consuming than what I thought it was going to be,” she says.
“Josie Rourke is the most phenomenal director and I have to honour the fact that she’s chosen me to be in this critically-acclaimed production and I have to do my very best and give everything to the play.
“But I would love to make a body of work again. It wouldn’t sound like Cinderella’s Eyes, but a body of work like that. That can’t happen right now but I would love to do that in the future.”